Cal McNair’s decision ultimately makes no sense

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Texans owner Cal McNair has every right to change coaches after only four regular-season games. And the rest of us have every right to ask, “Why now?”

In 2019, the Texans tried to pull a fast one on the Patriots, firing G.M. Brian Gaine with the goal of luring Nick Caserio, Bill Belichick’s non-G.M. table setter, from New England. It failed, prompting the Texans to conduct a couple of sham Rooney Rule interviews before deciding to proceed without a G.M.

The no-G.M. approach generated plenty of criticism. On Labor Day weekend, they paid $7 million in salary to franchise-tagged defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in order to get a third-round pick and a couple of throw-in players from Seattle. They also gave up multiple first-round picks for tackle Laremy Tunsil and receiver Kenny Stills — without insisting on an extension for Tunsil at the time the trade happened.

But the Texans won the division and a playoff game and had a 24-0 lead over the Chiefs in the first half of a divisional playoff game. It was enough to get McNair to make O’Brien the General Manager and to promote Jack Easterby to executive V.P. of football operations.

Giving O’Brien the title of G.M. validated every decision he made in 2019. Yes, in hindsight it was a mistake to trade receiver DeAndre Hopkins in March 2020, but surely McNair and Easterby were on board with it, especially since Hopkins wanted to be paid $27 million per year.

But that’s what happens when a coach has personnel power and no strong voice to push back, to ask questions, or to do anything other than say, “Good idea.” And that’s why the Texans should have hired a G.M.

Complicating matters for the Texans is the fact that they drew a who-the-hell-did-we-piss-off? schedule from hell to start 2020 . . . at Kansas City, Baltimore, at Pittsburgh.

As Charean Williams pointed out on Tuesday’s PFT PM (video attached), it didn’t help that O’Brien lost on Sunday to the 0-3 Vikings, especially since the Minnesota staff that includes both of O’Briens predecessors in Houston: Dom Capers and Gary Kubiak.

So now O’Brien, who has a contract through 2022, is out. Again, McNair can make that decision whenever he wants. But the reality is that McNair pulled the plug on O’Brien as both coach and G.M. only four games after making him the G.M. Whatever the reason for the move, it fairly can be described as confusing at best, flat-out weird at worst.

35 responses to “Cal McNair’s decision ultimately makes no sense

  1. Listen to JJ Watt’s words after the game yesterday. It implies that players stop believing in O’Brien. He lost the team.

  2. The decision that made no sense was giving BOB GM duties instead of firing him at the time. This is simply fixing the mistake.

  3. The player’s didn’t have the toughness or desire … easy to point finger’s at Bill O’Brien. Organization made him the Scape-goat.

  4. It makes no sense because whoever takes over the team has no assets, no draft picks, and no cap space. This is the roster for the next 2 years regardless of the coach or GM. You think anyone other than BOB was trading for David Johnson’s contract? Hahahaha.

  5. vikingsvoice says:
    October 5, 2020 at 9:29 pm
    The decision that made no sense was giving BOB GM duties instead of firing him at the time. This is simply fixing the mistake.


    “We fixed the glitch.”

  6. Even fans at home were laughing at Bill O’Brien’s GM moves, his trade would get rejected in Madden

  7. cobrala2 says:
    October 5, 2020 at 9:33 pmH
    Has-Been predecessors at that!

    You do know that Kubiak has rings as a player, offensive coordinator, and as a head coach right?

    Ownership is the first problem in this franchise

  8. It was JJ Watt’s “something needs to change” comment that really stoked the fire. I also believe Easterby saw the writing on the wall and pulled a power move.

  9. What is really bad for the team is that they are going to be in bad shape for a few years due to $$ and lack of high picks. Any new coach will know that, and use it as leverage or simply decline the job. They’ll regress.

  10. As a Texans fan, I really hope they do this the right way. Hire a GM first and then let him pick his next head coach. He will know better than an owner who to hire. And for the love of God, keep that fraud of a preacher Easterby out of the selection process! Better yet, get him out of the building!

  11. The sham wasn’t the interviews to satisfy the rooney rule, it is the rule itself. The rule creates the need to have useless interviews instead of just interviewing who you are actually considering for the job — and that could be candidates of any colour.

  12. I’d say it’s a smart business decision. Realizing he made a mistake, admitting it, and cutting his losses. Usually, it’s like how the Eagles refuse to cut J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, because he was a second round pick last year. They not cut him because they can’t admit it was a mistake, and they will practice reps on him, and plaY him despite e]the defense knowing he isn’t seeing the ball.

