The NFL regular season is fast approaching its end. For many organizations, that means speculation about the future of their head coach is running wild. Like any other year, there are many names being run through the rumor mill, but one makes no sense. The Texans would be making a huge mistake by moving on from Bill O’Brien. Here is why.
For the most part, he has won despite a quarterback carousel:
2017 will be the first losing season for O’Brien as an NFL head coach. These are the starting quarterbacks he has had to work with. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallet, Tom Savage, the pre Vikings version of Case Keenum, Brian Hoyer, T.J. Yates, Deshaun Watson, Brock Osweiler, and Brandon Weeden.
One of those names requires further explanation later on, but the others are mostly the same bad quarterbacks that get recycled throughout the league whenever a team gets stuck in quarterback purgatory. Yet, O’Brien has won two division titles and a playoff game in Houston.
His primary starting quarterbacks for the division winning seasons were Osweiler and Hoyer. Osweiler had more interceptions than touchdown passes on the 2016 playoff team. Hoyer had a passer rating of barely over 60 in 2015. Forget firing him, O’Brien deserves a statue for pulling that off.
No head coach is completely blameless for a team’s poor season, but the Texans have just had too many injuries to stay competitive this year. The future looked bright as Watson got off to an unbelievable start. The rookie accounted for 21 touchdowns in just six starts and Houston looked like a true contender in the AFC.
A torn ACL in practice ended all that. No matter how unstable the quarterback situation became, O’Brien and the Texans could always count on a stout defense to win games. That was not the case this year as top defenders J.J, Watt and Whitney Mercilus also went down to season ending injuries relatively early.
Other than Bill Belichick, no coach on planet Earth is capable of adequately overcoming long term injuries to three of their best players. Additionally, if Watson comes back healthy next year, there is no reason Houston cannot contend again. Watson has voiced his support for O’Brien.
The ownership angle:
O’Brien has a year remaining on his contract. A lame duck coach situation never benefits a franchise. Thus, it is rare, but not unheard of for a coach to enter the final year of a deal. So, the offseason in Houston should be interesting.
Given that Houston signed Osweiler to a big money contract without O’Brien even meeting him after the 2015 season, lingering friction between owner Bob McNair and the head coach would not be surprising. McNair also made O’Brien’s life more difficult more recently by making some inflammatory remarks regarding the never ending national anthem controversy that put Texans players at the forefront, whether they wanted to be there or not.
The bad news for O’Brien is that the owner never fires themselves if there is friction with the head coach. However, ownership is not innocent in Houston’s double digit loss 2017 season. O’Brien has done a fine job in Houston and will continue to do so given the opportunity.
Texans management may not like O’Brien, but it would be difficult to find a replacement that would be an upgrade. The 49ers thought they would be better off without Jim Harbaugh. They are just now starting to dig out of the abyss after almost four years of varying degrees of losing. To avoid a similar fate, Houston needs to keep O’Brien in the building.