Bill O'Brien

Texans Hire GM Brian Gaine, Extend HC Bill O’Brien

The Texans have locked up their head coach and general manager duo for the foreseeable future. ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that the organization has handed out “matching” contracts to coach Bill O’Brien and new GM Brian Gaine. The new GM received a five-year pact, while O’Brien signed a four-year deal. The new contracts will keep the pair in Houston through the 2022 season.

Bill O'BrienWe learned earlier this week that the Texans were expected to hire Gaine as their new general manager. The former Bills vice president of player personnel is returning to Houston after only a single season in Buffalo. Gaine previously served as the Texans director of player personnel before moving on last offseason. The executive had garnered plenty of attention over the past several years, having interviewed for GM gigs in Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago.

Meanwhile, we also heard rumblings that the Texans were looking to extend O’Brien, whose contract was set to expire following the 2018 campaign. There were rumors throughout the season that O’Brien could be let go, as the coach was engaged in a constant power struggle with former general manager Rick Smith. However, O’Brien ultimately assisted in the team’s search for a new GM, an indication that he was apart of the team’s future plans. The 48-year-old has spent the past four seasons in Houston, compiling a 31-33 record and a pair of playoff appearances.

The Texans weren’t finished refining their front office. Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston tweets that the organization also promoted Chris Olsen from vice president/administration to senior vice president/administration. Olsen was responsible for negotiating the deals with Gaine and O’Brien, and he also manages the team’s salary cap.

With Gaine and O’Brien locked up, the Texans can now shift their focus to the offseason. It may be difficult to add young talent, as Houston will be operating without their first- and second-round picks. However, they’ll be armed with around $56MM in cap space, which could allow them to make a big splash in free agency.

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Texans GM To Control Team Personnel, HC Bill O’Brien To Be On Search Committee

There’s new developments regarding the Texans quest to find a new general manager. The team’s owner, Bob McNair, told reporters today that the person they eventually hire will have control of personnel over current head coach Bill O’Brien, relays John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). However, McClain does note that O’Brien, along with team president Jamey Rootes, will be with McNair and Cal McNair as the four-man the team conducting the search.

Bob McNair (Vertical)

“The GM is going to have full authority over personnel, and he’ll report to Cal and me,” said the Texans owner. “That’s our message to potential GMs, We know what we want. We’ll pick somebody that Cal and I like, coach O’Brien likes and Jamey likes. We pretty much agree on what we’re looking for.” (via McClain on Twitter)

While the job should be sought after by many people across the league, McNair also stated that he doesn’t want the general manager to reshape front office, although he did say that he could allow for some potential new hires given who they ultimately agree to bring into the organization.

“He may have 1 or 2 key people he’s worked with, and he might want to bring them in,” said McNair. “That’s reasonable. It’s also reasonable to ask that person to work with the people we have this year and Cal what he thinks. We’re not going to have somebody come in and clean house.” (via McClain)

This is an interesting process for the Texans ownership group because executive vice president Rick Smith‘s situation is really up-in-the-air given that he will be home with his wife who is battling cancer. McNair does seem intent on waiting a year to feel out what Smith’s situation may look like in 2019.

“We don’t know what Rick might do,” said the owner. “That’s something we’ll discuss a year from now. The only concern is to take care of his family, and we’re not going beyond that.” (via McClain)

There’s already been some GM candidates speculated, including: Nick Caserio (Patriots), Brian Gaine (Bills) and Brian Gutekunst (Packers). Although, there should be more names that will arise in the next week or two. It’s expected to be a quick process and we now know that the new hire will have primary control on the roster entering the 2018 season.

 

 

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Texans To Retain Bill O’Brien?

Despite persistent rumors to the contrary, the Texans are expected to retain head coach Bill O’Brien, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports. Schefter cautions that there are still issues to be discussed and contractual matters to sort out — O’Brien has just one year left on his original five-year deal, and it is unlikely the team would allow him to coach next season without signing him to a contract extension in the coming months — but O’Brien is likely to be back with the team in 2018.

Bill O'Brien

Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, though, says O’Brien will have a “pivotal” meeting with ownership tomorrow, and that nothing has been decided about his future at this point (Twitter link). Wilson reports that all options, including dismissal, are still on the table.

