Takeaways: Bill O’Brien publicly gives up play-calling duties at combine presser

The biggest splash of Bill O’Brien’s rare offseason media availability was when he announced just before his press conference to a group of local reporters that Tim Kelly would be taking over play-calling.

This was actually the subject of one of the first pieces on the site — I wasn’t a big fan of the Tim Kelly hiring to begin with. At this point the Texans are handing over play-calling duties to somebody who has never done it before, and I think largely how you feel about this depends on your initial beliefs when Kelly was hired. I’m keeping an open mind about what happens here, but I think as we acknowledge that Kelly has no real background as a coach other than this step, he’s likely going to stay fairly lockstep with O’Brien.

O’Brien followed up his words about this being a big opportunity for Kelly by saying “I don’t think it changes it too much.”

Obviously, it’s basically impossible for an outsider to know how this is going to go just yet. It’s possible that Tim Kelly is the next Joe Brady and the guy who called all the best plays of last season — we wouldn’t know it, there’s no history to draw on. I’m hanging my expectations more on him just being an extension of O’Brien. I did think that O’Brien’s comments about spending more time in the actual moment of the game are a good thing, though.

O’Brien emphasized man-to-man ability on cornerbacks

It’s no secret that the Texans are lacking at the cornerback position and there’s not much settled at all there outside of Gareon Conley. Bradley Roby is a free agent, Vernon Hargreaves was released off the fifth-year option. Lonnie Johnson has to earn playing time.

But this does give us a bit of a compass as far as how the team plans to run things defensively — I think this is a turn towards the aggressive. I think the writing is on the wall that Johnathan Joseph’s time in Houston is done.

O’Brien also emphasized that new defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver would bring “a lot of different ideas and creativity to our defense.”

Watch out, Carlos Hyde

O’Brien fielded a question about running backs in the draft and didn’t even mention Carlos Hyde in the response. I think that tells you about all you need to know about how tenuous Hyde’s grasp on the job will be next year even if he does return.

S**t-eating response on Jack Easterby’s role:

“Hopefully, everybody gets to meet him some day.” 😉

You know you’re backpedaling from the start when you’re mentioning the official definition of the guy’s job. It’s hard to see any way around Easterby being a key figure in the Houston organization at this point.

Notably absent things:

The rest of O’Brien’s presser largely bounced around long-term topics like whether 17 games is good, the XFL, long-term deals for Watson and Tunsil, the CBA negotiations, etc. Here are the things I was surprised we got no questions on:

— Nothing on edge rushers at all. No talk about Jadeveon Clowney, no talk about a replacement third guy. No talk about spending an early draft pick on one. I think this team might just be content with who they have at the position.

— No talk on specific impending free agents. I’m sure O’Brien would have mostly rebuffed them, but D.J. Reader and Bradley Roby are pretty big names and I think we could have at least read into his words about whether they’re in Houston’s plans. Darren Fells and Hyde also weren’t mentioned at all.

— No talk on Will Fuller. Fuller’s health is much more important to me than the health of Tytus Howard as far as what it means to this team, and in a draft class that is stacked with wideout talent and some very public comments of frustration about Fuller’s health, I’m surprised nobody pushed on that.

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