Bill O’Brien is Shredder

Shredder, if you were never exposed to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lore, was the main antagonist for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for many years. He wasn’t always meant to be that way — that is an invention of the original animated cartoon show — but for several years children were exposed to a world where Shredder was the main villain of the Ninja Turtles.

Shredder was portrayed as a cunning, dangerous man. He took over an entire clan of ninjas in Japan. But he had to lose to the Ninja Turtles in just about every episode because he was the villain, and they were the heroes. To do this, the show creators had to amplify Shredder’s arrogance and make him mentally weak.

These are also the main attributes of Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, who has done everything he can to give himself power but never has a Plan B.

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Shredder’s main henchmen are Bebop and Rocksteady, two incredibly dumb street punks that were turned into mutants but not given any intellectual boost. Every time they tangle with the Ninja Turtles, without fail, the best-case scenario was a draw. Can they handle simple robbery tasks? Sure. Can they overtake humans? Yeah!

And over the course of dozens and hundreds of episodes, how many times does Shredder square up the idea to have these two buffoons hold up the Turtles? Constantly. It never works!

But that’s what it’s like to be Shredder. You need an inability to learn from past actions. That’s where we’re at with Bill O’Brien right now. He has at least two or three decisions per game that come directly from the panic portion of his brain that cost his team timeouts. Is he going to do anything about it? Well, what are the odds that’s changing at this point? Is he going to do anything but run inside zone? Probably not! Is he going to give Deshaun Watson easy hot reads? Probably not! Is he going to give play-action plays underneath routes? Again, probably not!

Ask yourself if he’s more likely to come up with solutions, or spend two months creating a perfect offseason plan now that he has no general manager. This was the answer you give your parents when you didn’t do the homework. I think we all know the answer deep down.

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Bill O’Brien and Shredder are both hilarious. Shredder is hilarious because he’s written to be hilarious and he breaks the fourth wall to do it at times. Bill O’Brien is hilarious because he has this Press Conference Mask he breaks out where he pretends he’s not in control of anything.

Bill O’Brien wants you to know that if you’re upset by Bill O’Brien, it’s really not all Bill O’Brien’s fault. There are other people involved, so many people you wouldn’t have ever heard of because you never listen to him. It’s hard work, but it’s also a culture that has to be built. Everyone has to be on the same page. It’s a massive undertaking to meet these people daily, but he does it for you. And you’re ungrateful!

Shredder’s arrogance kind of peeks out at the right times, and we get more of an unfiltered view of it, but the same driving stubbornness exists in both of them:

If Shredder weren’t written for a kids TV show, he undoubtedly would’ve said this to some passerby at some point:

O’Brien is a master of unintentional comedy. Note that he doesn’t take issues with the fact that he sucks, but rather, that the fan sucks too. He’s breaking new mediums every day.

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Bill O’Brien and Shredder are both capable of highly impressive things. They have a long and extensive background in each of their professions that gives them some power when they choose to use it.

Shredder is a skilled ninja. But he’s not really interested in fighting in many episodes, almost as if he’s above it. As if, in his own head, he’s transcended that area of being worth using in a fight. Send the foot soldiers. Send Bebop and Rocksteady. Send whatever partners he has taken with him to the surface. Shredder is here to be the brains of the operation, not work like a dog.

Bill O’Brien is a terrific leader of men. He just rarely ever gets out of his own comfort zone. When he does (the first half of both Kansas City games, Week 17 against the Jaguars in 2018), and he prepares with this “us against the world” mentality, he actually is a pretty awesome coach! Like, I’m not even just saying that to try to balance the column. When he puts his mind to it and schemes up a play based on tendencies and his best guesses — when he tries! — he does so well that it’s hard to believe that the Texans ever have problems. When he first had to integrate Deshaun Watson and work with Watson’s youth in 2017 rather than trying to coach him to his preferred style, Watson was an immediate hit and the Texans looked like a juggernaut.

But that kind of spark almost never lights. It only lights enough times a year to fool everyone into thinking he’ll get it done next year with some changes.

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It doesn’t matter what tools or toys Shredder has access to, he always loses. Just in the first few seasons alone, Shredder gains control of: The Technodrome rolling over the planet, a sword that lets him cut into the fabric of different dimensions, a ray that removes the power of the sun, a remote control for animals on several occasions, an anti-gravity device, an alien camera that traps people in photographs, and on and on.

When Bill O’Brien got Deshaun Watson, the expectations changed for him outwardly. It was no longer about winning the division, it was about competing for something more. But the Texans haven’t finished higher than 17th in offensive DVOA in any of Watson’s first three seasons despite giving him DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. This season they integrated Laremy Tunsil to try to fix the offensive line, Kenny Stills to add more consistency in the wake of Fuller’s injuries, and Duke Johnson to be the ultimate dump-off option and third-down back. They did all this and finished with a lower offensive DVOA than the goddamn Arizona Cardinals with a rookie quarterback. Than the Seahawks did even though they ran about as often as the Texans. Than a 49ers squad that is entirely reliant on coaching to get anywhere.

