Ranking the 17 biggest mistakes of the Bill O’Brien/Jack Easterby administration

If you actually read this post, and you’re going to respond to me on Twitter about it in good faith, please use the hashtag #ReadThePiece. I know this sounds silly, but it’s an easy way for me to separate responses that I want to honor with a real answer from people who just want to be mad about everything they read online.

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(Exhale.) Texans fans, it’s been a year. To be more specific, it’s been a year-and-a-half. Jack Easterby took over as the executive vice president of team development in April of 2019. In the time since that arrival, so many people who were integral to the success of the 2018 Houston Texans were exiled to the far ends of the Earth because of ego. Ultimately, they were joined by Bill O’Brien.

It is a popular misconception that O’Brien was a solo driver. While he was responsible and has paid for that, I think you have to take him at his word: the Texans were a consensus team that made consensus decisions.

Even though a lot of the pre-Easterby moves were bad or middling moves — the kind that pop up when you’re trying to find consensus between two different egos in O’Brien and Rick Smith/Brian Gaine — the franchise-crippling moves didn’t come until Easterby joined the ship. The Houston Texans didn’t improve themselves much in the early 2019 offseason by not spending what it took for Tyrann Mathieu and replacing him with Tashaun Gipson. They also didn’t destroy themselves. But once the adults were out of the room, the bad moves could begin in earnest.

In a way, this post is therapy and a way to pat myself on the back for some correct takes at the end of a hard year. In another way, it’s a PSA to all of you that the really bad stuff didn’t start hitting the Texans until about the same time Easterby came on board. Did I mention that you can email the Texans about that? I should do that:

I would love nothing more in my stocking than the ability to not have to worry about Easterby undermining whoever is given a position of power in this franchise.

While the obvious No. 1 is obvious, I think there are some deep cuts on here that you may not have fully embraced or appreciated. I also want to note in advance that I will:

-Not be critiquing draft picks in this post — this is only free-agency signings or trades.
-Not be critiquing coach hirings in this post — so Mike Devlin’s employment is not taking up eight spots on the list.
-I will also, in the interest of fairness, provide moves I thought were good.

Actual Good Moves

Signed Deshaun Watson to a contract extension.
My post on this move at the time: https://www.riversmccown.com/2020/09/05/breaking-down-deshaun-watsons-extension/

Of all the things we have to be thankful for in this hellscape, the one that matters most is that Deshaun Watson is still here. It doesn’t take any deep analysis to think about how much he’s grown this year, how much he has gotten better at reading defenses, how much more confident he’s gotten with the ball. To put up about 750 yards on the Colts in two weeks without any established NFL receivers besides Brandin Cooks is a feat that I think is being undersold as this Texans season slowly bleeds out.

Signed as low-level free agents: Pharaoh Brown and P.J. Hall
My post on this move at the time: Too small stakes!

The Hall signing was working out pretty well for the Texans earlier in the year before he got hurt, and I can see how a man of his power and prowess could be a factor for the team going forward. He’s going to be a restricted free agent next year, which generally means nobody will touch him in a fairly conservative NFL. I could see him and Charles Omenihu playing inside together on passing downs and generating a hold-your-own amount of hurries.

Brown is what the Texans dreamed Darren Fells was. He’s a powerful blocker — he’s won some blocks so decisively this year that he’s been called for holding just because it looks like he should have been holding. He’s also delivered us highlights like this:

I know everyone got snarky about his Tweet about payday, and fair enough, you’re entitled to your Twitter layup lines. But he’s one of the few bright spots I’ve seen this season.

Trading Martinas Rankin for Carlos Hyde
My post on this move at the time: https://www.riversmccown.com/2020/02/04/the-carlos-hyde-conundrum/ (That’s actually from after the season.)

Carlos Hyde was the exact kind of back that O’Brien never knew he needed. He started off in a supporting role to Duke Johnson in 2019, and quickly became the best interior runner O’Brien ever had. The rumored two-year, $10 million deal that he turned down with the Texans was a disaster for both sides as Hyde lingered in veteran free agency until the start of the season and the Texans, well, you know.

Hyde was a good fit for inside zone, and even though O’Brien still called it too often and had Hyde running on fumes towards the end of the 2019 season, I think Hyde performed it better than any back has under O’Brien.

