After Texans general manager Rick Smith’s wife was tragically diagnosed with breast cancer, he took an extended leave of absence. With Smith’s departure, the Texans needed to hire a new general manager, and they recently found one in Brian Gaine.
Gaine was formerly with the Texans from 2014 to 2016 as director of player personnel, and then went to the Buffalo Bills in 2017 as vice president of player personnel. The job description of these two posts is to scout talent and to present all information on a player to the general manager and head coach.
Gaine has also worked for other teams like the Jets and Dolphins and overall has 18 years of NFL experience. Now Gaine is bringing this experience to the Texans, and it leaves many Texans fans wondering what this hire means for the team’s future?
To know what this hire means, we will examine how Gaine has done his last two years with the Texans and Bills respectively. Remember, his job was evaluating talent and presenting it to the general manager and head coach, so I will judge him based on the moves the team made.
And in 2016, Gaine did a horrible job. The Texans signed awful players such as guard Jeff Allen, center Tony Bergstrom, and quarterback Brock Osweiler. Brock Osweiler was particularly awful, with his massive four-year, 72 million dollar deal.
This is because Osweiler ended up being a bust, and was traded to the Cleveland Browns, which had the Texans losing a second and sixth round pick this 2018 draft. This trade, which damaged the Texans’ future, was solely made just to dump a portion of Osweiler’s contract.
Since Gaine evaluated players such as Allen, Bergstrom, and Osweiler, and presented what he thought about them to the general manager, he clearly didn’t a do a good job over the 2016 offseason. Re-signing players such as tackles Chris Clark and Jeff Adams also led to the Texans offensive line currently being one of the worst in football.
Another major mistake the Texans made during the 2016 offseason was allowing cornerback A.J. Bouye to hit free agency and sign with the Jaguars. This is because Bouye ended up being the sixth best corner in football in 2017, according to Pro Football Focus. This mistake is particularly concerning because the Texans corners, along with the offensive line, are some of the worst at their position. And both of these problems that torment the Texans today are because of decisions that were influenced by Brian Gaine.
But 2016 wasn’t all bad as the Texans did sign workhorse running back Lamar Miller, who despite a down-year this season, has been a highly productive back.
In addition, the Texans drafted wide receiver Will Fuller 21st overall in 2016. Fuller has become a dangerous number two receiver on the Texans, always a threat to escape for big plays opposite of superstar DeAndre Hopkins. The signings of Miller and Fuller were extremely beneficial towards the Texans offense.
The rest of the 2016 draft for the Texans was full of duds, except for defensive tackle D.J. Reader. A fifth round pick out of Clemson, Reader was ranked the 22nd best defensive tackle according to Pro Football Focus. So despite the 2016 offseason being a failure for Gaine, he still did a fine job in evaluating talent for the draft and had influence in a few good free agent signings.
After 2016, Gaine moved onto the Buffalo Bills, where he played a role in their 9-7 record and first playoff birth since 1999. Gaine’s job of evaluating talent surely played a role in the Bill’s productive 2017 offseason, which they kicked off by making some great free agent signings like Steven Hauschka and Micah Hyde.
Micah Hyde was signed from the Packers and was ranked the 15th safety in football according to Pro Football Focus this 2017 season, and became a major contributor to the Bills defense. Hauschka, a kicker signed in free agency after seven seasons with the Seahawks, had an oustanding 87.9% success rate and was a clutch kicker for the Bills. Hauschka was far better than his predecessor Dan Carpenter, who’s field goal percentage was a measly 76%. Gaine deserves credit for his influence in acquiring these two players in free agency.
In addition, the Bills had a very successful draft in 2017, making arguably one of the best selections on Draft Day with Tre’Davious White. White, a cornerback out of LSU, quickly stepped in as the Bills premier corner after being drafted 27th overall. White had four interceptions, was the third-best corner in football according to Pro Football Focus, and is in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
This pick was very bold, as the Bills traded down with the Chiefs, from the 10th pick to the 27th pick. The Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes and the Bills drafted White. Gaine most likely saw the potential in White when he evaluated him, and thus deserves some of the praise for influencing the Bills in making the risky decision to trade down. He also played a role in the Bills drafting promising players such as Matt Milano and Dion Dawkins.
Despite all of this success, the Bills did make a lot of mistakes in terms of decision-making with wide receivers. The Bills got rid of Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins, both ranked as the 15th and 40th best receivers in football. To replace them, the Bills acquired Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones, both ranked as the 117th and 111th best receivers in football. His influence in those decisions must be taken into account when looking at how he can affect the Texans.
Overall, Gaine’s evaluation of talent with the Bills was impressive, and played a role in their success during the 2017 season.
So what does this all mean for the Texans?
Gaine has made many mistakes over his career, but he overall has made good decisions when evaluating talent. The impact he made on the Bills in 2017 could be similar to his impact with the Texans in 2018.
There are no specific benefits or harms that I can assume Gaine will have on the Texans, because he’s never been a general manager before, but it is promising to know that he helped the Bills go from a 7-9 team into a 9-7 playoff contender. The Texans don’t need much more to make a playoff run, just some upgrades at the secondary and offensive line, and Gaine does have the track record, as he’s helped influence the Bills to acquire players such as Micah Hyde, Tre’Davious White, and Dion Dawkins.
Another good sign is that Gaine is reported to have a good relationship to Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, who recently received a contract extension. This is especially important because O’Brien and former general manager Rick Smith had a “toxic” relationship, that was expected to lead to one of them being fired.
Bill O’Brien has been very successful with the Texans, except for this season, and will be key to the Texans being a future contender. Since he has a good relationship with O’Brien, it is clear to see why Gaine was the front-runner to receive the general manager position.
With a new general manager in town, Texans fans should be optimistic about a future playoff run, because Gaine seems like the man who can fill in the gaps that will allow for the Houston Texans to succeed.