Out With The Old: Bill O'Brien Era Begins With Staff Changes
Of all the things that dictate success of a coaching regime, especially with a first time NFL head coach, the one thing that may be most important (and is almost certainly the most underplayed) is the assembly of a coaching staff.
You are who you roll with, who you surround yourself with, and in any walk of life -- business, education, football -- in leadership positions, you're only as good as the people you hire.
On Saturday, for Houston Texans new head coach Bill O'Brien, that process begun, swiftly and decisively.
Black Saturday. Battle Red Wedding. There are plenty of colorful metaphors and poignant adjectives to describe the mass terminations of the previous staff, but "surprising" is not one of them.
As Saturday afternoon unfolded, the remnants of the staff of the Kubiak Era reportedly went through the briefest of meetings with O'Brien. To call them "interviews," would be a misnomer, they're more like instructional briefs on where to pick up their package from H/R, information on COBRA benefits, and so forth. Not a fun process to be on either end of, O'Brien's or the ones being let go (and I say that as someone who, during my time in the business world pre-radio, has been on both ends of it).
The Twitter feed of John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reported all of them as they happened:
Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was fired today after meeting with new Texans coach Bill O'Brien.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) January 4, 2014
QB coach Karl Dorrell fired by Bill O'Brien.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) January 4, 2014
DC Wade Phillips is gone too. Coaches still meeting with Bill O'Brien.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) January 4, 2014
DB coach Vance Joseph just got the word he's been fired.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) January 4, 2014
LB coach Reggie Herring also fired.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) January 4, 2014
RB coach Chick Harris fired.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) January 4, 2014
TE coach Brian Pariani has also been fired.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) January 4, 2014
You get the point.
McClain's Twitter feed read like John Belushi's rant in Animal House where he listed all of the Omegas and Faber staff that he wanted to destroy (only pretend that the Omegas and Faber staff were assistant coaches of a 2-14 football team).
From these ashes, the exciting process of building a new staff begins, and it sounds like it will begin with another apple off of the Belichick coaching tree, with Romeo Crennel confirmed by ESPN.com's Tania Ganguli to be the choice to replace Phillips as the defensive coordinator.
Crennel was Belichick's defensive coordinator for all three Patriot Super Bowl championship teams in the early 2000's, and after two aborted stints as a head coach, one in Cleveland and a short one in Kansas City, it appears that Crennel's career has probably found its proper level, and thus, he brings his version of the 3-4 defense (which we know will be "adaptable," because that appears to be the new buzz word in the hallways at Kirby) to Houston.
The only other hires that have been prominently mentioned at this point are Stan Hixon, O'Brien's wide receivers coach at Penn State and former assistant in Washington and Buffalo at the pro level, and Jim Bernhardt, who was a coach at Brown while O'Brien was there as both a player and a coach. Bernhardt, one of O'Brien's closest friends, served as the special assistant to the head coach and as his director of player development at Penn State. Bernhardt is described as a "consigliere" type for O'Brien.
As Saturday's events wound to a close, with a handful of Kubiak assistants remaining to be met with on Monday, we learned from McClain that there may be one assistant from the Kubiak staff that stays on board...
Bill O'Brien has meetings scheduled with more of Gary Kubiak's assistants Monday morning. I expect him to keep DL coach Bill Kollar.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) January 4, 2014
Hey, if anyone's unit has been adequate the last few years, it's been Kollar's. (Coaching J.J. Watt has its privileges, perhaps.)
Kollar or no Kollar, though, one day into the Bill O'Brien Era, the message was pretty clear -- there is a new boss in town. And he ain't respectin' old arrangements...
Starting January 2, 2014, listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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