Chris Olsen

Texans Fire Exec Chris Olsen

The Texans’ strange front office situation just got even more muddled. Houston has fired executive Chris Olsen, sources told Mark Berman of Fox 26 (Twitter link).

He might not be a household name, but this is a highly significant move. Olsen, who had the official title of senior VP for football administration, had been with the organization for the past 13 years. When the Texans originally fired general manager Brian Gaine last summer, Olsen took over on an interim basis. As their unusual plan developed, Olsen became one of a few key execs who split front office duties with head coach Bill O’Brien. O’Brien has been consolidating his power lately, and we recently received confirmation that Houston wouldn’t be hiring a new GM anytime soon.

Olsen had been handling contract negotiations and salary cap matters before getting canned. It’s unclear exactly why he was fired now, or if he clashed with O’Brien. Texans owner Cal McNair has been putting all his chips in the B’OB basket, even though the playoff results have been underwhelming. Most recently, the Texans blew a 24-point lead over the Chiefs in the divisional round. O’Brien appears to have full control over the team, and will continue to remake it in his image.

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Texans To Remain Without GM In 2020

Though the Texans failed in their efforts to hire Patriots exec Nick Caserio as their GM this spring, recent reports indicated that Houston — which has operated without a GM in 2019 — would simply hire Caserio in 2020, when his contract with New England is up. However, that no longer appears to be the case.

Per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Texans plan to go without a true GM in 2020 as well. Currently, head coach Bill O’Brien has final say over football operations, though he works closely with vice president of team development Jack Easterby in that regard. Meanwhile, VP of Football Administration, Chris Olsen, handles contracts and salary cap matters, and Matt Bazirgan is in charge of player personnel.

The Texans are sitting at 7-4 and are in the driver’s seat for the AFC South title, so as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk suggests, owner Cal McNair simply may be saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But while the major personnel moves the club has made without a GM — trading two first-round picks for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills and trading a third-round pick for Duke Johnson, for example — have worked out relatively well in the short term, they will significantly handicap the team down the road. Those moves, combined with the team’s misplay of the Jadeveon Clowney situation, suggest to Florio that the Texans really do need a GM.

Indeed, the club interviewed GM candidates after the Caserio fiasco before electing to move forward with its current power structure. It could be that, given their dearth of high-end draft capital and the outside uncertainty as to how much power Easterby would wield over a new GM, the Texans may have a tough time attracting top candidates, so they will simply forego making the effort for now.

Whoever is calling the shots in 2020 will need to engage in extension talks with star QB Deshaun Watson, which may be tough to navigate with a true GM.

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AFC South Rumors: Foles, Texans, Colts

The current plan for Nick Foles involves a return in November. The Jaguars‘ high-priced free agent addition is out until at least Week 11 due to the broken clavicle he suffered Sunday, and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes (via Twitter) Foles is loosely targeting that week for his return. This would be welcome news for the Jaguars, but they will have to get through eight games without their experienced passer. Gardner Minshew fared well against the Chiefs, completing 22 of 25 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns, but he’s a sixth-round rookie. Jacksonville also traded a fifth-round pick for Josh Dobbs. These two represent the team’s quarterback options at this point.

Here is the latest from the AFC South:

  • Another avenue the reeling Jags took in an attempt to patch up their quarterback solution post-Foles involved a Texans passer. The Jaguars contacted then-Texans practice squad QB Alex McGough, presumably offering a roster spot, this week, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. However, the Texans thwarted their division rival’s attempt by promoting McGough to their active roster. McGough now resides behind Deshaun Watson and A.J. McCarron.
  • Bill O’Brien called Nick Martin, who signed a three-year extension worth $33MM this week, “one of the leaders” of the Texans. “[Martin] is one of the leaders of our team, smart, tough, dependable,” the coach said (via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle). “Had to in the past deal with some injuries. Played good on Monday night, want him to be a Texan. We all felt like best move for Nick and our team.”
  • In extending Martin in advance of Week 2, the Texans deviated from recent regimes’ rule of no in-season extensions, Wilson notes. The GM-less franchise turned to senior VP of football administration Chris Olsen to finalize Martin’s deal. Previously, both Rick Smith and Brian Gaine avoided in-season re-ups.
  • Former Packers first-round pick Datone Jones remains on teams’ radars. The Colts worked out the defensive lineman this week. Jones has been on the in-week workout circuit for a bit now. He played in one Cowboys game last season and caught on with the Jaguars before camp. The 2013 first-rounder did not make the team but has now worked out for the Colts and Redskins this week.

