Sean Pendergast

Texans HC Bill O'Brien To Relinquish Play Calling Duties To Kelly

Bill O'Brien conducted his first official press conference as head coach AND general manager.
Bill O'Brien conducted his first official press conference as head coach AND general manager. Photo by Eric Sauseda
The NFL draft combine is under way, so that means the Houston Texans are doing their best to find the next wave of cheap labor for a roster where the salaries for the upper tier talent is in the process of busting at the seams. The Texans' first pick in the upcoming draft is the 57th overall pick, thanks to their trade for left tackle Laremy Tunsil sending their next two first round picks to Miami.

Part of the combine tradition is for the head coach and the general manager to each spend about 15 minutes with the assembled media, fielding (and dodging) questions. For the first time in the history of the franchise, the Texans' head coach and general manager are the same person! Bill O'Brien met with the media on Tuesday afternoon, and these were the most important things we learned:

Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly will be calling plays in 2020!
This was, by far, the most significant nugget that we learned on Tuesday afternoon. O'Brien has been calling plays since the start of the 2017 season, after firing George Godsey on the heels of the Brock Osweiler Disaster of 2016. Tim Kelly was promoted from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator in 2019, but O'Brien retained play calling. In 2020, that will change:

"Tim Kelly is an excellent football coach. Tim was a graduate assistant at Penn State my first two years there, came to Houston, was a coaching assistant on offense, tight end coach, offensive coordinator, worked very closely with the offensive line when he was a coaching assistant and a tight end coach. Very hardworking guy, a guy that really cares about the players. The players really respect him, does a great job in the meeting room, on the practice field, does a great job on gameday. He's just an excellent coach, and we have great relationship. He's a great person, and we're excited for him to take the next step in his career here. He's going to coach the quarterbacks, he'll call the plays, and he'll do an excellent job."
This was just a matter of time. Maintaining the duties of three full time people was unsustainable for O'Brien, especially when we aren't even sure if he's good at any of those three jobs. The mere fact that the play calling has been handed to someone else should excite Texans fans. We will see if Kelly lives up to O'Brien's assessment of him.

It appears that the replacement for cap expert Chris Olsen is a combination of Jack Easterby and Bill O'Brien
One of the more significant terminations to take place this offseason was the dismissal of now former Executive Vice President Chris Olsen, whose main function was contract negotiations and managing the salary cap, two things that are somewhat crucial to the operations of an NFL franchise. Well, when O'Brien was asked about the job function of Executive VP of Football Operations, Jack Easterby, here's what we had to say:

“Jack’s title is executive vice president of football operations. He does a lot of different things. He's involved with me on the personnel side, he's involved with me on the salary cap, he's involved with medical, equipment, video. We do a lot of things together. Jack and I do a lot of things together, we spend a lot of time together. He's a great person, great guy to work with, very bright guy. Hopefully everybody gets a chance to meet him someday, but he's been an excellent addition to the organization."
So now O'Brien, a lifelong coach, and Easterby, a former team chaplain, are now managing the salary cap. This makes me slightly nervous. Also, the last part of O'Brien's answer, in which he wants all of us to "meet [Easterby] someday" is hilarious, because Easterby has been with the Texans for nearly a year, has ascended to an Executive VP position, and has never done a press conference. Yeah, Bill, WE WOULD LOVE TO MEET HIM!

The price for Laremy Tunsil feels like acute pain now
O'Brien was asked about the contract negotiations with Tunsil and QB Deshaun Watson. Here was his answer:

"I probably would tell you I'm not going to get into any specific contract negotiations. I don't think that's probably fair to the player, especially, and it's not fair to the club, but I will tell you that we want both those guys on the football team and we're working very hard to try to get that done. Those things take time. They don't happen overnight. Everything has to fit together relative to your team, your salary cap, what they're looking for, but with those two players, Deshaun Watson and Laremy Tunsil, we want those guys on our football team for a long time."
This answer was understandably vague, and I get it. I guess my main feeling surrounding anything Tonsil-Related is that, for the first time since O'Brien traded two first round picks to Miami for Tunsil's services, the pain of the trade is very acute. I would imagine for O'Brien, being at the combine and evaluating dozens of potential players that they are in no position to choose because of the trade, has him feeling similarly. Thankfully, Tunsil has turned out to be a very good player. Now, they need to get him locked down for the long term.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast