Bill O’Brien Continues Game Management Issues In Third Year As Head Coach

by: Brian McDoanld (@sackedbybmac)

The issue of game management has long been a problem that has plagued Bill O’Brien in his two-plus years as head coach of the Houston Texans.

Those issues often end up forgotten if the team wins the game like they did in Week 10 at Jacksonville, so to track those issues before they’re forgotten about, I’ve logged them here in this article.

First up, the game management issues from their most recent game.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 13: Lamar Miller #26 of the Houston Texans runs for yardage against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the game at EverBank Field on November 13, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

After DeAndre Hopkins picked up a game-ending first down on a slant pass from Brock Osweiler just after the two-minute warning, Coach O’Brien made a mistake on the play calls that followed with the Jaguars only possessing one timeout:

  • Coach O’Brien called three straight running plays and risked a fumble by doing so, when taking a knee would have ended the game with virtually no risk at all for turnovers or injuries. With the game under two minutes and Jacksonville only having one timeout left, the Texans didn’t need to pick up a first down to run out the clock, so anything other than three kneels was a mistake.
  • All three of those runs went to Lamar Miller, who has been banged up since the Denver game, and had to leave Sunday’s game against Jacksonville for a little bit. Gaining yards doesn’t matter in that situation, all the running back had to do is stay in bounds and not fumble, so why couldn’t those carries be given to another running back who isn’t as banged up or as important to the Texans success going forward?

For what it’s worth, Coach O’Brien said during his Monday press conference that he should have taken a knee on second and third down. He offered an odd explanation centered around Jacksonville using their timeout after first down instead of the Hopkins completion and that causing confusion, which doesn’t make sense because it didn’t affect the situation or what the play-calling should be at all. He also still seemed to think running the ball on first down to get the Jaguars to use their final timeout was the correct decision; a kneel down accomplishes the same thing, so it wasn’t the right decision.

I genuinely believe Bill O’Brien is a good coach—not that he needs my validation—but he’s frequently made poor game management decisions like the one from the last game described above. That’s understandable to a degree when you’re a first-year head coach, but when you continue to make those same poor decisions in year two and year three, that’s a big cause for concern.

When you bring up something like poor game management decisions, unless you’re in the moment with what happened fresh in your memory, most people tend to dismiss it and just remember the game to game, and year to year results.

So, to document the trend, I went back and read my Bleacher Report recaps from 2014 and 2015 when I worked as their main Texan columnist recapping every game, and will now share what was found below.

(Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

(Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The List of Bill O’Brien Game Management Blunders:

You’ll notice four common issues that repeat from 2014 through the current day:

  • Leaving star players & starters in the game during blowouts, at risk of injury with no potential benefit for his team.
  • Bad decisions with timeouts and challenges.
  • A misunderstanding of when to be aggressive or conservative when it comes to going for two, onside kicks, field goals, punts, going on 4th down, passing backed up on his own goal line, etc.
  • Getting too cute with his play-calling or overthinking situations by doing something “creative” when a simpler play would work better.

2014:

 (Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

(Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

2014 Week 2 at Oakland – Watt was on the field with under one minute remaining in a 23-point game, while Arian Foster carried the ball 28 times in a game the Texans controlled from the beginning (led 27-0 going into the 4th quarter, won 30-14), which included four 4th quarter carries with the Texans leading 27-7. That should have been a game where the star players got a short day; keeping Watt in that late and giving Foster 4th quarter carries up 20 is ridiculous.

Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

2014 Week 3 at Giants – Let Ryan Fitzpatrick pass from their own nine-yard line on 3rd & 19 on the first play after the 2-minute warning while trailing just 7-0. It got intercepted and returned to the 2-yard line, which set up a 1 yard TD run by Rashad Jennings. The odds of picking up 3rd & 19 are already low to begin with, but the rest of the situation makes the decision worse.

