When Bill O’Brien was unceremoniously fired from the Houston Texans some four months ago, it was met by much rejoicing from the fan base. Of his extensive list of ‘crimes against Mother Houston’, the former head coach/general manager shouldered the blame of the Jadeveon Clowney disaster, the DeAndre Hopkins debacle, general roster ruin, and maybe even the great toilet paper shortage of 2020. Along the way, as each of these horrific moments in Houston Texans history played out under Bill O’Brien’s watch, he was heard to utter the same sorts of sentiments.
I don’t make these decisions in a vacuum.
In fact, Cal McNair’s ‘flat [earth] management system’ was on full display from the moment it was introduced when former general manager Brian Gaine was promoted to civilian shortly after his first draft with the team in 2019. Ergo, O’Brien was simply the figurehead and public face of a committee. Rumors swirled and theories eddied around in the corners of media-driven myopic vision that O’Brien was a master of throwing others under the bus to save his own skin and solidify power for himself.
With his track record of terrible game management, inability to have the team ready to take the field for the opening kickoff, allegedly not installing the offense game plan until Friday afternoon, and the now infamous “We didn’t have a play ready” for 4th and 1 in the postseason loss to the Chiefs last year, it’s pretty easy to see that O’Brien’s time as the Texans’ coach had lingered beyond its expiration date. For those crimes, O’Brien is guilty as charged. What about the rest of it? With what we knew at that moment, it seemed like an open and shut case.
Then the mythic Sports Illustrated article entered the world, exposing the life and times of one Jack Easterby. If you haven’t caught up on the history of Easterby’s influence on the team, go here and read this post and the articles linked within. Go ahead. We’ll wait for you.
Now, from what we’ve all seen of Bill O’Brien, he wore his emotions and heart on his sleeve. That type of fiery, transparent personality is hardly aligned with the sort of devious schemes it takes to lure friends to apply for jobs, get them hired, and then throw them under the bus to save your own hide in some sort of Grima Wormtongue scheme for ultimate power. 2 + 2 equals 5 in that equation.
What if—now bear with us, as this might seem farfetched—but what if, from what we now know, Easterby’s own schemes were projected on Bill O’Brien and B’OB is just another in a long line of men (and women) who have found themselves under the wheels of Easterby’s self-serving war machine? Through all the missteps this organization took over the last few years, phenom franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson defended O’Brien, had his back, and genuinely seemed to like the curmudgeoney, “ram the A-Gap” on every play aside from 4th and 1 head coach who ushered him into the NFL.
J.J. Watt didn’t lose it with O’Brien until the team went fully sideways at 0-4 early in the 2020 season. That could have been when O’Brien realized he was in way over his head and Easterby was feeding him rope instead of helping him out of the hole they dug together. In fact, it wasn’t until Easterby was yanked from the shadows by Sports Illustrated, without O’Brien or Gaine to hide behind, that Watson’s complaints went public. The notion that Andre Johnson also took the team to task—and not with regards to Bill O’Brien, whom he quit working for earlier in 2020, but McNair and Easterby in particular instead—is also very telling.
Both Nick Saban and Bill Belichick are sharp head coaches with incredible track records. Both were happy to have Bill O’Brien on their staff. Both also realize giving O’Brien too much oversight isn’t the smart play. So why would Jack Easterby sign off on increased control for O’Brien unless he had an ulterior motive?
When Cal McNair did his “examination of the organization” that led to the release of Brian Gaine, is it too far out there to believe he has Grima in his ear telling him where to look, what stones to overturn, and who to blame? When McNair named O’Brien the general manager, it was hot on the heels of the franchise re-tooling and ridding itself of players Rick Smith had brought in and replacing them with Jack Easterby and Bill O’Brien approved individuals.
Now, as the Houston Texans enter the eleventh hour of hiring the team’s fourth official head coach (remember Wade Phillips and Romeo Crennel were interim HCs, not ‘official’ ones), and candidates such as Leslie Frazier (a great defensive coordinator who didn’t fare so well as the Minnesota Vikings head coach in his one stint in the captain’s chair), David Culley, and Eric Bieniemy (the latter two potential first time HCs) allegedly the final few up for the role, is one of these men about to become Jack Easterby’s next scapegoat?
Only two people may ever know: Jack Easterby and Bill O’Brien.