No GM in 2019? What the Hell are the Texans Doing?

For better or worse, Bill O'Brien is running the show on Kirby Drive.
For better or worse, Bill O'Brien is running the show on Kirby Drive. Photo by Eric Sauseda
For years, it appeared that the Texans would never part with former GM Rick Smith. Through questionable drafts and failed free agent moves, he remained in place, quite literally at the side of beloved former (and now deceased) owner Robert McNair. When Smith stepped down because of his wife's battle with cancer, Brian Gaine took over, but his tenure was cut short just over a month ago with his abrupt and hastily announced firing.

What followed was a series of odd moves including the pursuit of Patriots staffer Nick Caserio to replace Gaine, reportedly through some rather sketchy back-door dealings of Texans player development member and former Patriot chaplain, Jack Easterby. My colleague Sean Pendergast, who provides fantastic NFL coverage here year round, laid out a case two weeks ago for Easterby as GM.

Notable NFL writer Greg Badard had written about how the Patriots were angry with the Texans for pursuing Caserio — they filed tampering charges before the Texans withdrew their request for an interview — but more specifically directed their ire at Easterby, someone most Texans fans had probably never heard of before this summer.

We all know the Texans' desperation to beat the Patriots falls only slightly behind the Rockets obsession with besting the Warriors. The main difference is that the Rockets have actually had a shot that ended as far as the Western Conference Finals. The Texans, on the other hand, haven't been remotely close to being better than the Pats since former Patriots coach Bill O'Brien took the reins here in Houston.

Now, it is being reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter that the Texans will not have a general manager in 2019, instead relying on current staffers and divvying up duties, which sounds an awful lot like when O'Brien decided to be his own offensive coordinator. We all know how that turned out.

Look, the Texans have been basically a mess since their inception despite a rabidly loyal fan base that has no real reason to remain attached other than the team is in Houston and it's football in Texas (about as close to religion as you get in this state without going into a church). But, the past year or so has been an unmitigated disaster even with some of the most dynamic players in the NFL on the roster.

This offseason, they have not been able to secure any tangible help along the offensive line to protect their franchise superstar Deshaun Watson, a fate also suffered by first-ever Texans draft pick David Carr, leaving him battered, bruised and shell shocked. And while Watson is substantively better in every regard than Carr, his bones break and his ligaments tear just like any other human's.

We've also seen the Texans decide to franchise tag Jadeveon Clowney rather than sign him to a long-term extension this offseason. Some have cited injury concerns but Clowney has been healthy for three seasons and is still considered one of the best young edge rushers in the game.

I wonder if a GM might have helped solve that problem...

From a distance, it appears O'Brien is maintaining a kind of fiefdom, passing out random tasks to his loyal subjects as he consolidates power. But, it's hard to know what is going on inside NRG Stadium, especially with the extremely tight controls they keep on information in and out of the castle. Still, it doesn't look good and there is no real reason to trust O'Brien with the keys to the kingdom. He's been a decent, if flawed coach, with little to no personnel experience prior to joining the Texans who has butted heads with everyone he has worked with.

Now, Cal McNair has taken over the organization from his father, who was notorious for his loyalty well beyond what was reasonable or rational. The younger McNair has shown a penchant for a much shorter fuse, which could help form the building blocks of a solid franchise...or not.

Whatever the case, the Texans appear to be clueless at the moment. Maybe its better they won't have a GM so next year McNair can light that fuse, blow the whole damn thing up and build something better from the rubble.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke