Bill O’Brien owes Texans fans an explanation

It’s been two weeks since DeAndre Hopkins was shockingly traded to the Arizona Cardinals for a second-round pick, running back David Johnson, and a swap of fourth-round picks. It has, admittedly, been two weeks where the coronavirus has ravaged the nation and made normal press conferences sort of taboo. But it also has been two weeks where the Houston Texans have had zero public statements about the trade from anybody on the football staff. Unless you count whatever the hell this piece, written by “Houston Texans Staff,” was.

This has, notably, not stopped other football people from talking on the record. Howie Roseman of the Eagles had to defend his team not trading for Hopkins at the price like an annoyed dad having to explain basic life concepts to his children. Sometimes, Timmy, a team really, really likes a running back they shouldn’t. And you can’t give them that running back, only someone else can. The entire Cardinals press contingent released direct quotes about the deal as soon as they could, they were that excited. Even Larry Fitzgerald got in on the deal.

The Texans have had their own press people — Drew Dougherty, John Harris, Deepi Sidhu, and Marc Vandermeer — talk about the trade in various ways and in various videos. (Though of course, mostly they have been focused on Randall Cobb and David Johnson, as you would expect them to do because Hopkins is no longer a member of the team.) Randall Cobb spoke to the media finally on Friday, but until then, there wasn’t a single media release from anyone on the Texans coaching staff or roster since the trade.

Meanwhile, it’s obviously very clear from the outside that the Texans have lost the trade and, more importantly, lost the plot with their fanbase from the trade. Every Tweet the official account makes gets ratioed and pounded with demands to fire Bill O’Brien. You might think, given how pessimistic I tend to be portrayed as, that I’m happy about this. But I’m not, I think it’s embarrassing. I want other fans to be able to be happy about the Texans, and I don’t want every hypothetical I throw out there to get pounded down with pessimism. The worst thing a writer that primarily focuses on one team can have happen to them is for the team to become irrelevant and a source of apathy — that’s what O’Brien is turning the Texans into. That anger, should the Texans do anything less than last season, will become apathy.

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This is, to use the terminology of Bill O’Brien, on Bill O’Brien.

He has so much power within this organization and answers to nobody. Even in the times where he hasn’t had as much control, his press conferences have always had the potential to skew towards not answering for what he’s done. It’s on me, we’ll review the tape, and we’ll forget about this the next day. We had multiple documented instances this year alone of sideline reporters being pushed off after bad halves. He had no excuses for the outburst at a fan during the Broncos game and barely even bothered answering to it beyond blase PR apologies. He looked upset that he was even asked a question about it.

With O’Brien successfully seizing power of the Texans, he’s begun to have some little dictator tantrums. Part of that is that he hasn’t even bothered to address the trade, and that’s something that I think is going to stop the fanbase from moving on.

O’Brien may have been dumb enough to give DeAndre Hopkins away for beans, but he’s not a total idiot. He knows how the perception of the trade has hit. It’s very obvious in the way the team website has talked about it, and how it announced the trade without even saying Hopkins’ name.

But until he actually stands to the podium (or teleconference, or whatever) and gives an account of the why — no matter how dumb it is — this fanbase can’t move on. You can’t reach acceptance if you never get a real acknowledgment that something has happened and talk about why it happened. O’Brien can leak all he wants — Hopkins wanting more money (he earned it), threatening to sit out (he literally can’t by the terms of the new CBA), whatever friction they had between them (I’m of the Mike Meltser mind where Bill O’Brien isn’t a good enough head coach to have a superstar feud), and it really doesn’t matter. Texans fans need the explanation.

It is not in O’Brien’s blood to give us a real explanation. He will likely do what he always does, and say something along the lines of “in the best interests of the team.” I know it feels helpless if you’re a fan to hear that over and over again, but it will crystallize a lot if that is the case. It will tell us that even in the face of an overwhelmingly unpopular trade, O’Brien feels little need to answer to anybody for his actions. It will become the moment he has to attach that memey little cliche to the most unpopular talent-based move I can remember in recent NFL history. The little verbal ticks and dictator ideals were always bubbling under the surface here. This will be an affirmation that will be important for many fans and, later, for ownership.

This is going to be a painful process for Texans fans. Who knows when we’ll have football again in the face of COVID-19? And even when we do get there, it’s going to be weird and empty with the soul of the franchise in Arizona. And that’s assuming nothing else about the team regresses and that the defense is suddenly spicy under a new coordinator with no experience.

But by not even answering questions about it yet, O’Brien has proven a lot about who he is. He’s thrown his entire social media team under the bus. He’s spit on his the face of the fanbase of the team he runs. They can talk about long-term money woes all they want. I believe this happened because his star receiver was a better leader than he was.

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