Even if they pick it up, they would have needed another 40 yards for a long field goal attempt, so they took a huge risk for a low potential reward. Also, they trailed just 7-0 and were going to get the ball first after halftime, so it wasn’t the spot for a desperate gamble.

Also, in the 3rd quarter O’Brien had a series where he went for it on 4th & 1 at their own 46 down 14-0, but kicked a field goal at the Giants nine-yard line down 17-0.

That’s a big problem for O’Brien, understanding when to be aggressive or conservative. Both plays were 4th & 1 to go, but he went for it when down less points and when not converting would be a bigger problem for field position, but went conservative when down more points & with field position not being an issue if the play fails. Backwards.

(Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

2014 Week 5 at Dallas – Down 17-7 with 9:37 remaining in the 4th, Bill O’Brien went Andy Reid with a 13-play drive that took 7:17 off the clock showing no urgency or sense of the situation. They got a stop on the following Dallas possession (with help from the Cowboys getting flagged for delay of game coming out of the first timeout & then throwing an incomplete pass on 3rd down) that allowed them to tie the game and force Overtime, where O’Brien would again make head scratching moves.

In OT, the Texans won the toss and got the ball first. On the first two plays, Foster ran for 24 and then 6 yards to move the ball to the 50-yard line. The next two plays that followed were a run with Alfred Blue on 2nd down, and then on 3rd & 2 (Foster was averaging 6.8 yards per carry), O’Brien split Foster OUT WIDE as a receiver and Fitzpatrick threw an incomplete pass. Texans punted on 4th & 2 and lost when the Cowboys kicked a field goal on their following possession.

Foster had 157 yards on 23 carries. I’m 100% for limiting touches to save a back’s legs for later in the season, but on 3rd & 2 with Foster averaging 6.8 per carry, splitting him out wide and letting Fitzpatrick pass the ball was way too cute for the situation, especially since they only need 15 more yards for a reasonable field goal attempt.

This goes back to giving Foster four carries in the 4th quarter of a 27-7 game at Oakland too. Yes, coaches should limit carries to star backs as much as possible, but O’Brien doesn’t seem to understand those situations. He had no problem giving Foster carries 25 through 28 in a blowout, yet in overtime three weeks later when Foster was killing the Cowboys and at 23 carries, he ended the game on two non-Foster runs. Save his legs by sitting him down in blowouts so you can have him available for when it matters.

Classic O’Brien overthinking the situation and getting cute.

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

2014 Week 6 vs Indianapolis – First there was the kickoff alignment blunder where the Texans had nobody lined up in the middle of the field, so the Colts noticed it and kicked an onside that they recovered.

The play calling early on was also bizarre considering the Fitzpatrick/Arian Foster thing, they went 3 & out on each of their first three possessions with six passes to three runs.

Late in the 2nd half, with time not being much of a factor because of Indianapolis being at the Texans 20 and having one timeout left, O’Brien made a timeout blunder. The Colts ran the ball on 2nd & 9 out of the two-minute warning, the Texans stopped them for a two-yard loss to make it 3rd & 11, but the Texans (who had all three timeouts) declined to stop the clock, so 42 seconds ran off the clock by the time O’Brien used his first timeout after the Colts came up short of the 1st down on a six-yard completion.

You could argue that using a timeout after 2nd down would help the Colts, but considering Indy was already inside the red zone, there was over a minute left and the Colts still had a timeout of their own, time wasn’t a factor for them. So, I think using a timeout after 2nd down would have been a smart play to save time for a 2-minute drill in case you get a stop on 3rd down.

You could also question O’Brien play calling at the start of the 4th quarter when they ran a draw on 3rd & 12 while trailing by 12 at the Colts 27-yard line. They ran a draw like they were just trying to improve their field position for a field goal, or playing for a field goal like it cut the lead by a possession.

The problem is they were already at the 27 so that’s not fringe field goal territory where a draw makes sense, and being down 12, making a field goal cuts the lead to nine, but it remains a two-score lead regardless. So, going back to a previous theme, that’s a place where you should be aggressive. You didn’t need a few yards to make the field goal attempt reasonable, and making a field goal wouldn’t have cut the lead by a possession.

