Many Texans fans have been puzzled that the Houston Texans have not yet cut Ryan Mallett. I thought for sure it would happen today and attempted to justify Bill O'Brien's mealy-mouthed press conference as nothing more than the team desperately trying to make sure it had done all it needed to do to replace Mallett on the depth chart.
The Chronicle's Brian Smith tells a different tale. And boy, if it's true, things may be worse than we thought at NRG Park. According to Brian Smith, O'Brien wanted to cut Ryan Mallett BEFORE the game against the Dolphins. Once Mallett missed the flight to Miami on Saturday, his career in Houston was over as far as O'Brien was concerned. But Mallett wasn't cut, because Bill O'Brien was...wait for it...overruled by general manager Rick Smith. From Brian Smith's story:
O'Brien wanted - and tried - to cut Mallett before the Texans ever took the field during a 44-26 blowout defeat to the Dolphins, said sources with direct knowledge of the situation who weren't authorized to speak publicly. But the second-year leader – partly hired by owner Bob McNair for his fierce personality and high standards of personal accountability – was overruled by longtime general manager Rick Smith.
If O'Brien – who made his team-first name by reuniting a shattered Penn State football program -- had his way, Mallett would've never joined the team in Miami. But Smith continues to wield a powerful hand over the organization 10 years after he became McNair's second GM, despite the fact that the Texans have only won two wild-card playoff games during his tenure and are just 13-26 in the last three seasons.
Smith pushed to keep Mallett because the GM believed the team needed a capable backup for Brian Hoyer against the Dolphins. The Texans, then 2-4, were entering a critical swing game that could either push them within sight of .500 entering a bye week or nearly end their season before the midway point of a year that was supposed to build on O'Brien's 9-7 rookie run.
This revelation is both infuriating and fascinating. It has been widely reported, and Brian Smith mentions in his article, that Bill O'Brien has the final say about which players are on the Texans' 53-man roster. Yet the general manager is vetoing the head coach about who to cut? After a player has repeatedly broken team rules?
If O'Brien really wanted Mallett gone before Sunday's game, why didn't he simply inform Rick Smith and/or Bob McNair that he appreciates Smith's input, but that this is his call? Was it a case of O'Brien deciding he didn't want to make a rash decision in the heat of the moment and acquiescing to Smith's suggestion, only to have this story leaked after the heat came down in the wake of another truly wretched loss?
Assuming Brian Smith is getting good information (and there's no reason to think he's not at this point), there's also some poetic justice in Rick Smith getting exposed in the press like this. Recall that when things were spiraling out of control during the 2013 season, some thought Rick Smith, or those working for him, leaked stories to the media about how the coaching staff wasn't listening to the front office. There's a reason we frequently invoke teflon, rodents, and Rasputin when we're discussing Rick Smith. The idea that he's now having done to him what he allegedly did to Gary Kubiak is fitting.
Brian Smith has also tweeted tonight after his story was published:
Relationship between second-year O'Brien, 10-year GM Smith has worsened during #Texans' disappointing 2-5 start to 2015 season.— Brian T. Smith (@ChronBrianSmith) October 27, 2015
#Texans could cut Mallett on Tuesday. But it won't repair growing divide between O'Brien's vision for team and Smith's say in organization.— Brian T. Smith (@ChronBrianSmith) October 27, 2015
This doesn't end well. The Texans' 2015 season isn't even at the halfway point yet, and it's overwhelmingly likely that several more losses are in store for this team. Bill O'Brien and Rick Smith have entered Thunderdome, and we know what that means.
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