The NFL is obsessed with continuity, the ability to continue to do something over and over again with the same results or near that result until it becomes unnoticeable. Why wouldn’t they be? What’s better than winning once? Winning multiple times. The question of how best to do it is a constant point of confusion within the league.
Some think it’s a particular kind of strategy or approach to how a job is done, like trying to build a team full of a certain kind of player because you believe those kinds of players are what championship teams are made of. That conclusion probably comes off the back of previous experience, where you saw a really successful team, distilled how they were winning down to a few key elements, and tried to replicate them. I could say that the conclusion could come from asking whether or not success could come from another method, but this is the NFL; creativity and individuality are often subsumed by a ‘‘Just Win, Baby’’ attitude.
NFL teams that are not successful are in a perpetual state of attempting clone successful teams. ‘‘It worked for them, so why can’t it work for us’’ seems to often be the default setting for the hiring and firing processes of many organizations. Owners see a successful team and want to be them, but rather than creating ways in which they could achieve that on their own, organizations instead choose to take some of the elements of a successful team and transplant them into a new environment in the hope that success will duplicate itself.
The entire dumb saga playing out in Houston right now, with Episode I entitled ‘The Texans Fire Brian Gaine’ followed by sequels centering around the Texans’ attempt to hire Nick Caserio from the New England Patriots, encapsulates this perfectly. There are layers to this idiocy. One was whether or not Gaine’s firing was actually justified based on performance or if it happened because of an owner who felt like his team wasn’t moving forward as fast as he wanted to. The next level was the Patriots bringing tampering charges against the Texans after Houston’s favored candidate was hanging out with a current member of the Texans’ front office at a party celebrating New England’s latest Super Bowl victory. Finally, there was the alleged fact that the Texans didn’t know Nick Caserio had a clause in his contract that would not allow him to interview with other teams. After all that, the Texans have reportedly made the decision to go through the 2019 season without a general manager, choosing to split personnel duties between Jack Easterby and Bill O’Brien.
I can chide the Texans all day for their idiocy, but instead I’d rather ask this question: Is hiring Caserio really worth it? Consider the Texans move in the context of siphoning off the New England Patriots’ success and have managed to somewhat achieve this goal by acquiring individuals who breathed the same air as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. This plan has generally struggled to see real success in the NFL. A belief that winning is a transitive property in the NFL seems divorced from any kind of reality. Do you really believe having Bill O’Brien and merry minions who have all been told at some point or another by Bill Belichick to ‘‘DO YOUR JOB’’ is the best way to win?
That won’t stop the Texans, and it won’t stop Cal McNair. This team is desperate to be the Patriots, just like every other team is desperate to taste their success. The Texans are just doing it via the dumbest means possible. If McNair was truly interested in bringing about change within the organization and on the field, the fastest way to achieve that is to replace the person who is in charge of the product on the field—the head coach. Instead, that head coach is given a blank check and the keys to the kingdom.
We talk about how the Texans’ drafting of Deshaun Watson signaled a changing in the Texans’ fortune now that they had a quarterback they could build around. The problem is the Texans have been building around Bill O’Brien for the last four seasons. They allowed him to play quarterback musical chairs for the first four years of his tenure. Rick Smith stepped down after his wife’s cancer diagnosis, but Smith and O’Brien never really meshed together. To replace Smith, Houston hired someone who Bill O’Brien liked to be his work buddy in Brian Gaine. They then fired said buddy because he wasn’t O’Brien’s FAVORITE work buddy. Now they are willing to give O’Brien more power for an entire season because...why? What has been holding him and the rest of the organization back that will suddenly be fixed by the arrival of another individual from New England not named Bill Belichick?
The sunk cost fallacy occurs when an accumulation of investments that contain an emotional element taint one’s ability to make an objective judgement as to whether or not an investment should be continued. The Texans hired Bill O’Brien after the 2013 season; since then, they’ve just kept investing and investing and investing around him. For what? What’s the end point here? Assembling the Patriots 2.0 under the guise of someone who isn’t Bill Belichick and hasn’t shown even the closest resemblance to him?
What has O’Brien done on the field to deserve the power and reverence that he has received in Houston? Everything for the Texans begins and ends with Bill O’Brien, and that is absurd for a team that has assets like a young star QB on a rookie deal and an assembly of stars at other positions. The question that has to be asked is this: Are you sure this is the individual and vision you want to follow? If not, all that will be accomplished is the wasting of the most precious resource: Time.