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Lack of O’Brien-Osweiler meeting a hallmark of modern NFL free agency

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It was regarded as a surprise this week when Texans coach Bill O’Brien said he hadn’t met quarterback Brock Osweiler before the Texans agreed to pay him $37 million fully guaranteed as part of a four-year, $72 million contract. As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes, “This move has owner Bob McNair’s signature all over it, and you have to wonder how comfortable O’Brien is with his owner making football decisions.”

The reality is, however, that plenty of free agents currently get paid plenty of money without the player and the coach ever meeting. The legal tampering period encourages this kind of sight-unseen dealmaking, with agents negotiating contracts that technically are unenforceable agreements in principle but that almost always become binding business arrangements without the principals ever shaking hands or exchanging pleasantries. (They’re also not even supposed to talk during the legal tampering period — and that’s a provision that needs to go away.)

The practice carries risk for both sides. At a time when the coaching staff and the front office are still digesting every little thing that dozens of draft picks said and did during speed-dating sessions at the Scouting Combine, teams are making much larger investments in guys they don’t know at all. The player is rolling the dice as well, assuming that the willingness to give him a whole lot of money means that when he shows up for work and meets his new supervisors and coworkers he won’t soon say to himself, “What in the hell have I done?”

Given the manner in which this specific deal was done, of course O’Brien never met Osweiler. When Osweiler was going through the pre-draft process in 2012, O’Brien had just become the head coach at Penn State. But for a passing glance or a quick handshake during joint practices, there was no reason for the two men to talk — and there was definitely no reason for O’Brien to think Osweiler could become the team’s quarterback until midway through the 2015 season.

Still, as O’Brien explained it during a visit this week to PFT Live, he had plenty to do with the decision to land Osweiler.

“The one thing that stood out to me on tape when I watched him is you know most of the games, all of the games that he played in were meaningful games,” O’Brien said. “These guys were in a playoff hunt and he was in some tough ball games. I use the example of the New England game. He was being pressured quite a bit and he was taking some really good hits, but he was delivering the football and I thought that said a lot about his toughness, his ability to keep his eyes downfield and under pressure deliver the football. It wasn’t always complete but I thought he did a nice job in that game. So I think that’s one of the things we’re all looking forward to is working with that type of guy that’s a tough guy, a good leader, a good teammate. That’s what we’re looking forward to.”

O’Brien, who also studied Osweiler’s tape from Arizona State, was particularly impressed by that Sunday night performance against the then-unbeaten Patriots, a team for which O’Brien previously worked and a franchise that repeatedly has bedeviled the Patriots.

“It stood out to me,” O’Brien said of Osweiler’s performance against New England. “That one game, knowing the type of team he was going against, what was on the line in that game, I thought he did really nice job.”

The fact that O’Brien didn’t actually meet Osweiler before the Texans made Osweiler a very rich man doesn’t mean O’Brien failed to do his job, or that McNair usurped the coach’s authority. It means that O’Brien was simply operating within the confines of a free-agency system that premises leaps of faith on the exchange of large sums of cash.

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38 Responses to “Lack of O’Brien-Osweiler meeting a hallmark of modern NFL free agency”
  1. Florio Believer says: Mar 27, 2016 10:05 AM

    Let’s admit it, for the rich Owners (which is most of them) their teams are nothing more than ‘Toys’, and if they want something new for their Toy, ie, Osweiller, they’re going to get it.

    And if the HC doesn’t like it, tough luck, learn to live with it.

  2. ratso45auto says: Mar 27, 2016 10:07 AM

    It’s time for O’Brein to coach somebody he doesn’t have a past with, all the guys he brought in that he was familiar with were a bust, as have all the ex-Patriot types the Texans have brought in…’s time to try something different.

  3. beauregard says: Mar 27, 2016 10:26 AM

    This is going to end badly.

  4. j0esixpack says: Mar 27, 2016 10:27 AM

    It seems to me that any job candidate you’d consider giving $37 million to is one you might like to meet before signing on the dotted line

    That being said, they’ve got video on every snap he played though only time will tell as to whether he’s a franchise QB

    He certainly appeared to be one of the best on the market

    O’Brien’s enough of a professional where personality is not going to be an issue – he’ll adapt to get the best out of Osweiler anyways

  5. magnumpimustache says: Mar 27, 2016 10:35 AM

    If mark Sanchez gets Denver back to the Super bowl John elway leaps bill belicheck as greatest GM of all time.

  6. jerry944 says: Mar 27, 2016 10:37 AM

    I never met any of my bosses before i was hired at any football is a job..he isnt trying out for pop warner

  7. xavier179 says: Mar 27, 2016 10:45 AM

    Sorry but McNair is totally clueless.

  8. fedegene says: Mar 27, 2016 10:54 AM

    Signing a contract that will pay you 37 mil is not exactly rolling the dice, on the player’s side.

  9. cowboy19 says: Mar 27, 2016 11:09 AM

    Jerry Jones Jr.

  10. revren10 says: Mar 27, 2016 11:20 AM

    magnumpimustache says:
    Mar 27, 2016 10:35 AM

    If mark Sanchez gets Denver back to the Super bowl John elway leaps bill belicheck as greatest GM of all time.

