By Nick Shook
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With the front office situation suddenly in flux in Houston, Bill O’Brien spoke to reporters on Tuesday and offered a little insight.
The Texans coach answered questions about his future, discussions with owner Bob McNair and the general manager situation after Rick Smith’s leave of absence. Most of the responses involved talking about, well, talking.
“Again, we’re having very positive, productive discussions,” McNair said when asked if there’s a possibility he doesn’t return to the Texans in 2018. … “My job, right now, is to sit down with the McNairs [Bob and Cal], and that’s what we’re doing. We’re having great discussions, very productive. They’re very easy to talk to. They really do a great job of working with us, with me, of listening, back and forth. A lot of great ideas. … These are really good discussions we’re having, and we’ll move on from there.”
It appears as though change will be the tale of the offseason in Houston for a team that saw its fortunes drastically altered by the loss of rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson. Questions about O’Brien’s future have been lingering for weeks, but a front office shift was unexpected, even after a 4-12 finish. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that the team has hired a search firm to identify a replacement for Smith, a point which elicited a somewhat peculiar response from O’Brien.
“The big thing for me and the big thing for the McNairs, and I don’t want to speak for them, but I would just say is alignment,” O’Brien said of what is important in Smith’s potential replacement. “Being aligned philosophically on what type of team we want. I’m not looking for this, that or the other. I’m just looking for, moving forward with that situation, whatever Mr. McNair decides to do.”
That response suggests the O’Brien and others in the front office might not have seen eye-to-eye on matters involving the construction of Houston’s 53-man roster. That might factor into his future in Houston.
“I feel like I will be here in 2018, but, again, these are ongoing discussions that we can clarify with you guys at a later date,” O’Brien said. “I’m sure we will, but that’s where’s it at right now.”
Smith has said he plans to return as executive VP of football operations, a title he currently holds, meaning the GM who hired O’Brien will remain on board in some capacity. But this opens multiple possible avenues for Houston to take.
The Texans could give O’Brien more say on the roster. Or, a new general manager who’s “aligned” with O’Brien could step into the vacant GM role.
There’s a lot in play here, and it promises to be worth monitoring over the next month or more.