Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien got a pass last year when they lost their last six games of the year to finish 4-12 because the team was ravaged by injuries.
But with quarterback Deshaun Watson and defensive standouts J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus back, the Texans were expected to do big things this year.
Instead, they’re 0-2 after a 20-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans that veteran Houston football writer John McClain called one of the most embarrassing losses in Texans history. Their eight-game losing streak is the longest current one in the NFL.
That prompted speculation that O’Brien is on the hot seat and viewers peppered McClain with questions on his video stream if O’Brien was in danger of being fired.
He said there was zero chance of that happening and said if they beat the New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts in their next two games to get to 2-2, the firing chatter will stop.
Still, O’Brien is 32-37 in his fifth season with one playoff win.
O’Brien has made a lot of mistakes in his tenure, like giving Brock Osweiler a huge contract and then having to give Cleveland a draft pick to take Osweiler’s salary off their hands.
And they didn’t resign cornerback A.J. Bouye a year ago, and he’s now a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ stout defense.
Maybe those moves were on the personnel department, but O’Brien should have known both moves would backfire on the Texans.
And last year, he started the season with Tom Savage at quarterback. He lasted a half against Jacksonville before he went to Watson at halftime.
But O’Brien hit a new low against the Titans, who were hit by a rash of injuries on offense and had to play backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
The Titans stormed to a 14-0 lead by stealing a pair of touchdowns. The Titans pulled off a fake punt for the first one when the Texans left Dane Cruikshank uncovered to catch a 66-yard touchdown pass.
Then the Titans mounted another drive with the Wildcat, which the Texans seemed to be not prepared for. It set the stage for a sideline pass by Gabbert to Taywan Taylor, who ran 18 yards for the second touchdown.
The Texans came back to take a 17-14 lead, but then gave up two field goal drives to lose the game.
Along the way the Texans had just one sack (although it was difficult to sack Gabbert because he was making quick throws off three-step drops and threw only 20 times), no turnovers and 11 penalties. One was on Jadeveon Clowney for taunting on the sidelines, and he wasn’t even in uniform.
And then the game ended with a Watson gaffe when he had 17 seconds and darted around so much that time expired after he completed a pass.
An ill-informed Texas school superintendent texted that you can’t trust black quarterbacks (a comment that later forced the man to resign), but the fault was on the coaching staff for not having a better play.
O’Brien said after the game, “I felt we were ready.’’
The Texans obviously weren’t and that’s on the coaching staff. It prompted Walter Cherepinsky of the respected site walterfootball.com to call O’Brien the worst coach in the league. There’s a lot of competition for that designation, but the Texans obviously need a better coach.
O’Brien doesn’t figure to be the long-term answer, but he needs to start winning Sunday against the Giants if he wants to survive to next season.
The other three AFC South teams have to hope he does survive, though, because he’s never had a team with a record better than 9-7 despite all the talent the Texans have had in recent years.