    Just got to keep Sanchez away from his centers ass

  11. tylawspick6 says: Mar 27, 2016 11:59 AM

    McNair is a moron, Just look at him. These guys who happen to be millionaires, are also NOT football people.

    Snyder, Jones, McNair, etc,etc, etc.


    They just don’t get it. It’s not so much you signed Osweiler, it’s how much you overpaid for him.

    Enjoy cap hell as it continues.

    Rick Smith is also a complete moron as a GM.

  12. scrotiemcb says: Mar 27, 2016 11:59 AM

    I love the sales pitch: Come to Houston, Brock. The expectations are low and tradition is just a multi-syllable word in our facility. Why clear a bar when you don’t have to clear a bar at all?

    And the famously touchy-feely O’Brien has to be thrilled. He gets the guy that doesn’t let a Super Bowl parade get in the way of a well earned pout. The guy that thinks that sub-Hoyer stats immediately earn him the benefit of the doubt over a verified NF L legend.

    This should work out wonderfully for all the parties involved, especially Denver.

  13. tylawspick6 says: Mar 27, 2016 12:15 PM


    Please do not procreate or vote.


    – US Taxpayers

    PS No one will EVER touch the incredible Belichick as a GM or Coach.

    Just deal with it. What he’s doing in this cap era, is beyond historical.

    Denver misses the playoffs in 2016 and NE likely goes to its 6th straight AFC Title game.

    BB would NEVER, EVER win a SB and then have a dozen key FAs all at once like that. Elway has been awful budgeting for his own players, because he pulled a Steinbrenner and opened a checkbook. Big deal. A monkey could do what he did. Heck, ELway sort of looks like a monkey if he didn’t look exactly like a horse.


  14. omeimontis says: Mar 27, 2016 12:17 PM

    Bottom line is that the Texans went downhill in 2013 because Matt Schaub suddenly lost his game mentally and physically. Head coach Ted Kubiak got blamed and got fired for the team’s terrible record. The new coach came in and totally ignored the quarterback problem. He picked a DE who had a terrible final year in college instead of a QB. The owners got tired of the QB situation, gave the front office and head coach an ultimatum to find a good QB. Knowing that his job is at stake, O’Brien has to make sure he isn’t going to dispute or reject the Osweiler acquisition.

  15. patsfan4lifesbchamps says: Mar 27, 2016 12:22 PM

    magnumpimustache says:
    Mar 27, 2016 10:35 AM
    If mark Sanchez gets Denver back to the Super bowl John elway leaps bill belicheck as greatest GM of all time.


    That would mean our Deflategate revenge tour 2.0 was cut short yet again. With our QB being almost 40 years old, can we really count on Deflategate revenge tour 3.0 in 2017?

  16. patsbrat says: Mar 27, 2016 12:30 PM


    The ex-Patriot players have been for the most part on the downside of their careers, granted. But ‘bust’ is kind of harsh. Big Vince is no bust. But between Mallet and Hoyer I can see why you are saying that. (I had high hopes for Hoyer, never thought much of Mallet.)

    Ex-Patriot coaches are rebuilding your franchise – O.B., Romeo, and Vrabes are certainly no busts.

  17. damcmp says: Mar 27, 2016 12:42 PM

    nice save.. Boob pay you for that?

  18. goodellclownshow says: Mar 27, 2016 1:06 PM

    McNair….isn’t he the same guy who had his team wear letter jackets on a road trip to NE? Yahoo..

  19. suggahbuggah says: Mar 27, 2016 1:10 PM

    If you have to cheat, you can’t really do it.

  20. thegreatgabbert says: Mar 27, 2016 1:43 PM

    “I’d never seen the Osweiler Stork before, this is really exciting for me…”.

  21. mongo3401 says: Mar 27, 2016 1:50 PM

    Osweiler should wear a mask when he collects his paycheck. He will be the next mega paid QB to be benched if they have a replacement. If not? It’s going to be fugly at best. He will win a few games then the reality will hit what they paid a kings ransom for. Mediocre

  22. scrotiemcb says: Mar 27, 2016 2:19 PM

    You got us, tylawpick6,

    Every single day us poor Bronco fans have to cope with the fact that Denver’s personnel department irresponsibly finds more good players than they can pay. When they aren’t drawing straight flushes out of the UFA pool, plucking guys like Brandon Marshall out of the grasp of the Jacksonvilles of the world, or irresponsibly drafting third day guys or signing UDCFA’s who are destined to receive massive 2nd contracts, we aren’t sure what other kind of voodoo shenanigans are also playing out in that dimwit circus they call Dove Valley.

    Ah, if only Denver drafted worse, or at least occasionally whiffed on UFA’s. That’d be perfect, because at least they’d be easier to pay.

  23. a1b24312 says: Mar 27, 2016 2:32 PM

    The owner was rubbing it in against his fmr coaching staff.

    However, this keeps happening BOBs daysxare nimbered in HOU…which was probably preordained anyhow.