It has been reported that O’Brien and GM Rick Smith have a seriously strained relationship, that those tensions have reached the breaking point, and that ownership is likely to prioritize Smith over O’Brien. Nonetheless, O’Brien has enjoyed some success in Houston, and seemingly every report concerning his job security with the Texans adds that he would be a top choice for other teams looking for a new head coach this offseason. Indeed, Wilson tweets that O’Brien, should he become a free agent, would become the top option for the Giants, who are also zeroing in on Jim Schwartz.

The Texans could be deciding that, if so many other teams want O’Brien, perhaps they should give him another chance. Indeed, it is difficult to fault him for his club’s struggles this year given injuries to top players like rookie QB Deshaun Watson and superstar J.J. Watt (not to mention the team’s difficulties in finding a capable QB prior to landing Watson).

For what it’s worth (and that could be a great deal), Watson has publicly endorsed O’Brien.

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Texans Prepared To End “Toxic” Bill O’Brien-Rick Smith Relationship?

Much has emerged about the less-than-ideal relationship between Bill O’Brien and Rick Smith in Houston, but the Texans may be ready to make a choice at soon.

Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports the franchise has a troublesome situation on its hands regarding the GM/HC relationship. One source told the Texans reporter it’s become a “toxic” and “dysfunctional” relationship.

O’Brien said recently he would not quit on the Texans, and his contract runs through 2018. However, sources who spoke to Wilson about the Texans’ setup said owner Bob McNair waiting until O’Brien’s contract expires to make a change could create a “difficult work environment.”

The Ringer’s Michael Lombardi took this a step further by indicating (via Twitter) the league perception is Smith will be prioritized over O’Brien. Wilson and Lombardi note McNair and Smith have a close relationship. The GM’s served in this capacity since 2006. One source who spoke to Wilson said the pair could potentially make this work, but that seems to be the dissenting opinion amid this turmoil. Smith is under contract through 2020.

O’Brien was rumored to be possibly on his way out after last season, despite the Texans’ second straight AFC South title, but he was retained. Should O’Brien be shown the door in Houston, he’d likely be a coveted commodity on what could be a wild coaching market given how many vacancies could emerge after Week 17. He led the Texans to two straight playoff brackets despite the franchise continually misfiring at quarterback prior to landing Deshaun Watson — a Smith-preferred acquisition.

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Coaching Notes: Panthers, Cardinals, Bengals, Bucs

There’s plenty of uncertainty when it comes to the Panthers organization, as owner Jerry Richardson is shopping the team and they’re currently rolling with an interim general manager in Marty Hurney. However, the team is looking to establish some stability by locking up head coach Ron Rivera.

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that the organization is prioritizing locking up their head coach long term. While talks have just started, the reporter expects negotiations to quickly heat up. Meanwhile, many in the organization are hoping that Hurney is promoted to full-time general manager, although the team will presumably explore their options before committing to the executive.

Rivera last signed a three-year deal worth $19.5MM. That deal would take the head coach through the 2018 season, meaning there isn’t a whole lot of urgency for the organization to lock up their head coach this offseason.

Let’s take a look at some more coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Cardinals coach Bruce Arians hasn’t informed the organization about his future, but Rapoport reports that the team is “more confident than ever” that he’ll return. Still, since there is some uncertainty, the organization is exploring other potential options, and Rapoport notes that one of those candidates is Texans coach Bill O’Brien. If available, the Cardinals have made it clear that O’Brien would be atop their list of targets. Arians is under contract through the 2018 season, but there’s been chatter that the 65-year-old could retire to better focus on his health.
  • Unsurprisingly, there’s some concern that Browns head coach Hue Jackson may have lost his locker room, reports Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. This concern recently came to a head when running back Isaiah Crowell “liked” a series of tweets that were critical of Jackson. Meanwhile, Florio notes that there are whispers that some of the team’s defensive players are upset with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his son, Blake, who is the Browns’ linebackers coach.
  • The Bengals are eyeing Jackson or Jay Gruden for their impending head coaching vacancy, reports Florio. It’d be a homecoming for the pair, as both Jackson and Gruden served as offensive coordinators for Marvin Lewis. The writer notes that Lewis could ultimately be promoted to a front office role.
  • Even if Dirk Koetter sticks around as the Buccaneers head coach, Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders is convinced the organization will require some other coaching changes. Specifically, defensive coordinator Mike Smith could be on the hot seat, and the team could look towards former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley as a replacement.

