It’s been 12 days since the Texans abruptly fired GM Brian Gaine, and their search for Gaine’s replacement has apparently ended with [checks notes after fishing them out of trashcan] head coach Bill O’Brien! This, uh, wasn’t part of the plan. Because the plan was bungled with enough incompetence to make the Jets probably wish they’d thought of it first.
The Texans are far from the first team to ditch a GM after the draft or into June. In just the last two years, the Bills, Chiefs, Panthers, and Jets have made similar moves. But, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports pointed out, all of those teams already had replacements lined up. Even the Jets, who broke out the tent poles and the dancing bears in the days that followed Mike Maccagnan’s surprise ouster last month, eventually landed their man in Joe Douglas (though not without having to double their offer to get it done). The Texans had a guy in mind, too. Their effort to get him failed spectacularly.
The plan was for the Texans to put the finishing touches on the construction of their own little Foxboro Southwest. They already have O’Brien, a former Patriots offensive coordinator. They also already have executive vice president for team development Jack Easterby, who had held a similar “character coach” role with the Pats for six years, right up until chairman and CEO Robert Kraft got his dick stuck in an alleged human trafficking ring that turned up no evidence of human trafficking. The plan called for the Texans to replace Gaine with longtime Pats director of player personnel Nick Caserio—just as they had tried to do before Gaine was first hired in January 2018, only to have the Patriots deny their interview request. One would think that might have prepared the Texans for any and all Belichickian subterfuge before taking another whack at bringing in Caserio. Alas, no.
This time, the Texans apparently weren’t even aware that Caserio’s contract prevented him from interviewing at all. The Patriots lobbed a tampering charge at them, only to withdraw it when the Texans accepted what Caserio’s contract actually says. Houston then dropped its search for Gaine’s replacement altogether, which leaves O’Brien in charge. Now, the Texans are coming off an 11-win season with a terrific young quarterback and have won three of the last four AFC South titles. Also, O’Brien already had control of the 53-man roster—much like other coaches around the league who are exerting more authority over personnel decisions—so not much of the organization’s reporting structure will change. But this clusterfuck is about more than just the Texans’ big whiff on Caserio.
That since-abandoned search process sure had plenty of cynicism baked into it. The Texans went so far as to interview not one, but two minority candidates—ex-Browns GM Ray Farmer and ex-Lions GM/current 49ers senior personnel executive Martin Mayhew—within two days of firing Gaine, only to give up on the entire process as soon as it was clear they weren’t going to get Caserio. So they were extra super-duper careful not to run afoul of the Rooney Rule—just as they were simultaneously fending off allegations of discriminatory firing practices against Gaine from their former security coordinator. To think it’s only been 20 months since the franchise’s late owner, Bob McNair, fretted about “inmates running the prison” during a players-owners summit about protests during the national anthem—a comment McNair apologized for and then said he regretted apologizing for. Give the Texans credit for maintaining appearances, I guess.