Everyone has an opinion, especially about controversial events. And the theories on why Brian Gaine is now the shortest tenured general manager in Houston Texans history are thick as flies at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Instead of expounding these theories in countless articles and posts, we thought we’d have a round table discussion with you, the BRB reader, to share our thoughts and then ask you to share yours.
So, the question is:
Why do you think Brian Gaine was fired?
The timing of this is GM firing is not optimal at this time of the NFL year. Up until the firing, there have been literally no leaks of any tension or division between Brian Gaine and Bill O’Brien. The main reason for the firing could just be that this offseason was handled so passively by Gaine in not pursuing a more aggressive “win now” model with a young star QB on his rookie contract needing better protection. That is in stark contrast to how the Chiefs, Rams and Browns worked their offseason to do everything possible to win a championship in 2019 or by 2020. Maybe O’Brien and Romeo Crennel wrapped up the rookie camp and OTAs and went to Cal complaining that they don’t have the talent needed to compete at the top of the NFL.
Watching the division rival Titans sign Rodger Saffold, one of the best guards in the league, was the dagger in my heart for free agency this year. The Texans’ GM then sat pat in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft and we watched in great frustration as the Eagles jumped directly in front of Houston to draft Andre Dillard, who is as much of a “day-one-starter” offensive tackle as existed in this draft. When Baltimore got the call from Philly, you can bet a pound of your favorite brisket that the Ravens immediately called Houston to try and sweeten their trade options. Instead, Gaine gambled on a developmental project in Tytus Howard with Houston’s first round pick. This week, Washington is embroiled in a dispute with OT Trent Williams and we hear crickets at NRG Park?
Who knows what caused this sudden termination? If I were a betting man, I’d say it is the culmination of a very passive approach to a slow five-year plan by Gaine—coincidentally matching his five-year contract--and a frustrated coaching staff who realize the lack of aggressive talent investment by the front office, while sitting on some of the largest cap space in the league, is going to render them hamstrung in 2019 against a first-place schedule.
I envision a conversation like this:
Cal [to OB and RAC]: “Well, fellas, shoot straight with me. Do you like the roster? Are we going to win the division again and then get past the first round for once? We need to improve from last season or we’ll have to evaluate some tough changes for 2020. You read me? Now give it to me as transparently as this laser-cut crystal clear large cube of ice in my scotch glass.”
OB [Rubs his face, drums his fingers on Cal’s desk, looks up, and takes a deep breath]: “Mr. McNair, these guys we have can’t protect Watson THIS season. We won’t know for a couple of years. It’s frustrating, because we could have had Saffold. We could have jumped up with the Ravens and drafted Dillard. We could have been more aggressive to ensure our star QB stays clean to work his magic. I’ll do my best, but we missed some clear opportunities here.”
RAC: “I don’t understand how tagging Clowney makes sense. He’s an elite talent, disruptive, and has played two full seasons at a high level. I need him in my system. He needs a contract. Also, we needed help with improving interior pass rush and didn’t get it from free agency or the draft. I’ll do what I can, but we are still missing some key pieces.”
Cal [to his assistant]: “Mary, please ask Brian to grab an empty box and meet me in his office in 10 minutes. Oh, and call Rick to see what he’s up to these days.”
OB then jumps through the window to the parking lot below.
I think Jack Easterby came in and helped Bill O’Brien make Cal McNair’s decision on Gaine for him.
It’s kind of pointless to worry about evaluating individual players at this stage -- I think this must have entailed a shift in philosophy, and the only three philosophies I think matter at this point are:
a) What to do with Jadeveon Clowney?
b) Why didn’t the Texans spend on anything but reclamation projects in free agency?
c) Why are the Texans focusing so much on tools instead of production?
I think one of those is the likely culprit -- I’m not sure which. I do think BOB did plenty of the third one without Gaine.
This just fits into the grander philosophy of O’Brien finding fault with anybody who works with him. He only hires his buddies, and yet an awful lot of them wind up consigned to the scrapheap. George Godsey was never ready for his role. Sean Ryan. Tim Kelly probably won’t be far behind. NRG is not far off from UT’s comedic-focused Almighty Leader rhetoric. The Texans have an infallible leader who always lets them down.
At the surface, this is the weirdest Texans’ story in franchise history. Brian Gaine had friendship bracelets with the head coach and replaced Rick Smith only a year and a half ago. All the reports and words said over the last year and a half were about how much these two got along, how they had a plan in place, and whatever. For a team that historically hung onto personnel forever in the name of stability, this firing came as a total and complete shock.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there were other reasons aside from performance itself. That there was something else going on. But really, I don’t think we will ever know the truth. Bill O’Brien is a cockroach. He has kept his name shiny and golden since he took over in 2014 by doing things like putting all the blame on [NAME REDACTED] and Rick Smith after all the failed quarterback attempts. I expect the same to happen again. There should be tons of reports coming out now about how Gaine refused to listen, or lost the locker room, or screwed up the Andre Dillard selection, or didn’t do enough when O’Brien begged for him to go after Gerald McCoy. I got my Mike Fioro “BINGO” card ready to go.
If nothing strange is going on here, the reason Gaine was fired was pretty simple: This was an awful offseason. I’ve said it over and over again. I’ve written thousands of words about it. The Texans were too risk averse this offseason. They didn’t capitalize on Deshuan Watson’s rookie contract. They didn’t spend the free agency dollars available. They used their draft capital in a strange way. They punted the cap space to next season. They selected a bunch of projects in the draft. It was horrible. The decision to fire Brian Gaine isn’t a confirmation of this; it’s been a grotesque offseason the entire way through.
My big brain theory is that Bill O’Brien took a peek at the schedule, looked at the roster around him, and ghouls visited him in his sleep, showing him a 7-9 season. That’s the type of season that would finally get him fired. To save himself, O’Brien went to the top and put the blame on the general manager to try to get himself a free pass no matter what happened this season.
Really, who knows? We probably never will, but my guess is that this has everything to do with the decisions Gaine made this offseason.
While we may never really know what happened, and truth can often be stranger than fiction, I’m inclined to believe it was the conflux of wasting all the potential for improvement this offseason. Houston had enough cap space to land Rodger Saffold, Daryl Williams, Ju’Wuan James, keep Kareem Jackson (whom Gaine never even attempted to keep, according to Jackson), lock Clowney in long-term, and make some draft day trades to get Andre Dillard, Greedy Williams, and at least one other ‘ready to go now’ player instead of adding to the list of projects. This is no slight on Tytus Howard and Max Sharping, who might turn out to be great players, but Houston isn’t in rebuilding mode. They’re in win-now mode, which precludes the luxury of waiting years for players to develop.
Gaine also failed to land a true offensive coordinator for a team that gets mired in poor play calling time and again when the chips are on the line or the Sunday/Monday night lights are on. Not to mention, even people who barely pay attention to the NFL know the Texans’ offensive line was a disaster and Gaine failed to bring in a better offensive line coach.
However, since this decision came straight from Cal McNair, we should stop and try to think like Cal for a moment. When Bill Bidwell, the longtime owner of the Arizona Cardinals - a man who allegedly could have cared less about building a championship team - passed, and his son Michael took over, the Cards suddenly became a contender, quickly making it to the Super Bowl and nearly defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers to win it all.
Is Cal cut from the same cloth? Is he tired of watching his team lollygag in the 9-7/11-5 limbo of wild card defeat? Or did all the bad press of how poorly the Texans’ offseason was mismanaged that got to him? Was it more along the lines of comments from his peers, the Jerry Joneses of the world, who clearly saw how poorly Gaine did with the draft and free agency, that got Cal’s ear?
Like I said, we may never know, but my best guess is it had everything to do with handing a man the keys to a Corvette that only needed a few parts to win championships and watching him treat it like a show car that should never leave the garage.
My final theory/prediction on this is that McNair has put Bill O’Brien on notice that if he doesn’t get this team moving in the right direction and quickly, the next Exan will be BO’B. It’s fairly inexcusable that the Houston Texans have simply tread water since the departure of Gary ‘How Do You Like Me Now?’ Kubiak. Hopefully, this is the first sign that Cal McNair not only gets that, but finds it completely and wholly unacceptable.