Bill O'Brien

Latest On Texans, Houston Could Go Without GM In 2019

The Texans didn’t get their guy. After a brief battle with the Patriots over Nick Caserio which resulted in the Pats filing tampering charges, the Texans backed off.

Just about an hour ago, the Texans agreed to stop pursuing Caserio, with the Patriots agreeing to drop the tampering charges. Texans owner Cal McNair released a statement with the announcement, and now we have one from Patriots owner Robert Kraft. “The Houston Texans and New England Patriots have always had a great working relationship. We appreciate the way Cal McNair has handled this situation,” the brief statement posted to Twitter reads.

This incident was particularly awkward because of all the crossover between the two teams. Texans coach Bill O’Brien is a former Bill Belichick protege, and a lot of Houston’s coaching staff and front office has come from New England. With the ordeal over with and the Texans not getting their top choice, they’ll have to move on. We’ve already heard of their interest in a number of candidates, including former GMs Ray Farmer, Martin Mayhew, Reggie McKenzie, and Scott Pioli. But in the wake of this headache, the Texans are apparently considering not filling the vacancy at all.

“There now is a scenario under which the Texans will go this season without an official General Manager,” Adam Schefter of ESPN tweeted. Schefter writes that “for less than a year, Bill O’Brien, Jack Easterby and the scouting dept could divvy up the duties.” That would be very unusual, but it sounds like a legit possibility at this point. Easterby came out of nowhere to suddenly become a powerful figure in Houston’s front office, and this could be an opportunity for him to seize even more control.

The Texans won the AFC South last year, but you wouldn’t be able to tell with all the recent dysfunction surrounding the team. Deshaun Watson is heading into a pivotal third season, and O’Brien could be on the hot seat if things don’t go well in 2019. It’ll be very interesting to see what they do next.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Notes: Gaine, Caserio, Clowney, Mathieu

Former Texans general manager Brian Gaine‘s firing shouldn’t be attributed to his inability to sign Jadeveon Clowney, writes Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. We heard last week that the former executive had made “zero” progress on an extension for the former number-one pick, and a lack of development may have played a role in his firing.

However, Breer said there wasn’t any organizational disagreement over the handling of Clowney. The team was interested in signing the linebacker on their terms, and they were content opting for the franchise tag. For what it’s worth, we learned earlier today that Clowney is not expected to attend the team’s mandatory minicamp. The three-time Pro Bowler has yet to sign the franchise tender as he continues to push for a multiyear pact.

So what was the main reason for Gaine’s firing? Breer points to a lack of “fit” and “alignment,” as the former general manager didn’t share the same vision as head coach Bill O’Brien. Furthermore, the reporter believes the team’s current pursuit of Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio also played a role in the decision.

Let’s check out some more notes out of Houston, all via Breer…

  • Speaking of Caserio, his relationship with O’Brien and executive vice president of team development Jack Easterby could play a role in him leaving New England. There’s been a perception that Caserio wouldn’t leave the Patriots, but the reporter points out that the executive had been closing to leaving before (he considered taking the Dolphins’ gig in 2014). Breer wonders if the Texans could also look to Patriots college scouting director Monti Ossenfort or former Patriots executive (and current Falcons assistant GM) Scott Pioli for the role.
  • There also wasn’t an organizational disagreement over the handling of Tyrann Mathieu. The team recognized that the Pro Bowl safety had lofty monetary demands, and they never intended to go as far as the three-year, $42MM deal he received from the Chiefs this offseason. Meanwhile, the coaching staff has been happy with Gaine’s replacement for Mathieu, Tashaun Gipson.
  • Following Gaine’s signing of a five-year extension in 2018, the majority of his moves have actually been lauded by the front office and coaching staff. Breer points to the one-year deal for Mathieu, and he also notes the general manager’s ability to add productive rookies (receiver Keke Coutee and safety Justin Reid) in the 2018 draft despite not having a first- or second-rounder. While his inability to add a competent offensive line in front of Deshaun Watson certainly played a role in his firing, Breer opines that the forced trade of Duane Brown wasn’t the GM’s decision.
  • The Texans coaching staff has been happy with second-round offensive tackle Max Scharping and third-round tight end Kahale Warring. They’re also a “big fan” of first-rounder Tytus Howard. However, many pundits believe the Howard selection was a bit of a reach, and Breer wonders if O’Brien and Easterby’s Patriots’ philosophy clashed with Gaine’s eventual decision (as the two would have preferred trading back).

AFC Notes: Steelers, Brown, Jets, Texans

We first heard earlier this week that Steelers receiver Antonio Brown had been involved in some sort of domestic dispute last month. Shortly after details came out, and Brown was accused of having shoved his daughter’s mother to the ground, with the NFL announcing they would investigate. Brown denied any wrongdoing, and today his attorney pushed back even further. Brown’s lawyer forcefully denied Brown did anything wrong, accusing the mother of being in the wrong in the situation regarding Brown’s daughter, and said Brown did not get violent in any way, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN (Twitter link).

