Sean Pendergast

Who Is the Texans' Stiffest Competition For a New Head Coach and GM?

Bill O'Brien's questionable moves as general manager has left a bit of a mess for the next guy.
Bill O'Brien's questionable moves as general manager has left a bit of a mess for the next guy. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Back on Monday, October 5, about 24 hours to the minute after the Minnesota Vikings finished dispatching his football team to its fourth loss of their winless season, Bill O'Brien was fired by owner Cal McNair and the Houston Texans. It would be a reach to say "nobody saw this outcome coming EVENTUALLY," but to say that they saw it coming after just four games, after O'Brien had his drunken-sailor way with the roster for over a year, would absolutely be a reach.

O'Brien's odds that week to be the first head coach fired in the 20202 NFL season were around 10 to 1, putting him behind names like Dan Quinn of Atlanta, Matt Patricia of Detroit, and Adam Tase of the New York Jets. O'Brien was decent value at 10 to 1, and if you fired on that wager, enjoy your Christmas! Now, though, the Texans are getting company on the "vacant head coach and GM" front.

Atlanta did indeed fire Quinn, as well as GM Thomas Dimitroff, just a week or so later. The Lions fired Patricia and GM Dan Quinn on Saturday just two days after the Texans stomped them on Thanksgiving Day at home. The Jags fired their longtime GM David Caldwell on Sunday, and head coach Doug Marrone is probably not far behind.

So what's the early read on the market? Where does the Texans job stack up against the four teams with openings, and how crowded will the market get? The purpose of this post is to gauge the scope of the openings pool. We will be comparing and contrasting more down the road, once we know who is in the market for replacements. For now, let's look at the current openings, the likely ones to come, and a few wild cards that could open up.


CURRENT OPENINGS

ATLANTA FALCONS (4-7)
The presence of a franchise quarterback, to me, is the biggest part of grading any job opening, whether it's for the head coach or the general manager vacancy. Matt Ryan, while older (turns 36 in May), is a former MVP who is still playing at a fairly high level. The Falcons are probably better than their 4-7 record and have some pieces to work with. Also, Drew Brees and Tom Brady won't be in the division forever. This is a decent job.

DETROIT LIONS (4-7)
The Lions fired Jim Caldwell after three winning seasons in four years to hire Patricia, a Bill Belichick disciple. Patricia was a disaster to the nth degree. Bob Quinn, another decrepit branch from the Patriot tree, was not much better. Like Atlanta, the Lions have an aging franchise QB in Matt Stafford, who will be 33 when the 2021 season gets here. Unlike the 4-7 Falcons, who are probably better than their record, the Lions' 4-7 record feels like a reach. Their openings are below the Texans' on every level.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (1-10)
The Jags fired Caldwell as their GM over the weekend. Marrone will stay on for the rest of the year, but that's hardly a vote of confidence. If anything, they probably feel like the head coach that's gotten them to 1-10 to start the year is the perfect guy to get them to 1-15 and possibly a shot at Trevor Lawrence. The immense amount of draft capital (13 picks in the 2021 draft) owned by the Jags, including two 1's and two 2's, makes this a superb job for a GM. It could make it a tougher run for a head coach to go through a slow build with a young QB.


LIKELY OPENINGS

NEW YORK JETS (0-11)
It seems like a mortal lock that head coach Adam Tase will be gone after the season, or possibly before the season ends. GM Joe Dougles likely survives and will get a chance to build a roster around a new quarterback, likely Clemson's Lawrence or Ohio State's Justin Fields.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (3-8)
New rookie quarterback, same head coach, and same old Chargers, who have been ultra competitive, but have found new and exciting ways to lose games, falling to 3-8 on the season. Head coach Anthony Lynn and GM Tom Telesco could both be out, and if they are, this might be the second best EXISTING QB situation for a potential job opening behind only the Texans.

DENVER BRONCOS (4-7)
Head coach Vic Fangio was probably already on the hot seat, but his entire quarterback room basically ignoring NFL protocols for wearing masks, getting caught doing so, and then leaving the team with NO quarterbacks on the roster for this past Sunday's game might be the last straw. This would be an ideal landing spot for Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, with a young QB here in Drew Lock, and Bieniemy's ties to the AFC West (years with the Chiefs) and the state of Colorado (played college ball at CU).

WILD CARDS

DALLAS COWBOYS (3-8)
Mike McCarthy might not last more than one season in Dallas. Owner Jerry Jones (who also happens to be the GM so they won't be firing their GM) can use the season ending injury to Dak Prescott as an excuse for McCarthy, or he can do the smart thing, and realize he made a mistake in recycling this guy, and get into the mix for some new blood. The season wasn't going all that well even when Dak was healthy.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (3-6-1)
In 2017, the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Since then, they've made the playoffs both seasons with 9-7 records, but haven't come close to approaching their 2017 apex. Carson Wentz, who was paid top dollar before the 2019 season, has been a disaster at QB, behind an offensive line decimated with injuries. The only real selling point of potential GM and HC openings here is that you'd be in a division that is, by far, the worst in football, at least for a couple more years.

CHICAGO BEARS (5-6)
The Bears started the season as the phoniest 5-1 team of the modern era. They've since lost five in a row, and they've yo-yoed back and forth between Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles at QB, which is like yo-yoing back and forth between a colonoscopy and a root canal. GM Ryan Pace should be canned for trading up to draft Trubisky when Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were both on the board. That alone should be a fireable offense. Matt Nagy, a former Andy Reid disciple, is the cautionary tale to anyone looking to hire Eric Bieniemy, another Andy Reid disciple.  How much of the Chiefs success is just the genius of Reid?

BEST JOBS (aside from the Texans), if these all open up: Jacksonville, LA Chargers, Atlanta, Dallas

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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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