Bill O’Brien’s Houston Texans might not look like the New England Patriots, but they certainly sound like them.
O’Brien and the Texans are still very much alive in the AFC playoff picture, but they’ll get a mighty test Sunday night against the Patriots. Perhaps no one inside Texans headquarters knows more about what makes the Patriots tick than O’Brien, who served under Patriots head coach Bill Belichick from 2007 through 2011. Additionally, the Texans have former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel on the coaching staff, and former Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork on the field.
No coach or program in the NFL is better at controlling the noise surrounding a team than Belichick and the Patriots, which apparently rubbed off on O’Brien. As the Texans prepare for arguably the biggest game of O’Brien’s tenure, they sound like a Belichick team. They’re effusive in their praise of the opposition, and they’re saying a lot of words without actually saying anything, and it starts with O’Brien.
“I think every game is big, though,” he told reporters when asked about the raised stakes of Sunday’s game. “I really do. I think when you’re in this league, you only play once a week, I don’t see in the regular season where necessarily one game is bigger than the other. I know the race that we’re in and those types of things, but I think in December every game is big.”
But, Bill, what about your very obvious, very real connections to the Patriots?
“I’ll get a lot of those questions this week and I’ll answer all of them But I think in the end, what it’s about is, it’s really about the two teams,” he explained. “… It’s about the two teams playing each other, the 2015 Texans versus the 2015 Patriots. That’s what this week’s about.”
OK, so the head coach is polished. What about the players? Cornerback Kevin Johnson, a first-round draft pick cornerback who must have a bunch of confidence, obviously will say something about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to at least sort of stir the pot, right?
“It is going to be a tough matchup,” Johnson said. “Tom Brady is known as one of the best players to play the game, so we have to be on our game.”
Are we sure O’Brien wasn’t behind reporters holding a cue card when Johnson answered that?
A Google search of “Brian Cushing trash talk” yields multiple results, but apparently he’s also going to save his talking for Sunday.
“(Brady is) a very good quarterback,” Cushing told reporters. “He is going to give us some issues and different matchups and know what he is looking for, so we just have to go into the game plan expecting certain things that he is going to do. But as we all know and saw, (Sunday) he pulled some things out. He does some different things that no one is expecting, that’s what makes him one of the best, if not the best ever.”
O’Brien obviously isn’t trying to be Belichick 2.0 in Houston. He’s going to want to do things his own way, but there’s no denying — at least when you listen to the two clubs — there’s at least one similarity.
Thumbnail photo via Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports Images