The Houston Texans, under new head coach Bill O’Brien, will be moving forward into the 2014 season without an offensive coordinator. It’s not uncommon for head coaches to call plays on one side of the ball, but even in those cases, coordinators are usually named to help alleviate some of the day-to-day game planning a work that a head coach doesn’t necessarily have time to deal with.
The move may not make headlines once we get close to the start of the season, but it’s a move that could have some very real consequences on the Texans’ offense and the rest of the team. To be successful without a coordinator, O’Brien will have to be able to delegate some of his responsibilities to the right people on his staff.
Head coaches in the NFL simply don’t have the time to lead their teams and handle all the day-to-day responsibilities that coordinators need to worry about. If O’Brien micromanages too much, his team will suffer, but as a play caller, he’ll still need to be very involved on the offensive side of the ball.
It’s a tough balance to find. There’s no doubt about that. Even the Texans’ in-state rival, the Dallas Cowboys, moved away from the head coach/play caller model in an effort to help Jason Garrett be a more effective leader for the team as a whole.
If the Texans are successful with their model, no one will say anything. If, however, O’Brien’s team stumbles through the season in the same way that Houston did in 2013, many will begin wondering whether O’Brien can handle the level of responsibility of being a head coach and a de-facto coordinator at the same time.
To compound the time constraints that O’Brien will inherently have, he’ll also be teaching a new offense to his players, and he’s still without a starting quarterback. Matt Schaub could still work for the team, but all indications have been that the Texans are moving in a different direction. With a young quarterback, O’Brien would need to commit even more time to the offense.
In an ideal world, O’Brien can hand the defense to Romeo Crennel, the team’s defensive coordinator, and worry about the offense. Still, any head coach worth holding his title needs to have a hand in both sides of the football.
At the end of the day, it’s all about results. The Texans’ system of operation will live or die based on how this team adjusts to a new head coach. The AFC South is one of the weaker divisions in football, and there’s no reason the Texans can’t at least come close to the playoffs. O’Brien may have a full plate, but to this point in his career, he’s been able to rise to the challenge. Still, calling plays for the offense without a coordinator while leading an entire football team may be more than he can handle.