While many, many fans and pundits are calling for Bill O’Brien’s firing (and some even saying O’Brien should just leave voluntarily) after yet another historic pantsing in the NFL pPayoffs last weekend, those in the know assure us not only is O’Brien’s job as secure as ever, his power grab earlier this year hasn’t lost any of its grip.
Let me repeat: Bill O’Brien will NOT be fired no matter how loud fans demand it! Ain’t happening! But it’s certainly ok to vent!— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) January 12, 2020
This is the way it was heading for the #Texans with the current power structure. Makes sense, since so many of their offseason moves worked out and helped put them in the playoffs. https://t.co/Kg5loXzCny— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 13, 2020
Yet some fans are calling for a boycott of the team until O’Brien is ushered out the door.
If he’s not fired fans should quit. They won’t, but they should. I will. I did 27 years ago until there was a coaching change. I can wait. 31 other teams in the league to cheer for. Why support local if local doesn’t care about the fans? #texansfansdeservebetter pic.twitter.com/lQPio5nscE— RoyWood (@RoyWood) January 12, 2020
With all that to digest, Houston is entering an era rarely seen in the “what have you done for me lately” modern NFL. We have to look no further than the AFC North to see prior examples of this in the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals.
Bill Cowher became the Steelers’ head coach in 1992 and promptly won 5 of the next 6 AFC North titles, making an early exit from the playoffs each year - with the exception of the 1995 Super Bowl, Pittsburgh was were dismantled by the Dallas Cowboys.
At the 6-year mark, where O’Brien is now, Cowher had taken the Steelers to the AFC Championship Game 3 times but not brought home a Lombardi Trophy. It didn’t take long for the stigma of “can’t win the big one” to settle on Cowher.
In 1998, the Steelers took a 3-year playoff hiatus before returning and once again failing to make the big game 3 of the next 4 seasons they went to the postseason before Cowher finally punched his ticket to Super Bowl winning glory.
This past weekend, Cowher was informed on live TV that he was being inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Yes, the same guy who went 13 seasons as “the coach who can’t win the big one” finally did it and will now be enshrined in Canton.
On the other side of the win-loss tracks we have the Bengals and Marvin Lewis. Lewis took the reins of the Bengals in 2003 and only made 1 playoff appearance in the next 6 seasons, losing in the Wild Card round to Cowher’s Steelers.
Then, in 2011, the Bengals went on an unprecedented (for them) 5 straight seasons with a playoff berth, exiting in the Wild Card round every time. Cincinnati ownership finally parted ways with Lewis last year and he’s now a special advisor for the Arizona Sun Devils football program.
Bill O’Brien is riding the line somewhere between Cowher and Lewis. Since his early indicators land in between them almost exactly, one could extrapolate that O’Brien’s peak will come somewhere around his 10th season in Houston, where he finally gets the team to the AFC Championship Game and loses.
Then, after a decade of “almost”, the McNairs finally tire of his “it’s all my fault” schtick, start believing him when he says he’s the problem, and remove the problem.
But just as we saw yesterday with the Astros, fortunes can turn on a dime in pro sports and few can predict the crazy twists and turns. All we can work with right now is the assumption that, good or bad, Cowher or Lewis, we’re stuck with Bill O’Brien for awhile.
With that being said, what would you do to improve this team for next year? Houston has a deficit of draft picks but plenty of cap space (if the flat earth management team can properly structure contracts) to re-sign current FAs and bring in new ones when the league year begins. With a bevy of players to re-sign, which ones are a must have?
Who should the Texans bring back?
Alternatively, there are a litany of potential “be the best Texan I can be” guys about to hit the streets looking for new teams.
It goes so far beyond the players. Sure, Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce destroyed the Texans’ defense the other day, but was that all on the players? Should Romeo Crennel feel some heat on this one? Who takes the blame for Houston’s utter inability to score during the Chiefs history-making 41-point run after they spotted the Texans a 24 point lead? For those keeping track at home, that’s 71 unanswered points the Chiefs have put on Bill O’Brien in the playoffs in the last few years.
We shouldn’t feel bad if none of us know the answer; even a guy who gets paid $3.5 million a year and currently has a net worth of $7 million based on being a football expert doesn’t know...
Question: What’s holding your team back right now?— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) January 12, 2020
“I don’t know. We’ve got to look at everything.” - Bill O’Brien pic.twitter.com/ThnCf2XXuy
The question remains: Where does that leave us? Most likely squabbling over who should own the blame on this, defending our team from the ridicule of other teams’ fans, and watching our former defensive coordinator take his new team to the AFC Championship Game a mere two years after he took over - to most likely face our former offensive coordinator who did the same.