After assuming the role of general manager in the offseason, O’Brien received almost universal criticism when he shipped superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona for running back David Johnson and draft picks.
Asked to reflect on some of his personnel decisions, O’Brien said he had no regrets.
“Every decision we made was always in the best interest of the team,” he said. “We had long conversations. We put a lot of research into them. There were things that happened within the walls of an organization that the outside public will really never know. And that’s just the way it is.”
The pressure on O’Brien only intensified as the Texans limped out to the terrible start with Johnson struggling as their running game was the worst in the NFL and with the defense allowing the most yards in the league.
O’Brien was in his seventh season in Houston where he compiled a 52-48 record. He won the AFC South four times in his tenure, including the past two years.
He came to Houston after spending 2012-13 as the coach at Penn State. The Texans job was his first NFL head coaching job, but he spent 2007-2011 working for coach Bill Belichick in New England, rising to the role of offensive coordinator in his last season.
Team owner Cal McNair announced the decision Monday and thanked O’Brien for his work with the team.
“Bill’s leadership moved our organization forward as he guided us to four AFC South division championships, 52 wins and multiple playoff appearances during his tenure,” McNair said in a statement. “Bill proved himself as a coach and leader in this league. I spoke with him earlier today and told him we are moving in a different direction.”
O’Brien repeatedly thanked the McNair family for the chance to coach the Texans and apologized for falling below their expectations.
“I told him … I’m sorry that we couldn’t get this team over the hump, couldn’t get over the hump last year, year before, but obviously early on this year,” he said. “But it wasn’t from lack of effort. We did win four division championships here that we’re very proud of … so we did a lot of good things here, but we didn’t do enough.”
Romeo Crennel, who was the team’s assistant head coach, will serve as interim coach for the rest of the season.
“We have a talented team and I have no doubt our players and staff will rally to make Texans fans proud as we aim to win championships and do great things for the city of Houston,” McNair said.
Before the trade of Hopkins and Houston’s winless start this season, O’Brien came under fire last season for the team’s performance in the playoffs.
The Texans were up, 24-0, in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs and looked to be headed for their first AFC Championship Game, which they would have hosted. Instead they squandered the huge early lead in the 51-31 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champs.
It was just the latest playoff letdown for a team which lost in the wild-card round under O’Brien in 2015 and 2018 and also lost in the divisional round in 2016.
“I understand we fell short in terms of taking this team further in the playoffs,” O’Brien said. “But I do leave knowing that myself and the staff gave everything this organization deserved and more. We worked very, very hard to try to get this to a place where it could be it could be a championship program. We just didn’t get it done.”