Sean Pendergast

Bill O'Brien's Big Offseason Moves Backfired On Him

The Texans sure could use DeAndre Hopkins right about now
The Texans sure could use DeAndre Hopkins right about now Photo by Eric Sauseda
Bill O'Brien is, at his core, a football coach. At the professional level, he is an adequate football coach, having won four division titles in the last five seasons (a streak that crash landed Monday afternoon, but I digress). At the collegiate level, he was a very good football coach (Bear Bryant Award winner in 2012), and at any other level, he might be an excellent coach. I'm guessing he'd dominate Pop Warner!

Anyway, my point is that he is a COACH. He is not a general manager, and now that his stint with the Texans is over, he will never again BE a general manager. As a GM, O'Brien stunk. He had no clue on player value, and he made moves with the impetuousness and impatience of a toddler. To wit, he actually decided this offseason to trade away the best receiver in football for 30 cents on the dollar, in the spirit of his "dependable, tough, smart" mantra.

O'Brien followed that up with a second trade for a decent receiver (but one who isn't in DeAndre Hopkins' league) and a free agency signing of an older slot receiver. In other words, he decided the best way to replace one of the league's best playmakers was to bring in three adequate professional football players, none of whom, by the way, were coming off of his best NFL season.

In fact, you could argue that all three — David Johnson, Brandin Cooks, and Randall Cobb — were at least two years removed from their respective best years. Let's see how O'Brien's grand experiment is working four games into a season in which the Texans are on pace to win zero games, and in which Bill O'Brien has been fired.


MOST RECENT PERFORMANCE: 16 carries, 63 yards, and a huge fumble of a speed option on potential game tying drive in the loss Sunday to Minnesota

MOST INFURIATING FACTOR: Where do we begin? He is getting his entire $11 million contract paid by the Texans. That's one. They traded DeAndre Hopkins for him, and the Texans are second to last in the league on third down conversions this season. (Hopkins is among the best in the league on converting third downs in the receiving game). Also, Johnson just looks slow. Like slow enough to where I could race him even in a 40 yard dash. He's not good.

Johnson in 2016, when he was an All-Pro who had over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns.

2020 ON PACE FOR: 788 yards rushing (3.9 YPC), 36 catches, 400 yards receiving

CONCLUSION: Johnson's horrible 16 game average over the last two seasons — 709 yards rushing, (3.7 YPA), 47 catches, 450 yards receiving — is much closer to what the Texans are getting. O'Brien got steamrolled in this trade and has no one to blame but himself.


 Cooks put up a goose egg on Sunday. ZERO catches.

MOST INFURIATING FACTOR: For a guy who was brought in as someone who “loves practice”, he barely practiced in the preseason. That's the first thing. Also, ostensibly, he was brought in as at least a big part of the "replace Hopkins" solution. Cooks is barely a thing on this roster right now.

O'BRIEN THOUGHT HE WAS GETTING: Cooks in 2016, when he had 80 catches and averaged over 16 yards a catch with eight touchdowns as a big part of Drew Brees' offense in New Orleans.

2020 ON PACE FOR: 40 catches, 552 yards, no TDs

CONCLUSION: Like Johnson, Cooks is looking a lot more like the pedestrian player he'd turned into statistically last season, when he had 42 catches, 583 yards, and 2 TDs in 14 games


MOST RECENT PERFORMANCE: 2 catches, 36 yards on Sunday. Yippee!

MOST INFURIATING FACTOR: Cobb was brought in for his leadership, and he passive aggressively called out the coaches and the offensive line in his press conference last week. Also, the Texans drastically overpaid him in free agency, giving him $27 million over three years.

O'BRIEN THOUGHT HE WAS GETTING: Cobb in 2014, when he had over 90 catches for nearly 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns

2020 ON PACE FOR: 52 catches, 852 yards

CONCLUSION: Like Cooks and Johnson, Cobb is looking more like his “kinda, sorta okay” 2019 — 55 catches, 828 yards.

The bottom line is O'Brien, in acquiring all three of these guys, operated like someone who lives in a city that had banned NFL highlights and coverage since 2016.

The bottom line is O'Brien, in acquiring all three of these guys, operated like someone who lives in a city that had banned NFL highlights and coverage since 2016.

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He thought he could rekindle the magic with each of these three guys, and in fact, he didn't come close, particularly with Johnson, who was traded for Hopkins. I get mad just typing that.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at
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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 the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast