To take a euphemism from a different sport, the Houston Texans threw a wicked curveball when the franchise announced Friday it was parting ways with general manager Brian Gaine just 18 months into a five-year contract.
It was a stunning move, and even the prepared statement from Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair admitted “the timing may be unusual.” Unusual, indeed, this decision coming six weeks after the NFL Draft and six weeks before training camp. Why now? Why not after the season is over?
Timing aside, if this move is a result of the Texans’ lack of aggressiveness in addressing the team’s areas of need, Gaine is certainly guilty as charged in that respect.
Among other things, the Texans lost out on the Nate Solder sweepstakes last offseason, and settled for whatever scraps they could pick up to try to fix a weak offensive line. Needless to say, that did not work out — just ask battered quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Texans also showed no urgency to move up in this year’s Draft to take a top tackle prospect, instead settling for one that could be more of a long-term project.
While Gaine’s front office made some under-the-radar quality moves to upgrade a thin secondary, the team was far from making big splash in that area of need either.
Right after the admission of the unusual timing, McNair’s statement claimed “the decision was made in the best interest of our organization in our quest to build a championship team.”
So, if passiveness in that pursuit was Gaine’s sin that the Texans’ brass simply could not bear, fair enough.
But, that’s not what is being written by some of the folks close to the team. No, the indication seems to be that Gaine’s departure was a way to placate and further empower head coach Bill O’Brien.
To that, the simple question must be asked: what has O’Brien done to deserve that kind of sway down on Kirby Drive?
The sixth-year head coach, who will soon be working with his third different Texans GM, holds a pedestrian 42-38 regular season record, and is only 1-3 in the postseason (that one win, it should be noted, came at home against an Oakland Raiders team forced to start their third-string quarterback).
That’s hardly a head coaching resume that should be acceptable — let alone one that is supposedly gaining in influence — for a franchise so dedicated to building a championship team it made the drastic move of axing Gaine.
Ultimately, this move will be judged by the success of the next individual to fill the role of Texans GM. It should also be judged by whether or not the Texans franchise upholds this championship standard across the board rather than only for hand-picked scapegoats.