AFC Notes: Steelers, Harrison, Texans

James Harrison, who was released by the Steelers on Saturday, posted a message on Instagram that seems to hint that an instant return is not in the cards. “Can’t wait to find out what God has in store for me next,” Harrison wrote. “Many thanks to [Steelers Nation] for the years of love and support.” The veteran hasn’t played much this year, but he has been among the team’s most popular players over his 14 years with the club. His release came as a huge surprise and it will be interesting to see if another team will put in a waiver claim on him.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • It has been said that Texans coach Bill O’Brien is on the hot seat, but he recently picked up the endorsement of injured quarterback Deshaun Watson. O’Brien may or may not want to return himself, but he appreciates the support of the Clemson product. “Look, I don’t really know how to answer that question,” O’Brien told reporters (via PFT). “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.” O’Brien has one year left on his deal but team owner Bob McNair says there will be no extension talks until the season is through.
  • Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler is likely to start Sunday against Washington, a league source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Recently, Osweiler indicated that he wants to stay with Denver even though the team probably does not see him as a starter for next year. At minimum, he’ll have a platform at the end of the year to prove that he can be an option for the team going forward. Paxton Lynch, for now, will be on the bench.
  • The Texans have placed Tom Savage on IR.

Breer’s Latest: Texans, Raiders, Bengals

NFL teams searching for new general managers aren’t only looking for evaluators, as Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com writes. Instead, ownership groups want candidates who can not only spot talent, but communicate with staff, engage with each department within the team, and manage personalities. “This job, you can’t just watch tape all day,” an NFC GM told Breer. “You have the equipment guy reporting to you, the video guy reporting to you, you’re managing the roster, working with the cap guy, handling the owner. There’s a difference between being a personnel director and being a GM. They’re different jobs. … And I think with [ex-Panthers GM Dave] Gettleman and [ex-Chiefs/current Browns GM John] Dorsey, it was more, ‘I just wanna watch tape.’”

Let’s take a look at the highlights from the rest of Breer’s column:

  • Although Texans head coach Bill O’Brien says he won’t resign his position, it appears “less and less likely” that Houston’s current power structure — which also includes GM Rick Smith — will return in 2018, per Breer. O’Brien is entering the final season of his five-year contract, and given that most head coaches prefer not to work as “lame ducks,” O’Brien’s situation could be resolved this offseason. If he were fired, O’Brien would instantly be attractive to a number of teams that will be looking for new head coaches, according to Breer.
  • Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther‘s contract will expire following the 2017 campaign, meaning he’s likely to either replace Marvin Lewis as Cincinnati’s head coach or move to another club as DC, reports Breer. Confirming what Michael Lombardi of the Ringer mentioned earlier this month, Breer notes that Guenther could conceivably be hired by the Redskins, who employ former Bengals OC Jay Gruden as head coach. Cincinnati has finished 14th, 10th, and 17th in defensive DVOA in thee full seasons under Guenther, and currently rank 18th this year.
  • Given that the Raiders were one of this season’s greatest disappointments, the club will likely make coaching staff alterations over the next few months, and one such change could be the removal of offensive line coach Mike Tice, per Breer. Tice, a longtime OL instructor and former head coach of the Vikings, is a close friend of Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio, but he’s also considered a “polarizing presence,” says Breer.

Texans’ Bill O’Brien: I Will Not Quit

Over the weekend, it was reported that Bill O’Brien and the Texans could be headed for a split. This may be the end of the line for the head coach and the organization, but it won’t come via O’Brien leaving the team.

I will never quit as the head coach of the Houston Texans,” O’Brien said Monday, one day after the Texans lost 45-7 to the Jaguars (via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle). “I’m not a quitter. I was raised in a family that believes in family, faith, education, never quitting.”

