Bill O’Brien (Houston at Seattle)
Bill O’Brien has done a very good job since becoming the Texans head coach. Some contend that he’s been lucky to play in the less than strong AFC South division, but such a contention is irrelevant. What is clear is that O’Brien has infused the franchise with confidence and competence, and he also has done an excellent job creating a system that allows rookie QB DeShaun Watson to exhibit all of his skills. O’Brien is a solid NFL head coach and should continue to be one for a long time.
This game was an offensive shootout, and one that was going to reward the team that would have the ball last, and O’Brien was presented a situation that gave him the opportunity to have the ball last.
Ahead 38-34 with 1:53 left in the game, the Texans faced a 3rd and 4, with the Seahawks having used all of their timeouts. A first down by the Texans would effectively end the game. Up to this point, Watson had played a spectacular game, a memorable game – one of the best offensive performances in the 2017 season. However, he also had thrown three interceptions.
The situation O’Brien faced: Run or Pass?
If he runs from four yards out for a first down, he probably doesn’t get it, but he does run off another 40 seconds, and leaves the Seahawks barely over a minute and almost 80 yards to go for a TD. However, he’d also have to depend on a defense that had already lost three of its best players to season-ending injuries or suspension (Brian Cushing, Whitney Mercilus, and JJ Watt).
If he passes, and the pass falls incomplete, the Seahawks have nearly two minutes to attempt a game-winning drive. And a pass risks an interception as well, and Watson already had thrown three.
Finally, O’Brien also had the knowledge that in a previous situation this year against New England, he chose to run, and that decision proved incorrect.
In this case, O’Brien chose the same option as in the New England game. The running play with RB Lamar Miller was stuffed, the Texans punted, and the Seahawks drove for a winning TD.
It was a close call for O’Brien, and not an easy one. It’s situations like these that we like to dissect here and evaluate the relative soundness of judgment of all 32 NFL head coaches. And that’s why this situation is Week 8’s Situational Call of the Week.