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BRB Group Think: Pondering Bill O’Brien’s Future in Houston

BRB considers Bill O’Brien’s future in Houston after a year of devastating injuries

Houston Texans v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Let’s talk Bill O’Brien. I put it to the group this week to discuss whether they think O’Brien would (or should) survive this season considering all the issues in 2017 that would undoubtedly gut ANY team or regime’s chances to succeed.

On the surface, it may seem absurd to think O’Brien may be on the hot seat - and in normal circumstances, I would agree - however, as we know, there are more issues with the team (and the behind-the-scenes relationships) than just the on-field product.

Diehard Chris:

I’m all over the place when it comes to Bill O’Brien. That said, before Deshaun Watson, I believe I was ready to move on. Now seeing what O’Brien can do with a franchise quarterback - I’m a bit leery of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Sure, he has his warts, but my GOD that offense! We can’t know for certain if another coach was brought in that the team would have as much success on that side of the ball. I hate to issue a professional football team a mulligan, but that’s pretty much what 2017 comes down to with these Texans considering all the injuries.

I get that injuries are a way of life in the NFL, but I can’t recall any recent examples of THIS level of roster destruction. You’ve lost J.J. Watt, the best player of a generation on defense, along with your arguably second best pass rusher in Whitney Mercilus. Then you’ve lost not only your franchise QB, but a franchise QB that is clearly worth at least what - 30 points per game versus the other QBs we have on the roster?

If I had ultimate confidence that another guy could come in and have this offense running just as well to start next season, I’d probably let O’Brien’s other issues escort him out of town - but I am not as confident as say, BFD is, with that assertion.

There are a lot of things about O’Brien that wear on me, but 30+ points per game - against Seattle on the road, and his clear chemistry with Deshaun Watson - would keep him in town if it were up to me. Extension? Hmm... different topic for a different day.


As I recently wrote, I wouldn't bring BOB back. At this point, I don't think there's any compelling reason to believe he's better than below average from his scheme to his personnel decisions to his clock management to his game planning. In none of these areas is he of note, and he's flat out poor in a couple.

Do I think he comes back? No, and not for the reasons I listed. I think his relationship with Rick Smith is too marred at this point, and it's not a battle BOB wins. Also, BOB's schtick just isn't a great fit in the NFL, and he must know this. I don't think BOB will be the head coach in 2018.

Brett Kollmann:

I do not think there is any way that O'Brien is fired this year. His offense finally started to work with Watson at the helm, and his defense died the moment Watt and Mercilus got hurt. This could have been an 11-12 win team if everyone started and stayed healthy all year, and ownership knows that. Hell, you could argue they could have been Super Bowl contenders even with a rookie quarterback under center. Billy O' ain't goin' nowhere.


I agree with Brett. As much as certain aspects of OB's coaching have long since grown tiresome, (the clock management, the hissyfits in press conferences, the tough guy schtick), he might have finally found a quarterback that he can work with. Of course, his relationship with our front office might be past the point of repair, but at least the team has answered the question under center. If OB is released or walks away after this season, I think it's going to have more to do with a clash of personalities rather than because of the product on the field.

Capt. Ron:

I also agree with Brett. The production of the offense with Watson at the controls was "NFL best." O'Brien may end up working through part of next season on the last year of this contract just to be certain that it wasn't a fluke; if it proves to be as successful as the six-game stretch he had with Watson in 2017, he'll get an extension mid-season. I don't see him getting extended this offseason.

On the flip side, if this team finishes between 3-13 and 5-11, I could also see them parting ways with O'Brien. If Mike Vrabel can get the defense sorted out with this mishmash of injury fill-in players, I could see them promoting Vrabel to head coach and possibly bringing Kyle Shanahan in as OC if the 49ers continue to flame out this year. A fully functioning Shanahan scheme that is weaponized with Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller would be a thing of beauty. The NFL might actually see a three-digit score from one team!

Matt Weston:

I don't love Bill O'Brien. I don't hate him. He's meh to me. I think he got the absolute minimum out of this team for his first three seasons. He didn't turn this team around in a season. That's a false narrative that needs to be moved to a field upstate. The 2013 Texans team had a year from hell. Better luck, improvement in quarterback play, and a great defense created a quick turnaround. The Texans from 2014-2017 were talented enough to win nine games but were held back from ever reaching their ceiling because of the quarterbacks Bill O'Brien selected and his coaching decisions. Because of O'Brien, there were three wasted years that everyone should be left thinking what if. Wasting time is the only non-renewable resource.

Additionally, there isn't anything pointing to O’Brien doing anything well. He's bad at clock management. He failed to create easy throws for his quarterbacks for three seasons, with the staple of the offense being groggy runs between the tackles and toss-ups to DeAndre Hopkins. Will Fuller V and Deshaun Watson are the only offensive players that really developed into something under him, and even then, the biggest reason why is talent; those players would be great no matter where they are at. There are times when the team is flat out not ready to play. He watched Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson all summer, yet selected Savage as the quarterback to lead his team, which is a fireable offense on its own. The only thing pointing to him being a good head coach is his W-L record, which, as BFD noted, is heavily inflated by beating bad teams and feasting on AFC South carrion.

Now that O’Brien actually has talent at the quarterback position and has changed his offense up to unleash Watson, I think you have to give him another season. The passing offense was so spectacular with DW4. Watson was so good. I think it's worth seeing what they could do together next season.

Without Watson, this team is going to be horrendous. Tom Savage is the worst quarterback in the NFL, and the defense can't lead the team to wins anymore. An optimist would pick them to win two more games. With additional cap space to upgrade the roster, and J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Watson coming back, the talent is there for this team to be great immediately next year. O'Brien had the offense moving well enough before Watson went down to give him the last year on his contract.

Curious to hear your thoughts, BRB. Consider this an invitation for an open-ended discussion on Bill O’Brien. The question isn’t “will he be fired.” It’s more about where you stand on O’Brien, considering it’s likely a fair assumption this team will be sub-.500 at the end of the year with some very, very ugly performances to show for it (and no high draft picks to help take the sting away).