Didn’t make sense to settle.

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

2014 Week 7 at Pittsburgh – Down 17-13 with 1:03 left and a 1st & 10 at their own 20 (keep in mind the Texans were spiraling at the time after giving away a 13-0 lead, and it was probably time just to get into the locker room before it got worse), O’Brien had Fitzpatrick throw a pass, it was intercepted and returned to the 8-yard line. The Steelers scored two plays later to increase the lead at halftime to 24-13. The game felt like it was over after that, and those 7 points ended up being the difference as the Texans went on to lose 30-23.

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

2014 Week 8 at Tennessee – They won, so I won’t be too critical, but there were a few decisions with Bill O’Brien’s strategy that I didn’t like.

The first one was more of the bizarre play-calling from possession to possession that I’ve noticed from Coach O’Brien all year. One possession after Foster had a 34-yard touchdown run from an under-center formation, O’Brien called three straight passes from out of the shotgun on the next possession.

Not surprisingly the Texans went three-and-out and had to punt after not picking up a single yard. He seems to have a tendency for getting away from what works best.

Later in the game an odd play call worked out in the Texans favor, but I still think questioning the strategy is justifiable. With the Texans up by three scores (20-3) in the third quarter, O’Brien called for a pass with the Texans on their own four-yard line on 3rd-and-8.

Fitzpatrick completed a pass for 19 yards to DeAndre Hopkins, and the Texans went on to score a touchdown on the possession, but being aggressive there was a questionable decision at best. With a three-score lead why take the risk of potentially giving the Titans easy points when their offense had struggled all game?

Fitzpatrick had thrown crippling interceptions twice in that same situation in previous games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants that season. Both of those plays in previous games were a part of huge momentum swings for the opponent, so why risk a turnover in a game that you control?

(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

2014 Week 12 vs Cincinnati – An inexcusable mistake in strategy came from head coach Bill O’Brien when the game was likely already decided. Despite the odds of pulling it off, O’Brien robbed his team of any opportunity to win by not kicking a field goal late in the fourth quarter.

The Texans got the ball back down nine points with 1:55 remaining and no timeouts left; pulling out a victory was obviously very unlikely.

Needing two scores in that situation, the Texans stopped the clock—with a spike—after a completion with 20 seconds left and the ball at the Cincinnati 20-yard line, the right call was for an immediate field-goal attempt that would have been under 40 yards.

The only way to win the game at that point was to possess the ball twice. By not kicking the ball when they had a chance and instead foolishly going for a touchdown, the Texans ran off all the remaining time and gave away whatever chance they still had left.

If you attempt the field goal there with 20 seconds left and Randy Bullock makes it, then you have a chance to win the game if you also recover the onside kick. The quarterback could then easily reach the end zone with a Hail Mary from wherever the Texans got the ball after an onside kick.

On the other hand, unless you score a touchdown on the very next play by throwing it into the end zone from 20 yards out, then you’ll run off too much time to get the second possession you must have to win the game.

The Texans couldn’t win the game unless they possessed the ball twice, and you can’t possess it twice if you run off the entire clock. That’s terribly unaware coaching.

(Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

2014 Week 14 at Jacksonville – Two moments that stood out the most to me both came in the fourth quarter with the Texans driving and trying to go up by two scores.

On 3rd-and-goal at the Jacksonville 1-yard line O’Brien called for a quarterback sweep with Ryan Fitzpatrick carrying the ball. That play had worked earlier in the game, but the Texans only needed one yard—just give the damn ball to Arian Foster.

Fitzpatrick advanced the ball a little but didn’t score, setting up 4th-and-goal with just inches to go. The easy and obvious decision there is to go for it with a hand-off to your stud running back, but O’Brien sent out kicker Randy Bullock before eventually calling a timeout as he thought the decision over.

