The Texans made a coaching change for the second time in so many years. The team fired David Culley on Thursday, less than a year after he hired him to replace Bill O’Brien.
Sixty-six-year-old Culley led the Texans to a 4:13 record in his only season. He becomes the first one-time coach for Houston during its short franchise history. Previously, Houston’s head coach had been Dom Capers’ four-year career since 2002, when the team entered the league as an expansion franchise, until 2005.
It’s hard to say that Culley had a good season, but his staff certainly showed some promise in working with minimal talent. Davis Mills was surprisingly one of the top quarterbacks in the league, finishing 66.8 percent of his passes in 2,664 yards, 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 13 games (11 starts) and Houston played well twice. Team No. 1 in the AFC, Titans.
Nevertheless, the Texans decided to go the other way and conduct their second coaching search in the year-long era of Nick Caserio.
Here’s why the Texans decided to bring in another head coach to replace Culley after just one season.
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Why did the Texans fire David Culley?
The Texans were not expected to be very good in 2021. They had one of the weakest rosters in the NFL and off the field they struggled with the saga of Deshaun Watson.
Culley’s 4-13 record as such was no surprise; in fact, it was probably at the same level or slightly better than expected. Likewise, Davis Mills played, who shone a lot upside down for the Texans during the start of most of the season.
This means that there have been problems with Houston’s overall performance. The team had an attack on the bottom five and scored single digits in seven of their 17 matches, but Culley reportedly he did not want to make changes in his offensive squad after the season. Houston also had a bottom five defense and allowed at least 30 points eight times. Culley also made several mistakes in the game, including refusing penalties in week 2, which would give the Texans the first down after the pun.
The Texans again had a weak list, and Culley was never a full-time coordinator — let alone a head coach — at the NFL level. So this type of performance was a bit expected. Nevertheless, even after a thorough evaluation, the Texas front recommended owner Cal McNair that the Culley team be fired, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.
According to sources familiar with the situation, after the Texasans evaluated the personnel side of the organization for four days, General Manager Nick Caserio and Senior Executive Vice President of Football Operations Jack Easterby recommended dismissing Culley. Chairman and CEO Cal McNair signed it.
Looks like Houston never trusted Culley much. The Texans built only two years of guaranteed money into his deal, so they had the flexibility to say goodbye to him after one year. A league source expected that to always be the case, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
When the Texans hired David Culley, they guaranteed him money for only two years; they knew there was always a real chance it would be, and that’s it. As one league source wrote about his one-year term: “I knew it when he was hired.”
– Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 13, 2022
So why did the team hire Culley? The candidate they were looking for might not be available, but they felt he could shake in 2022. Either way, Culley seems to be just a makeshift gap, as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport explained.
“Everyone knew it was going to be a season,” Rapoport said.[The Texans] I just really wanted to see if it would be the coach that would take them into the future, or it would just be a patch – come on, coach the team as they prepare to move on to the next level. Clearly, the answer for David Culley and the Houston Texans is that it was just a patch; Apple juice.”
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Who will replace David Culley in Houston?
There is a strong connection between the Patriots and the current Texas office. Caserio made a name for himself in New England and Easterby also began there. As such, it makes sense to look at a lot of former New England employees, the most important of which could be:
- Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels
- Patriots co-defense coordinator Jerod Mayo
- Former Dolphins coach Brian Flores
Bill O’Brien would be technically in this category as well, but he coached the Texans from 2014 until the start of the 2020 season. Things with O’Brien didn’t end well, so Cal McNair would not consider bringing him back.
Another option for Texans might be to try to spread an olive branch to Watson. He allegedly wanted the team to interview Eric Bieniemy in the last recruitment cycle, and that didn’t happen, so maybe the Texans will go after him this time in an effort to persuade Watson to stay. That trip seems unlikely, but Bieniemy would be a good rental anyway.
Flores would be too. Watson reportedly wanted to play for him in Miami, so he might reconsider his business demand if Caserio brought Flores on board. Again, this seems unlikely, but at least it’s worth considering.
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