How long does it typically take you to learn something?
I’d like to think of myself as a man who can figure things out on the fly. Though that’s really just a humble braggy way of saying “I know how to use google.” Still, from computer skills to cooking meals and even figuring out how to tie ties . . . give me some instructions and I’ll teach myself how to do it.
But I have my fair share of dumbass moments. After all, we’re talking about a person who is directionally challenged and STILL needs to use a GPS app to get around town. So you shouldn’t be surprised that something EXTREMELY easy for me to learn over the last few years has somehow gone over my head. All I needed to do was watch . . . and learn. But over-patience (yes, there’s such a thing), excuses, and even a little bit of empathy got in the way.
The lesson? We’ve watched Bill O’Brien tinker with the Houston Texans offense for 3.0625 years. And now it’s time to finally face the truth: he’s not going to fix it.
Here are some of the excuses that we’ve made for an offense that has slightly regressed every season since 2014:
- “It’s a complicated system” – But is it?
- “Injuries keep happening” – A valid excuse, if every other team in the NFL wasn’t dealing with them too
- “O’Brien needs time” – You’d hope to see returns on that patience by now after hiring an offensive minded coach
- “They need better receivers, tight ends, running backs” – On paper, they now have them (though many are currently injured)
- “The offensive line isn’t good” – Shouldn’t O’Brien be coaching this unit up too?
- “The quarterbacks have been awful” – The biggest albatross for the Texans offense for years. Still, the Jaguars (somehow) made due with Blake Bortles Sunday
I’m sure there are plenty of others. But until we actually see progress, it’s time to stop them. All of them. And it’s time to start seriously wondering about Bill O’Brien’s future here. He’ll be going into the last year of his contract next season . . . and has already dealt with rumors about his job security in the midst of a playoff run. If he can’t find away to make this offense respectable, why would the Texans keep him?
I know, I know. It’s just one week. The first week of the season. A marathon, not a sprint. But Sunday’s 29 – 7 loss to the Jaguars was one of the worst of the O’Brien era. Let’s take a look back at the game . . .
- First, some credit. We’ve always heard about how talented the Jaguars defense is. We finally saw it in action. Newly acquired free agent Calais Campbell had 4 sacks, helping Jacksonville get 10 on the game. Yes, 10. Meanwhile, Jacksonville’s secondary – featuring elite second year corner Jalen Ramsey AND former Texan A.J. Bouye – beat up and mauled Texans’ receivers. This is a respectable unit
- The same cannot be said about the Texans offensive line. Yes, they miss Duane Brown. But his return is not fixing the entire offense, and ESPECIALLY isn’t fixing the line. This unit might be the league’s worst. The tackles are backups that are in over their heads. The guards . . . they’re just not good. I don’t know what it is that Xavier Su’A Filo does well, but he wasn’t even able to make it through the entire game getting benched for last year’s center Greg Mancz. Meanwhile, supposed mauler Jeff Allen was routinely getting pushed off the ball as if he were ME lining up at guard. I really like Nick Martin, who stands out as a center (and I don’t know a damn thing about the offensive line). But he’s the only thing of value. This unit can’t protect the passer (10 sacks! 10!) OR create a push to help the ground game. The worst part? There is no way that this will be fixed by the end of the year. This is simply a talent problem.
- If we’re going off of Sunday (cough and the last year, cough cough), DeAndre Hopkins should NOT be the league’s highest paid receiver. The knock on him last season was that he doesn’t handle physicality well. And A.J. Bouye proved that theory still holds. Hopkins is supposedly a possession receiver. I believe he should be catching at least HALF of the passes that make it to his hands. That didn’t happen Sunday. Yes, there were some difficult plays that he wasn’t able to complete. But he’s not being paid to out run defenders or shake them. He’s paid to make tough catches in traffic, and couldn’t do that Sunday.
- I’ve also got to wag my finger at the entire receiving corps. They couldn’t get open. And when they did? Drops, drops, and more drops. There’s only so much that these quarterbacks can do with this offensive line. If the receivers aren’t helping either, then how the hell are they going to score points?
- I know C.J. Fiedorowicz is in the concussion protocol, as are many other Texans (Ryan Griffin, Stephen Anderson, Bruce Ellington, and Brian Cushing). But he should have been more of a focal point in the offense. Every single one of his 4 targets was productive, as he finished the day with 4 catches for 46 yards. A.J. Bouye was the Texans tight end specialist at times last season. But he was covering DeAndre Hopkins much of the day. If Bouye is on Hopkins and Jalen Ramsey is on the other side of the field, shouldn’t you attack the spot on the field WITHOUT those 2?
- And yes, let’s finally talk about the quarterbacks. I feel bad for Tom Savage. He’s clearly limited as a player. But what could he have done out there with the supporting cast around him? He’s slow making decisions AND has limited mobility, so what can he do behind an offensive line like the Texans had? Especially when the passes that he DID get off kept getting dropped?
- O’Brien said that he opened the second half with Deshaun Watson under center as a “spark”. We’ll find out if the move is a little more permanent in Cincinnati on Thursday. But if it is, there are two unfortunate consequences for the Texans. Number one? This entire training camp was a waste of time. What’s the point of Savage working with the starters all offseason if he can’t even make it through a full game? Number two? We can no longer trust a word that O’Brien says about quarterbacks. This feels a lot like a repeat episode of 2015. The only positive? At least the alternative quarterback is a first round pick who won a national championship last year.
- But let’s not act like Deshaun Watson played particularly well. Yes, he had a good first drive, showing some chemistry with Hopkins (which I was surprised by) and leading the Texans down the field for a touchdown. Still, he threw two interceptions (one of which was called back by an illegal hands to the face), fumbled once, and was sacked 4 times. His deep ball accuracy was an issue in the preseason . . . and again on Sunday. Hell, he reminded me of Brock Osweiler when he was throwing deep towards the sideline. It’s going to take a lot of time before he becomes a competent starter. And if he’s the starter the rest of the way, ALL of Texans training camp was a waste of time offensively.
- Lost in the offensive struggles was this: the Jacksonville Jaguars – a team that’s had an AWFUL offensive line for years – flat out dominated the Texans supposed juggernaut front seven. DOMINATED. They were unable to sack Blake Bortles once, a man known for making poor decisions when under pressure. Meanwhile, rookie running back Leonard Fournette was actively looking to PUNISH Texans defenders on his way to an 100 yard game on the ground. It was just his first game in the NFL, no big deal. Maybe it isn’t that different from the S.E.C.? I’m hoping this is a one time thing for the Texans defense, but it was an ugly first game for new defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel.
- Positives? I’m pretty sure the Texans had no special teams penalties? Tyler Ervin had a nice punt return? Ka’imi Fairbairn had two touchbacks and didn’t miss his extra point? I don’t think there are more than 5 players in the concussion protocol? Maybe Jacksonville is good? The Bengals didn’t score a point Sunday?
Hopefully this is less depressing on Friday.
Paul Gallant hosts “Gallant at Night” – Tuesday 9-11 PM CT, Wednesdays and Fridays 8-11 PM CT – on SportsRadio 610. He also hosts SportsZone Unfiltered – Fridays at 10 PM – on The Kube: Channel 57. Get in touch with Paul via email or his facebook page.