Re-signing Bradley Roby to a three-year, $31.5 million contract
My post on the move at the time: https://twitter.com/riversmccown/status/1315706812788805635 (I didn’t post about this either, I’m so bad at blogging!)

This is very close to the “jury is probably still out on” list, but two things save it for me:

  1. Without Roby, the Texans look absolutely and completely lost. He was not a terrific-graded player or anything like that this season, but he was often just stapled to the best receiver on the field. He’s not an A+ corner. He’s a B+ corner who was pushed into a role above his weight class.
  2. The contract itself wasn’t onerous, and the PED suspension wasn’t something anybody could foresee at the time.

Now, is he here next year? I’m not sure. But if he’s not here, the Texans are going to have a hell of a time replacing him. It’s good to have lines about things that players can’t cross, it’s good to want your guys in the building … but at some point you have to actually accumulate talent. The Texans don’t have enough of it. And outside of Roby, the current cornerback roster is depleted.

Moves I personally don’t like but that are, as a general rule, not important enough to rock the boat

If a move isn’t listed, it probably belongs here in my mind. I feel this way about signing A.J. McCarron and giving Brandon Dunn a big extension. Neither of those moves are devastating, they’re just the small wastes of money that many, many NFL teams have because they like a guy a little too much.

Moves the jury is probably still out on — could be rising later:

17) Re-signing Zach Cunningham to a four-year, $58 million contract
My post on this move at the time: https://www.riversmccown.com/2020/08/17/training-camp-digest-week-1/

Woo boy, this season for Zach Cunningham.

Cunningham has played this year like a pop-punk song: he’s loud, he’s often got no consideration beyond getting to his next verse, and if he makes mistakes he’s not going to dwell on them much. He even sat up at the podium recently and talked about how he thought he deserved to be leading the Pro Bowl balloting, which wasn’t exactly a great look considering how many busts he’s had this year.

Do I think the next defensive coordinator can turn him around? I do. Do I think that he’s ever going to be a value on that contract he got? Probably not. I think there’s a lot to like about him as a player, but non-zone coverage is not a strong suit and his radar feels like it just comes and goes. He needs a strong ecosystem to thrive and this Texans defense is not that.

16) Trading a second-round pick for Brandin Cooks and a future fourth-round pick
My post on this move at the time: https://www.riversmccown.com/2020/04/10/the-brandin-cooks-trade-is-yet-another-potential-disaster-in-the-making-for-bill-obrien/

Through one year, Brandin Cooks has mostly been able to allay my concerns that the price was too high for him by staying healthy. His production spiked without Bill O’Brien around to keep him anchored to the outside, where he can’t really win, and he’s been a reliable receiver as far as catch rate, which he wasn’t with the Rams. Without Will Fuller, his flaws are a little more obvious, but that was always going to be the case.

I still think there’s a lot of downside to this move. For one thing, we have no idea if the Texans can or want to afford him next season at his $12 million cap hit. A long-term extension for a player with his concussion history is still a scary prospect and has the potential to be a bad cascade move. I also think that there will be several receivers picked at or around that Rams spot that have a chance to be much better and cheaper than Cooks — Denzel Mims or Bryan Edwards in particular — and that the trade will look worse in that perspective with another season gone.

I cannot deny that Cooks has brought what he generally brings his team: a seam threat that lifts coverages for underneath players. The Texans have a regressive play-action game that ruins a lot of his pure bomb upside and makes me think he might thrive under a new coach if he gets there. I think he has won year one of the battle on this trade. I don’t think he’s won the war.

Small stakes bad stuff:

15) Re-signing Ka’imi Fairbairn to a four-year, $17.65 million contract
My post on this at the time: https://twitter.com/riversmccown/status/1237447537855995904

Fairbairn has lived up to established expectations with this contract. He’s never hit 90 percent of his field goals in a season, and he’s 13-of-21 in his career from over 50 yards. He’s missed big-time kicks against the Chiefs in the postseason and the Texans punted an inordinate amount of long field-goal attempts away in 2019 because they didn’t want to give him a chance.

So this is nothing against Fairbairn, who seems like a fine guy and is in my mind a league-average kicker. I’m very glad he got his. He’s also not a top-ten kicker in any universe. His contract? It’s a top-ten kicker contract. Sixth-highest on total value, fourth-highest on average per season, eighth-most money. He’s yet to have one season where I feel like he’s been a top-10 kicker. When he lines up to kick an extra point or a run-of-the-mill 40-yarder, I don’t assume it’s going in.

