It’s not any one story that’s the problem.
It’s the volume, and the timing, and the fact that we’re hearing about them that spells real issues for your Houston Texans.
Bill O’Brien and Brock Osweiler getting into a shouting match during halftime of their regular season-ending loss to the Tennessee Titans, that’s nothing new. Not for a QB and a play-caller. Not for O’Brien. Not even for O’Brien and Osweiler, who pulled off one of the best fourth-quarter comebacks in franchise history literally the same day that CBS Sports Jason La Canfora reported that he and O’Brien went after it during the week of prep. Some teachers coddle, others push. O’Brien, apparently, is the closest thing the NFL has to a Terence Fletcher.
So in a vacuum, no big deal.
Neither is O’Brien and GM Rick Smith having some friction, as has now been reported or strongly hinted at by three different and highly credible national NFL media members. If true, it wouldn’t be the first time that personalities clashed in a pro football front office. Though many meant the end for at least one party — most famously, Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke with the 49ers, Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman with the Eagles and Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones with the Cowboys — there are plenty that turned out just fine. Eddie DeBartolo, now a Pro Football Hall of Famer, notably had to be talked out of firing Bill Walsh, also a Hall of Famer, multiple times, their spates were so intense. Didn’t stop San Francisco from winning three Super Bowls during Walsh’s tenure, or becoming one of the best dynasties in the history of the league. (That of course, doesn’t count all the times that a head coach and GM were at each other’s throats, but it simply stayed in house).
Which brings us to the fact that we’re hearing about them, all at once, during the week leading up to an NFL playoff game.
Clearly, there’s something going on. Whatever the “why” — is Smith upset about the benching of Osweiler, whose success here would’ve meant vindication for Smith and all those whiffs in the NFL Draft? is O’Brien boiling over about his QB rooms the last three years, and the fact that, he may have not been allowed to draft Derek Carr in 2014? — when there’s this much smoke, there’s usually at least some fire.
More likely than not, pro-O’Brien parties — or O’Brien himself — are leaking reports of tension between he and Smith, who, for a number of reasons, is something of an easy target. Make Smith the fall guy for the team’s failings at QB. Put the rest of the league on notice that you may become available to be hired in just a few weeks. Makes sense, right?
To counter, pro-Smith parties — or Smith himself — are leaking reports of O’Brien clashing with Osweiler, who seems like the nicest guy ever. “If he can’t get along with Brock,” the thinking goes, “man, that guy must be intense. Insufferable, even.” Make O’Brien out to be Harbaugh, but without the .800 win percentage over four years in the NFC West, and one play away from a Super Bowl ring. In other words: Greg Schiano.
Maybe I’m wrong. But the fact that you can reasonably speculate about all this, just days before the postseason, is absolute bananas.
When LeBron James made the Cleveland Cavaliers leakier than a fish net coffee mug, posting passive aggressively on social media, and commenting quite candidly on Tristan Thompson’s contract talks, that was before and during the NBA regular season. Which is the second most meaningless in all of sports. While that type of turbulence may have galvanized the Cavs en route to a championship, including their meme-inspiring 3-1 comeback against Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, this isn’t helping you beat the Oakland Raiders on Saturday at NRG Stadium, or anybody else. It also doesn’t seem like the work of a guy who’s simply trying to build a championship culture (LeBron). It seems like the work of two guys who may not being seeing eye-to-eye more often than not, and could be in for a split (O’Brien and Smith).
Who knows how much this hurts the Texans, this postseason and beyond. Maybe Osweiler learned how to play football in the last three days, and can lead the type of deep playoff run that cures all. Maybe O’Brien and Smith will have the type of 180 that Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly did in Stepbrothers, and be, like, besties for life. Or maybe, there is a power struggle, owner Bob McNair will side with Smith, a close family friend, and the Texans become 49ers Central.
Matt hosts Saturdays from 1-4 pm on SportsRadio 610. You can, and totally should, follow him on Twitter @MattHammondShow.