Elliot Harrison of NFL.com ranked every head coach in the league yesterday in a list that – at least for Texans fans – seems downright insane. Our very own Bill O’Brien landed in the back half of the list at 23, which should seem extraordinarily low for anyone who actually watched Houston's season from start to finish in 2014. Here is what Harrison had to say about his ranking:
23. Bill O'Brien, Houston Texans
O'Brien's first season in Houston can't be deemed anything but a success. The Texans lost not one but two starting quarterbacks at various points, while playing most of the season without the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Jadeveon Clowney aside, O'Brien is used to dealing with circumstances out of his control, as his successful run at Penn State indicates.
Despite briefly mentioning the Texans’ quarterback troubles, I get the feeling that Harrison did not fully grasp just how desperate this situation was for most of the year. Houston played four different quarterbacks throughout the 2014 season. One of those signal-callers was Case Keenum, who started just days after being picked up from the Rams practice squad, and O’Brien still pulled out a victory with him under center. In the week before that, both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tom Savage sustained season-ending injuries against the Colts, causing punter Shane Lechler of all people to warm up as the emergency quarterback, and you know what, somehow Bill O’Brien still got his team within a touchdown of winning that game. You could argue that had Fitzpatrick not had his leg broken by a cheap shot from the Colts' defense, the Texans would have easily won that game and skated into the postseason as a dangerous wild card contender.
The biggest knock on O’Brien in 2014 – and certainly a justifiable one – is his record against playoff teams. In the six games against ball clubs that made the postseason last year, the Texans finished just 1-5. However, every single one of those defeats was very close. In fact, the average differential in those losses was only 6.2 points, which means the Texans were almost always at least within one possession of winning the game. When you include O’Brien’s 25-13 evisceration of the Baltimore Ravens, his average point differential against all playoff teams in 2014 shrinks to just 3.2 points. For a head coach that had to play four different quarterbacks out of desperation, manage a clearly disgruntled Andre Johnson, go without the services of a healthy Jadeveon Clowney for the entire season, deal with injuries to his two top starting cornerbacks as well as Arian Foster and a still-hobbled Brian Cushing, and the fact that O'Brien had to do it all as a rookie head coach…well…let’s just say that the Texans honestly had no business even being close to a 9-7 record in 2014.
According to Harrison's list, Marvin Lewis, Gary Kubiak, and even Ken Friggin’ Whisenhunt all deserve more praise and admiration than Bill O’Brien. If anyone thinks that any of those three coaches could do what O’Brien did with this roster in 2014, then I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. The beginning of the O’Brien era is without a doubt the most impressive coaching job I have ever seen in this organization’s short history. If this staff can pull postseason relevance out of that roster, I can only imagine what they can do with the additions of Vince Wilfork and Rahim Moore, a healthy Ryan Mallett and/or Brian Hoyer, a healthy Clowney, a healthy Cushing, and one more season of building chemistry with the team.
I am not afraid to say it. This squad is indeed a Super Bowl contender, and there is one big reason why – Bill O’Brien.