Texans misery has become synonymous with any daily task. The sun spews up out from the horizon. An agglomeration of frivolous pillows decorate the bed. Eggs are whisked. Jadeveon Clowney is traded. The future is severed for Laremy Tunsil. DeAndre Hopkins turns into a running back and a second round pick. Deshaun Watson wants out. J.J. Watt is gone forever. Tragedy has become quotidian for the Houston Texans’ business operation.
All this devastation stems from Bill O’Brien.
Already, the tweets are pushed through some server in California and onto your screen. Bill O’Brien is better than we thought he was. The Texans won ten games when he was here. He was the one actually holding this franchise together. AFC South Champs, Brian. These silly digital characters will transmogrify into articles and podcasts as history becomes something entirely different than the truth.
In case you forgot, the best offense O’Brien put together, with an elite top five quarterback on his rookie contract, was in 2019, when the Texans finished 17th in offensive DVOA at 0.6%, the first and only positive DVOA the super genius would have in his six years and change as Houston’s head coach. The Texans paired this with 378 points scored, which ranked 11th in the league. This was an offense and a team O’Brien went all in on to put together. Using the NFL Draft to finally invest in the offensive line. Exchanging future premium draft capital for Laremy Tunsil to save himself from Matt Kalil. Trading for Carlos Hyde. Finally getting something out of the tight end position. Eleven games from Will Fuller. Average was the best Bill O’Brien could ever accomplish.
2019 was his magnum opus. The Texans won ten games and the AFC South, thanks to an 8-3 one score record. O’Brien sold the franchise’s soul to blow a 24 point lead to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.
Dropped passes. A BIG PLAY Barkevious Mingo blocked punt turned into a touchdown. A Tyreek Hill muffed punt turned into a touchdown. The Chiefs’ handicap still wasn’t high enough. The COWARD Bill O’Brien didn’t have a play for 4th and 1, and the Texans kicked a field goal. They wouldn’t score again until it was 41-24, after the Chiefs had gone on a 41-0 run.
That was the pinnacle of Texans football. The best chance Houston had since 2011, and probably the best chance in franchise history to win a Super Bowl, was pissed away by O’Brien’s timid ball control offense, the talent drain he orchestrated on the defensive side of the ball, and his debilitating in-game decisions.
In the span of a season, from 2019 to 2020, Houston went from 10-6 to 4-12. This wasn’t aleatory. This was a direct result of Houston’s previous offseason work. Rather than have any understanding of elementary regression, an acceptance that a 9-2 one possession record (including the postseason), is nearly impossible to duplicate, the Texans convinced themselves they were close. The talent was there. They were on the precipice of getting past that point at which they were always stuck.
O’Brien believed the culture was holding the Texans back. Not the cornerback talent. Not the lack of a true pass rusher outside of J.J. Watt. Not the coverage problems at linebacker. Not his forever crappy offensive system. No, those things weren’t the problem. The problem was the culture. Sitting out of practice. Baby mamas. Nose rings and dyed hair. Those were the real issues. So rather than improve the team, the Texans actively become worse, all in the name of improving their culture. It was a fallacious idea that completely ignored the most important requirement to win football games—talent.
After breaking his ribs and still finishing the postseason game against Kansas City, DeAndre Hopkins was traded because of culture, because of an internal disagreement. Not because getting rid of him made the Texans better. Nuk turned into David Johnson, an old and crappy running back; Brandin Cooks, a wide receiver who isn’t more than a deep threat because he’s no longer a deep threat; and Ross Blacklock, who had more thrown punches than sacks last season.
D.J. Reader became too expensive. Tashaun Gipson was released so he could provide commendable play in Chicago and so the Texans could overpay Eric Murray to be an atrocious jack-of-no-trades. Randall Cobb was signed to a silly contract to play the slot because he’s blue collar and his father was a factory worker.
The results were disastrous. Houston started 0-4. O’Brien was fired. The Texans went 2-8 in the one possession games they won the year before.
Every hypothesis the Texans had failed miserably. Anthony Weaver didn’t improve the defense; instead, he actively hurt it throughout the season with ridiculous decisions like having Jacob Martin rush the interior and Zach Cunningham carry the seam. It turns out Eric Murray and a healthy J.J. Watt weren’t enough to fix a abysmal pass defense that finished 25th in DVOA the year before; the Texans finished 29th in 2020. Trading Hopkins crushed Houston’s red zone offense and made every yard difficult to come by. David Johnson was horrendous until he had easy running lanes against empty boxes. Cooks rarely won his routes down the sideline; when he did, it came against third string cornerbacks. The drag-flat offense still didn’t work. This is what tough, smart, dependable, and most importantly not very good got the Houston Texans.
As a result, the Texans failed Deshaun Watson. They didn’t even give him the opportunity to throw touchdown passes with his eye dangling out from his orbital bone. Brandon Dunn was the flat defender covering Derrick Henry. Nick Martin skidded the snap. Keke Coutee fumbled into the end zone. Charlie Heck was beat around the edge. Two deep defensive backs couldn’t cover A.J. Brown.
Only two good things came from the Texans’ 2020 season. The first was the firing of O’Brien. Houston already hit their ceiling with him, and throughout his time here, the best he could do was get the bare minimum out of the talent he had. The second was Tim Kelly utilizing spread and empty formations to get an additional layer of production from Watson. In these formations, Watson used his arm and accuracy to attack the intermediate sections of the field, his brain to find holes in zone coverage that had been stretched horizontally, and, if nothing was open, DW4 could gallop through the open field against man coverage for easy yards. The things those of us who stare at Taco Bell signs from our back window were clamoring for finally came to pass.
