It would be easy to beat up on the Texans for Sunday’s 44-26 loss in Miami. But then the Dolphins did enough of that themselves. Still, it was the kind of effort — or lack thereof — that should get people fired. Sunday’s game was an all-time low for a franchise that has more than its share of embarrassing efforts. The 2-5 record is one thing; it’s how they got there that could and should lead to some hard decisions. You could easily make the argument that this team has been worse than the 2-14 disaster that got Gary Kubiak fired.
First, do not be fooled by the final score. This game was over before halftime, when the Dolphins put up 41 points. The Texans — as they have done more than once this year — added some garbage time scores that merely masked how bad a mismatch it truly was. In the process of trying to make the score look close, they lost Arian Foster, perhaps for the season.
Where to start? The offense was even more ineffective than usual, with five straight three and outs to start the game. And on their sixth possession, they gave up a touchdown on a terrible drop by C.J. Fiedorowicz to make it 35-0. By then, of course, the game was long over, even though it was literally minutes into the second quarter. Then, predictably, they went right back to going three and out. They did not get a first down until 7:45 remained in the second quarter.
So who is to blame? The offensive play calling has been predictable and feeble all season. That’s on George Godsey and Bill O’Brien. The offensive line has been a train wreck. The same line was solid for most of last season, but then O’Brien chose to make an off-season coaching change at the position. So far, his decision-making in terms of hires has been questionable at best, an abject failure at worst.
As bad as the offense was…even if they had been even remotely competent, it would not have mattered. The defense turned in one of the most abysmal efforts in the history of the franchise. They made Ryan Tannehill look like Aaron Rodgers. In the first half — the only one that mattered — Tannehill was 12 for 12 for 231 yards and four touchdowns. In one half. The Dolphins rushed for an insane 182 yards in the half on just 18 carries, averaging over 10 yards per pop. They outgained Houston 392-65 in the half. At least the Texans were consistent — they could not stop the run or the pass. Tannehill wound up setting an NFL record for consecutive completions. Ryan freaking Tannehill. Not Rodgers. Not Brady. And the Texans were blown out by the Dolphins. Not the Packers. Not the Patriots.
All year the Texans have had defensive breakdowns. But Sunday’s game was almost comical. They once again failed to get pressure, blew assignments and missed numerous tackles. But they also looked like they quit. And that’s when it’s time for changes to be made.
Romeo Crennel has been one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL for years, but his unit has been poorly coached all season. The Texans have invested heavily on that side of the ball, and currently possess one of the worst defenses in the league. Crennel is responsible. He should be replaced as DC immediately. But the Texans should not stop there.
O’Brien should be put on notice as well. The team has regressed under his watch and he now has a losing record overall as a head coach (11-12). He badly mismanaged the quarterback position, has made panic move after panic move, and has now presided over two of the worst defeats in the history of the franchise. His decision to sign Brian Hoyer in the first place instead of keep Ryan Fitzpatrick or actually invest a real draft pick in a quarterback has clearly been a mistake. O’Brien’s in-game decisions in these routs has been questionable as well. Cecil Shorts was injured on a meaningless play in a game long decided earlier in the year. On Sunday against the Dolphins, Foster, J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork, Jadeveon Clowney and every other starter were still playing in the second half. There is no reason for that. Risking their health in a game that was long over is simply foolish and another in a litany of bad decisions. It was made even worse when Foster limped off the field with 4:04 to play with an Achilles injury, perhaps ending his Texans career. Why on earth was he even in the game? Using him at that stage wasn’t just irresponsible. It was stupid.
All keeping the starters in did was help J.J. Watt pad his sack stats and perhaps add a few extra commercials (clearly he needs more) to his resume. Tacking on a few scores to make the final look better does absolutely nothing for a team, especially when it costs you your best offensive player in the process. That is decision-making at its worst.
One thing O’Brien is good at is play calling. To that end, he should be forced to take back over the offensive play calling duties and demote Godsey. In truth, O’Brien should be coaching for his job the rest of the season. The Texans have come out unprepared in every start this season on both sides of the ball. In fairness, they have been great at halftime adjustments. But when you are down 41-0 at the half, there is not an adjustment in the world that will save you. O’Brien and his staff were badly outprepared and outschemed by a head coach in his second career game. That’s inexcusable.
It’s too soon to punt on O’Brien as a head coach, even with all of his questionable decisions. But If there isn’t significant improvement by season’s end, O’Brien should be gone as well.
Rick Smith should no longer be given a pass for the failures of this team. His wasted draft picks continue to haunt the franchise. Even the ones that get on the field — yes, you, Fiedorowicz — have a negative impact. Smith should be reassigned.
Something has to happen. Sunday was an absolute nadir, as the team was completely annihilated by a very average football team. The scary part is, the losses keep getting worse and worse. The opening loss to the Chiefs — a losing team — was bad enough. Losing at unbeaten Carolina might have been their best effort of the season. But the blowout loss in Atlanta — eerily similar to Sunday’s hopeless effort — simply should not happen. And now it’s happened twice in one season. Throw in a lackluster loss to a Colts team without Andrew Luck at home, and you simply have a poorly coached, bad football team that is crying for change.
They should not be this bad, and they certainly should not be getting worse. That is on coaching, and it’s time some people are held accountable. If Sunday’s loss doesn’t bring change, then nothing likely will.
O’Brien is fond of saying “we have to coach better, we have to play better.”
That’s not working. Maybe it’s time to see if some other people on staff can “coach better.” Or else the Texans will need a better coach.