The lawyer also elaborated that Brown is now filing for custody of his daughter in court. It’s yet another dramatic chapter in the saga surrounding the Steelers, and while the situation is still very murky as of right now, we’ll almost certainly have more details soon.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Speaking of organizational drama, the Jets have found themselves in a mini controversy of their own. It was reported a few days ago that there was already some tension between new head coach Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, as the team objected to Williams bringing his son Blake Williams onboard as a coach. While the team eventually relented and added the younger Williams as a defensive assistant, the drama doesn’t end there. Rich Cimini of ESPN.com has a great breakdown of the situation unfolding, as Gase hired his own father-in-law Joe Vitt as an assistant coach as well. Vitt and Williams have a longstanding beef, as both were members of the Saints’ coaching staff during the infamous bountygate scandal. According to Cimini, Vitt testified against Williams during the league’s hearings on the scandal, and accused him of lying. They’ll now be serving on the same staff together again, and it’ll be very interesting to see if the bad blood has been put to rest.
  • Last week, the Texans promoted Tim Kelly to offensive coordinator. Head coach Bill O’Brien has called plays in the past, but O’Brien left the door open for Kelly to call plays during a recent radio interview, according to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). “There’s no doubt in my mind that Tim Kelly is ready to call plays”, O’Brien said, before adding that it would be “a collaborative effort.” Kelly was previously the team’s tight ends coach.
  • In case you missed it, suspended Patriots and Raiders receivers Josh Gordon and Martavis Bryant may apply for re-instatement in the next couple of months.

Poll: Who Will Be The First Coach To Get Fired This Season?

It’s a new year for every coach in the NFL, but not every coach will survive the year. Already, there’s speculation about which coaches could be on the hot seat in 2018. Some coaches with shaky job security may include:

  • Hue Jackson, Browns: Jackson is the oddsmaker’s favorite to lose his job first. After compiling a 1-31 record in his two seasons at the helm in Cleveland, it’s hard to argue with the professionals. Jackson certainly has more talent to work with thanks to the arrivals of running back Carlos Hyde, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, and a vastly improved secondary, but along with that comes raised expectations. When also considering that Jackson is a holdover from the previous regime and not necessarily the preferred choice of new GM John Dorsey, it’s quite possible that Jackson could be ousted with another bad start.
  • Adam Gase, Dolphins: When Gase was hired in 2016, he was the league’s youngest head coach at the age of 38. He earned a playoff appearance in his first year on the sidelines, but last year turned ugly after quarterback Ryan Tannehill was lost for the season and replaced by Jay Cutler. Tannehill’s return should help matters, but it’s fair to wonder whether this team has improved much at all after losing Ndamukong Suh on the other side of the ball. The Dolphins’ early schedule may also hurt Gase as they open against the Titans, Jets, Raiders, and Patriots. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Dolphins split those games, like they did in 2017, but it’s also conceivable that they could open the year 0-4. As you can probably guess, an 0-4 start is historically difficult to climb out from. Of the 117 teams that have started 0-4 in the 16-game era, the ’92 Chargers are the ones to have reached the postseason with with an 11-win campaign. The 2004 Bills and the 2017 Chargers both rallied to win nine games, but neither club reached the playoffs.
  • Marvin Lewis, Bengals: The Lewis saga took some weird twists and turns last season. In the midst of a second-straight season without a playoff appearance, there was speculation about Lewis’ job security. Then, in December, we started hearing rumblings that Lewis might leave the Bengals to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Ultimately, Lewis was signed to a two-year extension to, theoretically, keep him under contract for his 16th and 17th seasons in Cincinnati. Lewis has avoided lame duck status for 2018, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll survive the year if the Bengals falter.
  • Vance Joseph, Broncos: Joseph was nearly axed after the 2017 season before John Elway ultimately decided to retain him. The Broncos’ defense is still jam-packed with talent and they have a capable quarterback in Case Keenum, so anything short of a playoff appearance will be a disappointment in Denver. This will be Joseph’s second season at the helm in Denver, but it’s clear that he is under pressure it win.
  • Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers: Koetter was already believed to be on the hot seat but he was placed squarely behind the 8-ball last week when quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended for the first three games of the season. Even if the Bucs come out of September unscathed, they’ll be up against an overall schedule that is the fourth-toughest in the NFL, based on the combined win percentage of opponents in 2017.

The list goes on from there. Jay Gruden (Redskins), Todd Bowles (Jets), Bill O’Brien (Texans), Jason Garrett (Cowboys), John Harbaugh (Ravens), and Ron Rivera (Panthers) could also be in varying degrees of jeopardy with disappointing seasons. We’d be surprised to see a quick hook for Garrett, Harbaugh, or Rivera no matter what happens, but you may feel differently.

Click below to make your pick for who will be the first to get the axe. Then, you can head to the comment section to back up your choice.

[RELATED: The Average Age Of NFL Head Coaches In 2018]

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

 

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.