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BRB Groupthink: Head Coach Or General Manager?

Which hat do you wear?

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The unofficial became official earlier this week. Bill O’Brien has effectively been the Texans’ general manager since last June. True to his word, O’Brien said Houston wouldn’t hire a general manager at the end of the postseason. Now Chris Olsen is gone to boot, and O’Brien is the general manager , and he will stay the GM, barring some super secret, super genius, plot-twisting I am Keyser Soze decision made after free agency.

It’s O’Brien’s team. The Houston Texans are his vehicle.

He wears the two most important hats in the organization. He’s been the head coach for six seasons and the general manager for about eight months. For this week’s groupthink, I asked the masthead, “Who do you think is better—Bill O’Brien the general manager, or Bill O’Brien the head coach?”

These are our answers:


I hate you for asking this. I really do.

This is a very serious journalistic operation. I don’t care.

I guess I’d have to go Bill O’Brien as head coach. He’s gotten the bare minimum out of a talented roster. He’s had the offense zooming occasionally; see the 2017 offense he quickly built around rookie Deshaun Watson that was based on around pre-snap motion and the vertical passing game, the read option against Kansas City during the regular season that continued to work against horrendous linebackers, the vertical passing attack against Atlanta. But more often than not, this offense is hindered by O’Brien’s interior running, run to pass, ball control philosophy. The same route combinations and the same play calling tendencies are easy to pick up on, which all leads to Watson searching to find someone open.

Bill O’Brien, general manager, made an all-time awful trade by shipping Jadeveon Clowney to the Seahawks or BIG PLAY BARKEVIOUS MINGO, a third round pick that became Gareon Conley, and Jacob Martin. Clowney wanted to play under the franchise tag in Houston in 2019. He would have made a tremendous impact on the Texans’ interior pass rush and would have created the negative run plays this defense missed. Even if you don’t want Clowney long-term because of injuries, or whatever, his impact this season would have made a dramatic difference. Houston would have been better with Clowney instead of Martin, Mingo, and Conley.

The Clowney trade didn’t make sense when it happened. It especially didn't after they traded multiple first round picks and a second round pick for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills. Sure, the Tunsil trade is great right now. The Texans didn’t give up any present assets to make it happen. But get ready for whenever Tunsil is making $16 million a year, Watson is making $35 million a year, and Bill O’Brien is doing his best Ryan Grigson impersonation, saying it’s difficult to build a team with these two contracts. Oh, and even after trading for Tunsil, the Texans still ranked 27th in adjusted sack rate. What do you know? Trading for a left tackle doesn’t solve your pass protection issues. The ecosystem is sick. One member of the web couldn’t fix it.

On top of that, O’Brien definitely had an impact and influence on the decision to not take a quarterback in 2014. He then knocked the dominoes over that included Tom Savage, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, and [NAME REDACTED] as the team’s starting quarterback until Watson came around. Sure, there were other injury fill-ins. I can’t forget you, Brandon Weeden. But these are the QBs they wanted, as the players had one of the two sets of characteristics. Intelligent with limited talent and can run the offense, or tall with a big arm. These are Bill O’Brien quarterbacks. Praise be for Rick Smith trading up for Watson.

It all mostly ranges from bad to mediocre. This will be Year Seven. We’ve wasted so much time. Hopefully something magical happens because O’Brien isn’t going anywhere.


Bill O’Brien the head coach is unquestionably better than Bill O’Brien the GM.

I think we forget that O’Brien is not a bad coach - he’s just not a very good one either. As a GM, he’s stifled future talent influx in favor of the present, which would be fine with me if this team had actually been a Laremy Tunsil away from being a Super Bowl contender. That was just not the case, however.

I don’t want to bury the lede. Trading Jadeveon Clowney (and the self-inflicted joke of a haul they got for him) was one of the most inept, incompetent, inexplicable, and shockingly dumb moves I’ve ever witnessed in my football-watching life. That dead horse has been beaten into vapor so I won’t go on - but that’s really the only reference needed.


This is so depressing to say, but BOB the HC is better than BOB the GM.

There’s a reason HCs are not also GMs, and BOB proved why in the last offseason. In a vacuum, the Laremy Tunsil trade is fine, but it’s going to have serious repercussions for the team both via the cap and the ability to improve in the future. Trading a third round pick for Gareon Conley, while the Ravens picked up Marcus Peters for a fifth round pick shows how grossly BOB overpaid for Conley.

Then, of course, the Jadeveon Clowney debacle, where BOB let his personal feelings as the HC get in the way of doing anything intelligent.

Ultimately, I believe that’s what makes BOB such a poor GM: He acts off feelings rather than analysis. It also gets him into trouble as a HC, but while he’s in both roles, the problems are compounded.


I would say that O’Brien the coach is better than his GM persona.

Once he took over as the de facto GM, O’Brien made moves for Duke Johnson, Laremy Tunsil, Carlos Hyde, Kenny Stills, Gareon Conley, Jacob Martin, and Barkevious Mingo. On paper, some of these moves seemed good; others were questionable. I personally believe we gave up too much in the Tunsil trade. I also believe that we got fleeced in the Jadeveon Clowney trade. I would mark those down as two losses for William O’Brien (GM).

I thought the Duke Johnson trade was okay. We probably gave up too much to get him, but at the time, I thought that he would be worth it. I did not foresee that we would waste his talents and use him in a fashion he is not suited for. Of course, I should have seen it coming, since it’s pretty much the same thing we did with Lamar Miller. Carlos Hyde was a good pickup. He’s the type of back that O’Brien loves and fits his scheme really well. I’m also fine with the Conley trade because we had to bring somebody in to help a flailing secondary.

The problem is that all of these moves were short-sighted. It put the Texans in a hole that I don’t believe they can recover from easily. We lost draft capital that was invaluable for team with significant roster issues. Additionally, we now have to find a way to pay Tunsil and Watson. If we lose Tunsil, O’Brien’s time as a GM is a monstrous failure.

One more item of note: According to the rumors, Bradley Roby doesn’t have any interest in re-signing with the team this offseason. There could be any number of reasons. Assuming the problem is O’Brien, and I’m not saying it is for sure, we may see an inability to bring in talent this offseason due to his personality. I think it’s worth keeping an eye on since we will depend heavily on free agency to shore up the roster.

Bill O’Brien, the coach, forced William O’Brien (GM) to make moves going all in this season. It didn’t pay off and now William O’Brien (GM) must find a way to improve this roster with limited assets.

What say you, loyal reader? O’Brien the general manager or O’Brien the head coach?


Who’s better? Bill O’Brien the general manager, or Bill O’Brien the head coach?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    General Manager
    (203 votes)
  • 28%
    Head Coach
    (80 votes)
283 votes total Vote Now