Sean Pendergast

NFL Scouting Combine: 10 Questions for Texans Head Coach Bill O'Brien

This bis a big offseason for Bill O'Brien (pictured) and Brian Gaine.
This bis a big offseason for Bill O'Brien (pictured) and Brian Gaine. Photo by Eric Sauseda
The NFL Scouting Combine is underway in Indianapolis, and the "Underwear Olympics" portion of it begins in full force today, with players getting poked, prodded, weighed, interrogated, and ultimately put through a bunch of physical drills so that the 32 NFL teams can improve their productivity forecasting accuracy by a few percentage points.

As part of the festivities, all 32 head coaches and general managers (or in the case of the Patriots, they're one and the same) will endure 15 minutes of inquisition from the national media. Bill O'Brien is set to do his session this afternoon at 12:30 p.m. Houston time, and Brian Gaine goes tomorrow morning at 9:45 a.m. The questions in this setting don't always hit at the heart of what Texans fans want to know, since it IS largely national media, but hopefully the assembled group of questioners will touch on a few topics of interest.

Here are ten questions I would ask if I could bogart the microphone from everybody else:

1. What's the first full season of ALIGNMENT with Brian Gaine been like?
I would ask this mainly because it's fun to hear Bill O'Brien gush about how great things are in life with Gaine, as opposed to Rick Smith, as the GM (although to O'Brien's credit, he never mentions Smith by name). It's like hearing one of your friends gush about a new girlfriend, and all the way that she's the opposite of the old girlfriend, while deftly avoiding mentioning the old girlfriend's name. High comedy!

2. We all know the offensive line is an issue... what exactly are the BIGGEST issues on the offensive line?
I would ask this to see if O'Brien, somewhere long the way, manages to credit Mike Devlin with being a "great offensive line coach", despite the fact that his offensive lines have been abjectly terrible the last two years, and they haven't really developed any linemen worth noting in Devlin's time coaching this group. I put the odds somewhere around YES at -175 and NO at +125.

3. How are things progressing with Jadeveon Clowney?
This will be the big question that will undoubtedly get asked by the national media. Word is that Texans salary cap guru, Chris Olson, and Clwoney's representatives are sitting down in Indianapolis this week. Let's see what happens. At the very least, Clowney will have a franchise tag slapped on him by next Tuesday night.

4. What will be different about the way Deshaun Watson is coached this season?
There have been two big moves within the offensive coaching staff — the promotion of Tim Kelly, and the hiring of new quarterbacks coach Carl Smith. How Kelly will affect game planning, and how different Carl Smith will be from previous QB coach Sean Ryan will be things I'd like to know.

5. What's the plan at backup quarterback?
I've been open about my plans for the spot behind Deshaun Watson on the QB depth chart. I'd love to know what O'Brien's thinking. I'm sure he won't mention specific names, mostly because he can't if they're free agents on other teams currently, but I guess I'm just hoping he DOESN'T mention how enamored he is with Brandon Weeden.

6. Is there a priority in retaining Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson at safety?
O'Brien will not give up who the priority is, but I guess I just want to dissect his compliments about what great guys and great teammates they both are, and then see if we can identify, CIA-style, which one he is leaning toward keeping.

7. What went into the WAY you used Whitney Mercilus in 2018, and will that be the same in 2019?
Poor Whitney Mercilus. He missed all of training camp with a mysterious leg injury, only to return and be asked to do strange things for his skillset throughout the season, like dropping in coverage and playing in space. Mercilus is a pass rusher, BY GAWD, and if they aren't going to use him that way, I'd flip him for a third round pick to a team flush with draft capital, and take the $6 million or so in cap savings, and slide Duke Ejiofor into his spot.

8. How concerned are you about the Indianapolis Colts, the way they match up with you, and how well positioned they are going forward?
Because, dammit Bill, you should be PRETTY FREAKING CONCERNED. Andrew Luck regaining full health just slammed the window shut on ignoring the Colts. That was a fun couple of years!

9. How does the health of Will Fuller and Keke Coutee affect your strategy at the wide receiver position?
I'm guessing that wide receiver is not very high up the list of things the Texans are looking for in the draft, although Brian Gaine probably didn't have safety very high on the board when he took Justin Reid last year, and look at how that word out! More likely, the Texans use, say, six to eight million in cap space to lock in a veteran to add to the group.

10. Do you hate D'Onta Foreman?
I'm sure Bill O'Brien doesn't actually HATE D'Onta Foreman, but I think it's safe to say that he was not all that "sports fond" of him last season, as the second year running back reportedly ballooned up on fried food while rehabbing from his Achilles injury he suffered in 2017. O'Brien went as far as to essentially make a fat joke or two in press conferences when Foreman returned from the PUP list. For what it's worth, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Foreman has been working hard to be in shape for off season activities. We shall see.

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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 afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast