Usually when a team has an embarrassing exit from the postseason, coaching changes aren’t unexpected. Head coaches are often removed, coordinators fired, position group coaches sent packing. In the case of the Houston Texans’ second embarrassing ousting from the NFL Playoffs at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs in the Bill O’Brien era, BO’B saw fit to fire himself as offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel stepped down, and special teams guru Brad Seeley retired.
While that doesn’t seem quite the same as coaches getting the ax for terrible playoff games, it did produce the same results.
Your Houston Texans have 3 new coordinators: Tim Kelly, Anthony Weaver and Tracey Smith.
This, of course, begs the question of the day:Which new coordinator will have the biggest impact this season?
Tim Kelly *whispers: Deshaun Watson* will have the most success among the three new coordinators. You have consistency in personnel on the offensive line for the first time since I don’t know when, with all five starters returning. The offense has talent, familiarity, and speed. Also a franchise, top five QB. So, by virtue of talent alone, the obvious choice to me is Tim Kelly.
The defense is gonna have big issues. I don’t care how impressive Lonnie Johnson Jr.’s offseason workout videos have been. Pass rush is an issue. Secondary - issue. Injuries and injury history in a weird season without a complete offseason - issue. New coordinator means at least some lack of continuity - issue.
Specials are a big question mark because I do not subscribe to the thinking that the guy who was Brad Seely’s understudy is just going to keep on having the same level of success. I really hope so, because it sure has been easy to get used to the Texans having great special teams play.
Usually, if a team has to replace all three primary coordinators, it means that a coach is in dire straits and is trying to save his job, or the team is so successful that the assistants all got better (read: Head Coaching) jobs somewhere else. The Texans are not THAT successful, but BO’B, no matter his flaws, is not exactly under a mandate to win to save his job (at least as HC). I can’t think of a situation where two of three coordinators retired in an offseason.
As for the assistants, the one I think has the chance to be most successful, at least in terms of relative growth/success from last season, would be Anthony Weaver. As great a DC as RAC was over his career, last season was not quite his best, especially when it came to stopping the pass. Weaver may still be playing with the equivalent of a 2-7 off-suit hold ‘em hand, but he can bring in some new ideas, he at least will start the season with a healthy J.J. Watt (goes outside, throws several handfuls of salt over shoulder, avoids all overhanging ladders), and perhaps the defensive draft picks will offer some reinforcements. If nothing else, Weaver really has nowhere else to go but up.
Kelly will have the strength of the team in the offense, but will he be all that much different from BO’B, and will BO’B really delegate the responsibilities like he should? As for Smith, he is also in a situation that, outside of the emergence of a special-teams returner threat a la Devin Hester, he can only go down from Seely.
Kelly and Smith could still helm a quality offense and special teams, but I am looking at this as who has the greatest growth potential/room for success. That would go to Weaver.
While the “sexy” pick is Tim Kelly, and the one I want to see the most is Anthony Weaver, I have to go with Tracey Smith. The Special Teams unit was really good last year (for Houston... come on now!) and other than Brad Seely stepping down, returns some great talent in Ka’imi Fairbairn, Bryan Anger, Cullen Gillaspia, Dylan Cole and others.
Tim Kelly has entirely retooled wide receiver and running back rooms, a revamped offensive philosophy, several key players with major injury question marks, and the greatest potential for his boss to force him to call a mind-numbingly bad play in a key moment.
Weaver brings a lot of energy and excitement to the defense, and I for one am really excited to see what a mixture of Romeo Crennel’s and Buddy Ryan’s defensive philosophies look like, particularly with J.J. Watt, Zach Cunningham, Whitney Mercilus and Justin Reid on the field. Unfortunately, Weaver has the most holes in his department, with Houston still in desperate need of an EDGE rusher to take some heat off Watt and another safety to compliment Reid. O’Brien’s inability and/or unwillingness to address one of the worst defenses in the league from 2019 certainly isn’t setting Weaver up for success on his first outing as a DC.
No, it will be Smith. He’s been Brad Seely’s right hand man for a decade, has two of the best kickers in Houston Texans history in Anger and Fairbairn, and has none of the injury or roster hole deficits the other two are facing.
This was a toss-up between Kelly and Weaver. Since we’re looking at the biggest impact on the team this year, I’ll roll with Weaver. The offense could remain steady with Tim Kelly at the helm, but I’d pin that more or less on Deshaun Watson.
Weaver has mentioned that he would like to retool the defense to play into its strengths and has also mentioned incorporating more exotic looks into the game plan. Another thing is that he isn’t quite alone in this new role, much like how Kelly will still have BOB pulling on his strings. RAC will be advising Weaver on certain aspects of the game, which should help take some pressure off of the rookie coordinator’s shoulders. Like l4 said, a healthy J.J. Watt can make this gig much easier. With the addition of Ross Blacklock, Jonathan Greenard, and *shudders* Eric Murray, Weaver will have some new toys to play with and explore their capabilities.
Tracy Smith is the wildcard in this situation and will be treated as such. Here’s to not fumbling on kickoff returns this season.
I feel, even with Weaver at the helm, Houston’s defense will see marginal improvement at best. The Texans’ pass rush might get even worse without D.J. Reader, meaning the weakest link of last season is primed to get worse (pending another free agency acquisition or a stellar rookie season from Blacklock/Greenard). Most of Weaver’s time will likely be attempting to replicate the Titans’ defensive approach of widening the field in order to compensate for poor pass rush, but a more cohesive secondary under Weaver’s leadership may improve the defense more than I expect.
Personally, I feel like Tim Kelly is in the best position to make a positive impact on the team. Seeing as the staff made major roster changes on the offensive side of the ball this offseason, the team will relying on his ability to put all the new pieces together and turn it into a Chiefs-style track meet. Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, and David Johnson will all be major players for this season, and their production will depend heavily on Kelly. Deshaun Watson’s progression and ability to be an elite quarterback without DeAndre Hopkins will also fall upon Kelly’s shoulders. The offense has changed the most during this offseason, meaning Kelly will have the most significant impact out of all new coordinators.
That’s the masthead’s predictions for which phase of the Texans’ 2020 game will have the most successful leader of men. What do you think? Whom do you agree with? Which group are you most excited to see take the field?