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Texans’ Frantic Trades Expose the Franchise’s Lack of Vision and Direction

After Bill O’Brien traded away Jadeveon Clowney and brought in Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills, we’re left wondering—what exactly is the Texans’ long-term plan?

When a team hires a disciple of the Patriot coaching tree, it’s assuming some modicum of stability and certainly, some semblance of a long-term plan.

Let’s check in on the Texans, and their head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien. A team a week away from the start of their first game….

• Just before noon on Saturday, they dealt Jadeveon Clowney, a former No. 1 overall pick, one of the four players over the past three seasons with 20 or more sacks and 50 or more tackles for a loss, in exchange for a pair of role players and a third-round pick because they did not want to sign him to a top-of-market extension. They were (raises hand) roundly criticized for not also getting any offensive line help in that trade so….

• Shortly after the close of league business on Saturday, they dealt two (!!!!) first-round picks and a second-round pick for Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills. As many have pointed out in the immediate aftermath of the trade, the Texans are now under immense pressure to extend Tunsil, essentially owing him a large chunk of the money that they saved by not having to pay Clowney.

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Houston is flying blindly without someone overseeing their front office, rumbling through this offseason with the dexterity of a toddler driving a school bus. They let the general manager they fired right after the draft, Brian Gaine, select two offensive tackles with their first three picks. After the team parted ways with him, it spent an immense, and critical, part of the franchise’s future on a third tackle make up for the fact that the first two can’t anchor Deshaun Watson’s blind side. Imagine a person who spends thousands on a team of contractors to fix up their house and, while the spackle is still drying, they throw up their hands and buy a house somewhere else for twice the cost.

Texans fans are probably experiencing two very divergent emotions on Saturday. On one hand, they feel heard. The front office agrees that the protection and deployment of Watson last year bordered on criminality. They finally internalized that sense of urgency and acquired the second best offensive tackle (theoretically) on the market (Trent Williams remains in Washington). It is the type of visceral move one might make when facing serious pressure. Good for the Texans for feeling some heat.  

On the other hand, it’s not clear what, exactly, is the big vision at play. Perhaps there is an identity shift underway in Houston—they certainly have enough new, high-profile voices in the executive suite to shock the system. But for now, they seem to be systematically robbing one side of the ball to pay the other. And to what ends? As one Pro Football Focus analyst pointed out on Saturday, Tunsil probably gets the Texans back to the middle in terms of offensive line strength. Stills, despite being a person of immense character, has never had a 1,000-yard season. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are arming themselves for a surge of young talent set to arrive over the next few seasons.

Coaches in the NFL maintain their posts because, in a world where 31 of 32 people holding the position are essentially stabbing blindly at the wind, they manage to convince controlling owners that they have the plan to fix everything. And while the Texans have posted three first-place finishes in the AFC South in five years under O’Brien, they have never mastered the ability to align their front office and coaching staff, even when the front office becomes the coaching staff.

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