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Red Zone Play: Worst Offseason Ever?

Bill O’Brien has easily topped the catastrophe that was the 2019 offseason.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

A little more than a year go, your Houston Texans headed into the 2019 offseason loaded with a bevy of draft picks, cap space, and glorious hope of building a far stronger roster with their embarrassment of resource riches.

Yet the first wave of free agency came and went with little action. Instead, Houston brought in tackle Matt Kalil, safety Tashaun Gipson, cornerback Bradley Roby, cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun, tight end Darren Fells and quarterback AJ McCarron. All these moves were made to address a decimated offensive line and weak secondary. While Gipson and Roby panned out in their roles, Kalil was an epic fail who was cut before the season began, Boddy-Calhoun showed up like some sort of awful “Where’s Waldo”,” and McCarron did what backup quarterbacks do—he stood on the sideline with a clipboard.

In the 2019 NFL Draft, the hopes of Texans fans rose once again, only to have them dashed against the rocks when the Texans failed to pull off any moves to land one of the top five offensive linemen in the first round. Instead, they drafted Tytus Howard in an epic scramble after the Eagles jumped the Texans to pick tackle Andre Dillard, a player rumored to be Houston’s first round target.

The Texans then selected cornerback in the second round—Lonnie Johnson Jr., hardly the top ranked corner on the board when he was picked. Max Scharping was then added; he was a tackle who became a guard. Following Scharping were tight end Kahale Warring (who promptly got the O’Brien doghouse treatment and ended up on injured reserve for a busted fingernail or some such), defensive end Charles Omenihu, cornerback Xavier Crawford, and fullback Cullen Gillaspia.

This “haul” of offseason talent promptly got general manager Brian Gaine fired.

Soon thereafter, O’Brien took complete control. Houston traded for running back Duke Johnson, a guy who excels in catching the ball out of the backfield; you know, the sort of play Bill O’Brien rarely calls. B’OB followed that up with a trade of Martinas Rankin for Carlos Hyde and proceeded to further “remake” the roster in his image.

It was then that Bill O’Brien fired the shot heard round the world and panned ever farther, by trading former number one overall pick, Pro Bowler, and generational talent Jadeveon Clowney for what amounted to things the Texans could have had for free. Oh, and he paid the Seahawks a portion of Clowney’s salary to boot—great salary cap wizardry there.

O’Brien was then able to bring in franchise left tackle Laremy Tunsil from the Dolphins. He not only failed to include a long-term contract extension with Tunsil in the deal, but he gave away far too much draft capital to do it. While Tunsil will likely re-sign with the Texans and reset the market for left tackles in the NFL, the loss of draft picks will be difficult to deal with in the future. Once all the smoke cleared, it was obvious we had just witnessed the worst offseason in Texans history.

Then 2020 rolled up and said, “Hold my beer.”

To this point, with the 2020 NFL Draft still coming next month, Bill O’Brien has managed to break this team worse than a six-year old playing Madden’s Franchise Mode for the first time ever could.

Instead of addressing the pass rush deficiency or lack of proper pass defense evidenced by the 26th worst ranked pass defense in all the land last season by DVOA, O’Brien decided the Clowney trade was a good thing and he should try it again with DeAndre Hopkins. This time he brought in an equally underwhelming amount of compensation in running back David Johnson, swapped fourth round picks, and a second round pick. O’Brien continued to prove he’s no master of the salary cap by taking on Johnson’s radically bloated salary at $11 million per year. Great use of the cap space there once again, Bill.

Houston has done nothing to address the lack of pass rush. Other than retain Bradley Roby and with apologies to Eric Murray, Houston has done nothing to improve on a colossally poor defensive backfield. With apologies to Randall Cobb, Houston has dramatically weakened the offense by trading away Hopkins.

Yet as of yesterday, Houston is ranked as having the fourth most cap space available right now.

While it’s not too late to turn this around somewhat, based on the last year of moves, only a truly insane person could believe O’Brien will do anything of the sort. More likely, based on his past efforts, O’Brien will make a draft day trade that gives away even more assets while receiving very little return on investment. He’ll draft a wide receiver the Texans will try to spin as the replacement for D-Hop and Andre Johnson, all rolled into one. This poor rookie will quickly find himself in the Keke Coutee/Jaelen Strong doghouse. Somewhere along the way, O’Brien will draft another running back, a mid-level pass rusher, and a fullback for special teams.

It’s only a matter of time before O’Brien loses the entire locker room with this sort of demoralizing roster management. For now, all we can do is sit at home and wonder what it’s like to root for a team with a real head coach and general manager who are actually skilled in their roles.

With names like Jadeveon Clowney, Robby Anderson, Breshad Perriman, Shelby Harris, Ndamukong Suh, Everson Griffen, Logan Ryan and Daryl Williams still out there, we can still hope one or more of them end up in battle red. As we know all too well, Houston Texans fandom is where hope comes to it begs for mercy, staring up wide-eyed at its killer, Bill O’Brien.