Up The Gut Week 5: Texans are in franchise purgatory

Bill O’Brien is (finally) out in Houston, and there are plenty of lessons to be learned, Shaun Morash says

The DA Show
October 08, 2020 - 9:56 am
Bill O'Brien Houston Texans

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By Shaun Morash

Cold Open

The Butt Chin has been wiped out of Houston. At first this news surprised me, what had the McNair family been watching over the past couple years? The Texans’ success was a product of a garbage division, but a Wild Card Saturday game annually kept O'Brien in good standing. Once the power was given to him on roster decisions, he treated the Texans like a 12-year-old treats a Madden franchise. Not paying DeAndre Hopkins when he is the single most important piece to Deshaun Watson was asinine. The results, after just inking Watson to a mega-deal, were unacceptable. 

The schedule was brutal, but the reports of a mutiny in the locker room and even a fight with Mr. Texan himself, J.J. Watt, were even worse. Everyone wears out their welcome eventually (heck, to a degree, Bill Belichick did with Tom Brady). That wear-out was accelerated once O'Brien gained total control of the roster. The lesson here should be simple for every owner: Don't overvalue 9-7 and 10-6 seasons. Now, with Watson under center, the Texans find themselves in franchise purgatory, with the next head coach hire maybe more important for them than any other opening that should happen in the upcoming offseason.

Ten Yard Gain

1-Oh, so now Odell Beckham Jr. loves Cleveland? Beckham's three-touchdown performance had him all smiles and saying the right things postgame. The Browns are now humming, but Sunday should be a reminder, for as talented as Odell is, he is the ultimate front-running player. For Cleveland's sake, they better make the playoffs or shaky sidelines in December could ensue now that Odell's hopes are back up. 

2-The Cowboys face the potential classic locker room rift like we have never seen before. They are setting records for yardage gained and points scored through through games, yet are a “Falcons understanding of an onside kick rule” away from being winless. The defense is atrocious, the corners are being picked on, and there’s no pass rush in sight. On a team where one side of the ball is so elite and the other is so awful, the job of Mike McCarthy keeping that room afloat will be a difficult one. By no means am I suggesting there is currently a rift; let that be clear. But the ingredients are certainly there should this continue. 

3-There is no way Bill Belichick ever thought a Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham quarterback room was good enough. What they put under center Monday night was an embarrassment to the Bill Belichick era in New England. They knew they were signing Cam Newton the whole offseason. There is no way a football lifer as smart as the hoodie would have seen Stidham and Hoyer and been fine rolling with that. However, as we have seen, Cam's normal health is always a question mark week-to-week without the positive COVID-19 test. The trust that the Patriots will get to the playoffs should be paused or, at the very least, cautioned. 

4-The Lions are making NFL history. They became the first team in league history to lose six straight games in which they led by double digits. That falls on head coach Matt Patricia, even more so because he was hired as a supposed defensive genius. They cannot continue to blow leads like this, and to make matters worse, it appears the head-coaching candidates available in this upcoming offseason may be weaker and more unknown than ever. Patricia may survive by default, but if “collapse history” continues to be what he is known for, it will be worth the unknown gamble of who is available soon. 

5-As if the NFL doesn't have enough scheduling headaches due to COVID-19, they now have to deal with a potential hurricane ahead of Monday Night Football.  The Chargers and Saints have the possibility of playing their game in Indianapolis as opposed to New Orleans. Imagine working in NFL headquarters this week. Doesn't sound fun. 

6-Stop it with the lazy, "The NFL made a mistake by playing the Patriots and Chiefs on Monday Night" take. No, they did not. The Stephon Gilmore positive test doesn't change that. Every player who felt they were susceptible to the coronavirus was given the option of opting out of this season. Many did – including many Patriots, by the way. In baseball, the worst case of coronavirus we saw belonged to Freddie Freeman, who could be on the verge of a National League MVP. I know cable news isn't telling you this, but these players testing positive are going to be fine. Stop getting sucked into this panic vacuum that social media is creating. 

7-The Titans should forfeit if they did indeed break protocol and cause another game to be pushed back. The goal of this season should be to finish on time and not have to create a Week 18 or even Week 19 for make up games. The Titans knew the rules and choose to practice on their own anyway. Give them a loss, set an example, and I am sure no other team will even think about pulling a similar stunt. An as an aside, the fact Titans players did this shows again how little they are worried about the effects of the virus on them or their loved ones. 

8-Ben Roethlisberger sounded like a total baby and undermined Mike Tomlin when saying the Steelers got the short end of the stick in the early bye week due to the Titans’ positive tests. Just last week, Tomlin said "We don't care," when asked about having to play 13 straight weeks now that they were forced into the early week off. So why would Big Ben not follow the same theme? 