What was there to think about?

Again, the sequence of events when up 17-13 in the 4th quarter was:

  • On 3rd and goal from the 1-yard line, a QB sweep by Fitzpatrick that gets stopped short (got cute)
    O’Brien sent out Randy Bullock on 4th and goal from inches out (wrong play call)
  • O’Brien called timeout to think it over (wasted a timeout)
  • Went for it with a run to Foster who of course scored.

They were inches away with a worst-case scenario of giving it back to a rookie Blake Bortles and a struggling Jaguars offense on their own goal line. Plus, a field goal wouldn’t have increased the lead from one possession to two, so kicking in that situation would be nearly pointless (they were up 17-13, so the Jags already needed a touchdown to take the lead, and a field goal to make the lead 7 didn’t increase it to two scores).

Blake Bortles wasn’t going to drive 99-yards for a go-ahead score, what were they initially afraid of when they ran Bullock out?

O’Brien does many things very well as a head coach, but he seems to struggle with deciding on when to be aggressive and when to play it more conservatively. The Texans only needed an inch and would have gained almost nothing from a field goal; wasting a timeout there was inexcusable.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

2014 Week 15 at Indianapolis – The first example came in the second quarter not too long after Tom Savage was forced into action. Needing only one yard on third down, O’Brien called a play-action rollout pass with a rookie quarterback playing in his first game instead of handing the ball off to Arian Foster, one of the best short-yardage backs in the league.

Once again, he overthought the situation.

The next situation came very early in the fourth quarter, when on a 3rd-and-2 play, O’Brien called a quarterback sneak. They needed two full yards, and the call was a quarterback sneak? Unless the Colts had some weird formation with no one lined up over the guards or center that is a terrible call. A quarterback sneak is for situations when you need less than a full yard, not a full two. How does an NFL head coach decide that’s a good idea?

The last one I want to point out was his decision to go for it on a 4th & 4 at the Colts 42 with just over seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Normally I would support the aggressive play there and also agree with not wanting to give the ball back to a quarterback like Andrew Luck with a chance to clinch the game, but not this time.

The Texans defense had dominated the Colts the entire second half (Colts held to under 300 yards & only scored three points in the second half), so I would rather pin them deep with a punt and trust that my defense could force a punt on its end, than roll the dice with a shaky quarterback playing in his first game with the added risk of giving the Colts good field position.

(Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

(Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

2014 Week 17 vs Jacksonville – Read this and then think about what happened in Week 3 at New England in 2016; his decision making hasn’t improved at all.

The only thing I didn’t like was his quick challenge of the completion to Allen Hurns on the very first play of the game. Maybe the angle he saw made him think Hurns was out, but it was just one 10-yard completion on the very first play of the game; he could have needed that challenge for something more important later in the game.

It wasn’t like the catch was a scoring play or one that even got the team into scoring range; the pass put the Jaguars at their own 38-yard line. The Texans defense still had plenty of room left on the field to stop them, so that was not a crucial situation that deserved a challenge flag.

I understand that any play could lead to something, and if the call was wrong, it should be fixed, I’m just saying pick your battles. You’re playing a bad offense led by a bad quarterback and your defense had been hot recently; a 10-yard completion on the first play of the game wasn’t worth one of your two challenges.

2015:

(Credit: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

(Credit: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

2015 Week 4 at Atlanta – More of O’Brien leaving in veterans too long during a blowout and getting cute on play calls.

Why was J.J. Watt in on offense for a goal-line run in the fourth quarter? Why in the world would you risk an injury to your best player in that situation? The Texans were down 42-7 in the 4th quarter, and Watt is in the game for what purpose? To make matters worse—if that’s possible—they didn’t even throw him the ball, so him being out there was completely pointless on top of being risky.

Watt wasn’t the only one. I noticed at least Brian Cushing and Jadeveon Clowney out on the field late in the game as well. Maybe you could argue that Clowney needs the reps, but why keep veterans with an injury history like Cushing out there?

What did the team have to benefit by risking injuries to key players at a point in the game where they had no chance to win? The coaching staff had already seen other veterans like Jackson and Demps come up gimpy, but apparently, that wasn’t enough reason for caution.

The other reason O’Brien deserves to get a poor grade was for that bad play call on the 4th-and-goal to end the game. Ultimately it didn’t matter what play they called since they trailed by 21 with one second left at the time, but calling a quick wide receiver screen when they needed 17 yards was just awful.

They didn’t just need 17 yards, they needed 17 yards in a goal-to-go situation where the defense knew what part of the field they had to attack; the play had zero chance of working.

By the way, Cecil Shorts got hurt on the play (on the last play of a game they trailed by 21) which caused him to miss their next game against the Colts; noticing the trend yet?

Lamar Miller #26 of the Miami Dolphins runs with the ball against the Houston Texans (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

2015 Week 6 at Miami – The last game of Arian Foster’s Texan career.

It doesn’t matter what happened this year with Foster getting hurt again and ultimately retiring, the decision making in this game in regards to him was inexcusable. Foster was an older back coming off a series of injuries and O’Brien kept playing him late into a game that was a blowout.

Foster was given two carries and was thrown the ball twice in the fourth quarter with the score 41-13 when the quarter started.

Why is an older running back with an injury history still in the game in the 4th quarter of a 41-13 game?

If it’s about still trying to win the game—which I would argue is foolish when the score was 41-0 at halftime—and you want Foster in, why did they run the ball with him multiple times down 28? Whatever the odds were of pulling off the comeback, they weren’t going to get there running the ball.

They couldn’t win the game, and really weren’t even trying, yet O’Brien gambled with Foster’s health and lost. Terribly unaware coaching.

In the press conference after the game O’Brien talked about wanting to win the second half, but then said he didn’t want moral victories. Well, “winning the second half” can only be a moral victory; doesn’t feel like he even knows what he wants at times.

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

2015 Week 13 at Buffalo:

O’Brien not using timeouts toward the end of the first half was inexcusable. The Texans had two timeouts and gave up any chance they had of scoring before the end of the half by not using them.

So, the situation was the Bills were up 14-13, and had a 1st-and-goal from the six-yard line on the first play after the two-minute warning. Since it was goal to go with two-minutes left, time wasn’t an issue at all for Buffalo, so using timeouts wouldn’t help them. If Buffalo had been at its own 45-yard line after the two-minute warning, then of course you don’t use timeouts and risk giving them more time to advance the ball, but that wasn’t the case here.

Time and distance was not a factor for the Bills, so there was no potential negative for the Texans had they used their timeouts. The only thing working against the Bills were the downs they had, not the time. From the six-yard line, every normal play can go to the end zone, so there was no need to worry about stopping the clock for them.

Without using either of their two timeouts, 90 seconds ran off the clock over the next three plays before the Bills scored on third down, and the Texans just took a knee once they did get the ball back after the kick off.

If O’Brien had used his timeouts, the Texans could have had about 1:30 remaining to get a score before half.

Not going for two after their second touchdown could also be viewed as a mistake, but that’s an arguable point. (The Texans scored a touchdown to make it 14-12 in the second quarter and kicked the extra point to make it 14-13).

Mathematically, going for two made sense because in that situation down two after the score, a successful extra point or a failed two-point conversion both meant the Texans would need a field goal to take the lead.

So, looking at it only from a mathematical view, going for two had no downside. Failing on the conversion attempt would leave them needing the exact same thing as kicking the extra point (a field goal to take the lead), while a successful conversion would have obviously tied the game.

I get old school thinking doesn’t like “chasing points” that early in the game, but when you break down the pros and cons, it makes little sense to kick the extra point.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 20: Brandon Weeden #5 of the Houston Texans throws a pass against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 20, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

2015 Week 15 at Indianapolis – The Texans got their first win ever at Indianapolis so any mistakes made will be ignored by most, but a few things stood out to me during this game.

