Make no mistake: What we saw on the field last night … that was head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien’s vision for this Texans team.

There’s no shame in getting rolled by the Super Bowl champs. Most teams on the Chiefs schedule are headed for the same fate. But the rough performance by the offense stands out because it was the direct result of O’Brien’s mismanagement of this team.

That offensive line that couldn’t give Deshaun Watson more than a few seconds? That receiving corps that killed drives with ill-timed drops and couldn’t get open against an undermanned Chiefs secondary? Yeah, all handpicked by O’Brien, who took over as the team’s general manager last offseason before immediately taking a jackhammer to the roster.

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Before the Chiefs cruised to a 34-20 win, there was a short time there where it looked like Thursday night might have given us an O’Brien redemption story. The Texans offense got off to a hot start, marching down the field with relative ease and capping off a touchdown drive with a long run by David Johnson, the centerpiece of Houston’s maligned trade of DeAndre Hopkins.

Then the Texans actually had to start passing the ball. And that’s when O’Brien’s flawed construction of this roster reared its head.

Watson had no time in the pocket. He was under pressure on almost every snap, and while the young quarterback has made things hard for his line at times during his career, this was not one of those games. Watson’s average time-to-throw was 2.59 seconds on Thursday night, per Next Gen Stats. That’s really quick! In 2019,  Ryan Fitzpatrick had the third-shortest average time-to-throw at 2.61.

It’s not like this line has been neglected by O’Brien, which makes its poor performance look even worse. Starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil cost the team a couple of first-round picks and a market-resetting extension. Left guard Max Scharping was drafted in the second round. The same goes for center Nick Martin. Right guard Zack Fulton was signed on a four-year, $28 million deal in free agency. Right tackle Tytus Howard, who had a particularly bad game, was a first-round pick.

O’Brien has poured a lot of resources into the front-five and it doesn’t look any better.

Even when the offensive line gave Watson some time, he didn’t have anywhere to go with the ball. Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks, the two players brought in to replace Hopkins, were barely involved. Both caught two passes for a combined 43 yards and their plays resulted in -4.7 Expected Points. Will Fuller was Watson’s only reliable outlet but even he had a bad drop on one of his few targets downfield.

This is not what a Deshaun Watson passing chart should look like…

O’Brien has somehow found a way to make Watson boring. That’s unforgivable. Do you know how hard you have to work to make Watson boring? As football fans, we should all be upset.

To first-year offensive coordinator Tim Kelly’s credit, the Texans running game was quite good. There were some fun option concepts with blockers pulling in various directions. And Johnson, in particular, had a strong outing, averaging 0.42 EPA on 11 runs, per RBSDM.com. But he was a non-factor in the passing game, and isn’t that what makes Johnson different from other backs, supposedly? He wasn’t split out wide. We didn’t see him in the slot. There was nothing creative about his deployment, and Johnson is a player who requires schematic creativity to be used to his full potential.

Combine all of that and you get a laboring performance from Watson. Nothing was easy for the 24-year-old quarterback. Outside of a few screen passes, there were no easy throws. Houston barely used play-action, which would have helped to slow down that Kansas City pass rush. There were no designed roll-outs. No help in the form of extra blockers for the struggling offensive line. It was a three-hour indictment of that offensive coaching staff.

(The defense wasn’t much better, but that’s more understandable considering the opponent.)

Andy Reid being on the other sideline only highlighted O’Brien’s flaws as a coach. I’m not even talking about the creativity of their respective schemes, though the contrast was striking. Reid made decisions with a sense of urgency. O’Brien made decisions as if he were still in the Big Ten. You can’t throw away opportunities to put points on the board against this Chiefs offense — not only because it’s so good, but we also know that Reid is not going to pass on those opportunities — but O’Brien did on multiple occasions.

In the second quarter, he punted on fourth-and-4 from the 50, only to see Patrick Mahomes march the down the field for a touchdown. Earlier in the half, Reid kept his offense on the field on fourth down on his own side of the field. Kansas City easily converted and eventually got into the end zone.
The Texans started a drive with about three minutes left in the second quarter. Houston started off with a couple of run plays, seemingly content to run out the clock and get into the locker room. The runs picked up some yards and got the Texans offense going but the drive eventually ended with a missed field goal, leaving 25 seconds on the clock. What did Reid do? He kept his foot on the gas and the Cheifs offense managed to get into field goal range and extend their lead before the break.
O’Brien’s worst decision didn’t really have any bearing on the outcome, but it speaks to his incompetence as a game-day coach. The Texans scored a late touchdown that cut the lead to 12 before the extra point. Instead of going for 2 and cutting the lead down to 10, O’Brien sent his kicker out on the field for some reason.

O’Brien’s decision-making was timid and, at times, inexplicable. The offensive game plan was dull. There were no adjustments to speak of. It was a comprehensive display of incompetence made worse by a flawed approach to team building.

After muscling his way to the top of the front office, O’Brien has run out of people to blame for Houston’s failures.

The Counter Podcast: Breaking down Chiefs-Texans and a Week 1 preview

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