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BRB GroupThink: Thinking About The Bad Times

The masthead joins together to remember the biggest gaffes from the Bill O’Brien era.

Wild Card Round - Kansas City Chiefs v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Houston Texans had dozens of truly terrible and confoundingly dumb moments and decisions during the Bill O’Brien era. Everything from Vince Wilfork leading the way on a power run play in a playoff game, to [NAME REDACTED]’s thrumble, to the fake punt in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs against Kansas City.

What do you think was the dumbest play from these dumb days?

MATT WESTON:

For me, it has to be the decisions made in the 2019 AFC Divisional Round against the Kansas City Chiefs. The decision to kick the field goal on 4th and 1 up 21-0 was a COWARD’S decision. Bill O’Brien wasted a timeout because he couldn’t make up his mind, like a child sitting on the carpet trying to decide if he needs to go to the bathroom or not and ending up sitting in a puddle of their own waste. O’Brien called a timeout with the Texans’ offense on the field because he didn’t have a play for the situation. Dammit, man! You’re paid millions of dollars a year to have a play for this situation! Every second of your life should be devoted to having a play for this situation!

The Texans kicked the field goal, eeping it a three possession game. A bad pass defense was subsequently shredded by a generational quarterback playing in the best offense in football. By the time the Texans scored again, they had given up 41 straight points.

Not only that, but later on, in a similar situation, on 4th and 4 (not even 4th and 1), in their own territory, the Texans went for it, and they went for it by utilizing a fake punt. This is perhaps the dumbest play of this era. To have Deshaun Watson, deep in your opponent’s territory, knowing 24 points isn’t going to be enough to win, and you kick a field goal, but later you have the audacity to go for it in a far riskier situation with a player who hasn’t carried the ball since high school. That is insane.

The fake punt was doomed to fail from the start. Bill O’Brien had a little smirk on his face ahead of the snap. Houston took their time lining up. Justin Reid patrolled around the backfield. Drew Sorensen followed him. Sorensen saw the play from the beginning. He chased Reid along the edge of the formation and wrangled him below the waist. Kansas City’s madness ensued.

Sure, there were dumber plays, like Vince Wilfork leading the way on a hand off to J.J. Watt in a playoff game, or Shareece Wright covering double moves, or DeAndre Hopkins’ wide receiver pass against Carolina, or a wide variety of others. Those plays came in less important games unlike these two that occurred in a game that we all had been waiting for and actively aided the Chiefs’ comeback and Divisional Round win.

BIGFATDRUNK:

I’ll never forget the moment that BOB decided the best possible play on a short 4th down was to line up Alfred Blue behind Ryan Griffin in an I-formation.

The fail of that play will forever haunt Reliant Stadium.

L4BLITZER:

Perhaps this could be construed as piling on Bill O’Brien. After all, the man did just lose his job/raison d’etre for 6+ years, but given that he will probably be coaching somewhere again soon, making good money, I don’t feel quite as bad. Besides, he did leave quite a mess on his way out the door.

As for the worst play, that is not so easy. Sometimes, it is hard to know whether it was the execution or the play-call. If it worked, we would think him a genius. However, upon hearing this question, I have a hard time not thinking of the WTF play against Kansas City during the January 9, 2016 Wild Card Abomination at NRG Stadium.

I suppose he thought that J.J. Watt running in a touchdown would blow the roof off NRG and create a tidal wave of momentum that the team could ride to victory. That is probably the only reason to call that play. Otherwise, you have the clubhouse leader for dumbest play-call of the BO’B era.

On that drive, the Texans had their main success running the ball with running backs. Alfred Blue had just reeled off perhaps the greatest run of his Texans career (49 yards) to get the ball to the Chiefs’ 13. You had just run a “Wild Toro” play with Jonathan Grimes to get the first down at the 2 yard line on a 3rd and 8. Yet BO’B went with another obvious Wild Cat with a defense ready to sniff it out. If he lined up Watt at tight end, at least there could be the pretense of deception. Or maybe let Blue run itl he could at least get two yards.

Instead, the play lost one yard. Didn’t help that Vince Wilfork, a powerful man in his own right, was not a natural fullback. He was not going to scare and drive other defensive linemen back a la “Refrigerator” Perry or “Mount” Cody from Alabama. Maybe earlier in his career you do that with Wilfork, but not at that time, and not in that situation.

On the following 2nd and Goal at the 3, Brian Hoyer threw his second, and most critical, interception of the day. To that point, the Texans had been walloped, but were only down 13-0. A touchdown, and suddenly, it is only 13-7. Instead, Hoyer’s interception broke the Texans’ back. KC proceeded to outscore the team 17-0 the rest of the way, and Watt suffered the first of several significant injuries later in that game. Not a direct link between the 1 yard run loss and the later injury to Watt, but that play was about the worst timed trick play I have ever seen. It showed the limits of Hoyer, drove the team towards [NAME REDACTED], and all that followed—good, bad, and ugly.

No doubt, in six years, any coach will have his share of head-scratching plays, but BO’B would have a hard time topping the WTF play of the Wild Card Abomination.

MIKE BULLOCK:

There were so many they’ve all, for the most part, blurred into a nasty mixture of misery that automatically pulls my face into a frown every time I think about O’Brien’s game management. The two decisions, for me, however that are “unforgivable sins” are:

1) Not installing the game plan until Friday.

2) Not having a play ready for 4th and 1 and then admitting it after the decimation in last year’s playoff meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Most players need Saturday to rest from a week of hard practice. Not giving the offense the final gameplan until Friday means a) they can’t practice it with the team and b) they’re expected to not rest and instead study a game plan when they’re worn out with no chance to seek answers to the questions that always arise when going over said plan. It’s Offensive Coordinator 101 and for a guy heralded as a Wile E. Coyote level offensive Super Genius, hearing this was how O’Brien ran the show was truly shocking.

With word coming out that O’Brien expected nothing but perfection in practice, only to see the team take the field unprepared week after week, it all makes sense. Practice is when you make mistakes, work to correct them, and perfect the plays. Coming in with an expectation that you’re not going to make a mistake is like expecting Michael Jordan to never miss a free throw, or Jerry Rice to never drop a pass, or Wayne Gretzky to never miss a shot. The reason practice exists is to... wait for it... practice. Maybe O’Brien needs to write the words “Practice Makes Perfect” on his bathroom mirror and recite it every morning. Give your team a gameplan when there’s still time to work through it and help them improve during the week so that when Friday rolls around, they got this.

All that being said, the level of imperfection you have to exist at to not be prepared for a 4th and 1 near the opponent’s end zone is unfathomable. In nearly four decades of watching NFL games, never have I ever witnessed something like that. Sideline confusion, I’ve seen. Quarterback-head coach miscommunication, I’ve seen. Players running wrong plays, too many/not enough men on the field, and all that, I’ve seen. Not having a play ready when you need to go for it on 4th and short? From a coach who loved nothing more than running up the gut? Nail, meet coffin.

DIEHARD CHRIS:

I’m going in a different and less “fun” direction with this, but I feel it’s appropriate because it’s kind of a microcosm of the O’Brien-Watson era. I can’t recall which game from 2017 this was, but I know it was either the L at New England or the L at Seattle; I *think* it was the New England game. The Texans had a short 4th down - on the road - in (I think) New England, and a chance to put the game away with a first down conversion. Rather than put the ball in Watson’s hands, who had been shredding the Patriots all day, O’Brien elected to punt and we all know what followed.

This epitomized the O’Brien-Watson era. O’Brien would come to be a little bit less conservative with Watson when it came to in-game decisions, but the overall scheme and philosophy had little to no innovation or evolution to suit Watson’s strengths. This is the height of NFL coach arrogance and desire for O’Brien to make himself look like a genius to the rest of the league. I’m SO glad he is gone.

CARLOS FLORES:

I was originally going to flame BOB for Arian Foster’s injury during the loss to Miami in 2015, but felt it might be distasteful.

Instead, my choice isn’t so much a play but instead a moment. It’s the “You Suck Too, MF’er” bit. I was actually at this game in celebration of my birthday. I had a choice between the Broncos game or the Patriots game. I picked the Broncos because I wanted to spare myself the loss to the Pats. I made a GREAT decision.

There’s a lot of layers as to why this moment is so incredibly stupid. As a professional, that kind of stuff in unacceptable. As a football coach, you’re always going to hear it from the fans. It comes with the territory. Losing a game that shouldn’t have been lost, he should have expected some heat. I’m not joking that I sat there for the game with my head in my hands. It was DISGUSTING.

Most of all, I think it was the closest flash to what BOB was like as a coach. Thin-skinned, petty, unaccountable (regardless of what all the “it’s on me” sound bites would tell you). 10 months later and he’s gone. Good riddance.