It has been said that GM Rick Smith has a rocky relationship with O’Brien, which could lead to a coaching shakeup after the season is through. The Texans would position themselves as one of the most desirable coaching vacancies in the league thanks to the presence of quarterback Deshaun Watson and a talented front seven led by J.J. Watt. O’Brien, meanwhile, would be a leading candidate for other positions. The Texans are 4-10, but O’Brien can hardly be held responsible for that record given the season-ending injuries to Watson, Watt, linebacker Whitney Mercilus, rookie running back Dont’a Foreman, and other key contributors.

O’Brien has one year left on his five-year deal.

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La Canfora’s Latest: O’Brien, Arians, Browns

Earlier today, we learned that Marvin Lewis is planning to leave Cincinnati after 15 years as the Bengals’ head coach, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that the Texans and their head coach, Bill O’Brien, could also be headed for a split after the 2017 season. O’Brien has led Houston to three nine-win seasons and two playoff berths, and if rookie sensation Deshaun Watson had not suffered an ACL tear earlier this season, the team might be in playoff contention yet again. However, La Canfora says the relationship between O’Brien and GM Rick Smith has long been complicated, and sources close to the situation foresee a change sooner rather than later. Houston’s head coaching job is an attractive one, largely because of Watson, and O’Brien would be an attractive candidate for one of the multitude of coaching vacancies this offseason. If O’Brien does leave Houston, La Canfora names current defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel as a logical internal candidate to replace him.

Now for more from La Canfora’s Sunday morning output, starting with more out of Houston:

  • La Canfora writes that Texans QB Tom Savage remains in the concussion protocol and is unlikely to play again in 2o17. Houston is under fire for the way it handled Savage’s head injury last week, and Savage will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so it is best for all parties involved that Savage simply sit out the last three games of the year.
  • We head back in October that Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians had not made any decision as to whether his career will continue past the 2017 season, and La Canfora reports that the team is preparing in case Arians decides to call it quits. Sources close to Arians believe he will not be back in 2018, and given the number of teams that will be looking for a new head coach this offseason, the Cardinals must be prepared in case they are also in need of a head coach.
  • The NFL has confirmed the the Browns complied with the Rooney Rule in their hiring of GM John Dorsey, but the Fritz Pollard Alliance is still concerned with how the process unfolded. The Alliance spoke with commissioner Roger Goodell about the matter prior to last week’s ownership meetings, and it emphasized that all interviews with minority candidates should be reported to Alliance or to the league, which Cleveland did not do when it interviewed Doug Whaley for the GM job. Whaley, meanwhile, was reportedly “crushed” by the process, as he believed he had a legitimate shot at the job only to realize that the Browns were interviewing him simply to comply with the Rooney Rule.
  • Goodell’s new extension runs through the 2024 season, but he hopes to have his successor in place by 2020. If that successor has made sufficient progress, it is possible that Goodell steps aside prior to 2024. La Canfora adds that sweeping changes will be made to the league office in 2018, including changes to football operations at the upper-management level across several departments.
  • There is “growing support” among league owners for reverting to the pre-2009 gameday operations schedule, which means that players would not be mandated to be on the sidelines for the national anthem at primetime games. Owners are also considering making the anthem earlier, at a time when the sidelines are often vacant.

O’Brien Expects Fiedorowicz Back in 2018

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien told reporters that he expects tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz to return to the team in 2018, writes Aaron Wilson of the Houston ChronicleC.J. Fiedorowicz

According to league sources, however, the Texans are concerned about the veteran’s short- and long-term health after suffering three concussions in 2017. “Again, I expect it that way,” O’Brien said. “We think very highly of C.J. He just signed a contract extension here. We think he’s a really good tight end for us. So, we’d love to see him back.”

On Sunday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Fiedorowicz could contemplate retirement, but Wilson writes that the player’s agent told the Chronicle that he still wants to play and will take time before making a decision. Like O’Brien said, the tight end signed a three-year $21.5 MM contract in the offseason and would have a home in Houston should he wish to continue his career.

After suffering three concussions, which resulted in two IR stints in 2017, Fiedorowicz is sure to strongly consider his future plans before making a decision.

Following a breakout season in 2016 in which he caught 54 passes, Fiedorowicz has been limited to just 14 grabs in 2017.

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