14) Picking up Vernon Hargreaves as a street free agent and pretending he was more than a stop-gap cornerback
My post on this at the time: https://twitter.com/riversmccown/status/1194727652394983425

Vernon Hargreaves seems like a delightful individual. He’s just a guy who keeps getting handed jobs that he can’t really perform. I don’t understand why he’s being handed this job, and I’m not sure why Texans coaches continue to assert that he’s played well or that he’s good.

The Texans are married to a bad corner. It’s okay to sign a guy like this and think you can change him. It’s okay to re-sign him after it’s a midseason thing and think maybe a training camp will change things. But when the corner who has played bad football for his entire career continues to play bad football, why do we have to pretend it’s not true? By the way, this isn’t asking for the coaches to tell us Hargreaves is a bum who doesn’t deserve a job — just be honest. Say he’s struggling, praise his work ethic, tell us about where he’s doing a good job. It doesn’t look like it’s on the field. And if it is on the field, we need a major reckoning about why this is.

People jumped down my throat on signing Hargreaves because it was “low-risk.” The risk has been cashed: The Texans refuse to move on from this player because they don’t want to give any young player snaps. They love him and can’t quit him. I don’t understand it on any level.

13) Re-signing Darren Fells to release Jordan Thomas
My post on this at the time: https://twitter.com/riversmccown/status/1302728045309161473

The Texans spent a modest sum on retaining Darren Fells this past offseason — it’s a two-year, $6.3 million deal. The problem isn’t that Fells is bad — he’s fine — but again in how the Texans used him. He’s not a blocking tight end in any real way. He led Sports Info Solutions’ charting in blown blocks at the position in 2019. The Texans? Well, they thought he was a blocker. So they kept him, used him that way, and then were astonished to find out Brown was a better blocker than he was and was freely available. Wow, it’s almost like you shouldn’t make long-term fixtures out of players who were picked up for little in the first place!

Losing the last two years of Jordan Thomas’ rookie deal isn’t something that should make you tear up inside. He’s a fine player who I think had a shot to do some real things in a bigger role in 2018. But the idea that any team would prefer an old Darren Fells to a young Jordan Thomas on a rookie contract boggles the mind. It could only happen on a team that didn’t make production a priority.

12) Releasing Tashaun Gipson
My post on this at the time: https://twitter.com/riversmccown/status/1253756432303996933

Gipson was a fine player for the 2019 Texans. His mistake was having an injured back towards the end of that season which, in the eyes of the crew leading the team, made him expendable.

Gipson hasn’t been a superstar or anything for the Bears, who signed him to a cheap deal as a replacement for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but he’s been a solid supporting player. The Texans, meanwhile, have used A.J. Moore, Michael Thomas, and have been forced to move Lonnie Johnson to safety this season. It has become wildly clear that none of those players except Johnson should be on the field in more than a dime role, and they’ve not performed well in those spots. They are special-teamers playing safety because they’re good guys. Meanwhile, what was a promising offseason for Johnson working on his ability to be a corner has been extinguished and now we’ll probably never know if he would have been a good corner. Even Johnson didn’t understand why he was moved, it sounded like, when he was asked:

I don’t know who Gipson hurt or upset, but it was beyond pointless to cut him and create a $4,250,000 dead cap hit this year when there was never a plan to replace him beyond hope and wishful thinking.

11) Letting D.J. Reader walk
My post on this at the time: https://www.riversmccown.com/2020/04/04/so-thats-gonna-happen-every-single-year-thoughts-on-houstons-spending/

I don’t think Reader was a must-keep player. As you watch Houston’s salary cap balloon in real time, it becomes apparent that a run-stuffing nose, no matter how good he is, is an expense that the roster could not have held after its 2019 decisions.

The problem was that in replacing Reader with Brandon Dunn, they created a gaping wound in a run defense that really couldn’t take more hits. They also did not spend the money they saved by letting Reader walk well: this was a cascade effect of several bigger moves that rank higher on this list. The Texans are 29th in run defense DVOA this year though 15 weeks, and were 19th last year. Reader was kind of the last thread holding it all together.

Now, Reader got hurt this year. If you look at it that way, it’s not a bad move to not re-sign him. But in the context of what would happen following Reader’s defection? Whew.