9-Could Joe Flacco play the Jets out of Sam Darnold? The Jets botched Sam Darnold's shoulder injury by allowing him back in the game last Thursday night, and now he is not available 10 days later to play the struggling Arizona Cardinals. Joe Flacco has pride and wants to gain some traction at the end of his career and not be remembered as what Mark Brunell became. With a couple – dare I say winnable – games coming up for the Jets, is Cool Joe about to play them out of Trevor Lawrence? Probably not, but a fun story line to follow nonetheless. 

10-Dwayne Haskins is getting screwed in Washington. No offseason program with a new coaching staff in just his second year, no preseason games, a head coach that signed a teacher’s pet in Kyle Allen, all the while Alex Smith was trying to create a comeback that movie writers would not believe. Now Haskins, after four weeks, is out at quarterback. No patience given by a franchise that should have all the patience in the world with developing their 2019 first-round pick. This has been anything but easy for Ron Rivera with this franchise, but this feels like a major overplay. 

Five Games to Chew on

5-Giants @ Cowboys:  Most of America will get this game between these two teams, with a combined one win, Sunday. Can the Giants offense finally get going versus a defense that can't stop anybody? Imagine waking up Monday morning and the Cowboys, due to tie breakers, are in last place in this awful division. Clearly it is a storyline worth watching. 

4-Chargers @ Saints: This game could be in Indy or could be in New Orleans. The Saints may have found their offensive mojo again versus the Lions, but their defense is still suspect. The Chargers are a late first half fumble away from probably beating the Bucs. They have juice with Justin Herbert. Now he plays on national TV for the first time in his career.

3-Bengals @ Ravens: Lamar Jackson has a knee injury. It is another sign that run-first quarterbacks are always going to make you hold your breath because the season could alter on their injury so quickly. He is likely fine, but it is enough to wonder if the Bengals defense can contain him just enough. Joe Burrow now has a win and a tie in his last two games and is starting to gain confidence. Burrow versus Jackson could become a great rivalry in this division. Chapter 1 takes place here. 

2-Colts @ Browns: The red-hot Cleveland Browns! How odd is that to type and/or read? The Browns will host the Colts, who come in every bit the playoff contender Cleveland is. Both of these teams, however, feel like they could easily be a three-game losing streak away from being pretenders. They mirror each other in that aspect. This is a total coin flip game, but the winner has to feel real good about their playoff chances. 

1-Eagles @ Steelers: The Steelers could be out of sync after an unsuspected bye week. Big Ben is complaining, Mike Tomlin is not. Now they bring fans into their building and host the Eagles who finally got their first win of the season. The Steelers’ pass rush could make the day frustrating for Carson Wentz, but an Eagles win at this point may even fix the crack in the Liberty Bell. 

My Picks

An ugly 1-2 week dropped us to 8-4 on the season. For this week:

Rams -7 @ Washington Football Team: The Kyle Allen era is here, but there is one problem: Washington still stinks. The Rams are not happy after a sloppy effort at home versus the Giants. Sean McVay loves playing his former team and organization and should have a few offensive tricks up his sleeve. A touchdown pushes so you may want to buy a point and get this to six. For now, I'll trust that Washington is still Washington and the Rams will not play down to their opponent two weeks in a row. 

Giants +9.5 @ Cowboys: Will the bad Giants offense be the perfect antidote for the bad Cowboys defense, or vice versa? The Giants were on the door step of crushing Vegas last week with Giants +600 ML betters. Outside of the 49ers debacle, they have been in and played hard in every single game. Now they get their first division test in the Joe Judge era and they are getting nearly 10 points. The Giants defense has surprisingly been solid. Their corner depth may be an issue versus the Cowboys wide receivers, but the Dallas defense simply is not good enough for a blowout win to cover this number. 

Browns +1.5 vs Colts: Yeah, sorry, still not buying Philip Rivers and the Colts. Their defense has been excellent, but offensively the 19 points against the Bears would not have cut it against any other team. The Browns are truly finding a groove. For the time being, Odell is happy and Baker looks the part. The money line with Cleveland is the true play, but the hook on the 1.5 could always burn you in a 21-20. Give me the better team here in the Browns as dogs. 

Football Food of the Week

Chicken Fajita Meatballs. I experimented with these on Wednesday evening and walked away from the table smiling more than John Fassel after drawing up an onside kick versus the Falcons. The recipe is simple: one cup of seasoned bread crumbs, one package of ground chicken, one egg, one green pepper, one red pepper, and half a white onion.

Take the peppers and onion and chop them finely in a food processor, and cook in a frying pan for about eight minutes to get the juices flowing. Throw the chicken, egg, breadcrumb, and the cooked peppers and onions in a bowl and mix. Once mixed, roll into the ball size you prefer. Bake them for 20-25 minutes.

Serving them with sides of salsa, guac, and/or queso is the way to go here. The perfect toothpick snack.

Thanks for reading, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS.