Apparently, when J.J. Watt speaks, the Houston Texans listen. In fact, the star defensive end played a significant role in the eventual ousting of Bill O’Brien after the two reportedly got into a heated exchange during a recent practice.
Now, the Texans must turn the page to a new chapter as they try to climb out of an 0-4 hole. And once the season concludes, Houston must make the most important hire in the history of the franchise.
The end of the Bill O’Brien era
When the Texans hired Bill O’Brien, they expected the former Penn State head coach to turn the team into a Super Bowl champion. While the ex-New England Patriots offensive coordinator routinely took his team to the playoffs, he failed to achieve much postseason success.
Despite making the playoffs in four of his first six years at the helm, the 50-year-old went just 2-4 in postseason play. Perhaps no game summed up O’Brien’s tenure quite like Houston’s historic meltdown against Kansas City last season.
After jumping out to a 24-7 lead, O’Brien’s team surrendered 34 unanswered points. The Chiefs scored three second-half touchdowns to secure a 51-31 victory that abruptly ended the Texans’ Super Bowl hopes.
As if his dismal postseason record wasn’t enough cause for concern, O’Brien’s personnel decisions raised more than a few eyebrows. He traded away Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins without getting back a single first-round pick. Laremy Tunsil cost the Texans two first-rounders and a record-setting contract extension.
Yet, O’Brien’s team-building strategy has not paid off in the win column. And after starting the season with four straight losses, Houston finally brought an end to his underwhelming era. As it turns out, J.J. Watt played a large hand in the Texans’ decision to fire their head coach.
J.J. Watt started the revolt that changed the future of the Texans
The frustration of losing can become overwhelming. And according to ESPN, the Texans’ early-season struggles led to a “heated exchange” between J.J. Watt and Bill O’Brien during a practice leading up to the team’s Week 3 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The incident reportedly also involved first-year defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver, who coached the team’s defensive line since 2016.
More specifically, local ESPN radio host John Granato reported via Twitter that Watt called O’Brien out for his coaching ability, which led to “a player revolt.” According to ESPN, that “verbal blowup at practice” resulted in O’Brien losing the team. And after the Texans lost to the Steelers and Vikings following the incident, they fired their disappointing head coach on Monday.
Though Watt may have started the revolt that led to O’Brien’s exit, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year did not want to discuss the specifics of the verbal altercation. He did, however, weigh in on the current status of the team and why a change was necessary.
“When you’re 0-4, obviously things need to change. I mean, it wasn’t working. I appreciate and respect what we had,” Watt explained. “We won four division titles in six years with Bill and I appreciate that and that time, but obviously this year, we’re 0-4 and stuff wasn’t working. When you have the talent that we have, specifically at the quarterback position in this league, we can’t be 0-4.”
Who should Houston hire as its next head coach?
If J.J. Watt plans on hoisting the Lombardi Trophy before he retires, then this offseason will be the most important one of his career. And it has nothing to do with his workout routines or harnessing a new pass-rush move. Instead, his Super Bowl hopes depend on who Houston hires as its next head coach.
If the Texans want to ensure Deshaun Watson lives up to his $160 million contract extension, they should look no further than Eric Bieniemy. The Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator has played a large role in Patrick Mahomes’ rapid rise. He brings a creative mind to the table and has proven he can turn a collection of pieces into a dominant unit.
However, Bieniemy could get passed over for Josh McDaniels. That isn’t a knock on the Chiefs OC, who most certainly deserves a shot at being a head coach. However, with Jack Easterby taking control of the franchise, the former Patriots character coach could try to pry his former colleague away from New England.
Plus, the Texans could attempt to lure Nick Caserio into joining McDaniels in taking his talents to Houston. New England’s de-facto general manager also knows Easterby well from his time with the Patriots and is widely respected for his well-rounded resume. Houston would at least have a head coach and GM who should be on the same page from a team-building perspective.
Ultimately, we will have to wait until the offseason to find out who will coach the Texans on a permanent basis. For now, Romeo Crennel will lead the way for the rest of the season.
But thanks to J.J. Watt, the future looks a little bit brighter for the Texans now that Bill O’Brien is gone.