With most of the sporting world suspending its operations due the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL burst into life when the legal tampering period opened and the new collective bargaining agreement was officially ratified.
Bill O’Brien made sure all the attention was directed his way, by conducting arguably the worst trade in NFL history. The Houston Texans are getting from the Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson and a 2020 2nd round draft pick, in exchange for 2021 4th rounder and one of the league’s best wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins.
No prizes for calling the winner of this trade deal. Multiple questions are bouncing around, heads are being furiously scratched. The beat writers in Houston are sharping their proverbial knives. Just how did this deal come to pass.
Fun was made of Bill O’Brien’s previous trade antics. It seemed impossible at the time when former #1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney was effectively given away to the Seattle Seahawks, that something so much more shocking would happen.
It has long been rumoured that ‘personality differences’ in H-town between Bill O’Brien and some of his star players has caused players like the aforementioned Clowney and Duane Brown to seek pastures new. The departure of Brown can directly be linked to acquisition of Tunsil and the resulting sacrifice of Houston’s future in the upcoming 2020 and 2021 drafts.
How these supposed personality clashes are preventing the building of a championship winner roster is baffling. The higher-ups in Houston are clearly thrusting all their support behind O’Brien, this may prove incredibly costly.
What to expect from the Texans pass game
With star receiver DeAndre Hopkins now out of the picture, it all of a sudden creates a gaping hole on the roster. Will Fuller becomes the team’s WR1; with his troubled past of injuries, it will be hard to trust him for a full 16 game slate. Let alone any potential playoff action, although this seems improbable at the time of writing.
Behind Fuller on the depth chart you find Kenny Stills, Keke Coutee, DeAndre Carter, Chad Hansen and Steven Mitchell Jr.. Make your own mind up when picturing Deshaun Watson‘s face at these weapons of his.
A saving grace for the Texans is just how deep the receiver class is for the 2020 NFL draft. They had better hope they land a winner to restore faith in Deshaun Watson and a now rather angry fan-base.
Alternatively, Bill O’Brien may look to craft a dominate running offense.
What to expect from the Texans run game
Before this trade went down, the Texans were getting by with their offence. It was the defensive side of things that ultimately caused their season to full short of a Super Bowl apperance.
In particular, the run game was surprisingly efficient. Yet more draft picks were given up to land Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson Jr. They proved to be a formidable duo, with Hyde topping 1,000 rushing yards for the year.
So then it becomes difficult to understand why O’Brien felt the need to bring in David Johnson. Presumably Hyde and both Johnsons will not all be on the roster at the start of the season. If both Hyde and Johnson Jr. depart the lone-star state, then BoB has burnt some valuable draft picks. Yet more ammo for the damning CV of the head coach/general manager for the Texans.
Also under consideration for Houston is Lamar Miller. His 2019 season was lost due to a pre-season ACL tear. Like Carlos Hyde, his contract is also up, so it seems unlikely Miller will return. Then again, it would be rather Texans-like to re-sign him to an egregious deal, to leave a rather odd three-pronged attack of David Johnson, Duke Johnson Jr and Miller.
DeAndre Hopkins was playing for the Texans on a rather team friendly deal. Has still has three years remaining on his current agreement, with a reasonable $40 million left to pay.
This deal looks to set to become the focal point of this fallout. It was long rumoured that Hopkins demanded more money, rightly so. He is amongst the league’s best at his position.
With Bill O’Brien now the full-time general manager, it now seems clear he and Hopkins’ representatives could not get on the same page for a new contract. Another bemusing line for the portfolio of O’Brien.
To add further to this mystery, the head-coach/GM/string puller of the Texans was happy to absorb all of David Johnson’s 3-year $39 million contract.
In short, the Texans have taken on a player at a position they do not have a need at, for an all-pro wide receiver who was the lynch-pin of their offense.
Bill O’Brien & The Future of the Franchise
The leader of the Texans find himself in a rather enviable position, hard to believe but essentially he is un-fireable. He has clearly twisted the arm of the McNair family who own the team.
The pressure on him to deliver results is approaching insurmountable. The fans of the franchise need to see some kind of plan in place to deliver the Lombardi trophy. This is almost impossible to imagine right now.
They can only hope there is a method to this sheer madness.
Next season will be critical. If the wins do not come, then fan numbers will dwindle drastically. There will be serious ramifications and huge questions for the McNair’s and O’Brien to answer.