History has never looked fondly on the loyal subordinates of a dictator after a revolution. When a country, or a sports franchise, topples its ruler, the aftermath is usually a bloody and absolute process. Now that the Texans’ tyrant Bill O’Brien has been dethroned from his role(s) in Houston, the power vacuum that will ensue could consume the organization and thrust it into a period of perpetual losing. It is up to ownership to reshape the organization and rebuild the team from the top down.
Without a doubt, Cal McNair did the right thing by firing Bill O’Brien from both the head coach and general manager positions. This will accomplish two things. One, it will allow whoever takes over at either position to have a clean start. They won’t have to look over their shoulder for when O’Brien feels he needs to take control. We’ve seen this happen time and time again with O’Brien and the play calling during his time in HOuston; if he’s not pleased by the current situation, he’ll take it upon himself to fix it. There should be no Brian Gaine 2.0 this time, where a puppet general manager steps in and timidly works within the confines of O’Brien’s approval.
Second, it allows the team to find a new head coach and general manager pairing. Knowing the McNair family and their preference for continuity, I expect the general manager and head coach to be familiar with one another and to have worked together in the past. They’ll jointly usher in a new mindset and process that the Texans desperately need. Unless the Texans go back to the Patriots’ well of front office talent and pull the duo of Josh McDaniels (HC) and Nick Caserio; that wouldn’t constitute a new mindset at all. It also wouldn't be the first time the Texans tried to steal Caserio away from the Pats, but this would be the first effort to attract McDaniels.
If I were to play armchair owner with a couple billion in my back pocket, I’d bring in the best assortment of talent from different coaching trees and organizations to piece together the best possible combination of management. This can of course cause friction if not constructed properly, but from an upper-management perspective, this is exactly what the organization needs—unique thoughts and approaches drafted from the cream of the crop around the NFL . Get the best football minds to Houston. Of course, while a great idea on paper, these things never work out so ideally.
To that end, all eyes are on what the Texans do with Jack Easterby, the VP of Football Operations, who has taken over as interim GM in the wake of O’Brien’s firing. Look at his headshot and tell me if you think this guy is the man to lead the Texans to a Super Bowl.
That is a shaggy jacket, though.
Easterby has taken an unorthodox route to assume the roles and powers that he has. This is the blurb the Texans have on the website:
Easterby came to Houston after six seasons with the New England Patriots. He joined the Patriots prior to the 2013 season in the role of character coach. During his tenure, Easterby saw his role expand to include the title of team development director and management responsibilities over several sub-programs within the organization. The Patriots advanced to the AFC Championship Game in each of Easterby’s six seasons and took part in four Super Bowls, winning three.
Over his impactful career, Easterby has served as a team/athlete development consultant for multiple NBA teams, United States National Teams, and has mentored numerous PGA Tour players as well as Major League Baseball players. Easterby gained his first NFL experience in the summer of 2004 with the Jacksonville Jaguars, helping in football operations and public relations. He became the character coach for the University of South Carolina Athletics Department from 2005-10, where he implemented team-building programs for all Olympic sports including the 2010 & 2011 Men’s Baseball National Champions and the eventual Women’s Basketball National Champion while he assisted in both academic and spiritual accountability initiatives on campus.
If Easterby is the “culture”, it’s obvious that for legitimate change to occur he must be let go. Time, however, is working in Easterby’s favor. He’ll have 14 weeks of general manager experience to further build his resume in Houston.
Moving on...keep your eyes peeled for head coaching options the Texans could bring in, as they’ll most likely not want Romeo Crennel to stay on as head coach after the 2020 season. The Texans don’t have an immediate replacement within the organization that makes sense; they couldn’t keep anyone who could have taken over. Even if they did have an in-house candidate, the team needs to look outside the organization to find its next coach.
