At this point, it's become easy to rip Bill O'Brien for his seemingly boneheaded decisions as the Texans general manager throughout the offseason. He got three pennies on the dollar when he traded away DeAndre Hopkins and then sold two of those pennies for a wide receiver who is one concussion away from having to seriously consider retirement. The other penny is a rusty old running back who is likewise one more bad injury from his career being on the brink.
On a positive note for Texans fans who hate O'Brien leading their franchise, these trades have to put O'Brien's seat squarely on the stove-top burner with the flame turned all the way up. They're just so obviously risky that anyone will be able to assess his performance as a coach/GM at the end of the season and either pass or fail him. There won't be any middle ground. They'll either work or they won't.
In the last month, O'Brien, who was officially named the Texans GM in January after being the unofficial GM throughout 2019, traded away Hopkins and traded for David Johnson and Brandin Cooks. He only managed to get a second- and fourth-round pick for Hopkins (the Vikings got more trading a worse receiver in Stefon Diggs this offseason) and then traded those picks for Cooks.
Cooks has had five concussions in his six-year NFL career and his contract has an out at the end of this season, which the Texans could exercise to escape the remaining three years of his five-year, $81 million contract. The latter part is the good news. The former is the scary part. If Cooks doesn't perform this season, or worse still, gets another concussion, this trade will be a total bust and the Texans will have essentially traded Hopkins for Johnson.
Johnson, a one-year MVP candidate who hasn't been the quite the same since dislocating his wrist and missing the 2017 season, could be released next offseason with a dead cap hit of only $5.1 millions and a cap savings of $3.9 million. He's coming off a season where he had 715 yards of total offense and six touchdowns. If he puts up those kind of numbers again, this deal will also be a total bust and the Texans will cut bait.
At the same time, the Texans have put together a formidable offense on paper around franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson. Cooks has had four 1,000-yard receiving seasons in his career and Johnson had over 2,000 yards of total offense in 2016. Paired with wide receivers Will Fuller, Randall Cobb, and Kenny Stills, tight end Darren Fells and backup running back Duke Johnson, this team could do damage in 2020.
Or it could be a total bust and O'Brien will be out of a job.
The Texans have been rolling the dice ever since they gave O'Brien the keys to the roster. They'll roll the dice one more time in 2020 with O'Brien's hand doing the throwing. With his job on the line, he'll either hit a winner or roll snake eyes. Texans fans should be happy at least knowing either outcome will create a desired outcome.