Bill O'Brien: Must 'do a better job coaching' for Texans to reverse 0-4 start

Bill O’Brien’s abrupt shift in sideline responsibilities, however drastic it was or wasn’t, didn’t produce a victory for the still-winless Texans on Sunday.

After three straight losses to open the season, O’Brien decided he’d heavily involve himself in play-calling instead of leaving it solely to offensive coordinator Tim Kelly, adding the task to a list of responsibilities that already included intimate involvement in game planning. The formula helped the Texans reach the playoffs in 2019, but it didn’t pan out in a 31-23 Week 4 loss to the Vikings in which Houston fell short of 100 rushing yards as a team.

O’Brien said Monday he’s uncertain of whether he’ll continue with such a formula after it produced 23 points and a significant loss in the time-of-possession battle (Minnesota dominated, 36:31 to 23:29).

“It’s just about trying to do what’s best to be consistent on offense,” O’Brien said, per The Athletic’s Aaron Reiss. “We do it together. That wasn’t a major change.”

As both head coach and general manager, O’Brien already owns a vast majority of the control over his team. Right now, it’s simply not working.

After shipping out DeAndre Hopkins in a deal that landed the Texans running back David Johnson, Houston ranks 27th in total yards per game (327.5) and is dead last in rushing yards per game (73.5). Houston ran the ball a season-high 26 times Sunday and finished with 96 yards for an average of a paltry 3.69 yards per game, which O’Brien said simply “wasn’t good enough” and also helps explain the team’s inability to maintain possession. Defensively, the Texans aren’t much better, allowing 181.7 rushing yards per game, including 162 Sunday.

“Obviously with where we’re at, we have to do a better job coaching,” O’Brien said, via Sports Radio 610. “… I’ve got to do a better job with the team. That’s obvious and we’re going to work hard to do that.”

With a three-week slate of games that included meetings with the powerful Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens (and the promising Pittsburgh Steelers), it was fair to point to Houston’s difficult schedule as a reason for their winless start. Sunday’s performance against the previously 0-3 Vikings eliminated that excuse and pointed to a larger issue that starts with Houston’s inability to establish a legitimate threat on the ground.

At 0-4, there’s little time for the Texans to continue to hope to tread water. With the risk of losing the season and perhaps the team, the Texans are going to have to start making progress quickly. J.J. Watt lamented the team’s struggles in the immediate aftermath of Houston’s latest loss, calling it “terrible,” “brutal” and “depressing.”

“I think where we are is not good, obviously,” O’Brien said. “But I do think we have good leadership on this team. We have guys who work hard and believe in each other. They feel like we’re close and we just need to get a win.”

Their next opportunity to do so arrives Sunday with a meeting with the 1-3 Jaguars.

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