  24. newsletterczar says: Mar 27, 2016 3:29 PM

    For a moment forget about the how and the why; was this the best possible move from a football/salary cap perspective for the Texans? He was a FA so no picks or other players to another team, you took the QB of the future (perhaps) from the defending super bowl champs (Mark Sanchez Mr. Elway? OK) and you have to feel you have really upgraded the most important position on the field (time will tell if they have or have not). I would like to have seen Mike Glennon on this team; that guy deserves a shot and with Winston in front of him (six wins as a rookie, not to shabby) he may have to wait another year.

  25. ReligionIsForIdiots says: Mar 27, 2016 3:43 PM

    magnumpimustache says:
    Mar 27, 2016 10:35 AM
    If mark Sanchez gets Denver back to the Super bowl John elway leaps bill belicheck as greatest GM of all time.

    Belicheat is the greatest GM of all-time? Bust after bust, the only reason that teams been competitive for the last seven years is none other than #12.

  26. broncosrchamps says: Mar 27, 2016 4:00 PM

    The Patriots let Logan Mankins walk and the oline was so bad you have to wonder if they might have beat Denver with him.

    Broncos had a lot of FA this yr but it’s not near as bad as fans from other teams think it is.

    Mathis and Ryan Harris were only signed as ER replacements for Clady and Sambrillo going down for the yr. They were 1 yr deals and the plan was always to let them walk after 2015.

    Travatheon has had 2 bad knee injuries and isn’t a pass rusher. Broncos felt comfortable with the young linebackers we have waiting to play more that they can fill that spot.

    At DT with Malik that is a loss that hurts a bit. But we will get a 3rd round pick for him in next yrs draft. Same with Brock Asswiler who just wasn’t worth comitting to long term like houston did.

    They lost some other players like Bruton but hes just a bkup. Broncos have a slew of draft picks to look for a DT/DE. We will still have the number 1 defense. Look at the Broncos schedule. Not exactly that hard this yr.

  27. TheWizard says: Mar 27, 2016 5:27 PM

    The Patriots let Logan Mankins walk and the oline was so bad you have to wonder if they might have beat Denver with him

    Especially if Mankins had fielded the punt that got away from Harper in the regular season game.

    Catch the punt=Patriots win game and have home field for Championship Game. Not saying that gives them an automatic win, but having to do it in Mile High is always bad news.

  28. thegronk87 says: Mar 27, 2016 5:33 PM

    logan mankins had nothing to do with denver beating NE. It had more to do with Nate Solder out and 3 other offensive linemen playing out of position. If you put Marcus Cannon at tackle, Von Miller is going to tee off on you. with that said denver is beatable.

  29. Pftsliberalagenda says: Mar 27, 2016 6:01 PM

    Lol, ok zone corner wants that? Rgiii could’ve made 30 million a year after his rookie year then

  30. alanr65 says: Mar 27, 2016 6:39 PM

    LOL @broncosrchamps. You should go ahead and rename yourself, broncosWEREchamps. 18 is average salary, about what he’s worth as a known quantity. Lowest Texans could go would have been 15 and the brokeback ponies could have paid that. You guys had no money!!! CapHell. Texans had 10s of millions and will have 10s of millions next year as well!!! Two years of 9-7 records but only paying 5m a year for QB caused lots of savings. Ended up getting QB, and RB upgrade and OL x2 for amount saved. What did PanicCityPonies get? Sanchized!

  31. WD says: Mar 27, 2016 9:11 PM

    5 wins is a known quantity now.

    Sorry this has Matt Flynn written all over it.

  32. alanr65 says: Mar 27, 2016 9:47 PM

    I don’t know…..the stats look more like Aaron Rodgers first 7 games…….LOL

  33. mr1drful says: Mar 27, 2016 11:20 PM

    I agree that McNair is clueless. They ruined David Carr and haven’t done anything at qb since Schaub. I saw them taking Hackenberg in the draft if they didn’t go the FA route. Hackenberg is awful. The entire organization doesn’t seem to put a lot of emphasis on the qb position at all. I personally thought Osweiler was hot/cold and he looked bad against Oakland. However, it was smart to get out of Denver and the Manning shadow, but I just don’t see this guy as a gunslinger that will produce in the long run.

  34. bigbroncomama says: Mar 27, 2016 11:26 PM

    This is RGME/Dan Snyder all over again.

  35. fuarunnin says: Mar 28, 2016 12:46 PM

    Elway is still laughing. This guy had no potential or they wouldn’t have let him out of there. Period. Osweiler knows that too, he just hasn’t stated it as such. Between him and BOB, Texans fans should pray for mediocrity.

  36. fuarunnin says: Mar 28, 2016 12:50 PM

    Elway is still laughing. He just sold McNair the London bridge. In December when Houston is 5-9, you still going to be trying to blame Mallett

  37. ragnarthemagnificent says: Mar 28, 2016 2:49 PM

    Best FA pickup by any team simply based on need. At least the Broncos have Butt Fumble Sanchez.

  38. sc5000 says: Mar 28, 2016 11:49 PM

    Is there any evidence that Osweiler is better than Sanchez though?

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