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Red Zone Play: Too Much Credit, Too Much Blame

Don’t blame Brock Osweiler for the struggles of the Texans’ offense. Blame the rightful culprit.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I have a confession to make. Before the Texans existed, I was a fan of the Oakland Raiders. When I was a kid, my older brother loved them for some reason and imparted that love of the silver and black to me. Once the Texans came along, I jumped ship for a number of reasons and I have never looked back.

My pre-Texans life saw Oakland win Super Bowls. I hung in there through the terrible seasons from the late 80s to late 90s and reveled in the seasons when Jon Gruden was the coach. Especially the times after they brought in Rich Gannon. He and Gruden were inseparable and operated almost as one mind on the field and off of it.

That’s what a true offensive brain trust should do.

The Raiders’ offense under Gruden, on paper, wasn’t much different from our current Texans (although they had a vastly superior line): An unproven journeyman quarterback in Gannon. A future Hall of Fame receiver in Tim Brown. They also had a running back named Charlie Garner that was dying to prove his worth, and he would if only he could get the ball out in space…

Depending on which train of thought you follow, those Raiders should have made it to the Super Bowl multiple times. They were derailed one year by a non-called roughing the passer penalty when Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa tried to dislocate Gannon’s shoulder in the AFC Championship Game, knocking Gannon out of the game and ultimately the Raiders out of the playoffs. Everyone knows the story of the Tuck Rule game that also ended Oakland’s Super Bowl march once again when they lost to the eventual champion New England Patriots.

Rich Gannon #12...

The point of all this isn’t to regale you with the glories-that-should-have-been from another team. No, it’s to show what a truly talented offensive coaching staff can do for a team.

Gruden was hired because he was an offensive genius. He was brought in to replace a coach that couldn’t make it click.

Gruden then brought in Gannon to run that offense, knowing full well that it was a gamble, but he knew Rich was smart enough to make it work.

To go off on a slight tangent, let’s look at the current Minnesota Vikings. Mike Zimmer was brought in because he’s a defensive genius – and now the Vikings have one of the most feared defenses in the NFL.

This brings us full circle back to our beloved Houston Texans. A few short years ago, Bill O’Brien was being hailed as a Gruden-level offensive guru. Someone who could take what Gary Kubiak and Rick Smith had assembled and get it to the next level. O’Brien inherited a team just one season removed from a 12-4 campaign, a much better situation than what Gruden stepped into in Oakland.

In fact, O’Brien had a general manager and owner that gave him the freedom he needed to do his thing. Al Davis, despite rumors to the contrary, was never that open-handed with Gruden or any other coach after John Madden.

With that context, and the fact that we’re now 43 games into the Bill O’Brien era, this team should have one of the best offenses in the league…let that sink in for a minute. Jon Gruden, Mike Zimmer, Bill O’Brien… all hailed as gurus of one side of the ball or the other.

“But, Brock Osweiler sucks!” you say. “He should be benched! Bring in Tom Savage!”

I’ve listened to the frustration, read the articles, heard the word on the street, and seen the poll.

But this offensive disaster that’s been ongoing throughout the 2016 season is NOT Osweiler’s fault.

Osweiler isn’t the one designing plays where Lamar Miller runs into the line as if he’s Earl Campbell, a man who could steamroll anyone. Osweiler’s not the one failing to call running back routes into the flat, quick slant passes across the middle, or any of a number of other high percentage plays that move the ball. Sure, Osweiler can audible out, but those audibles have to be to plays in the playbook the team has practiced enough to execute.

Osweiler’s not the one who fails to adjust the game plan to what the opposing defense is doing and strategize accordingly. He’s not the one calling plays designed to get three yards on third and long.

Houston Texans v Oakland Raiders Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Say what you will about the genius of Bill O’Brien and George Godsey’s offensive schemes, but the proof is in the pudding. Take a taste of that pudding and you’ll know Godsey’s doing a terrible job in the offensive kitchen. And O’Brien isn’t doing enough to overcome it.

As much of a likeable guy O’Brien is, and he is a very likeable guy, as he said himself in yesterday’s press conference when referring to now ex-Texas Longhorns coach Charlie Strong, “…sometimes it doesn’t work out. It’s not from lack of effort or lack of toughness and things like that…”

It isn’t working out now.

On 75% of the teams in this league, and a higher percentage of Top 25 NCAA teams, the offensive coordinator would have been fired by now, regardless of the team’s record. In some cases the coach who brought him in would have been canned as well. Sure, the Texans are north of .500 - for now - but several of those wins were sheer luck and most of them were solely on the strength of Romeo Crennel’s defense. You remember Crennel, the defensive genius who was brought in to make the defense top notch? He has done just that.

If O’Brien wants to remain the head coach in Houston, he needs to realize a change has to occur. Continuing to do the same things and expecting a different outcome is the textbook definition of insanity.

Week in and week out, during the press conferences, O’Brien says the same things:

- “We need to do a better job.”

- “We need to learn from our mistakes.”

- “We need to coach better.”

Benching Osweiler won’t fix the schemes. It won’t do a better job. It won’t help the offensive staff learn from their mistakes. It won’t help them coach better. Putting Tom Savage at the top of the depth chart will only put another young talent in an untenable situation.

This offense is broken. Not just one player, and not just play at one position.

The time is now to make a move. Get ready for 2017, when J.J. Watt will be back, when the defense should be the best in the league. Work now to make sure the offense is at the same level, and then plan for a deep run into the playoffs. Find a better offensive coordinator, even if he and O’Brien aren’t “besties,” and let him turn this offense around.

Doing otherwise is simply a waste of time, resources, player health and the goodwill of a wavering fanbase that’s sick of rooting for a lost program.

What do you think? Ready for another season of this? Want change today? Let us know in the comments below.