Texans fire coach/GM O’Brien following 0-4 start

HOUSTON — The Houston Texans have fired head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien and named associate head coach Romeo Crennel the team’s interim head coach.

The McNair family, which owns the team, fired O’Brien after the Texans fell to 0-4 on Sunday, losing to the previously winless Minnesota Vikings.

“On behalf of my family and our entire organization, I want to sincerely thank Bill O’Brien and his family for their impact on our franchise,” Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair said in a statement. “Bill’s leadership moved our organization forward as he guided us to four AFC South Division championships, 52 wins and multiple playoff appearances during his tenure.”

On Monday evening, O’Brien thanked the McNair family for hiring him and said he is “sorry that we couldn’t get this team over the hump.”

“In the end, in this business, it’s a bottom-line business,” O’Brien said. “We weren’t able to get it to where we needed to get it. … I understand we fell short in terms of taking this team further in the playoffs. But I do leave knowing that myself and this staff gave everything this organization deserved and more. We worked very, very hard to try to get this to a place where it could be a championship program. We just didn’t get it done.”

O’Brien was hired by the McNair family in 2014 after he spent two years at Penn State. In seven seasons in Houston, O’Brien went 52-48 and won four division titles. The Texans, who have never made an AFC Championship Game in franchise history, came close in January. Houston led 24-0 in the second quarter of the divisional round of the playoffs before allowing the Kansas City Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes to come back and win 51-31.

“We couldn’t get it over the hump last year, the year before, and obviously early on this year, but it wasn’t from lack of effort,” O’Brien said. “We did win four division championships here that we’re very proud of; won four division championships in six years. So we did a lot of good things here, but we didn’t do enough. We didn’t bring a Super Bowl to Houston, which I believe eventually someone will. I think this is a championship team that needs to get things turned around right now, but I believe in this team.”

After the Texans fired general manager Brian Gaine in 2019, O’Brien was given more power in personnel but was not named GM. Later that year, O’Brien traded 2014 No. 1 draft pick Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks. That same day, O’Brien traded two first-round picks and a second-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills.

This offseason, after he was named general manager in January, O’Brien made one of his most controversial moves: trading wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals for running back David Johnson and a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Through four games this season, Johnson is averaging 3.86 yards per rush, 37th among qualified rushers, while Hopkins leads the NFL with 39 catches. The wide receiver has caught 85% of his targets, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

“I [tried to do] every day what was best for the organization, what was asked of me,” O’Brien said. “I really did. Did we make mistakes? Obviously, we made mistakes. I don’t think anybody’s perfect. But we worked really hard to field a competitive team. We had a competitive team for years here. I think this is a competitive team, but obviously you have to win games to be really considered that way. But we hadn’t gotten it done. In the end, I did always what was asked of me, whether it was Bob [McNair], or Cal and Janice [McNair], and tried to do the best I could.”

According to ESPN’s Roster Management System, the Texans have the highest total team cash value in salaries this season at $245,919,861.

The Texans started this season with what ESPN’s Football Power Index said was the toughest schedule in the league, facing the Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers before losing on Sunday to the Vikings. The 1992 Chargers are the only team in NFL history to make the playoffs after an 0-4 start. Houston now has the fourth-easiest schedule the rest of the way.

Defensive end J.J. Watt, who called the start “terrible, “brutal” and “depressing,” said something has to change for the Texans to turn it around.

“We obviously have to do something different,” Watt said. “We are 0-4. Whatever we’re doing is not working. Something needs to change. Something needs to be different.”

Sources told ESPN’s Dianna Russini that things started to fall apart two weeks ago.

“That’s when [O’Brien] lost the team,” a source told Russini.

O’Brien, 50, leaves Houston as the only coach in Texans history with a winning record. He did that while starting 10 different quarterbacks since he took over in 2014, which is tied for second most in the NFL during that time.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Texans went .500 or better with Brock Osweiler (9-7), Case Keenum (2-0), Brian Hoyer (5-5) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (6-6) under O’Brien.

O’Brien said he learned a great deal from his seven years in Houston and “there’s no doubt in my mind that I want to coach again.”

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