While we all know the trials and tribulations of the 2020 offseason, from watching DeAndre Hopkins ride off into the sunset to Tim Jernigan’s deal falling through, this spring really hasn’t been kind to Houston Texans fans. To further add insult to injury, Chris Roling of Bleacher Report put out a list of Biggest Winners and Losers so far in the NFL offseason, and Houston Texans head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien wound up on the wrong side of that analysis.
The 2020 offseason has been a rough ride for Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, both in the public perception department and in roster and team direction.
Losing DeAndre Hopkins via trade stands out, of course. Willfully shipping away a top-10 wideout is never going to accepted by a wider audience unless something unexpected happens on the field.
O’Brien added receivers Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb, a pair of underwhelming adds who combined for just five scores with neither hitting 1,000 yards a season ago. The offense also added running back David Johnson via the Nuk trade, a running back who hasn’t been nearly as effective since his monster 2016 season.
None of those moves beef up an offensive line that coughed up 49 sacks last year, and the defense lost D.J. Reader this offseason. Keep in mind O’Brien didn’t have a draft pick to work with until the second round this year.
While O’Brien struggled with roster construction this offseason, Philip Rivers arrived in Indianapolis and the Tennessee Titans remained steady after making the AFC title game last year. The Texans will have their hands full in the AFC South.
Houston Texans Heart Check
However, let’s take a minute to detail some of the positives, shall we? First off, O’Brien’s response to the recent wave of civil unrest. We’ve all heard the rumors that O’Brien’s a ‘players’ coach.’ He continually accepts blame and heaps it upon himself when things go awry instead of pointing fingers at the players and other coaches. He supports his players no matter the cost and does so passionately. His video statement further cemented the notion that, at heart, O’Brien is a good guy. The kind of guy players want to play for, the kind of guy fans want to root for, the kind of guy kids should look up to in terms of how he treats those around him and exhorts others to do the same.
Houston Texans Gut Check
Next, we have O’Brien’s intestinal fortitude. He seems to have a plan to rework the offensive side of the ball. No matter the criticism, he’s stuck to that plan—at least as far as those of on the outside looking in can tell. O’Brien has worked his vision, bringing in another pass catching back in David Johnson, an elite speedster in wideout Brandin Cooks, and a solid slot receiver in Randall Cobb to give phenom quarterback Deshaun Watson a new tool kit to work with. While none of these newly added players has lit the SportsCenter highlight reel on fire recently, if they can gel fast enough and ward off the injury bug, Houston’s offense has - on paper - the potential to be a fireworks display every game day in 2020.
Houston Texans Offense
Then we can look at the coordinator roles. O’Brien has finally passed the playcalling torch over to longtime protege Tim Kelly, who seems to have a number of exciting things up his sleeve when it comes to putting his newly overhauled offense through its paces. Imagine having Kenny Stills, Will Fuller V, and Brandin Cooks on the field at the same time. There’s no defense in the NFL that can keep them all blanketed for more than an instant before one breaks free.
Houston Texans Defense
Anthony Weaver is another Mike Vrabel, an assistant coach who has a ceiling that carries the title of ‘future head coach’ with it. While Weaver doesn’t have the plethora of talent Kelly has to work with, he does still have J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Zach Cunningham, Justin Reid and a litany of other solid players. If Weaver can, well, weave that roster into a solid backstop, the 2020 Texans’ defense should improve simply based on divisional opponents not having decades of game film to plan with. At the end of the day, former defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s bag of tricks may have finally run dry last season.
Houston Texans Roster
We’ve beat the drum of bringing in a few more players to help out, specifically on the defensive side of the ball - guys like Everson Griffen, Damon Harrison, and Eric Reid could all give the defense a solid shot in the arm. Another plus to O’Brien is you just never know what he’s going to do. Odds are he has his eye on another player or two most of us aren’t even thinking about, and when Houston pulls that trigger, it’ll be another shot heard ‘round the world.
Now that we’ve expounded on the negatives and the positives, let’s get real and agree the reality of the NFL 2020 season, if there is one, will most likely fall somewhere in the middle of these extremes.
Where do you fall on this gut check of fandom? Eternally optimistic? Lost all hope? Pragmatic til the end? Let us know in the comments.
Above all else - be well in this current season of human history - your health, physically, mentally and spiritually, and the health of your family and friends is worth far more than any speculation on a game played simply for our entertainment.