Bill O’Brien’s success in Houston without a QB is remarkable

It’s hard to know how he ever got it in the first place, but the reputation Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien has for supposedly being a quarterback whisperer has taken quite a beating the last few years.

It’s hard to say the beating isn’t warranted. Since taking over the Texans in 2014, O’Brien has run through more quarterbacks in three years than most teams run through in a decade, and he still hasn’t found an adequate starter.

The Texans’ offense has suffered as a result. Houston slid from 17th in the league in total offense during O’Brien’s first year (2014) to 19th in 2015 and 29th last year.

The Texans’ point totals have accordingly declined, from 14th in the league in points scored (372) in 2014 to 21st (339) in 2015 and 28th (279) last year.

This deterioration, however, has not greatly affected the bottom line. The Texans have strung together three consecutive 9-7 seasons and have won back-to-back AFC South titles under O’Brien. They even won a playoff game last year.

Yes, the Texans caught a few breaks along the way. The AFC South would be no one’s pick for toughest division in the NFL. A Derek Carr-less version of the Oakland Raiders became easy prey for the Texans in the playoffs last season.

Keep in mind, though, that the Texans played all but three games last year without the man who is arguably the best player in the league — defensive end J.J. Watt — and still ranked first in the league in total defense.

At the turn of the century, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens won a Super Bowl in much the same way the Texans advanced to the second round of the playoffs last year. Few thought any less of the Ravens or coach Brian Billick when they did it.

What Billick did for the Ravens was establish an identity and a winning culture. Because he has done the same thing in Houston, O’Brien is deserving of a place in the league’s current upper echelon of coaches.

Sure, O’Brien hasn’t just struggled in his quest to find a merely decent quarterback; he has failed completely. That’s part of what makes his success so remarkable.

In what is far more of a quarterback-driven league than it was when Trent Dilfer was tasked with “not losing games” for the Ravens, O’Brien has found a way to win consistently without exceptional quarterback play.

(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

At least a dozen of his coaching rivals have failed to do that since O’Brien came out of Penn State three years ago, and a few others have received top-level quarterback play but have failed to win consistently nonetheless.

It’s enough to make you wonder just how good the Texans would be if they ever did get the kind of quarterback play they desire. They’ve been dealing with the dregs of the league as long as O’Brien has been around.

Some may have forgotten that Ryan Fitzpatrick got the bulk of the starts for the Texans during O’Brien’s first year, and that Brian Hoyer took most of the snaps in 2015.

Then, of course, Brock Osweiler literally played himself off the roster last year by producing a 29th-ranked passer rating of 72.2 that was better than only one regular starting quarterback – Fitzpatrick.

Despite it all, the Texans have kept on winning — just not convincingly. They’re 14-4 under O’Brien in the AFC South but 9-17 against teams with .500 or better records, including the playoffs.

Despite his background on offense, where he spent five years as an assistant to Bill Belichick with the Patriots, O’Brien understands that defense allows a team to win consistently.

As a result, he has seldom if ever tried to push an offensive agenda. For example, a year ago, when he knew he’d be playing with fire if he leaned too much on Osweiler, the Texans ranked sixth in the league in rushing attempts.

They were fifth in the league the year before that and first during his first year in the league. O’Brien does indeed know a thing or two about quarterback play, just in a way few expected him to demonstrate: by not insisting that a quarterback has to win games with high-level output.

He has yet to prove he can develop a good quarterback, but O’Brien seems to know how to work around a bad one and keep winning. A lot of failed coaches sitting on the scrap heap still haven’t figured out how to do that.


Source :

Related Posts