In the first half, Coach O’Brien decided to send out a 34-year-old kicker they signed mid-season as a free agent, whose career long was 53 yards from four years ago, for a 57-yard attempt.

If the situation was three seconds left in either half, then I’m fine with kicking it there over a Hail Mary. However, Nick Novak had little chance to make that kick and with 4:15 remaining, the miss gave the Colts great field position at their 47-yard line.

The Colts didn’t take advantage of the good field position with a score, but that mistake by O’Brien still cost his team a lot in terms of field position. Houston got the ball at their own eight-yard line after a punt by Indianapolis, but it would have likely been close to midfield had it not tried the field goal considering where the Colts would have been punting from.

The other poor decision that stands out was his challenge on whether or not Whitney Mercilus got a finger on the ball during a play where he was called for running into the punter.

If he touched the ball was certainly very close, and they had a lot to gain from a reversal, but the video just didn’t show enough to challenge that play. It must be obvious to get overturned, and that certainly wasn’t the case on that play.

If the guys upstairs looking at the play told O’Brien there was enough there to challenge and win, then maybe their jobs should on the line, but more likely he just decided to gamble.

Regardless, they had no chance to win that challenge, and thus they gave away a potentially crucial second-half timeout.

Another thing that was puzzling was the call of a reverse, end-around-type run that had Weeden handing off the football and then blocking.

Maybe Weeden did that instinctively, but him blocking in that situation was as bad a decision as a coach could make, if O’Brien did in fact call a play that included the quarterback blocking.

At the time, they had already lost Yates for the game, so if Weeden had been hurt while blocking, they would have had to bring in Shane Lechler as the emergency quarterback.

Again, it’s hard to say with certainty who made the decision, but seeing quarterbacks at least attempt to block on plays like that is not uncommon, so O’Brien and offensive coordinator George Godsey shouldn’t have used that play even if the quarterback blocking wasn’t designed.

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 09: Quarterback Brian Hoyer #7 of the Houston Texans scrambles against Justin Houston #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs in the third quarter during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

2015 Season Playoff Game vs Kansas City – Got way too cute with the Wattcat play.

Also, from the playoff loss to KC, and to me this was the more unforgivable sin. With 1:41 left in the 2nd quarter, Kansas City got the ball up 13-0 at their own 10-yard line.

Most likely your opponent will try to run the ball and end the half there, but regardless of how they approached the possession, calling timeouts was a poor decision. Some teams might use their timeouts to get the ball back, but considering Brian Hoyer had already turned the ball over four times in the half, putting him in a one-minute drill with likely no timeouts wouldn’t have been wise.

Despite that, O’Brien decided to use all three timeouts and eventually got the ball back with 25 seconds left, only to take a knee and run into the locker room. Calling the timeouts to begin with was a poor decision considering you were asking Hoyer to run a one-minute drill, but to get the desired result of getting the ball back only to take a knee is mind boggling.

If you weren’t willing to be aggressive once you got the ball back, then all you did was potentially help the Chiefs score again by calling timeouts for them.

Just so puzzling. I agreed with being conservative, kneeling the ball, and ending the half because of how poorly Hoyer had played at that point. However, if O’Brien didn’t trust Hoyer with a short clock trying to advance the ball for a score (again the right decision considering his four turnovers), then what was the point of calling all three timeouts?

So, the first time out came after a five-yard run, I’m sort of OK with that, but the second timeout came after a 23-yard run that put the Chiefs at their own 38. It was obvious at that point you probably wouldn’t get the ball back and even if you did, Hoyer would have to go the full field without any timeouts. So, calling two more timeouts had no potential benefit for your team, but could have helped the Chiefs increase the lead at that point if they had reconsidered changing their focus to trying to score instead of running out the clock.

