"Obviously, the evaluations start right away. We meet with the players here at 11 (a.m.) and then we’ll begin right away with our staff, evaluating our season strategically, personnel, schemes, everything. Every aspect will be evaluated." — Bill O'Brien on Sunday morning
Well, when Bill O'Brien says "right away," he means "RIGHT AWAY." Not tomorrow, not after breakfast, but right NOW.
After the brutal 30-0 punch in the jaw provided by the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday evening, O'Brien wasted no time beginning the remake of the 2015 Houston Texans into something hopefully better in 2016. Monday morning, we learned of the first three casualties as O'Brien fired three assistant coaches — wide receivers coach Stan Hixon, special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky, and defensive assistant Anthony Pleasant.
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Hixon was one of a handful of coaches who made the trip south with O'Brien from his two season stint at Penn State. In his two seasons with the Texans, the main positive in Hixon's position group was the development of DeAndre Hopkins into a second team All Pro and one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. However, there was probably more bad than good, as Andre Johnson had his worst season as a Texan in 2014 (probably more to do with scheme and age than Hixon) and the two wide receivers the Texans drafted in 2015 (Jaelen Strong and Keith Mumphrey) were somewhat slow developing. The key black mark on the receiving corps this year was an absurdly high number of drops, including several by veterans Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts III.
Ligashesky was one of two holdovers from Gary Kubiak's staff after Kubiak was fired toward the end of the 2013 season. He was originally brought in by Kubiak as an assistant to longtime special teams coach Joe Marciano, who himself was the scourge of many Texan fans as the Texans' special teams, even in the team's good seasons, was a floundering unit most of the time. Marciano was fired with a few weeks left in 2013 and O'Brien decided to keep Ligashesky. Unfortunately, the special teams issues remained, and, if anything, they got worse on Ligashesky's watch. The Texans were among the least explosive teams in returning the football and had huge issues with kick and punt coverage all season. Their special teams finished 32nd in Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings. The Knile Davis 106 yard kickoff return to open Saturday's game was probably the last straw for O'Brien as pertains to Ligashesky.
Pleasant spent 14 seasons in the league as a defensive lineman, including two Super Bowl wins with the Patriots in 2001 and 2003, and was a defensive assistant under Romeo Crennel in Kansas City for four seasons before joining Crennel here in Houston as part of O'Brien's staff. Obviously, it's tough to gauge Pleasant's impact on a day to day basis as an assistant position coach, but the Texans' defensive line, outside of J.J. Watt, was a below average unit, with Vince Wilfork struggling most of the season and Jared Crick providing very little impact as the defensive end starting opposite Watt.
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