Every passing day makes it more apparent why J.J. Watt would welcome a trade from the Houston Texans. The situation there would be funny if not for the fact that the livelihood of hundreds of employees depends upon decisions made by people who have no business calling the shots.
The latest farce came in a Zoom call with reporters during which the Texans’ president all but admitted that their interim general manager shouldn’t be in charge of anything more important than picking the flavor of pudding at the team training table.
The New York Giants offer a textbook case for a shakeup
The moment of clarity for the entire New York Giants organization came on Nov. 19, 1978, when Joe Pisarcik tried handing the ball off to Larry Csonka to run out the final seconds of a game with a 17-12 lead. The handoff was botched, and Herm Edwards of the Philadelphia Eagles scooped up a fumble for a 26-yard return and the winning touchdown.
The Giants, who hasn’t been to the NFL playoffs since 1963, needed a housecleaning as Wellington Mara, the son of team founder Tim Mara, finally conceded he was not cut out to make the decisions on coaches and players. However, Mara didn’t know where to turn to find the executive who could lead the Giants out of the abyss.
The answer came in a discussion with commissioner Pete Rozelle, who recommended that Mara hire George Young, who had worked his way up through the Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins organizations as a scout, coach, and executive.
Young hired Ray Perkins as coach and drafted Phil Simms right out of the gate. The Giants finally returned to the playoffs in 1981 and then took a brief step backward to retool as Bill Parcells replaced Perkins. They won their first Super Bowl after the 1986 season and another four years later.
It’s a lesson the Houston Texans should be studying carefully. And Roger Goodell should be encouraging them to do so.
The Houston Texans have lost their way
The Houston Texans are by no means as bad off – yet – as the New York Giants were in the late 1970s. They’ve made the NFL playoffs six of the past nine years. In fact, they won a playoff game and were up three touchdowns on the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round of the AFC postseason just this past January.
The problem is that the Texans’ fortunes have fallen off a cliff in near-record time. The origin of their decline can be traced to Nov. 23, 2018, when Texans owner Bob McNair died at the age of 81. McNair’s wife Janice took over ownership of the franchise, and his son Cal assumed responsibility for day-to-day operations as CEO.
On Jan. 28, 2020, McNair appointed coach Bill O’Brien as general manager and named Jack Easterby as executive VP of football operations. Neither man held those responsibilities before. O’Brien had been making many of the decisions since McNair fired GM Brian Gaine, but Easterby’s football background as a whole was largely insignificant.
O’Brien made bad decisions as Easterby and McNair stood by and watched. He pushed for Aaron Colvin’s $34 million contract extension in 2018 and cut him one week into the 2019 season. An ill-advised trade for Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil and receiver Kenny Stills left the Texans without their first- and second-round draft picks in 2021. And then O’Brien thought it more expedient to trade DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals than to negotiate an extension.
The Houston Texans basically admit they need an intervention
After winning 21 games the past two years, the Houston Texans are 2-7 in 2020 and are headed for salary cap problems in 2021, when they’ll also be without draft picks in the first two rounds. Worst of all, team president Jamey Rootes conceded in a Zoom call with reporters that they have no one to lead them out of their mess.
Executive VP Jack Easterby has been serving as interim general manager since Bill O’Brien was fired early in the season, but he has only a skeletal football background that doesn’t qualify him to make personnel decisions.
“Jack would be the first person to tell you he’s not a personnel guy,” Rootes said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “Jack will not be the general manager of the Houston Texans.”
Rootes and team CEO Cal McNair arguably are incapable of finding a suitable GM – Easterby and O’Brien arrived on their watch — let alone make decisions on coaches or players like J.J. Watt, who has indicated he would rather go somewhere to win now instead of enduring a difficult rebuilding.
McNair needs to do the courageous thing and play the same card that the Giants’ Wellington Mara played in 1978. He should call commissioner Roger Goodell and ask for a recommendation on who the Texans can hire to lead them out of this mess. It’s certainly not him or anyone else currently in the organization.