As a football coach, Bill O'Brien isn't the worst one you could find. Not the best, certainly, but in his six years at the helm of the Texans, they've only had one losing record: back in 2017, when Deshaun Watson tore his ACL. O'Brien has his well-known flaws as a coach, but the floor for his teams is high even if the ceiling has been low thus far.
Bill O'Brien the general manager, however, is an entirely different story. He took on the responsibility along with several other members of the Texans' brass after the organization rather abruptly fired Brian Gaine this past June. Earlier this year, O'Brien was officially named the full-time general manager. After less than a year of O'Brien effectively the head honcho, the team looks completely different, and while some of these moves will need time before they can be declared successes or failures, one thing is absolutely for certain: life is a damn rollercoaster with BOB calling the shots.
Today's news, which sparked this here post, is a great example. O'Brien traded No. 1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick for David Johnson, a second-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-round pick. On the surface, that is an insane trade, especially given the Texans agreed to take on all of Johnson's contract, which will count $11 million against the cap this year and $9 million next year. The value of the running back has never been lower, yet O'Brien just traded a top-15 (at the absolute worst) wideout for not only an injury-prone player, but one who is owed quite a lot of money at a position that is more easily replaceable than any other.
At first glance, a bad trade. But the Texans did get draft picks back in a deep wide receiver class, so that's good, right? Well, the reason the Texans need draft picks is because of previous O'Brien trades! He sent out both this and next year's first-round picks (as well as a 2021 second) for left tackle Laremy Tunsil. That worked out better than most expected and solved a blindside protection issue that had plagued the franchise for years. But O'Brien also traded a third-round pick for Duke Johnson (now redundant with the presence of the other D. Johnson) and a third-round pick for former first-round pick Gareon Conley, who didn't do much to help a horrific secondary and the team has yet to pick up the fifth year on his contract.
All that left the Texans with exactly one pick in the first 90 selections of the 2020 NFL Draft. They needed to recoup that capital somehow, but trading your best receiver is quite a way to do that. This is all coming at a time where Houston is supposed to be taking advantage of the fact that Watson is still on his rookie contract. It seems like O'Brien understands that to a degree, since he's handing out draft picks like candy on Halloween, but the value he places on certain positions doesn't seem to match the common NFL discourse. He wants to be different, and he is succeeding. We'll have to see how this all shakes out before we can make a final judgement, but we know this much: whatever O'Brien is going to do, it'll be worth talking about.