On Tuesday afternoon, the Houston Texans announced their full staff of assistant coaches for the upcoming season. To no one's surprise, since the cat was out of the bag several days ago, former tight ends coach Tim Kelly got his expected promotion to offensive coordinator. That move, its significance and meaning, have been discussed extensively both in this space and on the radio for the last few days. In short, without much of a body of work, we are all taking Bill O'Brien's word for it that Kelly is ready for this move.
The big question, with respect to the promotion of Kelly to OC, has been "Will O'Brien continue to call the plays in 2019, or will it be Kelly?" Here is what O'Brien's answer was to that question on Texans Radio Tuesday night on SportsRadio 610:
“That’s always an interesting discussion and a great question. I think that’s always been a collaborative effort for us. Through the years, we’ve had different guys call the plays. I’ve called plays, obviously we had George Godsey call plays. There’s no doubt in my mind that Tim Kelly is ready to call plays and that’s something that will always be, like I said, a collaborative effort. On the outside, people may say, ‘what does that mean?’ Well, there’s a lot that goes into a play call. Obviously, you don’t have a lot of time to make a play call but there’s a lot that goes into it. You need input from everybody quickly. So, whether it’s me calling the plays or Timmy calling the plays, it will always be what’s best for the team. It will always be, like I said, a collaborative effort of game planning during the week and then ‘OK, let’s see how this game is being played and let’s move from there.’ But we’ll make sure that we’re always doing what’s best for the team and that’s all part of this promotion of Tim.”
Moving along, there are a few interesting nuggets in the roster of assistants released by the team on Tuesday. First, for reference purposes, here is the list:
Tim Kelly, Offensive Coordinator
John Aylward, Offensive Assistant
Danny Barrett, Running Backs
Mike Devlin, Offensive Line
Will Lawing, Tight Ends
John Perry, Wide Receivers
Carl Smith, Quarterbacks
T.J. Yates, Offensive Assistant
Romeo Crennel, Assistant Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator
Akeem Dent, Defensive Assistant
Bobby King, Inside Linebackers
D'Anton Lynn, Assistant Secondary
Anthony Midget, Secondary
Matt O'Donnell, Defensive Assistant
John Pagano, Senior Defensive Assistant / Outside Linebackers
Anthony Weaver, Defensive Line
Brad Seely, Special Teams Coordinator
Tracy Smith, Assistant Special Teams Coordinator
Mike Eubanks, Head Strength and Conditioning
Brian Cushing, Assistant Strength and Conditioning
Joe Distor, Assistant Strength and Conditioning
Jason George, Assistant Strength and Conditioning / Sports Science Coordinator
Billy Voltaire, Assistant Strength and Conditioning / Performance Therapist
Clay Hampton, Director of Football Operations
Doug West, Assistant to the Head Coach
The big news out of all this is that Deshaun Watson has a new quarterbacks coach. Replacing Sean Ryan, who departed in a lateral move to the Detroit Lions last week, will be Carl Smith, 70, a longtime assistant at both the college and professional level with extensive experience working with prominent quarterbacks at the NFL level.
Highlights of Smith's career include working with Drew Bledsoe in New England in the late '90s, coordinating one of the better offenses in the league in Jacksonville in the mid-2000s and, most notably, tutoring Russell Wilson for his entire NFL career in Seattle. While Smith's son, Tracy, is the Assistant Special Teams Coordinator for the Texans, Smith has no direct ties to O'Brien, which is refreshing, as he should bring in new ideas to supplement O'Brien's and Kelly's leadership of the offense.
Here were O'Brien's thoughts on the hiring of Smith:
“I’m very excited about him, also. Real excited about Tim (Kelly), very excited about Carl. Carl brings a lot of experience to the table. I’ve known Carl for a number of years. If you look at his résumé, he’s coached in a lot of different systems. He’s coached for different head coaches, primarily most recently for Pete Carroll who I have a ton of respect for out in Seattle, and also coached for Pete at Southern Cal. Carl has worked with a number of different types of quarterbacks. He’s called plays in systems, in different systems. He’s been in this system. He was in this system when he was in Cleveland. He’s had tremendous success with a number of different quarterbacks and he has excellent relationships with all the quarterbacks that he’s coached. We spent a lot of time together basically in a quote unquote interview-type of setting and we feel like he’s going to bring a lot to the table with his experience in all the different areas that he’s worked in. He’s worked as a coordinator, he’s worked as a passing game coordinator, he’s worked in the running game and he’s obviously coached quarterbacks for a lot of years, so we’re excited to have him.”
The other notable coaching development was the hire of three former O'Brien era Houston Texans players — former QB T.J. Yates as an Offensive Assistant, former ILB Akeem Dent as a Defensive Assistant and, most notably, former ILB Brian Cushing as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach.
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In a weird coincidence, Yates and Dent were traded for each other prior to the 2014 season, in a deal that sent Yates back home to Atlanta to play for the Falcons, and brought Dent to Houston for the first of three seasons. Cushing's hire as an assistant in the weight room has been met with plenty of side eyes and snickering, considering he is a two-time PED policy offender, but O'Brien is enthusiastic about Cushing's transition to coaching:
“Brian, obviously, brings so much passion for the Houston Texans. I think at the end of careers guys have a hard time. They’ve played a lot of football, they’ve played at such a high level. Brian was a Rookie of the Year, he was a Pro Bowl-type player. Brian is the all-time leading tackler for the Houston Texans. I think it’s hard. When their playing days are over, it’s hard to transition. He wanted to continue to play, but at the end of the day he made a decision that it was time for him to move on to the next stage of his life. He had always expressed an interest to me in wanting to be a coach, possibly in the weight room, help with player development. He’ll help J.J. Moses on that side, too, with rookies. He’s going to help in the weight room. Brian, as I expressed when he was playing for us here, is a guy that meant a lot to me as a head coach coming into this league. He was a captain for us. The way that he laid it on the line for us every time that he played, it was really cool to have conversations with him about wanting to transition to this part of his career and we’re excited for him. Both of these things are starting at the bottom of the coaching deal and then working his way up and we’ll see how it goes, but I know he’s excited about the opportunity.”
In one notable departure, former Pro Bowl wide receiver and Texans offensive assistant, Wes Welker, has reportedly accepted the position of Wide Receivers Coach with the San Francisco 49ers.