With Texans coach Bill O'Brien about to enter the final season of his contract, and the Texans struggling down the stretch, numerous sources close to he and general manager Rick Smith believe a split is imminent. The relationship between the men has long been complicated, and many close to the situation believe change is on the horizon.
O'Brien has won two division titles and would normally be in line for a lucrative contract extension, but it's far from certain the Texans would extend the kind of lucrative offer he could draw on the open market. O'Brien, who told reporters last week that he hopes to stay in Houston, is aware that he would be coveted elsewhere at a time when nearly a third of the league could be hiring a new coach and there are few proven head coaching candidates. His options would be robust on a long-term deal.
While it would be difficult on some level to leave after having success in Houston, and the development of rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson prior to his injury is a significant allure, there also stand to be opportunities with other teams with established quarterbacks on this market. After years of friction between coaching and management in Houston, some close to the situation anticipate a parting of the ways between the coach and organization.
The Texans, meantime, would boast one of the most attractive coaching jobs in the NFL, with stars on both sides of the ball and Watson playing at an All-Pro level prior to his injury. Even the biggest of big fishes like Jon Gruden, Jim Harbaugh or David Shaw might be inclined to at least consider a job that attractive. O'Brien coaching out his lame-duck year appears untenable, and the recent negative attention on the franchise for the handling of Tom Savage's concussion last week has only heightened the talk around the league of change in Houston.
In such a competitive coaching market, it would obviously behoove the Texans to sort out this situation as quickly as possible after the season, while defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, who is thought highly of by other teams, would be one obvious internal candidate should O'Brien and the Texans indeed part ways.