On two separate occasions this month, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has publicly supported coach Bill O’Brien. On Wednesday, reporters asked O’Brien to react to Watson’s push to keep O’Brien around for the rest of Watson’s career.
“Look, I don’t really know how to answer that question,” O’Brien told reporters. “I appreciate all the support that anybody — I think that’s just the way I think any of us are. People support you, it’s a nice thing. But, at the end of the day, we’ve got to focus on Pittsburgh and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
At some point soon, however, the focus will be O’Brien’s future. He has one year left on his contract, and owner Bob McNair made it clear in March that there will be no talks on a new deal until the 2017 season ends.
“We’ll talk to him about it at the end of this year,” McNair said at the time. “That’s typically when we do that sort of thing. . . . We’ll sit down and see what he’s happy with and if he wants to be extended and see how we feel.”
That reference to “what he’s happy with” surely wasn’t an accident. Last year at this time, multiple reports emerged about O’Brien not being happy. (We’d heard he’s “miserable.”) And some thought he was trying to get out of Houston.
Now, he says he won’t quit. And for good reason; with a young franchise quarterback in place, O’Brien and the Texans could be contending for championships every year.
The question becomes whether McNair wants to keep O’Brien around. Having Watson politick for O’Brien makes the situation a little more delicate for the team. Ultimately, however, Watson is wired to accept whatever the team chooses to do. Given Watson’s presence, the Texans can essentially hire any coach they want.
Here’s something I mused about in responding to one of the many questions posed for Wednesday’s PFT PM podcast (and, yes, I’m mentioning that to justify dropping the link to the podcast player below): Watson is the kind of quarterback that could get any coach’s attention. And maybe he’s the one quarterback who could lure Nick Saban back to the NFL.
Let that one sink in for a second. Saban, whose NFL-caliber defense was shredded twice by Watson in the NCAA title game, could join forces with a dynamic young quarterback, coach up the talented players around him, and finally eliminate the one blemish on his record — failure at the NFL level.
That’s not a suggestion that Saban would. But if he’s ever going to do it, the Texans would be the team.
That thinking applies to any other coach who flirts with coaching in the NFL. Which underscores the reality that the Texans may decide that this is the perfect opportunity to hire any coach they want to lead the team into the future.