The Houston Texans have started the 2020 regular season with four straight losses. They are 0-4. In the history of the NFL, there has been exactly ONE franchise to start a season 0-4 and go on to make the playoffs. (In case you get into bar trivia duels, that one team was the 1992 San Diego Chargers, led by the immortal Stan Humphries at quarterback!)
This Texans team doesn't look remotely ready to win a football game, let alone win the nine or ten games that would be required to make the NFL's postseason. Perhaps the most frustrating and infuriating part of the Texans' failure this season is that head coach Bill O'Brien was supposed to be an offensive expert (despite six recent seasons of Texans football that display the contrary), and the offense flat out stinks.
Players look confused, Deshaun Watson looks neutered, and in the end, the most productive output through four games was the 23 points they scored on Sunday against Minnesota. By Monday afternoon, Texans owner Cal McNair had seen enough, and he decided to move on from Bill O'Brien, firing the seventh year head coach and naming Romeo Crennel as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
It's impossible to say the writing was on the wall for a move like this, because for the Texans, this is unprecedented, and a clear signal that Cal McNair is operating FAR differently than his father, the late Bob McNair, ever did. Bob McNair sat through eight seasons of Gary Kubiak before pulling the trigger on his termination. Cal McNair has now fired a general manager (Brian Gainer) and a head coach/general manager in sixteen months. These are not your older brother's Texans.
For his part, O'Brien reportedly recognized the awful job he'd been doing. According to Mike Silver of the NFL Network, O'Brien addressed his team on Sunday after the game and said as much:
After the Texans fell to 0-4, Bill O'Brien told his players 'I've done a horrible job of coaching this team' and that he'll work hard to try to turn things around. From GameDay Final on @nflnetwork with @ChrisRose pic.twitter.com/jYPNWDPzRi— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) October 5, 2020
When asked about Silver's report on Monday at his weekly day-after-the-game ZOOM conference, O'Brien had this to say:
There’s a report in the media last night you told the team you have done a horrible job of coaching; what kind of job have you done and are you worried about losing your job if you don’t turn it around?
“First off, after the game I try to keep that stuff between us and the team. I mean, obviously with where we’re at, we have to do a better job coaching. Relative to the last question, I don’t have any control. All I can control is what I can control, and I’ve got to do a better job with the team. That’s obvious, and we’re going to work hard to do that. Relative to things that I talk about with the team, I just try to keep that between me and the team as best as I can.”
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O'Brien had pushed a lot of chips to the middle of the table this past offseason on some very questionable wagers, to say the least. If he were a blackjack player, people at the table would be pointing at him wondering what the hell he is thinking. (And yes, the DeAndre Hopkins trade is the equivalent of doubling down on a 13, and the 13 is David Johnson.) When those moves didn't work, he had have nobody to blame but himself.
J.J. Watt appeared frustrated and at his wit's end. Deshaun Watson looked sedated on the bench during games. These are the most important people in the building, not Bill O'Brien. Cal McNair had to do something, and give him credit. He did just that. Now, the next head coach has a personnel mess to clean up, but will do so with a franchise quarterback in place. This will be a desirable job, in large part because of Deshaun Watson.
The next era of Texans football begins now.