Rick Smith is taking an extended leave of absence from his duties as general manager of the Houston Texas, the team announced Sunday.
With Smith stepping away, the need for Texans owner Bob McNair to choose between firing one or the other is mitigated.
Smith has been Houston's general manager since 2006 following a stint as director of pro personnel with the Denver Broncos. However, the most important thing at the moment is the health of Smith's wife.
However, with the team's present and future quarterback Deshaun Watson has said he wants to play his entire career with O'Brien as his head coach, which could make McNair's decision much tougher.
O'Brien has one season remaining on the five-year contract he signed when taking over as head coach of the Texans in 2014.
"That's out of my control, but I would love to have Coach O'Brien with me", said Watson earlier in the month. The Texans went 9-7 in each of the head coach's first three seasons and won AFC South titles in 2015 and 2016.
The Texans closed out their 2017 campaign with a 22-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
They will apparently retain him again for 2018, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, who writes that while O'Brien is likely to be back, there are "issues" to be worked out with his contract. His leave of absence comes after a hard 4-12 season for the Texans that brought rumors of a "toxic" relationship between Smith and coach Bill O'Brien.