Bill O'Brien won four AFC South titles in six years and was, by definition, a good football coach.
But his shortcomings as a football coach and leader of men and general manager were crystal clear on Sunday in Houston. The Texans cruised to their first win of the season in their first game without O'Brien on the sideline, and DeAndre Hopkins shined brightly for the Cardinals yet again.
Houston beat the Jaguars 30-14 Sunday as the entire Texans franchise breathed a sigh of relief this week. J.J. Watt, fresh off establishing his alpha presence on the practice field a week earlier, was tweeting photos of sunshine on the NRG Stadium field.
No Texan, current of former, wanted to kick O'Brien while he was down—at least not publicly and on the record. But his act in Houston had worn thin, and people there were happy to not have to deal with his temper tantrums anymore.
Look west to Arizona, where one of the top two wide receivers in the NFL continues to flourish. O'Brien and Hopkins clashed in their final years in Houston, and the head coach/GM decided his team was better off with a second-round pick than paying Hopkins to continue his All-Pro ways with the first true franchise quarterback in Houston's short history.
It was a wild Week 5 Sunday, and John Breech, Ryan Wilson and host Will Brinson break everything down on the Pick Six Podcast; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
Hopkins put up 131 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Jets as he marches on a 1,700-yard-pace season in 2020 with Kyler Murray. He abstained from any O'Brien commentary this week, choosing instead to be the bigger man when O'Brien couldn't summon that same energy to retain one of his best football players on his football team.
Houston may have dug itself in too deep a hole. Starting 0-3 is a death sentence in this league, but the Texans still made the playoffs in 2018 after such a start. Starting 0-4 is also a death sentence, but somehow a worse death sentence than 0-3. I don't know that the team will rally around Romeo Crennel and be the seventh seed in the playoffs or just go 7-9.
But folks are breathing easier in Houston, and that's because O'Brien no longer roams the sideline.
J-E-T-S troubles continue
I recognize that Joe Douglas is doing what he can with this Frankenstein's Monster roster he inherited. He deserves time to see this thing through, and he is by no means in the same boat (or hot seat) as Adam Gase.
But Douglas had the opportunity to re-sign Robby Anderson and did not. Anderson, now up to 489 receiving yards on the season, would have been incredibly helpful for Sam Darnold in a show-me year for the former No. 3 overall pick. The Jets had the cap space and for whatever reason decided to watch Anderson walk to Carolina.
Additionally, Douglas decided to go with Joe Flacco as his backup for Darnold. Flacco had neck surgery this offseason and wasn't even ready to play Week 1, and the Jets knew that! Still, Douglas opted for Flacco instead of someone who could 1) push Darnold to be better and/or 2) keep them competitive.
This is on top of the organizational decision to play Mekhi Becton against the Broncos when he clearly wasn't healthy enough to start, much less play. Becton was the lone bright spot for the Jets' offense, and New York threw him in last week to the detriment of the young man and the franchise.
I call it an organizational decision because you can't pin it solely on Gase. Becton was the top pick for New York in 2020, and any decision to play him while injured would have to be made by the medical staff, front office and coaching staff.
Douglas should get plenty of grace to continue doing his job for the next few years at least. I'm not at all advocating for anything differently. But just because he's been on the job for less than a year and a half doesn't mean he's immune from criticism.
A game here, a game there
One thing I learned after writing about my fix to the NFL regular-season schedule: the league is hellbent on playing all 256 games. That was the overwhelming response I got from sources across the league this weekend, and Sunday's schedule re-jiggering only reinforces that.
The league has shown it will rearrange any team's schedule so long as they haven't had their bye yet. It doesn't matter if the team has had no positive COVID cases or several. "We're all in this together" is being taken to the extreme.
The contingency plan I laid out on Friday that includes a Week 18 may very well happen, but the NFL has no plans to deploy it until this game of Tetris reaches its conclusion. And that will only happen once a team is faced with a second bye week.