With everything going on in the world over the last few weeks and months, it would be easy to notice that the anniversary of the Texans' firing Brian Gaine after just over a year as general manager of the Houston Texans came and went late last week. What, you didn't have that in your calendar?
I say that somewhat tongue in cheek, obviously, but in retrospect, that day may have set the course for the future of this franchise more than any, outside of the trade for Deshaun Watson. The firing of Gaine had a butterfly effect that, one year later, has manifested itself in a complete shift in roster building philosophy and a top end of roster remake that has been THE major topic of conversation this offseason (until the last couple weeks, where the conversation has shifted away from actual football completely, rightfully so).
Bill O'Brien's popularity probably spiked this past week with many Texans fans, with his passionate plea for all of us to enact change in the treatment of minorities in so many facets of our daily life. He was great. As actual football begins to reenter the conversation, let's focus in on the first year of O'Brien's reign atop the football part of the Texans' operations. Here are the four biggest O'Brien-as-GM-related stories since last June:
4. Alleged (tampering) for Nick Caserio
If we are to believe the Texans' behavior right after firing Brian Gaine, then O'Brien was not even the first choice to be the franchise's general manager. Their first target was Bill Belichick's right hand man with the Patriots, and close, personal friend of O'Brien and Jack Easterby, Nick Caserio. Unfortunately for the Texans, the first time this idea MAY have been floated to Caserio was by Easterby (weeks into his tenure with the Texans, after leaving the Patriots to join them) at the ring party for the Patriots' Super Bowl win over the Rams in January 2019. If that is the case, that would be tampering, and the Patriots certainly thought that was the case, filing tampering charges against the Texans that forced the team to publicly back away from their pursuit of Caserio:
3. Swap Meet Saturday
O'Brien didn't officially have the title of "general manager" on Saturday, August 31, 2019. At that time, the organization was reportedly being run by a committee (the notorious "flat organizational structure") of about a half dozen different folks. However, as it turned out, O'Brien was the final decision maker, and that became evident on that late August Saturday, when within a matter of just a few hours, the team gutted the top part of their next two drafts to acquire Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills, and finally shipped out Jadeveon Clowney for an underwhelming package of a third round pick and a couple reserve players. The Texans made two other trades that day (Carlos Hyde, Keion Crossen), and the message was clear — the Bill O'Brien Era would be about maniacal urgency.
2. O'Brien's skewed value metric
The biggest problem with maniacal urgency is that sometimes you lose sight of making sure that the deals you make are fair and equitable. O'Brien has made a ton of moves in this year as general manager, and you could certainly argue that the Texans have an improved roster NOW compared to, say, May 2019. The problem is that O'Brien has seemingly overpaid in nearly EVERY deal, whether it's in trades, contract extensions, or contracts for new free agents. In other words, Laremy Tunsil, Brandin Cooks, David Johnson, Randall Cobb, Careon Conley, Duke Johnson, and Eric Murray might all be part of the best Texans team ever in 2020. That COULD happen. Unfortunately, the tab for all these acquisitions is going to come do in 2021, when the Texans have no draft picks until the third round and their salary cap is clogged like Andre the Giant's toilet.
1. The DeAndre Hopkins trade
Of course, the biggest example of O'Brien maybe not fully grasping the concept of trade value nor contract value came on March 16 of this year, when he shipped All Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals in a deal where he hit for the value miscalculation exacta — bringing back insufficient draft capital (just a second round pick AND a bloated, fully-guaranteed-for-2020 contract (running back David Johnson). Add in the fact that O'Brien either completely misread or ignored how this trade would go over with Texan fans, and, until the Texans make a run to a Super Bowl, the Hopkins trade will always be transactional face of the O'Brien GM Era.
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