HOUSTON (SPORTSRADIO 610) — Will Bill O’Brien be back as the head coach of the Houston Texans next season?
Does he want to sign a contract extension?
Does he need input on the team’s next general manager?
Wait, will there be a new general manager?
All pertinent questions in the wake of former GM Rick Smith’s surprise extended leave of absence, which was announced on Sunday, but for now, there simply aren’t many answers.
After opening his season-ending press conference on Tuesday with some kind words for Smith and his wife Tiffany, who’s been battling breast cancer, O’Brien was asked if he wants a new deal.
“We’re having productive talks right now,” O’Brien said. “We’ve had productive meetings. If you know anything about the McNairs, these are very, very thoughtful people. People that care about this organization, about this city. They don’t rush into anything. They’re fantastic bosses. People of high character, high integrity, and we’re having some very productive talks right now.”
It was a common refrain throughout the 30 minute session.
Would he sign a new contract without a new GM in place?
“I would say that that’s part of what we’re talking about,” O’Brien said. “I’m not trying to be gray with you. I can’t stand up here and tell you, like, Hey, this is exactly what’s going to happen. I can tell you though that we’ve had some really good discussions. I really enjoy being the head coach here. I think we have the makings of a good football team with the core players that we have here. I really think that there’s a bright future for this organization, no doubt about it, but these are things that are being hashed out and discussed.”
Does he want more power within the organization?
“No, I think the big thing for me, and I think the big thing for the McNairs — and I don’t want to speak for them — but I would just say is alignment. Being aligned, philosophically, on what type of team we want. I’m not looking for this, that or the other. I’m just looking for, moving forward with that situation, alignment is the best way for me to answer that.”
Was there that alignment the last four years with Smith?
“I think moving forward, that’s a key part of it.”
Will he have say in who the new GM is, if there is one?
“I’m in most of these meetings, yeah,” O’Brien said. “I wouldn’t say active role in whatever specifically you’re asking about, but I’m in there, and we’re having really, like I said, positive, productive discussions.”
What’s the timeline for these decisions?
“It’s all about just getting it right,” O’Brien said. “It has nothing to do with a timeframe.”
For all the uncertainty looming over the Texans offseason, this much we do know: O’Brien doesn’t want to lose either of his top assistants, defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, who’s set to interview for the Detroit Lions head coaching vacancy this week, and Sean Ryan, who’ll interview at some point to join Hue Jackson’s staff with the Cleveland Browns as offensive coordinator.
He also had high praise for GM candidates Brian Gaine, who was with the Texans from 2014-16 and spent last season as the Buffalo Bills vice president of personnel, and Nick Caserio, the New England Patriots top personnel executive since 2008.
But the conversation all points to a single question.
If O’Brien doesn’t like what he sees in the next few weeks, as these decisions all play out, will he be back as head coach in 2018?
“We’re having very positive, productive discussions,” O’Brien said. “I think I told you guys a couple weeks ago about how I feel about my job here, and my job is to, right now, sit down with the McNairs, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re having great discussions. Very productive. They’re very easy to talk to. They really do a great job of working with us, with me, of listening, back and forth, a lot of great ideas. But they’re a very thoughtful people, and they run the show. These are really good discussions that we’re having, and we move from there.”