HTX Texans
Arian Foster Pushes O'Brien

Arian Foster pushes Bill O'Brien to be a better coach with rant: Infamous Tom Brady dustup a Texans blueprint

Arian Foster pushes Bill O'Brien to be better coach with sideline rant

Arian Foster close up
Arian Foster once again carried the Houston Texans. Photo by Dennis M. Ayotte Jr
Bill O'Brien smile Texans Bills
Bill O'Brien has guided the Texans into the AFC playoff race despite the loss of key players like Jadeveon Clowney. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Ryan Fitzpatrick alone Texans skins
Ryan Fitzpatrick is 2-0 since his return from the benching. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Arian Foster close up
Bill O'Brien smile Texans Bills
Ryan Fitzpatrick alone Texans skins

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The best running back in the NFL is screaming for the football. On and on, Arian Foster goes, pleading, urging — no demanding.

Just give him the ball. Have faith. Go for the dagger.

First-year Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien has been wavering. You get the sense O'Brien wants to go for it, but he needs to be convinced. The coach takes a timeout before the play to be absolutely sure.

Arian Foster does the convincing. Loudly. Confidently. In the sideline language that O'Brien — a guy nicknamed Teapot during his ultra successful run with the New England Patriots for his tendency to blow his top in anger — understands and loves.

It's the language of a tough football team, one with leaders who aren't afraid to challenge each other. "I was just screaming, 'Give me the ball!' " Foster says later, when he's back in his cool, nonchalant off-the-field mode, another stylish hat that's anything but an athletic cap on his head.

"He told me he was scoring," O'Brien says, flashing a quick smile.

 O'Brien is the rare coach who is comfortable with players going at him too. He almost seems to relish the angry debate. 

So the coach sends his offense back on the field to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. The Texans are clinging to a 17-13 lead, still one blunder away from seeing their playoff push end in the horror of an unfathomable loss to Jacksonville. Still O'Brien eschews the sure seven point lead that a field goal would provide.

He'll put his faith in No. 23. He'll go for something more, try to put the game away.

The play's a bust though. Jacksonville's talented front sniffs it out and by all rights, Foster should be dead. Only, he's not.

Foster somehow bounces off the right side and the slew of big bodies reaching for him and he cuts back all the way left, the opposite direction of where the play's designed to go. He has the presence of mind to completely reverse course and somehow find another way in the game's most pressure packed moment. Still, Jaguars cornerback Jeremy Harris has him on the left side too. For the second time in moments — moments when O'Brien is no doubt dying on the sideline — the fourth-and-goal is dead.

Then, it's not. Again. No. 23 breaks through Harris' arms and sprints into the back of the end zone.

When you're Arian Foster and you tell your coach you're scoring, you score. It's an absolutely brilliant run, reminiscent of the no-way, two-point conversion he shocked Tennessee with to force overtime in the second game of last season. It shows off all of Foster's unparalleled skills on one play —the power, the vision, the quick dart, the no-panic high wire patience.

"That's why it's good to have Two Three on your side," Texans center Chris Myers says. "He can make something out of nothing."

The 27-13 win over the Jaguars that Foster's magic act seals is not nothing. The Texans, left for dead just two weeks ago, are now 7-6 and up to eighth in the AFC Playoff standings. They get to play a meaningful game in Indy in Week 15, get to try and push Andrew Luck at least a little and prove tons about themselves.

Johnny Manziel Dreaming, Andrew Luck Crushed

With the Browns (still dumbly robbing themselves of Johnny Manziel magic) holding a fourth quarter lead over the Colts Sunday, Bob McNair and his son Cal stand and quietly watch the small TV set hanging in the visitors locker room at EverBank Field, hoping for a first place showdown next Sunday. When Luck crushes that Texans' vision in the final minute, veteran safety Danieal Manning lets out his own loud displeasure.

This Texans season is about more than an improbable playoff push or even finally winning one single damn game in Indianapolis and breaking the curse of The City That Always Sleeps. It's about setting the foundation for the Bill O'Brien era. And no small part of that can be heard in Foster screaming for the ball in Jacksonville and O'Brien and left tackle Duane Brown screaming at each other on the sidelines in the win over the Titans the week before.

 Halftime adjustments sometimes can be overrated. But sometimes good ones absolutely save the day. 

It turns out that infamous incident in New England where O'Brien lit into Tom Brady on the sidelines and the Golden Boy gave it right back does not begin to paint the complete picture of O'Brien's player interactions. This isn't just an ultra intense coach who sometimes goes off on players in the heat of the moment.

No, O'Brien is the rare coach who is comfortable with players going at him too. He almost seems to relish the angry debate. He does not just push. He wants to be pushed right back too.

Foster's emphatic push and demand for the ball makes O'Brien a better coach on this Sunday. Which is saying something considering O'Brien's already having himself a heck of a day before Foster's screams. For it is O'Brien and quarterbacks coach George Godsey who huddle at halftime with the Texans trailing 13-10 and completely change the game.

Halftime adjustments sometimes can be overrated. But sometimes good ones absolutely save the day.

"George and I came together with the staff," O'Brien says, offering rare behind the scenes insight. "These are the plays we need to run. Different pass plays. Different run plays. We felt like we had a better plan to go at them in the second half."

The revamped plan brings a new feel to the game — and a 17-0 Texans second half shutout.

"We talked to (quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick) a lot at halftime," O’Brien says. "Halftimes are short. But we were able to spend a lot of time with him, just talking to him about reading a play. How to read a play. This is the coverage they are playing, let’s make sure we’re on the same page on how we want to read these."

O'Brien is clearly terrified of really letting Fitzpatrick loose against a young, underrated, turnover creating Jaguars defense. The Texans run the ball a whooping 42 times and only have Fitzpatrick throw 19 passes in the Jacksonville gloom (it's so chilly, no one even jumps in the stadium pool).

This idea that Fitzpatrick's suddenly a different quarterback because he threw those six touchdown passes against a pathetic Titans secondary always rang out as a false, forced local media creation. And O'Brien's actions — no matter what he says publicly — clearly show he doesn't buy it either.

Instead, O'Brien crafts a gameplan to win this particular game — what he's said he'd always do from the beginning of his time in Houston. He makes sure there is no chance this game is thrown away. And he listens when his best offensive player screams at him to have faith and just give him the ball.

"We just executed the new plays they called and everything worked out," Keshawn Martin, the third-year receiver who's made an impact in back to back weeks, says.

The playoffs are still in reach (even if it's a long reach) and this Texans franchise is transforming before everyone's eyes. Whether the fans realize it or not. This coach is growing too.

This coach isn't afraid of a loud sideline. This coach isn't afraid of screaming disagreement. Bill O'Brien wants that, he's been pushing for it. He knows it's the sound of winning.