Houston’s wild-card win over the Raiders coupled with owner Bob McNair’s proclamation that coach Bill O’Brien was never getting fired puts to rest the possibility that O’Brien will be leaving the Texans, right?
The talk of a potential split hasn’t ended simply because the Texans beat a team that was down to its third quarterback and because the owner declared that O’Brien isn’t getting fired. The talk hasn’t ended because it’s widely believed in league circles that O’Brien is not happy in Houston. (One league source used extremely colorful language in explaining O’Brien’s mindset.)
Officially, O’Brien denies any interest in leaving.
“I don’t know where it’s coming from, honestly,” O’Brien told Peter King of TheMMQB.com after Saturday’s win. “That’s probably a question for someone else. All those things out there, I’m not familiar where they’ve originated from, and I certainly want to finish what we started and bring a championship to Houston. That’s why I came here.”
Houston also is privately pushing back against tales of dysfunction bad enough to lead to a divorce, taking the position that people don’t have to be happy or compatible to work toward winning football games (although it helps). The deeper message could be that the Texans aren’t willing to let O’Brien walk away and become the head coach of another team without compensation.
On that point, King explains that O’Brien would be a “strong candidate” for two of the six current coaching openings.
“Obviously that’s an interesting candidate, but we’d want to know why that thing blew up, if it does,” an unnamed decision-maker told King. “We’d want to know what he [O’Brien] is like to work with.”
It’s unclear which teams would want O’Brien. Some have speculated that the Rams and Jaguars would pursue him. The possibility that Jacksonville would want to keep O’Brien in the division makes it even more important for the Texans to finesse this situation in a way that allows him to be traded, as a practical matter, to a team not in the division.