Posted on January 13, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

Houston Texans Bill O'Brien

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The Houston Texans have made an important decision about their leadership for the long term. On Saturday, the team announced that head coach Bill O’Brien has been given a four-year extension. The Texans have also hired Brian Gaine to serve as their GM, signing him to a five-year deal.

The extension for O’Brian is a little surprising. Late in the season, there was speculation that he could be fired on Black Monday following a 4-12 season. When he wasn’t fired after the season, it appeared as if O’Brien would enter the 2018 season as a lame-duck coach in the final year of his contract. However, a contract extension at this point gives O’Brien a vote of confidence from owner Bob McNair.

“Bill O’Brien has been a tremendous leader for us these last four years and we believe in his vision for the team moving forward,” McNair said in a statement. “Bill is a terrific teacher that the players respect. We have a lot of trust in him to build a unified, championship culture and we’re thrilled to have him as our head coach into the future.”

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Before this year’s 4-12 campaign, O’Brien led the Texans to three straight 9-7 seasons. In 2015 and 2016, that 9-7 record was good enough to win the AFC South. Many of Houston’s issues this season came after rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson was lost to a season-ending injury. Before the injury, Watson had started to establish himself as Houston’s quarterback of the future. Watson’s presence makes it easier for the Texans to move forward with O’Brien at the helm.

Gaine, meanwhile, comes to Houston after serving as vice president of player personnel for the Buffalo Bills this past season. From 2014 to 2016, he worked in Houston’s player personnel department. Current Texans GM Rick Smith is taking an indefinite leave of absence while his wife battles breast cancer. However, Smith will retain the title of executive vice president as Gaine takes over duties as GM.

“Brian is an incredibly smart, hardworking individual that understands the importance of good communication,” said McNair. “We couldn’t be more excited about naming him our new general manager.”

Gaine’s familiarity with O’Brien and Houston’s personnel should make the transition an easy one for the Texans. Despite a down year, the Texans don’t need to undertake a massive rebuilding project. If players like Watson, J.J. Watt, and others come back healthy in 2018, the Texans should be in good shape to compete for another AFC South title next season.

“He has a great knowledge of both the pro and college side of things,” O’Brien said of Gaine last week before the hire was made. O’Brien added that Gaine is “a very bright guy, works very hard, cares about this league (and) cares about football.”

Of course, the AFC South is much more competitive than it was a couple years ago. The division includes two of the four AFC teams still playing heading into the Divisional Round of the playoffs. In addition to the Jaguars and Titans, the Colts could also pose a threat in the AFC South if Andrew Luck comes back healthy in 2018. However, with O’Brien’s future secure and a new GM with familiarity with the team in place, the Texans should be in good shape moving forward.

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