Houston Texans: Is Bill O’Brien coaching for his job in 2017?

The Houston Texans may have back-to-back AFC South titles under head coach Bill O’Brien, but it may not be good enough.

Sometimes a winning head coach just isn’t good enough for a team. The Houston Texans, after four years under Bill O’Brien, may be approaching that point.

The recent classic case is the Chicago Bears’ dismissal of Lovie Smith following the 2012 season. Smith’s Bears had just posted a 10-6 record (unfortunately third in the NFC North), but it wasn’t good enough. Despite never posting a record worse than 7-9 since 2005, finishing .500 or better in six of his nine seasons, and four seasons of 10 or more wins, Smith was out the door.

Since then, the Bears have only finished above last in the division once. Marc Trestman was a disaster and John Fox is currently shoveling the broken bits of the franchise into a pile that only partly resembles an NFL team.

Smith was not necessarily a great coach, but he was a good enough coach. Much like O’Brien in Houston, Smith relied on building a complete team despite never quite having the answer at quarterback. The peak came in a Super Bowl appearance with Rex Grossman somehow managing at quarterback.

Unlike Smith, O’Brien has yet to get to double-digit wins or make much progress in the playoffs. His three-straight 9-7 records are good enough for now, but for how much longer? Roto World’s Patrick Daughtery is right in implying that no coach makes better lemonade with less lemons, but that often isn’t enough in the modern NFL where dominance is demanded and teams desperately want the next Bill Belichick.

Frank Schwab of Yahoo! Sports wonders if the dramatic jettison of quarterback Brock Osweiler and trade up for Deshaun Watson was just the kind of flourish that O’Brien needs to stick around longer. It is an interesting idea, especially for a coach with plenty of bravado who points to the back-to-back AFC South titles the Texans have won when criticized — even if they were won with 9-7 records.

The titles do matter and staying above .500 matters, too. Ultimately the NFL is about winning no matter how close the margins are. But questioning whether things are as hunky-dory as they are made out to be after eight of the team’s nine wins came by seven points or less is fair. It is the kind of offseason criticism that needs to be examined.

In the end, it’s doubtful that O’Brien will be out the door if he gets near .500 again. If the wheels fall off then anything could happen, but the Texans will be playing with a fresh new quarterback in 2017 and 9-7 may be the ceiling once again.

Whether that is the head coach making the best lemonade he can with the lemons he’s given or a coach just being good enough will remain to be seen. The results will be in the eye of the beholder in 2017.