Coaching is more important than anything in the NFL right now, and I think NFL teams are still grappling with how to deal with that. What was new five years ago is old school today, and I think O’Brien has struggled to keep up with the pace of how things are changing. To his credit, he understands that he needs great talent to win in the NFL. But the cost of acquiring that talent was massive and has handicapped the Texans going forward, and without a similar improvement in coaching, it’s hard to understand this offense getting any better without Deshaun Watson completely transcending the spectrum of quarterbacking he’s currently on.

Over the last couple of years we’ve spent a lot of time talking about how the Texans need more talent. It’s still true. But there are teams out there that are getting more from less than the Texans have, and don’t let that fact slip past you. Don’t let it slip past you that Deshaun Watson isn’t allowed to roll out of the pocket. Don’t let it slip past you that J.J. Watt doesn’t play inside and the team never managed to get Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Jadeveon Clowney on the field at the same time.

It’s how you can be granted a 24-0 lead in an AFC Divisional Round game and still lose by 20.

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Shredder and Krang were always at each other’s throats. In a way, it helped explain a lot of the dysfunction of the bad guys. They each had different goals at times, and Shredder is outright plotting mutiny in several episodes. Krang is happy to keep Shredder around because he needs someone to do his dirty work, while Shredder resents being asked to do this dirty work and feels like his ideas are the best ones. Inevitably, this escalates into a pissing match.

There was no real boss above Krang, though. Bill O’Brien ultimately answers to ownership, and ownership decided that his view mattered more. They fired Brian Gaine. They fired Rick Smith. They futzed around with the idea of Nick Caserio for a moment, but then decided that hey, Bill O’Brien’s in control! Also, don’t blame him because it’s a collective consensus. But who has final say? Bill O’Brien.

Shredder and Krang never actually separate in the TV show itself — both of them stop appearing after their defeat in Season 8. But there is an episode in Season 3, “Shredderland,” that goes over what life looks like after Shredder kicks Krang out and rules the world:

Shredder, of course, was written in a kid’s cartoon show voice where we pretended that he could be self-reflective after winning. As we see in today’s society, self-reflection is at an all-time low and there is never any shame attached to winning by any means necessary. The world around Shredder in this episode has become a wasteland of broken and useless things … but at least he has power. But the first part — these repair requests — rings true to real life because O’Brien has assumed power, but can’t delegate it to save his life. Even just from this year, we’ve got this inside scoop from Lance Zierlein about O’Brien changing installs late in the week:

O’Brienland doesn’t roll off the tongue quite like Shredderland, but this is a dangerous area for the franchise. One where a man acting in his own bold interests can cripple a franchise.

When O’Brien said that he had no idea how many draft picks he’d have at draft time, that raised a lot of alarm bells for me. Clearly nobody is going to be around to stop him or tell him otherwise — they all get fired if they do. I’m not trying to tell you I think the Texans are going to make more moves trading picks, because I honestly don’t know. But given how little they dabble in free agency traditionally, and given how O’Brien’s own reflection of the trades revolves around how they worked, why wouldn’t they keep trading? Why would they feel the slightest amount of remorse?

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I don’t think O’Brien is going to lead the Texans anywhere, because giving him power is only making him more ineffective in every direction in my opinion. I don’t necessarily think the Texans are going to crash and burn, because the talent they have is too good. I don’t even think a trip to an AFC Title Game is out of the realm of possibility if Watson hits another level. Anything can happen in a one-game sample. Shredder has kidnapped a turtle before. (Usually Michelangelo, lazy party ass.)

But there’s a reason that every TV broadcaster on both networks doing the Texans playoff game picked the Texans to lose. It’s not disrespect of the team — it’s disrespect of a coach who hasn’t seemed all that interested in scheming in a long time and who invents new ways to blow games. He is the anchor around this franchise’s neck. O’Brien advocates will tell you about division championships all day long and challenge you to name a better coach, then shit on that coach. Because “You suck, too, motherfucker!” is not just something we say loudly, it is a personal ethos for many.

When we talk about the sort of cynical feeling around Houston football fans right now, a lot of it comes because they aren’t even able to envision this team taking the next step. I can’t tell you how many ordinary people in my life — people who don’t even know I write about football — tell me unprompted that O’Brien’s not a good coach when the subject hits Texans. I don’t bring this up to use it as proof that O’Brien’s bad, but proof that the city as a whole is tired. It just wants something believable to root for. Someone who, as Sean Pendergast says, won’t bamboozle you.

Shredder lasted eight seasons. That’s the earliest John McClain can see the Texans making a change: O’Brien’s eighth season, 2021.

I’m steeling myself for some enjoyable Deshaun Watson highlights. I have no expectations beyond that. Why would I? Shredder always loses in the end, and Shredder never faces any consequences.

He always escapes, just like Houston’s head football coach.

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