The Texans made a managerial change for the second time in as many years. The team fired David Culley on Thursday, less than a year after hiring him to replace Bill O’Brien.
Culley, 66, led the Texans to a 4-13 record in his only season. He became Houston’s first single coach during its brief franchise history. Prior to that, the shortest stint of a Houston head coach was Dom Capers’ four-year stint from 2002, when the team entered the league as an expansion franchise, until 2005.
“I’m disappointed, but it’s part of the business,” Culley said via SportsTalk 790 in Houston. “I understand and move on. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
“You are tried every year,” Culley continued. “Basically you are judged by wins and losses, and if you judge it by wins and losses, I’m not at all happy with four wins. felt like we should have got more than four wins, it’s a profitable business, and i was not happy with the number of wins we got.
It is difficult to argue that Culley had a Well season, but his staff have certainly shown some promise while working with minimal talent. Third-round pick Davis Mills was, surprisingly, one of the best rookie quarterbacks in the league, completing 66.8% of his passes for 2,664 yards, 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 13 games (11 starts), and Houston played well twice against AFC’s No.1 team, the Titans.
Still, the Texans have decided to go in another direction and will be doing their second year-long Nick Caserio-era coach search.
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 faced the Deshaun Watson saga off the field.
As such, Culley’s 4-13 record came as no surprise; it was actually probably on par or slightly better than expectations. The same is true of Davis Mills’ game, who has displayed many advantages while starting most of the season for the Texans.
That said, there were issues with Houston’s overall performance. The team have had one attack in the last five and have scored single-digit points in seven of their 17 games, but Culley is said to have didn’t want to make any changes to his offensive staff after the season. Houston also had a top-five defense and allowed at least 30 points eight times. