clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Group Think: Reaction to Recent Houston Texans’ Coaching Changes

A few Masthead members check in to share their thoughts on Tim Kelly’s promotion to Offensive Coordinator and the hiring of QB Coach Carl Smith

Houston Texans v Washington Redskins
Bill O’Brien recently shuffled the deck of coaches on offense.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Houston Texans recently made changes to the coaching staff on the offensive side of the ball. Most notably, shortly after Sean Ryan left his quarterback coaching position for the same job in Detroit, the Texans named former tight ends coach Tim Kelly as offensive coordinator. Following that, the Texans brought in Carl Smith as their new quarterbacks coach. Smith spent 2018 as associate head coach for the Seattle Seahawks before serving as quarterbacks coach for them from 2011-2017.

Here is some reaction from the BRB staff to both hires:


If we were to set odds right after the Texans season ended for the most likely scenario to play out for the vacant offensive coordinator position, arguably the favorite would have been “no change, there will continue to be no O.C. in Houston.” In that hypothetical, tight ends coach Tim Kelly being named O.C. would’ve likely been the No. 2 favorite. When it happened, the collective reaction from Texans fans was “YAWN”. For me it goes further than that. I’m disappointed at how predictable this hire was. I would have preferred something a bit more out of the box - something that may challenge some of the overall themes and tenants of O’Brien’s offense. Instead, it’s a hire that appears on the surface to be asking for more of the same.

All of that said, I want to be clear about something. We have no idea what Tim Kelly is as an O.C., and we don’t know what he is as a play-caller. We do know (well, not “know” but in that winky face way - we know) that he’s not even going to be calling plays, or if he does it will be on a part-time basis. O’Brien has already said the play-calling will be collaborative, and gave his “very OB” way of basically stating “I’m gonna do what I want to do, and I’m not going to share the plan with the media, and the offense is gonna be what it’s gonna be” ... and that’s all fine. It’s his prerogative.

Oh, back to the thing I want to be clear on - I’m more criticizing the hiring method than the actual hire, if that makes sense. Kelly could prove us all wrong, and we’d be happy about that. I’m just so tired of the nepotism and the hiring of friends and the lack of challenging voices from the outside - BUT I also know that this is a league-wide practice. Hell, it stretches across all sports leagues and coaching staffs.

As far as Carl Smith goes, what’s not to like? He’s worked with Russell Wilson since Wilson’s rookie season, and was on staff as Wilson transitioned from a guy who is more dangerous with his feet to a guy who is a legitimate passer (and a guy who throws a hell of a deep ball). I have no idea how much of that was Smith and how much of that was Wilson - but he’s got a track record for effectiveness in the position, and he’s not an O’Brien lifer. So this is a hire that I’m actively happy about.

Capt. Ron

The NFL suffers greatly from the extensive application of nepotism with respect to the coaching staff for many franchises, and Bill O’Brien has provided quite the amplified example throughout his tenure as the head coach of the Houston Texans. When he arrived for his first season, he brought in very close-knit trusted members of his circle of influence. He eventually had to replace them when their areas of responsibility underperformed (George Godsey), or they departed to pursue career growth elsewhere (Mike Vrabel), but he continues to draw from a shallow pool of candidates from within arm’s reach to ensure he maintains trust and control.

While promoting Tim Kelly to Offensive Coordinator brings perhaps a momentary sigh of relief that O’Brien FINALLY recognizes the need for an OC in an NFL franchise, we are sadly all but assured that the same boring scheme will likely be trotted out there next season with O’Brien maintaining tight control on the play-calling. Why? Kelly was a graduate assistant for O’Brien at Penn State. Another member from O’Brien’s tiny circle of trust who he can control easily. This is a scheme that has produced far too many one-possession games, lacked dominance in most tilts, and is frankly about as fun to watch as the recent Super Bowl. On that note, I suspect that O’Brien loved the low-scoring grinder between the Rams and Patriots while the rest of the sports world ranked it the worst Super Bowl in history.

What to think of the Carl Smith hire as QB coach? He has a good record of mentoring Russell Wilson, so that sounds like a positive move to help further develop Watson.

Cal McNair and Brian Gain should have insisted and brought in an infusion of change for running the offense, but instead they are letting O’Brien continue forward with what has so far been a failed model in his choices for staff and scheme. What a shame, because it is not fully leveraging the incredible talents of Watson and Hopkins, all the while wasting away the remaining productive years for J.J. Watt on the other side of the ball. Both of these so-called coaching changes are just evidence that O’Brien doesn’t want anyone to come in and challenge the status quo to improve upon a dismal formula of mediocrity. OK, that’s not fair. Let’s call it “slightly-above-average mediocrity.” Call it what you want, but it isn’t producing anything better than a team that chugs along all season with obvious flaws that ensure an early (and twice quite embarrassing) exit in the playoffs.

I think O’Brien is the NFL’s version of Count Rugen from The Princess Bride:

”Beautiful isn’t it? It took me half a lifetime to invent it. I’m sure you’ve discovered my deep and abiding interest in pain. Presently I’m writing the definitive work on the subject, so I want you to be totally honest with me on how the machine makes you feel. This being our first try, I’ll use the lowest setting. As you know, the concept of the suction pump is centuries old. Really that’s all this is except that instead of sucking water, I’m sucking life. I’ve just sucked one year of your life away. I might one day go as high as five, but I really don’t know what that would do to you. So, let’s just start with what we have. What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity so be honest. How do you feel?”

Well, Bill, thank you for asking. Actually you DID just suck five years of my life away, and it makes me feel like I have to disassociate my passion for football as far from the Texans as possible to protect my own sanity. I am essentially an emotionally-numb fan of a franchise I want to love and I greatly look forward to the day when the Texans secure a more competent offensive leader to unleash the true power of Deshaun Watson.


Tim Kelly is a former defensive tackle, was once a defensive coordinator in college, “assisted” Mike Devlin in coaching the offensive line, spent three seasons as the quality offensive control coach for one of the most moribund offenses in the NFL, coached TEs for two years, and now has been promoted to be the offensive coordinator. The inner circle shall not be broken!

And why wouldn’t you give the man who coached one of the most consistently terrible units in the NFL a promotion? (Yes, the Jordans have a long way to go,)

This move is the most Texans thing that could happen behind only lining up Alfred Blue behind Ryan Griffin.

As for Carl Smith, I don’t know enough about him. That said, a friend who is a big Seahawks fan thinks he did good work in Seattle.

The hire I’m most excited about is TJ Yates. He’s already a folk legend in these parts, but he also seemed to always have a great football mind. Go, Weejay!

Matt Weston

Speaking out and giving my opinion on the few things I know something about is something I always try to do. I knew nothing about Tim Kelly until he was promoted to OC this week, and this is even as someone who LIVES and DIES Texans’ football, it is the only thing that matters to me in my life, nothing else, that’s it, just me and Texans’ football. Since this hiring I’ve learned he coached at Penn State with Mr. Bill, was an assistant offensive line coach on an offensive line where everyone who leaves gets better, and everyone who arrives gets worse, and coached the tight ends. That’s it. That’s all I know for now. Is he good at game planning, finding opponent’s weaknesses, scheming to take advantage of matchup advantages, calling plays, and everything else the job requires? I have no idea. So for me it’s wait and see with Kelly. I’m glad Houston has an offensive coordinator. This is as bland as a plop of mayonnaise on a piece of wonderbread, but that’s all I know for now.

I have a similar opinion on Smith. He coached Russell Wilson. Wilson is a top ten quarterback and morphed from a slithering snake who could play behind a horrendous offensive line and do enough with an all-time great defense on the other side and a tackle breaking machine at running back, to a slithering snake who can lead an offense all on his own behind a horrendous pass blocking offensive line, and throw one of the best deep balls in the game. Is this because of Smith? I don’t know. But it makes sense for someone who coached a player with a similar skillset to now work with Deshaun Watson.

Also I just want to add I love Brian Cushing in the weight room. If I had him in my life twice a day I could sling the moon out of the solar system, bench press a redwood, and lift the crust off the Earth’s mantle. All of those failed PED tests were because of overtraining and hardwork skyrocketing testosterone production, not chemical guzzling.

Where are you on these hires? Do you have any thoughts on Tim Kelly that might make us a bit more optimistic? Do you think we, as the Masthead, are capable of optimism? Or even happiness? Or are we just all sentenced to a life of wallowing in football failures for an eternity? Comment below and let us know where you stand on these issues, and let BFD know how much you love him. He wants to hear from you.