The Big 10

10) Firing Brian Gaine
My post on this at the time: https://www.riversmccown.com/2019/06/10/how-to-lose-a-gm-in-17-months-what-to-make-of-the-brian-gaine-firing/

If we were to point out the canary in the coal mine of what was to come, it was firing Gaine, who was (checks notes) coming off an extremely successful first season and with a lot of money still owed on his five-year contract that he signed in 2018.

Gaine reportedly wanted to extend Jadeveon Clowney. Bill O’Brien didn’t. We’ll talk about that in a bit.

While a lot of the 2019 offseason to that point had been calm and measured — if not mistake-prone — as soon as Easterby took some power, the Texans became a much more impulsive organization. I don’t write about Gaine as if he’s the best general manager who ever lived, and I don’t think the job he was doing in Houston was particularly great despite the Tyrann Mathieu one-year revival. I do think he drafted well and was on his path to build a solid talent base with some better picks.

Gaine was the last adult in the room. Once he was gone, the Keystone Kops began LARPing as GMs and that led to where the Texans are today.

9) Re-signing Nick Martin to a three-year, $33 million extension
My post on this at the time: https://twitter.com/riversmccown/status/1171482281828999173

I have no idea if Nick Martin is a good center. But I know that he hasn’t played like one.

I say that because Martin has spent his entire career playing for offensive line coach Mike Devlin, a man who rotates linemen even though nobody else in the NFL does, and who says things like this in public:

When the Texans signed Martin to his extension, he became the ninth-highest paid center by total value, the fifth-highest by average per year, and the 11th-highest in guaranteed money. I think Pro Football Focus has a lot of problems grading centers and gives them higher figures than they should, but Martin has literally never been a top-10 center in their grading. He hasn’t even been a top-15 center. The contract wishcasted that he was better than he was. And as the interior line has continued to struggle with picking up stunts this season, this guy is the one making the calls. Notice I didn’t mention the botched snap against Indianapolis: I don’t care about that. Everyone botches a few of those, and that came at the worst time. The problem with Martin is … everything else.

So what keeps him low on this list? As bad as the contract is, it was basically a two-year extension with some money paid in advance. The 2021 Texans can save $6.25 million by releasing him and leave only $2.5 million in dead money. That’s a bargain compared to some players on this roster! I can’t pass judgement and say I think Martin is bad because, I will be honest with you, I want to see any player on this line play a game with a real coach before I fully judge them. But he clearly has never played up to his deal and the deal in and of itself was a reach.

8) Signing Eric Murray to a three-year, $21 million contract
My post on this at the time: https://www.riversmccown.com/2020/03/23/eric-murrays-contract-is-pure-projection/

This move has played out to be even worse than it was because the Texans valued Murray’s versatility.

The problem? Murray’s versatility doesn’t make him good at either of his spots. If we want to cut him a break for his cornerback play, we have to acknowledge that the safety play he posted with the Chiefs was loudly not great. He was destroyed by Jared Goff in the Monday Night Football score-a-thon in 2018.

I think what the Texans did here is pay starter money to a dime-caliber defensive back because he could play two spots instead of one.

The only upside is, just like the Martin contract, it was basically a two-year deal. The problem is that releasing Murray will free up exactly $250,000 of cap room this coming season — $1,750,000 if it’s done post-June 1 — and so there’s really not much incentive to do anything but trade him. So … unless the Texans can find a way to incentivize someone to take his deal or make some sort of junk-for-junk trade, they’re kinda stuck paying him starter money next year. Many players with the same skillset Murray has will make NFL rosters for the minimum next season.

7) Trading a third-round pick for RB Duke Johnson
My post on this at the time: https://www.riversmccown.com/2019/08/12/will-bill-obriens-plan-for-duke-johnson-be-worth-the-price-of-admission/

The thing is: Duke Johnson is a natural fit for an offense built around Deshaun Watson. That kind of empty-set cheat code should thrive with a player like Johnson. The problem is that the Texans don’t use him that way. He has the fourth-worst Rushing Yards Over Expectation in the entire NFL this year, and the Lions game was the only time all year we saw Johnson actually used like a wide receiver.

I consider Johnson a quality running back despite the poor numbers this year — he’s just not a fit for what the Texans installed.

