Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 27 No. 26
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Texans Firing Bill O'Brien Raises Questions About Team's Future

Texans Chair Cal McNair (r) is expected to lean heavily on Exec VP Jack Easterby amid coaching search
Photo: Getty Images

The firing of Texans coach & GM Bill O'Brien leaves the organization at "another crossroads as they seek a new head coach" and "determine how they'll structure their front office moving forward from the O'Brien era," according to Aaron Wilson of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. O'Brien "ultimately lost a power struggle with himself" yesterday afternoon when he was fired "less than two years after accumulating more clout than anyone in the NFL besides his former boss," Patriots coach Bill Belichick. O'Brien had in the past "convinced the McNair family to side with him" over former GMs Rick Smith and Brian Gaine. Each time, he "emerged with more power and authority." Now, sources said that Texans Chair & CEO Cal McNair is "expected to lean heavily" on Exec VP/Football Operations Jack Easterby as the team "launches what's expected to be a wide-ranging coaching search." Easterby is "expected to be a key figure in guiding the organization through this transition." In terms of the front office, the Texans "could try again to land" Patriots Dir of Player Personnel Nick Caserio. The Texans "attempted to hire Caserio after firing Gaine" in '19, but "halted their pursuit after briefly facing tampering charges" from Patriots Owner Robert Kraft (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/6).

BIG TASK AHEAD: In Houston, John McClain writes O'Brien and Easterby had "disagreements about the way the personnel operation was being run." The organization was "being divided the way it had been" when O'Brien and Smith "had their disputes." Although McNair "hasn't decided about how he wants to restructure the football side of the organization, Easterby will play a key role and will be part of the interview process to hire O'Brien's replacement" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/6). NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport noted O’Brien as coach and GM "got a lot more power this off-season and nothing on the field ended up warranting that he stay there." Rapoport noted Easterby now “ends up essentially running the football department along with several other personnel people under him.” NFL Network’s Scott Pioli said being a coach and GM are both “difficult jobs” which is why “there’s no team in the league where one person does it all" (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 10/5). SI.com's Conor Orr wondered, "What level of confidence does Easterby have moving forward that an organization completely stripped of its draft equity will be a draw for a high-profile head coaching candidate?" (SI.com, 10/5). In Houston, Jerome Solomon writes in firing O'Brien yesterday, McNair "made a call that any good leader would have." Solomon: "Now let's see if he goes out and hires the best of the best to run the organization." A "housecleaning is in order." O'Brien "built a power base within the organization" that "will hurt it for years to come." His entire operation "seemed to be as much about a power grab as about winning football games." O'Brien "coached politics better than he coached football" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/6).

TWO DIFFERENT GIGS: ESPN’s Booger McFarland said, “Bill O’Brien the GM got Bill O’Brien the head coach fired because Bill O’Brien the head coach wasn’t bad." McFarland added, "He won four out of the last six AFC South titles. They’ve done some good damage in the AFC South, but Bill O’Brien the GM had the two first round picks chilling in South Beach in 2021.” McFarland: “It just goes to show you when you put the two titles into one person, sometimes one person, the head coach, can’t help the GM out and vice-versa. I hope Houston going forward hires a GM and then that GM picks the head coach." ESPN’s Steve Young: “Fire him as the GM if he’s a pretty good coach. What you’ve done now is a wasted season" (“Monday Night Countdown,” ESPN, 10/5). ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt said, "The way people talk about the guy, you’d think the Texans had been brutal during his tenure and it’s just not accurate. The GM portion of his tenure .. is a bit more problematic, no argument there" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 10/6). 

TIMING TOO LATE? In Houston, Brian Smith writes the "timing was stunning" for O'Brien's departure. The end result was "years in the making and had become painfully obvious." McNair "stepped up and shocked the NFL" by "getting rid of a king who had long worn out his welcome." O'Brien got "everything he wanted from the Texans, and he never came close to doing enough with all his power." Credit to McNair for "finally making himself heard." Smith: "But I also guarantee McNair privately regrets listening to O'Brien last June, when Gaine was coldly fired as GM and the Texans foolishly granted O'Brien even more power" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/6). ESPN’s Dan Graziano: "People thought (O'Brien) was going to be in trouble if the season didn’t go well. I don’t think it was thought of doing it this early in the season, but he was the GM. He was the head coach. He was in charge of every decision. He was invested with great power in every part of the organization, and as Spider-Man fans know, with great power comes the responsibility to not start 0-4 after you trade away your best player” (“Get Up” ESPN, 10/6). ESPN.com's Bill Barnwell wondered, "How much could really have changed between now and the end of August?" There was a time to "pull the reins back on O'Brien, but it was a while ago." His '19 moves "suggested he was overmatched when it came to trades and contract negotiations." Letting him get a second offseason in charge of personnel decisions "was the mistake ownership made." Firing O'Brien now "acknowledges that the Texans were wrong to give him that sort of power, but it doesn't do anything to alleviate the problems" (ESPN.com, 10/5).