This time last week, the winless Houston Texans were heading into a home game against the winless Minnesota Vikings. For the first time all season, fans would be allowed in NRG Stadium. Try as they might, the Texans still couldn't come out on top, and as we've learned in the last few days, there was a whole lot more going on with this team than just crappy football on Sundays.
According to multiple reports, star defensive end J.J. Watt got into a shouting match with head coach Bill O'Brien in the week leading up to the trip to Pittsburgh in Week 3, a shouting match that enough other players internalized as Bill O'Brien finally losing his mind that the head coach "lost the team."
The loss to the Vikings was the final straw, owner CalMcNair had seen enough, and on Monday, Bill O'Brien was fired as head coach and general manager of the team. Romeo Crennel will be the interim head coach, Jack Easterby will be the interim general manager, and every player on the roster seemingly will be not just interim happy, but permanently happy.
O'Brien had worn out his welcome with everyone in the building. Crossing J.J. Watt was a power struggle that O'Brien was never going to win. Now, the Jacksonville Jaguars come to town, the perfect foe for a rejuvenated Texans locker room, looking for their first win of the year. Here are four things to watch for this Sunday....
4. Deshaun Watson sans Bill O'Brien
We would be saying this, even if O'Brien were still the Texans' head coach — if the Texans' offense can't move the football on the Jaguars defense, then there is a major problem. The Jags' are dead last in overall defensive efficiency, and dead last in pass defense efficiency. With O'Brien's overbearing presence and stingy play calling out of the way, perhaps the offense feels somewhat liberated, and Deshaun Watson can play like the care free superstar he was his first six games of his rookie year, when he was gunslinging and running read option plays in a way that befuddled opposing defenses, and put up huge numbers for the Texans. At the very least, it'd be nice for the Texans to have something OTHER THAN a three-and-out on their opening drive, something they've done every game so far this year.
3. Fan reaction
I can tell you, as someone who hosts a popular morning radio show on the Texans flagship station, as well as the postgame show on the Texans' game day presentation, it can get pretty depressing taking phone calls from diehard Texan fans who are forced to root against the team, because they want Bill O'Brien fired. It will be nice this Sunday, for whatever fans are in the stadium, to be pulling in the same direction. Don't just take my word for it. Take J.J. Watt's word for it:
Watt: "One of the things I'm excited about ... is ... getting on the same page with our fanbase again ... there's certainly been abit of a tension there in the last months and years, and I can't wait to have us all pulling in the same direction again ... It's not fun as a player" pic.twitter.com/Y49WHq6b8X— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) October 7, 2020
Good riddance, O'Brien.
2. Texan Fan Guide to the NFL Sunday Ticket
As much as I love Romeo Crennel, we know he won't be the permanent head coach for this team, when the 2021 season begins, even he makes a deep run into the playoffs. So if you're a Texans fan sitting at home this weekend, here are some games to flag on the NFL Sunday Ticket package (and some bonus Saturday college action), along with the staff member to watch:
SATURDAY, Texas vs Oklahoma, 11 a.m. (Oklahoma HC Lincoln Riley)
SATURDAY, Miami at Clemson, 6:30 p.m. (Clemson HC Dabo Swinney)
SUNDAY, Raiders at Chiefs, Noon (Chiefs OC Eric Bienemy)
SUNDAY, Bengals at Ravens, Noon (Ravens OC Greg Roman)
SUNDAY, Dolphins at 49ers, 3;05 p.m. (Niners DC Robert Saleh)
SUNDAY, Colts at Browns, 3:25 p.m. (Colts DC Matt Eberflus)
SUNDAY, Vikings at Seahawks, 7:20 p.m. (Vikings OC Gary Kubiak)
MONDAY, Broncos at Patriots, 7:30 p.m. (Patriots OC Josh McDaniels)
TUESDAY, Bills at Titans (Bills OC Brian Daboll)
These games are all, of course, subject to COVID postponement.
1. Attitude and Energy
Crennel was asked on Wednesday what the biggest change should be this Sunday with a new head coach, and his answer was simple — improved attitude and improved energy. How will that manifest itself? I'll let the Texans' interim head coach handle this one:
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RAC Run D spiel on energy and attitude ?: "Discipline to do your job first ... If I'm a B-Gap player I need to win the B-Gap, do that ... if the ball runs into C and they gain yards out there, then we've got to talk to whoever is the C-gap player and get that straightened out." pic.twitter.com/K5dAKJbuyp— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) October 7, 2020
While the energy will be noticeably better, there are still some major roster issues O'Brien has left behind. The Texans win Sunday, but it will be a close one.
SPREAD: Texans -6
PREDICTION: Texans 27, Jaguars 26