The problem is that panic-trading a third-round pick to get a player that you barely use, and then later usurp with a running back you overpay by even more, is an absolute disaster of resource management. Johnson has played 920 snaps with the Texans. Remember how J.J. Watt missed a lot of last season? Watt has played, over that same time span, 1,344 snaps. Whitney Mercilus has played 1,565 snaps.

The pick that Johnson was traded for wound up being a top-100 pick. Jacob Phillips, a run-stuffing linebacker, was who the Browns selected. His rookie year? Not great. But top-100 picks in general are pretty valuable commodities, and several players in this area like Harrison Bryant, Alex Highsmith, Adam Trautman, and Tyre Phillips have all shown bits and pieces of promise early on in their career. They could also have traded the pick for something more valuable. Did I mention Duke Johnson has a top-15 average annual value among all running backs? It’s probably a fair contract, but it’s not free.

6) Trading a third-round pick for Gareon Conley
My post on this at the time: https://www.riversmccown.com/2019/10/23/gareon-conleys-flashes-are-worth-buying-in-on/

I know, I’m the worst. Just a big ol’ hater. Can’t wait to hear it from you.

I think a lot of people have overrated how good Gareon Conley was in the first place based on his small sample of targets upon taking over outside for the Texans, and I wrote about it here. Was he an upgrade on what the Texans had on the roster? Absolutely. But that’s mostly because the Texans never had a real plan to replace Kareem Jackson, who walked to Denver without an offer because he wasn’t considered a cornerback. Nobody knows what this organization wants out of a cornerback outside of just “being Vernon Hargreaves.”

So my break from Texans Optimistic Conley Twitter — which I have never understood how it was created — is not all that surprising. It sucks that he got hurt, and it’s not really his fault that his body capital got used up. But he was also a) never a good corner in Oakland, b) never showed much in the way of promise beyond a fluky breakup rate, and c) was going to a coaching staff that hasn’t done a lot to develop any defensive back better than what they were before they walked in the door. I think the hype was set up to fail.

And, again, a late third-round pick is not nothing, as discussed with Duke Johnson a few paragraphs ago. You can find an impact, promising rookie who sticks on your roster for cheap for four years with a top-100 pick. The story some fans tell themselves is that the Texans don’t typically find those guys — it doesn’t matter. The draft is a crapshoot in a lot of ways. You want more shots rather than less.

5) Trading Jadeveon Clowney to the Seahawks for a third-round pick (would later become Gareon Conley), Jacob Martin, and Barkevious Mingo
My post on this at the time: https://www.riversmccown.com/2019/08/20/jadeveon-clowney-should-be-more-valuable-to-the-texans-than-bill-obrien/

Jadeveon Clowney has not been worth the energy we spent on his contract in 2019 because he hasn’t been used like he was in Romeo’s scheme in 2018, where he was a stand-up rusher that destroyed gaps. The Seahawks used him as a more traditional EDGE, and the Titans have watched him be overweight and hurt for most of this season.

It’s a shame we don’t know how things would have turned out here, and it’s very true that Clowney may have underperformed a big contract in Houston. However, what’s also true is that by getting rid of him, the Texans destroyed the matchup problems their front seven caused in 2018. That’s something that they haven’t even come close to correcting two years later. If anything, they’re backsliding.

Jacob Martin has been good when he gets on the field. The coaching staff is never going to let him be a full-time EDGE if it hasn’t happened by now, in a lost season with Mercilus not providing anything against the run. Barkevious Mingo blocked a punt once. The Texans watched Dee Ford get traded in this same offseason for a 2020 second-round pick, and they did absolutely nothing about it because the front office was of two minds. Once one mind won out, as Clowney said to Ian Rappoport, they pretty much pre-determined he wasn’t going to be a Texan anymore:

The Texans never had a real plan to replace Clowney’s production. They expected that by trading him, the magical forces of chemistry and tough/smart/dependable would bless them with instant pass rush from someone like Brennan Scarlett. That never happened. Talent, it turns out, is hard to come by in the NFL when you decide to narrow your personality scope as the Texans did.

Makes you wonder why you’d ever let a coach’s personality be bigger than his star players.

