This is Bill O'Brien's third offseason following a season as head coach of the Houston Texans, and during his tenure here, one thing has held to form — each offseason has seen him sever ties with at least one assistant coach.
The only safe side of the ball to have a job with the Texans has been the defensive side, which shouldn't be all that surprising considering it's the one phase of the team that has performed at a high level. Anthony Weaver replaced Paul Pasqualoni coaching the defensive line last year when the latter chose to move back east to join the Boston College staff. That's about it.
Offense and special teams have been a different story, largely because both of those areas have been consistently in the bottom third of the league's rankings, and as such, we have seen the coordinators of both of those phases let go in the last two offseasons, with the most recent being the "mutual parting of the ways" with offensive coordinator George Godsey.
The end result this offseason, when you add the departure of Godsey to the promotions of defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to assistant head coach and linebackers coach Mike Vrabel to defensive coordinator, is a staff with many of the same faces but in new positions. The team sent out a news release Monday evening announcing the following as the team's staff for next season:
Romeo Crennel Assistant Head Coach/Defense
Mike Vrabel Defensive Coordinator
John Butler Secondary
Anthony Weaver Defensive Line
Bobby King Linebackers
Anthony Midget Assistant Secondary
Shane Bowen Defensive Assistant
Sean Ryan Quarterbacks
Mike Devlin Offensive Line
John Perry Wide Receivers
Charles London Running Backs
Tim Kelly Tight Ends
Will Lawing, Offensive Assistant/Offensive Line
Pat O'Hara Offensive Assistant/Quarterbacks
Larry Izzo Special Teams Coordinator
Doug Colman Assistant Special Teams Coordinator
Wes Welker Offensive/Special Teams Assistant
The new coaching roster raises the following questions:
1. Hey, what's Wes Welker doing here?
The Welker-to-Texans rumors began at last week's Senior Bowl when multiple outlets reported Welker was there with the Texans staff. It was widely assumed he would take over the wide receivers coaching role vacated when Sean Ryan was bumped over to quarterbacks coach. However, as first reported by John McClain of the Houston Chronicle , Welker will actually be an offensive and special teams assistant. The question I have is "If Welker were to work his way back into playing shape, where would he be on the Texans' actual WR depth chart? WR3? WR2?" That's a joke, I promise...that said, please upgrade the spot occupied by Keith Mumphrey. (Underrated funny part of Welker's hire — the addition of his head shot to the Texans' coaching staff webpage, where it was clearly just cut and pasted from somewhere else and makes him look like a giant compared to the other coaches.)
2. So can you please summarize all of the changes within the staff?
Sure, no problem! Let's see...we start with defense, where the promotions of Crennel and Vrabel opened up a spot at linebackers coach, which O'Brien chose to fill from within, promoting former assistant linebackers coach Bobby King to linebackers coach. Meanwhile, the offensive side of the ball has largely the same faces, with more than half the staff doing different jobs now. It's like the offensive staff had their faces on ping-pong balls and O'Brien put them all in a hopper, and pulled them out one by one. Of course, there's O'Brien, who is doubling as head coach and OC (what could possibly go wrong?!), and Ryan, as mentioned earlier, is making the move to QB coach from WR coach. Former TE coach John Perry is moving to WR coach, and Tim Kelly was promoted from an assistant position coach to full-time TE coach.
3. Which of the coaches is on the hottest seat headed into 2017?
Well, I doubt it's anyone on the defensive side of the ball. Devlin would certainly be a candidate, given the inconsistency along the offensive line, although I'll wait and see how Nick Martin recovers from his ankle injury and what the Texans invest in the offensive line in the draft and free agency before judging Devlin's shelf life. Honestly, it's probably Izzo, whose special teams showed no statistical improvement over 2015's Bob Ligashesky-coached bunch (both were 32nd in DVOA), even if they looked slightly improved in some areas to the naked eye.
4. What do we make of "Chip Kelly to the Texans" rumors now?
These rumors cropped up late last week on the website Walter Football, and they went as follows:
The Houston Texans mutually parted ways with offensive coordinator George Godsey after their playoff loss to the Patriots, and afterward, they announced that head coach Bill O'Brien would basically run the offense without hiring a new coordinator. However, sources say there is a name to keep an eye on as joining the Texans staff as an offensive assistant, and that is none other than Chip Kelly. The pro-style offense of O'Brien seems like an odd fit for Kelly and his college spread system, but Kelly and O'Brien are close friends with a lot of mutual respect for each other's football knowledge.
Let's assume for one second that today's press release announcing the coaching staff for next season doesn't lock the figurative front door, and Kelly could still be hired. I would be in complete favor of Kelly as an offensive assistant, since I'm fairly certain it wouldn't be to install his system, but instead to help incorporate elements of his system and give a second set of highly intelligent eyes to help scheme. Given that the top prospects in this year's draft all come from up tempo style offenses, having a Kelly-type on the staff who can help maximize those tempo and spread skills within the framework of O'Brien's offense could be a revelation.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.