O’Brien gets 4 more years

Tex­ans ex­tend coach’s con­tract, hire Brian Gaine as GM.

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BRIAN T. SMITH brian.smith@chron.com twit­ter.com/chron­bri­an­smith

The news re­lease ar­rived at 9:53 Satur­day morn­ing.

“The Hous­ton Tex­ans have hired Brian Gaine as gen­eral man­ager and ex­tended the con­tract of head coach Bill O’Brien. … Gaine signed a five-year deal and O’Brien was ex­tended for four years, with both deals run­ning through 2022.”

More than 1,100 words. The new GM’s life and ca­reer bio. Select high­lights of O’Brien’s ini­tial four years coach­ing Hous­ton’s big­gest pro sports team.

All that really needed to be said: Bob McNair be­lieves in O’Brien.

That’s it. Be­cause that’s the true take­away from a de­ci­sion that was months in the mak­ing and, once made by the big man up above, re-es­tab­lished or­der on Kirby Drive. McNair. O’Brien. Gaine. That’s the Tex­ans’ new world or­der.

I told you more than two years ago that McNair’s fran­chise was head­ing to­ward this break­ing point. The Chron­i­cle re­ported two weeks ago about the un­bridge­able di­vide that had forced McNair to fi­nally choose sides. And even though we’re still wait­ing on the Tex­ans’ owner to speak to the masses, Satur­day’s news con­firmed ev­ery­thing this pa­per had been re­port­ing.

Rick who?

The Tex­ans’ im­me­di­ate and long-term fu­ture were on the line. McNair had to de­cide and back one side.

“Bill O’Brien has been a tremen­dous leader for us th­ese last four years, and we be­lieve in his vi­sion for the team mov­ing for­ward,” the owner said in a state­ment. “Bill is a ter­rific teacher that the play­ers re­spect. We have a lot of trust in him to build a uni­fied, cham­pi­onship cul­ture, and we’re thrilled to have him as our head coach into the fu­ture.”

Ex-GM Rick Smith’s name wasn’t men­tioned once. Nei­ther was the Tex­ans’ piti­ful 4-12 record in 2017, which saw the back-to-back AFC South champs plum­met to the bot­tom of their divi­sion and fin­ish tied for third-worst in the league.

It was just praise, pos­i­tive sta­tis­tics and the vague prom­ise of some­thing bet­ter than ev­ery­thing you’ve re­ceived be­fore.

“Our com­mit­tee was unan­i­mous in praise for Brian Gaine and we are all aligned in our phi­los­o­phy on how to con­tinue to build our ros­ter and win a cham­pi­onship,” McNair said. “Brian is an in­cred­i­bly smart, hard­work­ing in­di­vid­ual that un­der­stands the im­por­tance of good com­mu­ni­ca­tion. We couldn’t be more ex­cited about nam­ing him our new gen­eral man­ager.”

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Aligned. There are those all-im­por­tant words again.

It’s amaz­ing that af­ter 16 years of own­ing a pro foot­ball team, McNair is now pub­licly cel­e­brat­ing get­ting ev­ery­one on the same philo­soph­i­cal page.

It’s also clearer than ever that McNair — and, thus, the Tex­ans — are still learn­ing how to win.

Who else would gift-wrap a mul­ti­year ex­ten­sion af­ter go­ing 4-12?

Why did this ap­pear in an other­wise celebratory news re­lease?

“In 2017, the Tex­ans dealt with mul­ti­ple in­juries to their ros­ter, which led to an NFL-record 78 dif­fer­ent play­ers record­ing at least one snap on of­fense, de­fense or spe­cial teams.”

O’Brien now has a first-time GM he sees eye to eye with be­cause the Tex­ans’ brass was sold on his per­sonal vi­sion. By sid­ing with a coach who pos­sesses a 3133 ca­reer record and pro­vid­ing Smith with a grace­ful exit af­ter 12 con­sis­tently frus­trat­ing years on Kirby, McNair ul­ti­mately ac­knowl­edged that the old, com­fort­able ways weren’t work­ing and the out­dated Tex­ans were fall­ing be­hind the NFL’s cut­tingedge fran­chises.

Now, you’re go­ing to hear the term “four-year ex­ten­sion” over and over and over the next eight months, es­pe­cially on talk ra­dio. Ig­nore it and don’t waste your time.

A prove-it year

Af­ter three solid (but frus­trat­ing) sea­sons with way too many hand­picked quar­ter­backs (and Brock Osweiler), O’Brien de­served one more shot — a prove-it year — with a healthy Deshaun Wat­son. But his new job se­cu­rity will dis­ap­pear as soon as another bad sea­son ar­rives. Just ask Jack Del Rio, who re­ceived an O’Brien-like deal from Oak­land last Fe­bru­ary, then was forced to walk the plank on live TV af­ter that wildeyed guy from “Mon­day Night Foot­ball” de­cided he needed a lit­tle ex­tra pocket change.

We’ll know this year whether O’Brien can really be­gin to cre­ate McNair’s “cham­pi­onship cul­ture.”

Fran­chise QB. GM in his corner. DeAn­dre Hop­kins, Jade­veon Clowney, J.J. Watt. No ex­cuses.

The po­ten­tial is there. Gaine has spent his ca­reer work­ing to­ward this job. O’Brien has spent his foot­ball life build­ing to­ward this mo­ment.

Power, in­flu­ence and align­ment. Now, just win.

Af­ter just one pro sea­son, it’s al­ready easy to pic­ture the 22-year-old Wat­son even­tu­ally guid­ing the Tex­ans to the first Su­per Bowl in this city’s his­tory.

If the team can pro­tect him and sur­round him with cham­pi­onship tal­ent.

If McNair backed the right coach.

Brett Coomer / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

De­spite a con­tract ex­ten­sion, Tex­ans coach Bill O’Brien will be un­der pres­sure to re­verse a 4-12 sea­son with a healthy 2018 team.

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