4) Re-signing Whitney Mercilus to a four-year, $54 million contract.
My post on this at the time: https://www.riversmccown.com/2019/12/28/in-committing-to-whitney-mercilus-the-texans-played-it-safe/

Man, my headline for this move when I wrote about it was embarrassingly safe, but I think it comes from a place of just enjoying Whitney Mercilus as a person. He’s always so genuine to talk to in the locker room. He’s been a Texan for so, so many years. He’s a really good dude who in his prime did a lot of the little things coaches are saying he’s been doing now.

But this contract, from the moment the ink dried, was a bad deal for the Texans. Mercilus regressed in 2020, moving from below-average second pass rusher to a rotational end. He’s essentially unplayable on run downs, and his magnum opus this year was the “our linebacker” moment where he let Kirk Cousins get to the edge because he was blocked by a wide receiver.

The contract that Mercilus was signed to makes him essentially a locked-in Texan for next season barring a trade, as the team gains nothing for cutting him. He’s looked so bad this year that — and I don’t want to speculate wildly here — I wonder if he got hurt in the offseason or had something else happen to him. He’s just so, so, impossibly slow on the edge. He moves like he’s stuck in invisible Jell-O.

The contract never had real upside and was always a “the devil you know” kind of starting point that valued intangibles. He has managed to play it to its downside. I don’t know if there’s any reason for the next coach to consider keeping him active on the roster next season based on this year’s tape. I think he’ll have to earn a rotation spot with a big training camp. It’s a sad ending to the career of a guy who fought his way back from being labeled a first-round bust that every time I post about him he just gets shat on by every fan on the timeline. I hate it. NFL contracts are terrible for making this scenario happen.

3) Signing Randall Cobb to a three-year, $27 million contract.
My post on this at the time: https://www.riversmccown.com/2020/03/19/houstons-randall-cobb-signing-has-more-than-a-whiff-of-panic/

Randall Cobb is a guy I highly respect as a player. Randall Cobb also never had a purpose on this 2020 team beyond blocking Keke Coutee from playing. Several people have mentioned Bill O’Brien putting Coutee in a doghouse. Cobb was a chain-link fence put up around that doghouse. They had similar skill sets, and Cobb’s 2019 season was never so good that he should have been positioned as a real upgrade at slot receiver. He hadn’t had a season like that since 2016. It was an overvaluing of who he used to be and what his character was about.

To Cobb’s credit, this can’t be what he imagined when he signed this. He was supposed to be the finishing piece for an offense that was playoff bound, with a quarterback ready to take a leap. Instead the head coach and general manager was fired four games into the season.

Cobb is on the books for a $10,625,000 cap hit in 2021. Releasing him would cost the Texans money. He’s not a real upgrade on Coutee or Chad Hansen. He is, like Mercilus, stuck on the roster, but simultaneously not useful. The only difference is that pass rushers rotate so you can imagine a reduced-role Mercilus at least providing some kind of juice next year. Cobb’s only real path to playing time should be through injuries.

It’s going to take a creative trade to get him off the roster and save money. Whoever the general manager of this team is in 2021, he has a lot to deal with right off the bat. The production was impacted by an injury, but even when Cobb was healthy, he was barely ever a major target for the Texans. It was a massive overreaction to the target void that was caused by a certain trade we’re going to talk about very shortly. Cobb’s a good egg, he doesn’t deserve this, but that is how NFL contracts work. He can still be useful for someone else — here he is pointless.

2) Trading two first-round picks (2020 first round, Austin Johnson, 2021 first round), a second-round pick (2021), Johnson Bademosi, and Juilen Davenport to the Dolphins for Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, a fourth-round pick (2020, eventually John Reid ), and a sixth-round pick (2021)
My post on this at the time: https://www.riversmccown.com/2019/08/31/the-reckoning-of-bill-obriens-power/

So this was a massive overreaction and, I would even go so far as to say, a lib-owning of Brian Gaine’s disastrous Matt Kalil contract. If you don’t remember Matt Kalil — bless you for becoming a fan this year — I made a video of his time as a Texan:

Easterby, by the way, joined the team just after the signing of Kalil. So though it spiritually feels like a move that should be on this list, it’s disappointingly not.

I want to point out that there’s one person who I blocked recently — not for this, but just for being condescending — that came to me with an attitude of “Why are we belaboring the trade, everyone knows it’s a bad trade!” You think so? Look at this poll of Battle Red Blog fans circa November, 18th, 2020. It says 82% of fans believe it was a good trade. It was not! The article it was attached to was highly persuasive that it was not! But you believe that what Tunsil offers is valuable because it’s rare and because of the history of bad tackle play in this organization in general and on the 2018 Texans in particular. I love watching Laremy Tunsil play and believe he’s one of the probably five best tackles in the game. But you do know that Joe Thomas never made the playoffs in Cleveland, right?

