If there’s tension between Bill O’Brien and Rick Smith, as was reported by multiple credible NFL media toward the tail end of last season, credit Houston Texans players for keeping to themselves about it.
Because according to longtime center Chris Myers, it isn’t easy.
“It’s tough, and it should never have to boil down to that,” Myers said Tuesday on “In The Loop” on SportsRadio 610. “If there is any situation, coach to coach, coach to GM, or anything even higher, as a player, you have a rough time trying to compartmentalize, and just do your job.”
It’s normal for a head coach and GM to have disagreements, Myers said. But when “disagreement” becomes “dysfunction” — as was reported by Fox Sports Jay Glazer, NFL Media’s Mike Silver and Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole among others last season, and the Houston Chronicle’s Brian T. Smith and SportsRadio 610 in 2015 — that often trickles onto the field, hurting the team and individual players.
That’s where tempers can start to flare, Myers said.
“When your job is being directly affected by people put in certain positions — or not put in certain positions, if you will — that directly affects the performance on the field, and the situations that you’re running in certain games,” Myers said. “When that kind of affects that, and directly affects your personal performance and how you do things, you have a hard time, kind of, to a certain extent, keeping your mouth shut.”
For all the ink spilled on the relationship between O’Brien and Smith the last few years, it’s unclear how many times a dispute boiled over. The only specifics we have center on Ryan Mallett, who missed the team flight to their eventual blowout loss to the Miami Dolphins. O’Brien reportedly wanted to cut Mallett on the spot. Smith disagreed, and vetoed the move, something he’s empowered to do, contractually.
Beyond that, it’s unclear what, if any, moves created further strain. Did O’Brien want Brock Osweiler last offseason? Did he prefer to enter the season with Tom Savage as the starter? Did Smith want any part of Brian Hoyer or Mallett, both of whom were acquired before the 2015 season in large part because of their familiarity with O’Brien’s offense?
Either way, at some point, the partnership reportedly took a turn for the worse, to the point where, some stories suggested O’Brien might be fired if the Texans lost in the AFC Wild Card to the Oakland Raiders — and third-string rookie QB Connor Cook — while others hinted at the possibility that O’Brien would walk at the end of the season, regardless.
In the end, Myers said, in a production business, it’s hard to stand by idly when your production is limited by someone else’s issues.
“As a player, you’re supposed to just do your job,” he said. “I was the kind of the player that would just speak my mind here and there. Maybe that’s another reason that I’m not in the league anymore. I would let it be known, what I thought about certain situations, and that’s kind of frowned upon unless you’ve earned yours stripes around the league. But as a player, you find yourself really torn, being able to just go out and do your job, when you know there are so many things directly affecting it.”
Matt is the host of “Hear Me Out,” Saturdays from 1-4 pm on SportsRadio 610, and “The Matt Hammond Show,” weekdays at 11 am on Facebook Live, Twitter and Periscope. You can, and totally should, follow him on Twitter @MattHammondShow.