When it comes to Romeo, you have to appreciate the man and the energy he brings at the age of 73. He’s a beacon of kindness, success, and rationality for all. Even from this 2018 article on Romeo Crennel, it’s clear the players have a soft spot for him. He’s taken the reins and is 1-0 so far this season, but not even a winning record should keep Crennel in Houston for much longer. Twice Crennel has taken up a role in the booth watching the Texans and providing his analysis rather than being down on the field as the defensive coordinator—once for Mike Vrabel and most recently under Anthony Weaver, Crennel has been better suited as Houston’s eye in the sky. As the oldest coach in NFL history, there unfortunately is no future with Crennel at the helm.
Usually what happens when a coach is hired is that he brings coaches from the side of the ball that he’s most familiar with. During the hiring process, the coach demands that he brings his cronies with him. Retaining remnants of O’Brien’s regime will dissuade potential coaches from joining Houston, as they won’t be able to fully reinvent the team in their image. These are the soldiers on the ground implementing the system, training the players hands-on, and communicating the day-to-day stuff while the coach looks at the big picture. This usually extends all the way down to the position coaches, but it most notably affects the offensive and defensive coordinator.
Tim Kelly is the current offensive coordinator and should be the most temporarily excited person on the planet. This is his first stint as an offensive coordinator and O’Brien had already stripped him of play calling duties after a few atrocious weeks of offense. Technically, Kelly was the offensive coordinator last year, but O’Brien was still calling the plays. Now that O’Brien is gone and there’s no other offensive mind in the organization, Kelly has full control of what goes on when Houston’s offense takes the field. That level of liberation will be short-lived, as whoever takes over will almost be guaranteed to bring in their own offensive coordinator. Especially as this team will be looking to capitalize on the talent it has on offense, bringing in a competent offensive coordinator will be critical to turning the tide in Houston.
This is unfortunate for Kelly, but anyone who has been with the team for all seven years of O’Brien’s reign is too deep in the cesspool to be kept around. Talented as he may be, Kelly’s meteoric rise will have to find a new place among the stars in another city.
For new defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver, his first four games have been quite possibly the Texans’ worst in a decade. The rushing defense is the worst in the league and Houston allows the fifth-most points per game. It’s been unbearable to watch. Granted, some or perhaps most of that failure is due to a lack of roster talent, and it doesn't help that the rookies aren’t active or are actively sabotaging themselves. Still, there are too many high-priced veterans on this defense to be playing as poorly as they are. Fair or not, it’s tough to envision Weaver getting a second year as DC in Houston under a new head coach.
Outside of the offensive and defensive coordinators, what’s left of the Texans front office is an amalgamation of guys in various positions who are all updating their resume as we speak. When Brian Gaine was hired in January to preside over the 2018 NFL Draft, he kept the staff he had then on throughout the draft so they did not have to start from square one with the new talent. Directly after the draft, he bulldozed the house and brought in a new team to bring in his type of players. One of those hires was Matt Bazirgan.
Matt Bazirgan, a name you should know, is the Texans’ Director of Player Personnel. He came to Houston in 2018 from none other than the New York Jets. Because the Jets have been an absolute goldmine of talent and really know how to pick players with their top draft picks, you know. Bazirgan has been in charge of Houston’s pro and college scouting department, so in my mind he’s partly to blame for supervising the miserable trades the Texans have executed since 2018. He is a must-go.
I was listening to the “Pardon My Take” episode with new Washington Football Team President Jason Wright, and the PMT guys suggested that Wright should change the carpet in the locker room. The idea was that if you change people’s surroundings, you can change their mindset and have them start fresh. It’s a clever psychological idea that may be a smart choice for whoever takes over in Houston. This organization tends to be stuck in its ways, and if a little redecoration can sweep the past ills under the rug, I say bring in the “Fixer Upper” couple!
However you want to say it—a clean sweep, a clean house, a fresh start, a new beginning, a new day—do it. Bring in the new. From the top-down, escort out any remnants of the O’Brien era. Start from scratch organizationally and depend on the talent in the locker room.