  13. I think the bottom line is, sometimes your boss is just really sick of your crap. When you make power moves for years and fail to deliver, eventually, youre just throwing good money after bad. Might as well get a head start on the search since its essentially impossible to make the playoffs after an 04 start anyway

  14. So you stated every reason why he should have been fired and then called it “confusing at best, flat-out weird at worst”. Sometimes I just don’t get your process.

  15. BOB wore too many hats and rendered himself ineffective. They have a good team on paper, a possible franchise QB, and most of the nucleus locked up for the next 2 years. ThIs is their window.

    With all that talent, if they let Romeo be HC only, let The OC And DC call the plays, and a FO guy be the GM, they have a shot at top 3 in the AFC. But come playoff time they need to beat the Chiefs or Ravens.

    The next step is righting the wrongs of their pregame and hearing the resultant fan reactions to fire the team up. If all these boxes are checked, you’re looking at a 10-6 team.

  16. Our Jaguars now look forward to climbing out of the cellar for 2 years before resuming their normal spot down there.

  17. No one should be both HC and GM. Each of these jobs is overwhelmingly in its own right. It is impossible to do both effectively.

  18. That’s why pencils have erasers ! O Brien was for some unknown reason penciled in as GM and HC. Owner just grabbed the ‘ole Saratoga and wiped the mistake away. Unfortunately self inflicted wounds are almost always the most avoidable….

  19. Curses at fans and media, roster is a mess, trades best player, starts 0-4, loses team. Yep, makes no sense. Yeah, he’s won the division 4 of the last 5 years, blah, blah, blah. All that means is that he’s been better than 3 average or below average teams. Means nothing.

  20. A thorough housecleaning seems in order here. Owners need to hire a competent GM and then stand back and let them do their job. Just another example of the Cleveland Browns style of ownership.

  21. I think Daniel Jeremiah said it best in that “General Manager Bill O’Brien got coach Bill O’Brien fired”.

    Foolish move by ownership that translates to the business world as well = Never give power to an individual who will make decisions based on a short time horizon.

    The Laremy Tunsil deal speaks to this.

  22. This is really simple.

    Laremy Tunsil
    Jadeveon Clowney
    De’Andre Hopkins
    Blow a 20-point playoff lead
    0-4 to start the season
    Traded away draft picks for nothing

    Fire him now, and start talking to potential coaches immediately. Gives the Texans a big head start on the coaching beauty pageant. Of course, it will take a “special” candidate to want to take that job with no incoming prospects. Unless they see Watt and/or Watson as trade bait.

    But, seriously, Swinney? McDaniels? Uh….Texans fans might want to set their sights a little lower. Swinney has zero incentive to leave Clemson (and the Texans won’t meet his Clemson salary and benefits), and McDaniels is looking for the perfect opportunity. The Texans aren’t the perfect opportunity, and he’s totally unproven as a head coach anyway.

  23. I think the owner gritted his teeth when they lost Hopkins and it was more of a: Bill, you better know what the hell you are doing. He was on thin ice with his idiotic decisions, used up his credit with the four division titles in 6 years cause he thought he could replace Hop with these mid level, one dimensional players like Fuller, Cooks, Stills and Cobb. He gave all that money to Watson not even thinking that Hop was not the least bit responsible for his success. Now we have a flawed but talented qb without the elite option to make him shine. Factor in overpaying for an above average but far from elite left tackle in tunsil and a bloated JJ Watt contract and this team is in the toilet. Oh and Bill blew all your high level draft picks for the next couple of years so good luck finding a coach who wants that job without a guaranteed contract.

  24. txtuff says:
    October 6, 2020 at 1:40 am
    So you stated every reason why he should have been fired and then called it “confusing at best, flat-out weird at worst”. Sometimes I just don’t get your process.


    It looks like the author worded himself poorly. I’m pretty sure what he meat was, why would the Texans give O’Brien so much power only to fire him from both positions so soon thereafter? Which is to say, I think he’s questioning the decision-making of the franchise, not defending Bill O’Brien or suggesting he should still have a job

  25. Hopkins trade should have done him in. Watt is getting old and slow, he should move to the other side of the ball or retire while he can still move his body.

  26. What was Cal supposed to do? Wait for O’Brien to make more stupid trading mistakes or exorbitant contract signings? Admit you made a mistake, clean out the front office, and start looking for a GM who will hire the next coach. I’m surprised he waited this long.

  27. Fans and media in Houston never expected this as much as they wanted it to happen. We were told that there was absolutely no way O’Brien would be fired right now because he had just signed an extension, he and Easterby and McNair were close, he held too much power in the organization, and that coaches rarely get fired after only 4 games. However it was a glorious day to see it actually happen.

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