Closer Look: Bill O'Brien Makes Conservative Changes to the Texans '19 Staff

A closer look at the changes to the Houston Texans coaching staff made by Bill O'Brien and what it means for 2019.

In a busy week of working behind the scenes, Houston Texans head coach Bill O’ Brien finalized his coaching staff for the 2019 season. After plenty of discussion, the Texans made moves to free up O’Brien so he can potentially concentrate on being a head coach while allowing his staff to handle their respective sides of the football.

Taking a look at the recent moves to the coaching staff, it is clear that O’Brien has learned from past mistakes, however, he is not willing to make wholesale changes to his staff and destroy the flow of the organization.

With his personnel in place, here is a view of the new-look Texans staff heading into the 2019 season.

Experience over Potential

This is the sixth season of the O’Brien era and heading into this year, the head coach is choosing to go with coaches who have significant experience at the NFL level, moving away from the upstart, less experienced coaches. O’Brien trusted Romeo Crennel from day one and Crennel has been a big reason why the Texans have been competitive with him as defensive coordinator. Last season, O’Brien brought in veteran coaches Brad Seely and John Pagano to add much needed, veteran voices to the coaching staff. Regarding the impact of Seely, he turned one of the worst special teams units in 2017 into one of the top units in 2018.

In a stealth move, O’Brien was able to hire Seahawks staple Carl Smith to take over the quarterback room for the Texans. With 25 of his 29 years in the NFL specifically coaching quarterbacks, Smith arrives to the Texans with years of NFL experience, much like Crennel, Seely, and Pagano. This recent trend of experience over potential for O’Brien proved to be a difference-maker in 2017 and now, in one of the most important coaching vacancies for 2019, Smith will help Texans QB Deshaun Watson take the next step in his development.

No longer is O’Brien taking chances on the George Godseys and Larry Izzos of the coaching world for important vacancies on his coaching staff.

The Return of Familiar Faces

O’Brien likes the fact that he is bringing back three of his former players in Brian Cushing, T.J. Yates, and Akeem Dent to the coaching staff. Dent won over O’Brien by heading to Colorado State to work for zero money this past season, helping out on their coaching staff on a volunteer basis. Yates kept in touch with O’Brien all of last season via text message and through phone calls, expressing his desire to get into the building and help coach the offense. Cushing wanted to stay in Houston and be part of the organization, focusing on his two passions: conditioning and working with younger players.

O’Brien took chances on all three former Texans, offering each an entry level position.

With a league getting younger season-to-season, O’Brien is attempting to infuse younger veterans into every area of the organization with a goal of having players who understand O’Brien’s coaching style and takes to survive in the NFL around the team to help younger players. With all three former Texans coming to the staff in entry level positions, their focus will be more about running scout teams, working with younger players, answering questions about anything and everything regarding the game, along with the grunt work that comes with coaching life in the NFL.

Tim Kelly to Offensive Coordinator

Many were calling for an offensive coordinator to be hired heading into this coming season and that is exactly what O’Brien did. He promoted Tim Kelly who has been on his staff since their Penn State days and, if there is anything to take from this, O’Brien clearly believes in Kelly. One of the biggest hangups regarding the situation is exactly who will be calling plays when it comes to week one and O’Brien has made it clear that he thinks Kelly is ready to call plays, adding, “whether it’s me calling the plays or Timmy calling the plays, it will always be what’s best for the team.”

O’Brien has shown that he will allow an offensive coordinator to call plays with and without the offensive coordinator tag like he did with George Godsey. Kelly has a clear advantage to succeed over his predecessor, with O’Brien and Smith having play-calling experience which will allow Kelly to find his way in his new position.

There will be plenty of discussion regarding where the offense will go with play-calling duties on game day but one thing that works in the Texans favor is the number of fresh voices on the offensive side of the football. Kelly’s voice will be more prominent as the OC while Smith will bring in many years of knowledge, including familiarity with the Texans offensive system along with his body of work developing Russell Wilson in Seattle.

The reshuffling of the top end of the offensive coaching staff for the Texans includes taking a risk to fine tune an offense that ranked 11th in the NFL last season. This series of moves have covered all the bases: finding an offensive coordinator who knows the system in Tim Kelly and bringing in an outside voice who will attempt to help Watson take the next step in Carl Smith.

Bill O’Brien is Taking Limited Risk

O’Brien is taking a calculated risk on the hiring of Kelly as his offensive coordinator and on top of that he is not committing to who is calling plays for the upcoming season. O’Brien knew changes had to be made but with strong belief in his own system and an improving Watson, O’Brien is betting on his decision-making ability to put the Texans over the top.

O’Brien continues to move forward with the organization, trusting himself, the players, and coaches and demonstrating that by not making wholesale changes that he believes are unnecessary for the team to take the next step. Locked in step with general manager Brian Gaine, O’Brien is operating the Texans as if the team is not broken but only in need of tweaks in certain spots. If one thing is clear, O’Brien realized the need to get Kelly in the position of offensive coordinator to take a big portion of duties away from himself and he knew how important it is to the team to keep improving Watson as a quarterback, finding a clear upgrade at quarterback coach with Smith coming to town.

O’Brien knew changes had to come but ultimately decided that him betting on himself gives the organization the best opportunity to see his vision for the organization come to fruition.

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