Bill O’Brien was fired as head coach of the Houston Texans Monday, and the sentiment among fans was clear.
And also, what took so long?
Few NFL head coaches in recent memory have been as unpopular with their fan base as O’Brien, not just because of his prickly nature, but because of a series of boneheaded transactions that occurred after he was put in charge of personnel in June of 2019.
Two months after acquiring his new title on Aug. 31, O’Brien traded disgruntled former no. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks. A few hours later, he sent the Texans’ first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 to the Miami Dolphins for Kenny Stills and Larry Tunsil.
But the most ridiculous decision of all came in March of this year, when O’Brien traded DeAndre Hopkins, one of the top receivers in the NFL, to Arizona for oft-injured running back David Johnson. Multiple outlets reported that O’Brien had a personal beef with Hopkins that led to the trade, which is yet another maddening example of how he fouled up the franchise.
O’Brien, who came to Houston after two years as the head coach of Penn State, was also criticized for failing to maximize the potential of quarterback Deshaun Watson. And even though his teams won four AFC South titles in six seasons, O’Brien never could get Texans beyond the divisional round round of the postseason.
Most fans wanted O’Brien fired after Houston blew a 24-0 lead in last season’s 51-31 playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. But Texas chairman and chief executive officer Cal McNair remained loyal to O’Brien until Monday, when McNair relieved him from his duties a day after a 31-23 loss to Minnesota that dropped the Texans to 0-4.
“I don’t like to do that,” McNair told reporters. “You grow to like the people you work with, and I like Bill. But I think you have to put aside personal feelings when you want to go in a different direction, and that’s what I did.”
O’Brien took responsibility for Houston’s shortcomings in a Zoom call with reporters.
“It’s a bottom-line business,” O’Brien said, “and we weren’t able to get it to where we needed to get it. I understand we fell short in terms of taking this team further in the playoffs.
“I leave knowing that myself and this staff gave everything this organization deserved and more. We worked very, very hard to try to get this to a place where it could be a championship program. We just didn’t get it done.”
Texas defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, who came to Houston with O’Brien in 2014, will serve as the team’s interim coach for the remainder of the season. Crennel, 73, has been the head coach of the Chiefs and the Cleveland Browns.
Speaking of the Chiefs … innovative KC offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy would seem like a natural candidate for the Texas job, with the hope that he could do the same thing with Watson that he did with Pat Mahomes.