The Houston Texans dropped to .500 on the season at home against the Carolina Panthers. It wasn’t just losing that was the concern; it was that it looked all too familiar.
There are still 12 games left in the 2019 season, so it’s not quite time to panic or throw in the towel, but the things that caused the Houston Texans to lose this past Sunday have been issues that we’ve seen too often with Bill O’Brien. The response to the loss was also like deja vu.
The city’s relationship with O’Brien is becoming very much like a long-term significant other you don’t want to give any more excuses. After investing so much time, the hardest part is admitting that you’ve been wrong to think things will work out.
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In the honeymoon phase, we understood that there would be some necessary time to adjust and get comfortable with each other. Over the next couple of seasons, O’Brien was able to book family trips to celebrate each year together.
Unfortunately, the first trip was canceled before it even got started. The trip the next year got cut short when O’Brien’s old flame made it evident that they had long moved on.
Feeling a little frustrated with how poorly things had gone, O’Brien tried to get a spark going. Eager to light the flame, he went out and surprised us by coming home with a gift that we had been hinting at for years. We never thought he’d make that step, and we were ready to see more of this new Bill.
After a bit of a rough start, we gave O’Brien the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes things happen that are just out of your control. With a fresh start the next year, O’Brien showed that he was more committed and willing to make some changes.
That brings us to this year. Questions about the team’s ability to protect Deshaun Watson are still fresh and frequent. The offensive line’s inability to play consistently well is an issue, plus O’Brien’s play-calling and game management are certainly a concern.
In his sixth year as the Texans’ head coach, these are all questions that will be directed at O’Brien for how to figure them out. Too often, he responds that he has no answer to the question, and this isn’t a new response.
When O’Brien was brought in to be the head coach of the Texans, it came with a reputation that he was a good offensive mind and could groom a quarterback. After a rough start with a carousel of castoffs, it seemed that O’Brien would finally get his muse in Watson.
The duo has produced wins, but the issues that have existed since Watson was drafted are the issues that exist today. With O’Brien’s reputation, it is surprising and frustrating to see that things like Watson holding the ball for too long or keeping him protected have not been corrected.
The team used its first two draft picks this year on offensive lineman and traded future draft picks for Laremy Tunsil after signing several offensive linemen in free agency the year before. Some concern at this point has to be about who is coaching these players.
If the players are not capable of performing to expectation, then the question would be about the front office’s ability to evaluate talent. O’Brien is essentially the general manager at this point, so a question about the evaluation of any staff or player would have to be addressed to him.
O’Brien has led the Texans to three of the last four AFC South division titles and is coming off his first double-digit win season. So with a 2-2 record through four games it may seem premature to have any hot seat conversation, but it is fair to argue that had he made some different decisions through the first quarter of the season, the Texans could comfortably be sitting at 4-0.
With the personnel moves made earlier this year by O’Brien, it has created an all-in situation for this season. A division title and one-game playoff exit are not what you’re paying for after unloading first-round picks. A similar finish after dumping future assets would have to give Cal McNair at least a reason to consider a move to a new head coach.
O’Brien and the Texans have 12 games to make any naysayers look like chicken little. I for one hope to be eating a big helping of crow come season’s end, but this episode is looking an awful lot like a rerun.