Chris Crouse contributed to this report.

Texans Rumors: Clowney, O’Brien, Ossenfort

Here’s the latest on the Texans:

  • The Texans do not expect Jadeveon Clowney to report to camp, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports (video link). Still, there is reason to believe that he will not miss any regular season games. Pelissero hears that Clowney is studying his playbook and is still in regular contact with teammates, which isn’t the behavior of someone planning an extended holdout. One source close to Clowney even said he’d be “shocked” if the edge rusher was not on the field for Week 1.
  • The Texans’ reconfigured front office has head coach Bill O’Brien on top, Albert Breer of The MMQB writes. For now, everything will run through him in an operation that is likely to mirror New England’s. The rest of the plan goes like this: chief negotiator Chris Olsen will oversee the cap, director of player personnel Matt Bazirgan will handle pro scouting, college scouting director James Liipfert will do exactly what his title states, and EVP Jack Easterby will continue to have a jack-of-all-trades role.
  • On a related note, Breer hears that O’Brien liked New England college scouting director Monti Ossenfort as a GM candidate. Still, it sounds like the Texans are still waiting things out until they can land Nick Caserio.

Texans Won’t Hire GM For 2019

For now, the Texans’ GM job will remain vacant, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Rather than hiring a GM for 2019, the Texans will divvy up the responsibilities among Matt Bazirgan, James Liipfert, Chris Olsen and Jack Easterby.

The Texans fired Brian Gaine earlier this summer in an attempt to quickly replace him with Patriots executive Nick Caserio. The Patriots blocked the move and accused Easterby of tampering with the under-contract employee at the Pats’ ring ceremony.

The inclusion of Easterby in the Texans’ upper management is noteworthy and a bit surprising. Easterby previously served as the Patriots’ chaplain before earning the title of Executive Vice President of Team Development in Houston. Now, it appears that he is wielding more influence than ever.

It has been widely speculated that the Texans are simply biding their time until Caserio’s contract with New England expires. Still, there’s a long way to go between now and the 2020 offseason and things can always change.

Texans Fire GM Brian Gaine

The Texans GM job is again vacant. The team announced Friday Brian Gaine will no longer serve in that capacity. Gaine began running Houston’s front office in January 2018.

Gaine signed a five-year contract with the Texans, so to see them move on at this juncture — and after the 2018 team compiled the second-most wins in franchise history — is stunning. Senior VP of football administration Chris Olsen will take over in the interim. The Texans went 11-5 and won the AFC South in 2018. They will now join the Jets in conducting a mid-offseason GM search, potentially set to meet with some of the same candidates.

Despite the short duration of Gaine’s tenure, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets no one incident is believed to have prompted this.

Prior to Gaine’s hiring, the Texans dealt with frequent friction in their front office. Reports of Rick Smith, who stepped away after the 2017 season to tend to his ailing wife, and Bill O’Brien butting heads emerged often. O’Brien signed a five-year deal when Gaine was hired and was believed to have a close relationship with him. O’Brien served on the search committee that produced the Gaine hire.

Prior to a 2017 stay in Buffalo as Bills player personnel director, Gaine spent three years with the Texans. Smith promoted from director of pro personnel to director of player personnel in 2015, but he left to take a job under Brandon Beane. Considering Smith received 12 years Texans GM — his first five seasons ending shy of the playoffs — this decision figures to have considerable fallout.

Gaine only oversaw two drafts as Houston’s top front office bastion, and thanks to Texans trades in 2017, the first did not involve first- or second-round picks. This year, Gaine used the Texans’ first-rounder on small-school tackle prospect Tytus Howard. This came after Deshaun Watson was sacked 62 times in 2018 — the most any quarterback has been dropped in a season since Jon Kitna in 2006.

Last year, the Texans sought interviews with seven candidates but ended up meeting with just two — Gaine and assistant GM Jimmy Raye III. Among those on Houston’s 2018 list: Joe Douglas, who is currently the favorite to become the next Jets GM. The Eagles denied the Texans permission to speak with Douglas last year, and the Patriots exercised the same action regarding execs Nick Caserio and Monti Ossenfort.

Before Smith vacated this post last year, the Texans had not had a GM vacancy since the Charley Casserly-to-Smith changeover in 2006.

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