The Laremy Tunsil trade has barely touched upon anything the Texans did as an offense because there’s no way it could. He is but one man trying to deal with a systemic poisoning of the offensive line by the coaching staff. He’s done an admirable job in the circumstances. I think he’s a great player. I would also rather have Austin Jackson, the top-10 pick that’s coming to the Dolphins, the second-round pick that’s coming to the Dolphins, and $22 million in cap space than Tunsil. Particularly when the No. 1 trade on this list came from a perceived reason that there were too many people pay. Even, from the mouths of babes, Tunsil would have traded Tunsil for that. Kenny Stills is probably one of the five Texans players of the O’Brien Era that I most admire, and I think he was railroaded out of a job in 2020 for no reason, but he probably would have been a free agent had he not been included in the trade.

The trade being bad doesn’t mean Tunsil is bad, it doesn’t mean it’s not a joy to watch him play tackle. It doesn’t mean he should be heckled or shamed or whatever. But he’s not worth this trade because nobody, not even Anthony Munoz as I said in my initial take on it, could ever be worth this price. It is the trade that is crippling the roster as the Texans try to figure out who to pay and who to let go. It is the trade that will keep them from infusing good young talent that other teams in the AFC playoff race will have. It is the trade that makes their GM job questionable in the eyes of a few pundits even though they literally have one of the three best quarterbacks in the NFL.

It was a disaster. And if you are on the other side of that, you’re going to need to let go of the initial take. It was a disaster that was created so that Bill O’Brien could win exactly one 2019 playoff game. Deshaun Watson dragged him to it, while getting slaughtered, while taking multiple hits on the play that got the ball out to Taiwan Jones. Because the Tunsil trade doesn’t fix the core issues and it never could.

1) Trading DeAndre Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-round pick (Rashard Lawrence) to the Cardinals for David Johnson and a second-round pick 2020 No. 40 (Ross Blacklock)
My post on this at the time: https://www.riversmccown.com/2020/03/16/cal-mcnair-come-get-your-boy-its-over/

The big kahuna. The king. The unprecedented. The dumbest trade in recent NFL history. A combination of all the stupid things that led to these other moves: a misunderstanding of the salary cap, a misunderstanding of what star players are worth, a misunderstanding of how tough, smart, and dependable you can make a team.

As bad as the trade was when it was conceived, every possible out for it has also come up dry so far. Ross Blacklock is barely playing. David Johnson is part of a historically bad rushing attack and has been hurt, barely providing anything as a receiver outside of Week 15. He can’t run inside zone and that is basically all the Texans wanted to do with him. DeAndre Hopkins leads the NFL in receiving yards despite barely ever being moved inside in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.

It’s incredible to this day that the trade was conceived, created, and defended by management multiple times. It was defended as recently as after O’Brien was fired! And it led to Cal McNair being called “Kyle” by Hopkins in a deleted post that will live forever. The money has never mattered, by the way, I debunked it.

This is the defining moment of the era. Just two idiots, drunk on their own power, ruining what should have been one of the defining quarterback-wide receiver tandems for a decade because they believed their baby mama observations and practice habits mattered. Because they were given control beyond what they should have ever been granted.

Because smart, tough, and dependable personalities they could control mattered more than talent.

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8 Replies to “Ranking the 17 biggest mistakes of the Bill O’Brien/Jack Easterby administration”

  1. I don’t do pay pal is there another way I can pay you for your awesome article? I don’t have alot of money but would like tip you for this awesome article! I wish more people reported in such detail!!!

  2. I delayed reading your article as I knew it would just increase my exasperation with the Texans (it did). I speculate the reason the team fired the team Salary Cap specialist a while back was because he may have been an adult in the room trying to talk BOB out of some of his bonehead decisions. What worries me the most is for Cal McNair to have bought into the decisions, particular the Hopkins trade, tells me Cal does not understand the new CBA, the Cap, trade values, player value, who to listen to, etc. That does not inspire confidence for the future direction of the team, especially if Easterby remains in the organization in any capacity whatsoever.

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