The Houston Texans are the worst-run franchise in all of sports. The current headline surrounding the organization is the future of franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson. But the problems go back further than that. Houston’s search for a new general manager was a mess. The Texans’ hiring of a new head coach was a similar disaster. The Watson debacle is just the latest proof of how inept the organization is.
Houston will struggle mightily on the field this season, with or without Watson. And all signs point to 25-year-old never playing another down for the team, which makes those issues even more problematic. But it’s the off-field, back-room, front-office dysfunction that’s driving the organization into the ground. If the franchise can’t get it together upstairs, whatever happens on the field won’t get better anytime soon.
The Houston Texans moved on from Bill O’Brien and somehow things got worse
Houston allowed Bill O’Brien to run the franchise from 2014 until the fourth of game of last season when the organization finally put him out of his misery. O’Brien had a career record of 52-48 as a head coach and won two playoff games in six seasons. In terms of on-field production, he wasn’t great.
But the real issues came when the franchise allowed O’Brien to manage personnel decisions in addition to his head coaching duties. He handled Houston’s general manager job from 2019 until his firing. Some of the franchise’s moves during that time, according to CBSSports:
- Trading DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals for running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick.
- Trading a 2020 second-round pick for receiver Brandin Cooks and overpaying Randall Cobb in free agency to replace Hopkins’ production.
- Trading for offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil in exchange for a 2020 first-round pick, a 2021 first-round pick, a 2021 second-round pick, and two players. The haul O’Brien sent to Miami for Tunsil eliminated any leverage he had in contract negotiations and the tackle was subsequently signed to a three-year extension worth $22 million per season. He became the highest paid tackle in the league.
- Waiting to trade edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney, therefore receiving less in return because Clowney would officially become a free agent after one season in his new home.
These things all happened before the franchise really began to run off the rails.
The Houston Texans have officially become the worst-run franchise in sports
Bob McNair owned the Texans before handing things off to his son Cal. After firing O’Brien, McNair entrusted most of the ensuing processes to Executive VP of Football Operations Jack Easterby (who worked with O’Brien in New England). Prior to Easterby’s position of authority in Houston, he was the New England Patriots’ character coach and team chaplain, according to SI.com. Quite a leap he made.
McNair hired a search firm to find a new GM, but alongside Easterby, ignored the finalists the search firm brought to him (in the process wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars), instead hiring New England director of player personnel Nick Caserio, who again had connections with Easterby during his time with the Patriots, according to ESPN. Watson was offered input in the decision by the front office and then was ignored during the process. So began the team’s franchise quarterback’s quest to leave town. (It can’t be ignored that Watson is under criminal investigation by both the NFL and police as this continues to play out).
The next hire was new head coach David Culley. Culley was most recently the assistant head coach/passing coordinator/wide receivers coach in Baltimore, according to NFL.com. His only interview for a head coaching position was with Houston. Now he’s thrown into the fire with a franchise that’s in complete disarray, is ready to trade its franchise quarterback, and has little in the way of talent.
Is there even any hope for the future?
The Texans enter the 2021 season with Tyrod Taylor as their starting quarterback. Cooks is the team’s best weapon on the outside, while Johnson, whose best season came five years ago, is in a platoon at running back with Phillip Lindsay and 31-year-old Mark Ingram.
After not having a first-round pick the last two seasons, the franchise has begun to recoup the draft capital O’Brien gave away. Houston should have early first-round picks the next few years based on the lack of talent on its roster. But with the front office that’s been assembled and the way in which it’s been assembled, it seems a safe assumption that the Texans could miss on some selections. If Watson eventually is traded, the return won’t be anything close to what a team should get for a 25-year-old, top-10 franchise quarterback.
Houston’s front office is brand new and already looks set up to fail. The process of hiring Caserio was an embarrassment, and Culley is a total unknown as a head coach. Things have not gone well for the Texans in years. They’re not going well now. And it certainly doesn’t seem like the future is bright either.