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HOUSTON – When Houston Texans hired David Culley, team chairman and CEO Cal McNair said the head coach’s “vision and ability to bring people together” was why the organization felt Culley was “our guy.”
Not once at the press conference did McNair or general manager Nick Caserio talk about building around Culley or his ability to lead the team into the future.
Less than a year after the press conference, the Texans are again looking for a head coach. Clearly, they never intended Culley to be the long-term solution.
By firing Culley, who coached a roster handed over by Caserio and without a quarterback deshaun watson, the organization showed that it never intended to give Culley a real chance to make it through this rebuilding period. That, or else they did not understand the quality of the list that was put together for Culley. You can guess the most likely answer, but either is the condemnatory proof against the current ownership and front office.
It’s not to mention firing a Black head coach into a league that only had three last season and now one (Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin) after the Miami Dolphins fired Brian Flores earlier this week. Culley was the only black head coach hired in 2021, and his firing brings to mind what happened to Steve Wilks in Arizona. The Cardinals fired the Wilks in 2019 after a 3-13 season.
Culley was also tasked with winning matches with his third-string quarterback, rookie third-round pick Davis Mills. Because Watson would not play for the Texans, Mills started six games while Tyrod Taylor was on injured reserve with a left hamstring injury. Mills also replaced Taylor in the last five games of the season after the veteran was benched in Week 13.
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Culley was mostly picked up with a focus on building a positive culture and atmosphere. If the players did not comply, penalties were imposed. Security Justin Reid was suspended for a match and linebacker Zach Cunningham was cut for violating the team’s rules. The Texans will have to eat dead money from Cunningham’s contract next year.
But guys Culley? It shows that the whole organization is in the midst of a rebuilding, not just on the field.
A year ago, Texans interviewed Jim Caldwell, Marvin Lewis, Leslie Frazier, Joe Brady, Josh McCown and Eric Bieniemy. Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus also denied a request for an interview.
McCown may be a candidate for the job again this year alongside Flores, who worked with Caserio in New England. Flores, of course, coached the one team (the Dolphins) that Watson had agreed to waive his no-trade clause for before the NFL’s trade deadline.
Other possible candidates to replace Culley include Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Texans passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton and Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo.
It is possible that Culley was the best candidate the Texans could hire last season. Can you blame the rest of the potential applicants?
Who wants to coach a team that comes after a four-game winning streak with a quarterback at Watson who first asked for a swap deal in January before being served with 23 civil lawsuits alleging inappropriate behavior and sexual assault?
A year later, is the Texans job more attractive than it was in January 2021? Candidates will no doubt have seen what happened to Culley, who won four games and saw his team’s best performances come late in the season.
Yes, the Texans have No. 3 in the NFL draft. However, they have to absorb $ 34.4 million of dead money that counts in their salary cap for players who no longer play for the team. And that does not include the $ 40.4 million that Watson will count in the ceiling if the Texans can not trade him, and he is on the active list again in 2022.
At his pre-season press conference, Caserio said: “I’ll probably put my foot in my mouth to say this, but it’s not as much results-oriented as process-oriented, and that’s what we’re trying to do and build.”
Although it’s unclear what part of Caserio’s “process” as Culley went wrong – apart from the fact that it was doubtful that the Texans did not use the last weeks of the regular season to use their own evaluation process for Culley, instead of pulling it out longer than any other NFL team – it’s clear McNair believes in Caserio.
The homeowner dropped the coaching job, which he spent more than $ 500,000 on last year looking for a new general manager when he heard Caserio was available. He ignored the information gathered and hired the one he wanted all the time – the former Patriots director of player personnel.
Caserio now gets his second head coach in as many years with the Texans. Most general managers do not get more than that during their tenure with a team, although there is reason to believe that this case may be different.
After the Texans hired Caserio, McNair said the organization would improve “stone by brick,” and talked about how he and Caserio would “work together, we will work together, we will work together.” [and] Cooperation.”
By firing Culley after a season in which the Texans won the same number of games as they did the previous year – without their biggest stars Watson and JJ Watt and with a list consisting mainly of veteran players on one- or two-year contracts – Houston showed that it would never be rebuilt around Culley.
They hoped he would create a positive environment during what would no doubt be a brutal season full of defeats. Firing him afterwards really summed up the season and could leave a bad taste in the mouth of the locker room – though more than half are unlikely to be back in 2022 – and the fan base.
So now it’s up to McNair and Caserio. They need to get this employment right. Support for the Texans in Houston is already at a record low. Winning heals everything, but how long will McNair give Caserio to get there?