Kelly didn’t come up with an offensive innovation never seen before. He just used an offensive system that was simple and easy to see. Build an offense around Watson’s skills instead of Carlos Hyde or David Johnson’s lack of skill.
Because of this development, Watson finally eclipsed Matt Schaub’s production. Watson broke Schaub’s single season franchise passing touchdown and passing yard records. He led the entire NFL in passing yards. The Texans finished 8th in passing offense DVOA at 24.1%. Despite having zero semblance of a running game, a constantly revolving offensive line that still couldn’t pick up stunts that middle school defenses run, getting sacked 49 times, and losing a future Hall of Fame wide receiver, Watson had the best season of his career. One simple adjustment, the same adjustment that been there all along, the same one O’Brien was too stubborn to make, was what broke the Texans’ offense open.
The future of the Texans should have been Watson operating in spread sets. Find an offensive-minded head coach who could continue to develop Watson. Hit on a few bargain bin free agent targets. Get more production from the young players O’Brien and his coaching staff failed to develop. Maybe find a starter or two in the upcoming draft. Improve in close games. The Texans could be a playoff competitive team in a single offseason. Rebuilds can be swift and clean in the NFL. It doesn’t take a whole lot to win football games when you have a quarterback like Deshaun Watson.
Even this was too optimistic. Even this was too difficult for the Texans to pull off. Rather than listen to Watson, who was disgusted by the current culture, or fulfill the promises he made to the one truly excellent player he employs, Cal McNair listened to the slithering voice in his ear and hired Nick Caserio to be the new general manager. Since that happened, Watson has requested a trade and turned off his cellphone. The Texans still claim he’s their quarterback. Positive thinking will pull them out from this. Just gotta believe.
All signs point to Watson being traded. After all, a team with Watson doesn’t hire a Jack Easterby sermon, a FCA handbook brought to life, to be their head coach. David Culley’s recent track record is: wide receiver coach in Kansas City on a team that had zero wide receiver touchdown receptions, quarterback coach in Buffalo for Josh Allen’s horrendous rookie season and Nathan Peterman’s disaster voyage, and passing game coordinator/wide receiver coach in Baltimore, which brought upon another struggling Baltimore passing attack and another season with nearly zero production from the wide receiver position.
Culley isn’t going to be build an offense around Watson. He isn’t going to maximize his skill set. Culley’s strength is that people around the league like him, especially in Baltimore, which received two third round picks for his promotion. The Texans are a pension plan for David Culley. He’s a pair of gold wings to lift morale and hearts on a 2-14, 1-15, or 0-16 football team. He’s a perching lifeguard there to observe how deep the bottom can be as the Texans drown themselves in the culture they created. He isn’t a football coach brought here to win football games.
Both the Caserio and Culley hirings were decisions influenced, or outright made, by Jack Easterby. The Houston Texans are no longer a football team. They are a pulpit for Jack Easterby to preach from. Easterby’s crusade is also Bill O’Brien’s fault. Don’t you ever forget, Bill O’Brien brought Easterby to Houston from New England in April of 2019. Read the bio:
Jack Easterby was named the executive vice president of football operations on January 28, 2020, being promoted to the role after joining the Houston Texans as executive vice president of team development in April 2019. In his role, Easterby manages all football operations and directs the overall culture of the organization.
The execrable inflection point came the summer of 2019. A little less than a year and a half after he was hired, the Texans fired general manager Brian Gaine. After a New England cocktail party—gross—Easterby pushed the Texans to make Nick Caserio their new general manager. This plan failed. The Texans were hit with tampering charges. The Texans quit their pursuit like it was fourth down in a postseason game. Whether you liked Gaine’s personnel decisions or not, he at least brought some level of rationality, forward thinking, and competency to his role. After this embarrassment, O’Brien and Easterby become the unofficial official general managers of the Houston Texans.
Then everything really fell apart. Clowney was traded. Tunsil was traded for. Hopkins was traded. The last season of Watson’s rookie contract was ruined. Watson asked for a trade. Watt was released. The Texans’ 2020 season wasn’t an aberration; it was a continuation of the previous eighteen months of bad personnel decisions and ridiculous choices made in the name of culture to turn the Texans into what Jack Easterby wanted, not what wins football games.
Now the Texans are empty. The players we love are gone. The talent has been pillaged. All that’s left is faith, family, and Olive Garden as Easterby’s Christian metastasis has turned the Texans from a football team into a megachurch. It’s not going to get better. It’s only going to get dumber and dumber and dumber. There’s no bottom to Easterby’s atrocity.
The Texans are in this position because of Bill O’Brien. All of this stems from him. He’s the one who didn’t maximize Watson’s talent or his rookie contract. He’s the one who brought Jack Easterby in. He’s the one who signed off and put together trades that mortgaged the team’s future and actively made it worse. He’s the one who has zero idea how to evaluate the performance of a football team.
Just because the present is better than the past doesn’t mean the past was good. As time continues to march forward, what should be yellowed in time will look better a year from now, two years from now, three years from now, as the Texans trudge through their Cleveland Browns style Trust The Process rebuild and O’Brien rides Nick Saban’s genius to another head coaching job.
Don’t listen to the social media scribbling, the media eunuchs who eventually stand up for him, or open an ear to the revisionist history. Everything, all of it, started with Bill O’Brien. He destroyed the Houston Texans from within.