Brian Hoyer was a 2013 Matt Schaub mess. Ryan "Alarm Clock" Mallett somehow turned into the perfectly timed savior. O'Brien, the second-year coach who keeps stumbling into first-year mistakes? He has some serious explaining to do.
He knows it, too.
"We were outcoached," said O'Brien, following a 27-20 first-game facepunch that really was a one-sided blowout until Mallett almost miraculously saved the day.
The Texans weren't ready for the Chiefs after having eight months to prepare for them. Hoyer was "terrible" – his word, not mine. One of the supposedly most stable and steadfast organizations in pro football is again a broken revolving door at the one position in the NFL you can't keep screwing up.
This is a 2014 photo of DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans NFL football team. This image reflects the Houston Texans active roster as of Friday, June 20, 2014 when this image was taken. (AP Photo) Texans game balls vs. Chiefs HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13: Head coach Bill O'Brien of the Houston Texans walks off the field after loosing to the Kansas City Chiefs in a NFL game on September 13, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Chiefs won 27 to 20. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Grading the Texans vs. the Chiefs Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien talks with quarterback Ryan Mallett (15) during the third quarter of an NFL football game at NRG Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. ( Karen Warren / Houston Chronicle ) Confusion reigns for Texans, O'Brien in opening debacle Houston Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer (7) on the sideline after getting replaced by quarterback Ryan Mallett during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game at NRG Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. ( Karen Warren / Houston Chronicle ) No debate now on who should be starting QB Cy Ridge assistant football coach Matthew Beeler (second from left) donated 63 percent of his liver to fellow assistant John McWilllams (right), helping to preserve the latter's health. Cy Ridge assistant Matthew Beeler gives gift of life to colleague
Of course, the Texans have done so with 15 games still to go. And O'Brien only added to the weird disarray postgame, saying he has no clue who'll lead the team at Carolina in a week.
"I don't know," said O'Brien, after storming toward his standard podium. "I just walked in here. I just got in off the field. No idea."
He added that he'll review the game film – the first half should be burned for the benefit of future generations -- then make a call.
What O'Brien didn't say: Hoyer is still the man. Which confirms that the "short leash" on his initial starter has already been trashed. O'Brien stripped it off when he yanked Hoyer with 6 minutes, 10 seconds left in the destruction. The chain was broken for good when Mallett mostly shined (8-for-13, 98 yards, touchdown, 110.4 rating) and Hoyer treated the aftermath like a dog who knows he's been kicked out of the house for good.
"I'm extremely disappointed. I'm disappointed and embarrassed," said Hoyer, who acknowledged that he let down the "entire organization" after completing 18-of-34 passes, throwing an interception, coughing up a fumble and being sacked four times.
Hoyer's good-guy, NFL-survivor story is already on the ropes in Houston. O'Brien's facing questions he's never heard as a head coach just one game into his second season.
Here's why: Because the man who breathes fire and fills up a swear jar in his sleep demanded that we fiercely believe in his QBs. And in less than four freaking quarters of an always brutal 16-game season, O'Brien has proven that his devotion is just as shaky as ours.
"The city of Houston should be proud of both of them," O'Brien said Aug. 2, right after training camp began. "The media should understand that both these guys can play. … If they don't go out there and do it, they don't do it. But I have a lot of faith in those guys."
So why was Hoyer suddenly pulled Sunday? Why was O'Brien unable to say who his starter was after defeat? Why do we keep having the same conversation when this job was supposed to be locked up?
Because confusion reigns on Kirby Drive.
This is what happened Sunday when O'Brien was asked whether Hoyer was set to play the entire game before kickoff: "You can clarify it all you want. I'm going to go back and watch the tape and figure out what is the best decision for the team at every position."
No clarity. No certainty. None of the "Hoyer's our guy and we're living and dying with him" pride that O'Brien insisted Texans fans muster just six weeks ago.
The hole keeps getting bigger. The words keep meaning less.
This isn't how you respond to living without Arian Foster for a few weeks. This isn't how you push past 9-7 and prove that almost really isn't good enough in 2015. This isn't how you sell the present to long-frustrated cynics, while hoping everyone forgets you aren't developing a young QB who could actually carry a franchise sometime in the relatively near future.
This is how you get yourself in trouble as an NFL head coach.
O'Brien's a smart, proud man. He can find his way out of this. But either Mallett or Hoyer must stand up next Sunday, not both. And the Texans better pretend like Week 1 was one of those bad scenes "Hard Knocks" intentionally left on the cutting-room floor.