The Houston Texans Have a Problem and His Name Is Bill O’Brien

In his first major move as GM, O'Brien agreed to a ship DeAndre Hopkins away for peanuts

Bill O'Brien makes bad trades
Head Coach Bill O'Brien of the Houston Texans at a press conference. (Don Juan Moore/Getty)
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With millions of Americans struggling to deal with the ongoing pandemic, Houston Texans head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien provided some much-needed comic relief by agreeing to a laughably bad trade on Monday afternoon.

O’Brien, who was named GM by Houston owner Cal McNair in January and is beginning his first offseason with that title, agreed to a deal with the Arizona Cardinals that netted him running back David Johnson, a second-round pick in 2020 and a 2021 fourth-round pick.

In exchange, the Texans gave the Cardinals four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick. 

Hopkins, 27,  has racked up 8,602 receiving yards and 54 touchdowns over his seven NFL seasons and is hands-down one of the best pass-catchers in the NFL. He’s also one of the league’s most durable players, having suited up for 110 out of 112 possible regular-season games over the same period.

While he’s certainly no slouch when healthy, Johnson was hurt for much of last season and barely played down the stretch for the Cardinals after getting beaten out for the starting job by journeyman Kenyan Drake. And though he’s played two fewer NFL seasons than Hopkins (five), Johnson is actually a year older than the receiver, since he didn’t enter the league until he was 24. That doesn’t bode well for the future health of a player who has started just 26 of a possible 48 regular-season games over the past three seasons.

As if their ages and performance arcs didn’t make the deal lopsided enough in Arizona’s favor, Houston will also be paying the rest of Johnson’s ball-and-chain contract, to the tune of a combined $20 million cap hit over the next two seasons.

To recap, the Texans get a broken-down running back who is approaching 30 with a bloated contract in exchange for an in-his-prime receiver who has averaged more than 1,300 receiving yards, 100 receptions and 10 touchdowns over his last three seasons, all of them Pro-Bowl campaigns. With Hopkins now gone, star quarterback Deshaun Watson will be forced to rely on a receiving corps of Will Fuller, Kenny Stills and Keke Coutee, all of whom missed multiple games last season with injuries.

To call it a head-scratching decision by O’Brien is an insult to anyone who has ever rubbed their noggin. It is foolish, bordering on criminal, and may ultimately end up costing O’Brien his coaching job as well as the new GM title he waited so long to get. 

Even worse, the return O’Brien got for his best pass-catcher looks even worse in light of the haul of picks (a first-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-rounder) the Vikings were able to get from the Bills in exchange for wide receiver Stefon Diggs, a player who is not nearly as good or consistent as Hopkins. 

Though it’s no laughing matter in Houston, O’Brien’s first official trade as GM is a joke. 

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