Seemingly an ally of Bill O’Brien and someone he pushed for the Texans to hire to replace Rick Smith, Gaine had little time to prove his worth as a GM. Was the decision too harsh? Perhaps. Was it justified by his lack of free agency dealings? Perhaps. At this point, without the power of hindsight in our favor, it is all a matter of opinion, and this industry isn’t shy of those.
There will be those saying he deserved more time, that his calm and composed nature was one of his strengths and his determination to find value, where others don’t both in free agents and the draft, will be sorely missed. And given the success of his third and fourth round picks from 2018 in Justin Reid and Keke Coutee so far, this is a valid argument.
Others will say that with Jadeveon Clowney still not signed to a long term deal, bargain basement solutions dragged in to solve their gaping wounds in the secondary, and an over-reliance on inexperienced rookies to protect their already banged up franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson, it was the right call.
Ultimately, what we do now know that we did not until Friday, was that the Texans are a different beast to a year ago. With Cal McNair taking over as the chairman and chief operating officer after the the death of Bob McNair, the club founder, the Texans seem more cutthroat. By all accounts, he is not the kind of individual willing to sit and wait for success to find him. He wants it, and he wants it now.
This was indicated by a tweet sent out by Patrick Starr who said: “There is one thing I was told when Cal McNair took over. McNair has little patience for mistakes and more willing to cut bait when things are not right.”
This doesn’t mean by any stretch that he is impulsive, far from it. According to John McClain the decision by McNair to fire Gaine was one he had mulled over for some time. Said McClain: “It wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction but one he considered for several weeks.”
He clearly has faith in his coach, for the moment at least. With O’Brien tied to a long term deal to keep him in Houston despite little playoff success to date, he will have had a role in allowing O’Brien to hand pick the replacement for Rick Smith (despite not yet being the owner), and it has to be inferred that O’Brien also had a hand in the decision to cut ties with Gaine.
McClain also suggested that O’Brien will be handed yet more control over the team from now on.
“Although it won’t fall under his job title, expect O’Brien to gain more influence over departments that usually come under the auspices of the general manager,” McClain wrote.
However, what you cannot help but wonder at this point is how safe is O’Brien? Unless this next GM he chooses proves to be the one to bring them a championship, will McNair begin to question whether it is the coach who needs to be replaced? Especially if O’Brien does indeed end up controlling yet more of the Texans.
Discussions surrounding O’Brien’s job security have already reached social media, with the likes of Matt Hammond suggesting that with the Texans interviewing Ray Farmer for the position on Saturday: “It shows they’re conducting a real GM search, they’re not unconditionally committed to Bill O’Brien and want the best guy for the job. Whether O’Brien’s here in a year or not.”
What can be gathered from all of this? Well, all signs point to O’Brien very much being in charge and responsible for this team. I still believe will be given the staff he wants, and likely the players as well. However, with a new McNair now in charge, you’d have to imagine that O’Brien’s job security has suddenly become a lot more tenuous if he is unable to deliver soon.