2016:

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 22: LeGarrette Blount #29 of the New England Patriots rushes for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on September 22, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2016 Week 3 at New England – I’ll piggy-back off what Sean Pendergast said in this Houston Press article about O’Brien challenging over 7 yards, and calling a timeout that could only help the Patriots at the end of the first half:

c.) With eight minutes to go in the half, the Texans punted the ball back to the Patriots’s Cyrus Jones, who was called for a fumble at the 18 yard line, the ball bounced forward 7 yards, and the Pats fell on the ball, retaining possession. Replay showed the ground causing the fumble, which means the ball actually SHOULD have been spotted back at the 18 yard line, not the 25 yard line. O’Brien (who actually had to be summoned by his punter, Shane Lechler, to do this), clearly showing again his lack of understanding for the timeout-to-yardage currency risk, decided to use a challenge to regain those seven yards of field position. Sometimes, seven yards are important — this time was not one of them. O’Brien won the challenge, but it still showed a befuddling lack of understanding of the worth of timeouts and challenges. Put differently, just because someone doubles down on a 14 at black jack and WINS doesn’t mean it was a smart decision.

d.) With 1:00 to go in the half and one timeout remaining, with the Patriots having just gained a first down on their own 34 yard line, O’Brien decided to burn his final timeout…which served ZERO positive purpose for the Texans considering they had no way to stop the clock anymore to get the ball back, and the Patriots had 1st and 10. Literally, O’Brien did something that benefited ONLY the Patriots. It did NOTHING to benefit the Texans. I hate to say it, but these are the things that get people fired in the real world, just a blatant misunderstanding of simple situations in a highly crucial occupation.

I’d also like to point out that O’Brien later left key starters in the game (Miller, Hopkins, Fuller, others) with the score and time situation being 27-0 Patriots with under four minutes left in the fourth quarter. Giving full effort until the end is admirable, but once you reach the zero percent chance of winning point (down 27-0 late in the fourth quarter is that time), then playing veterans like Hopkins and Miller carries great injury risk with no potential positive outcome.

It’s just basic risk management: Why would you risk injury when there’s nothing to gain?

Again, look at the decisions he’s making on timeouts at the end of the half, risking injuries for veterans, and bad challenges; they’re the same mistakes he made in 2014 and 2015.

No improvement.

Also, on some of the run calls, there was a situation in the first quarter when the game was still tied 0-0 and they ran the ball on 3rd & 8. They were on their own 41, it was 3rd & 8 and they ran the ball with Lamar Miller to their own 47 to make it 4th and 2.

So, couple things here, first running the ball on 3rd & 8 is only OK in very few situations like if you’re backed up near your own goal line or if trying to get more yards for a field goal attempt to tie or take the lead. Secondly, I’ll make exception to what I just said IF you’re running the ball with the idea of going for it on 4th down and making that situation easier, but the Texans punted.

They were three yards away from the 50, it was 4th & 2, and it was a tied game; it seemed so obvious that they were running it on 3rd to set up a 4th down conversion, it made all the sense in the world.

I struggled to understand the punt in that situation.

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 2: Brock Osweiler #17 of the Houston Texans scrambles against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Houston, Texas. Texans won 27 to 20. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)

(Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)

2016 Week 4 vs Titans:

The hurry-up on 4th-and-1 to run a fullback dive to Jay Prosch (poop emoji).

Once again, Coach O’Brien got too cute and over-thought the situation.

Worse than the play call he chose, was on the previous play when Jaelen Strong clearly got the first down on a short pass, but the refs spotted the ball poorly. O’Brien had both challenges and all three timeouts available, so throwing his red flag not only would have overturned the call, but in the small chance the play stood as called, then it would have given him time to think of a better play than that terrible fullback dive.

This has been and currently still is a major issue for Coach O’Brien.  It might never get fixed, it might turn around.  He’s a good coach, but he needs to figure otu how to coach better in these

More from Brian McDonald
Comments

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More From CBS Houston

6-10s Calendar
Watch Now: Live Video & Video Highlights

Listen Live