The NBA, going back decades, figured out a simple truth. Middling coaches are replaceable. Star players are not.
The NFL hasn’t gotten around to that line of thinking, at least not in Houston.
Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien traded All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals, getting back the bloated contract of running back David Johnson and a second-round pick. It’s hard to find another trade that was criticized so heavily right after it was made.
On Friday, O’Brien acknowledged what had been reported: Hopkins’ trade was related to him wanting a raise.
Texans didn’t want to give DeAndre Hopkins a raise
Hopkins had a contract but was underpaid. The market went up for wide receivers. Teams often don’t honor contracts, cutting players with seasons remaining on their deals. Someone leaked that Hopkins wanted $18-20 million per season, apparently in an attempt to make him look greedy and justify the trade, but that price is not more than Michael Thomas, Julio Jones and now Amari Cooper make.
Instead of just paying a superstar what he’s worth, the Texans traded him for very little. O’Brien wasn’t backing down, and according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, he mentioned Hopkins’ raise request when talking about the trade.
Bill O'Brien: 'It was in the best interest of our team. DeAndre Hopkins was a great football player. We loved DeAndre Hopkins He had three years left on his deal and he wanted a raise. David Johnson is going to be a great addition to our football team.'— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) April 3, 2020
Houston would have been much better off paying an irreplaceable player, instead of throwing a tantrum and trading him for Johnson, who has been a non-factor since 2016, was benched last season and has a $10.2 million base salary this season.
And if the conflict between Hopkins and O’Brien couldn’t have been fixed, maybe the Texans should have followed the NBA model and found a new coach.
Hopkins is one of NFL’s best
The Texans could regret the Hopkins trade for a long time.
Hopkins has been a first-team All-Pro three years in a row, and among players in Texans history only J.J. Watt has more than three All-Pro nods. Hopkins is third player in NFL history with more than 600 receptions, 8,500 receiving yards and 50 receiving touchdowns through his first seven seasons. He’s a special player. Randall Cobb, who was signed to help replace Hopkins at $9 million per season, won’t have nearly the same impact as Hopkins.
Yet, O’Brien isn’t going to back down.
Bill O'Brien: 'Any decision that's made is made with the team in mind. Capital T Capital E Capital A. Capital M in mind.'— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) April 3, 2020
The T-E-A-M would be better off with arguably the best receiver in football. But what’s done is done.
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