Bill O’Brien might not be around long enough to see the Catastrophe he caused the Texans

by Jordy McElroy

Houston Texans coach and de facto general manager Bill O’Brien fired up his grill like most over the Labor Day weekend.

However, instead of the alluring smells of hot dogs and hamburgers sizzling over a fire, the charred stench from an imploding franchise billowed out of NRG Stadium in the wake of a pair of franchise-altering trades.

Three-time Pro Bowler and former All-Pro defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was shipped off to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for linebackers Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin, along with a 2020 third-round draft pack.

The Texans also acquired Miami Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil and receiver Kenny Stills for two first-round draft picks, a second-round draft pick, cornerback Johnson Bademosi and offensive tackle Julie’n Davenport.

Two catastrophic trades that have now put the future in doubt for the Texans—all with the purpose of finding a short-term fix without any consideration for the creation of more long-term problems.

O’Brien’s Saturday might have been more productive standing over a hot grill with a spatula in his hands instead of mortgaging the Texans’ future from an executive office.  

Not everyone is meant to be the one making the personnel decisions from the pie in the sky press box.

That couldn’t be any clearer for the Texans after O’Brien essentially traded Clowney away for a Coca-Cola bottle and a pack of Skittles.

There is absolutely no excuse for the Texans’ parting gift for the former No. 1 overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft being a third-rounder, especially after the Kansas City Chiefs got a second-round pick for Dee Ford and the Seahawks pulled a first and second for Frank Clark.

Part of the victory is showing up on time, and O’Brien failed to pull the trigger on a trade before the July 15 deadline, which prohibits a franchise player from signing a long-term deal unless he’s released or plays out the tagged season.

So Clowney’s cheap market was more about teams refusing to gamble away premium picks on a player that could come on a one-and-done contract. Those types of trades typically end with the player getting moved on time and immediately signing a long-term deal. Ford and Clark both signed five-year deals with their new teams.  

The decision to trade Clowney when they did might have cost the Texans a first-round draft pick. How about a little salt in the wounds?

The third-round pick they received from the Seahawks could have come back to them anyway down the road in a compensatory pick, if they let Clowney walk out the door for nothing.

Did I say a Coke and a pack of Skittles? Make it a bottle of water and a piece of bubble gum.

But O’Brien wasn’t done after giving Clowney away.

Nope, he then made the shocking decision to unload the team’s future premium draft picks to acquire Tunsil and Stills.

Everyone knows the trade was more about Tunsil than it was about Stills, but you would still be hard-pressed to convince anyone both of those players together are worth a Khalil Mack-type deal. Tunsil has all of the potential to develop into a future Pro Bowler, but it is also unrealized potential the Texans are banking on for this season.

There is no question quarterback Deshaun Watson needed better protection on the offensive front, but the Texans’ didn’t have to empty their savings account to do so. The sad reality is the team is no closer to competing for a Super Bowl than they were a year ago.

From strictly a talent perspective, there’s nothing but a blank slate of unknowns outside of Tunsil. Mingo is a decent veteran linebacker with special teams value, but he is also a journeyman player that isn’t going to suddenly flip the switch for the Texans. Martin was a solid rotational player for the Seahawks last season that played in all 16 games but failed to start in any of them.

And Stills is likely to project as fourth on the receiving depth chart behind DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Keke Coutee.

What are the Texans doing?

The hasted decision-making seems to have more to do with O’Brien potentially being on the hot seat than a rational explanation.

While the Texans have made the playoffs in three of his five seasons as a head coach, they have been blown out in those postseason appearances by a 50-100 combined point differential. Mediocrity is no longer going to fly with a standout talent like Watson behind center and a future Hall of Famer in J.J. Watt leading the defense.

O’Brien appears to be more concerned with stockpiling as much talent as he can right now to ensure immediate success and potentially save his job. He’s essentially buying himself more time while creating a landfill-sized mess for the next general manager that comes along.

After failing to pry Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio away from the New England Patriots, the Texans opted to put the personnel power in the hands of O’Brien.

Maybe they should have opted differently.

These trades could haunt the Texans for years to come. To think, O’Brien might not even be around to see the damage his temporary gig as general manager did.

If the Texans fall flat in 2019 in a rapidly weakening AFC South division, O’Brien could be joining the rest of us on Labor Day weekend in 2020, cooking up hotdogs and hamburgers, while observing from a distance—the smoldering, ashy remains of the destruction he helped cause.  

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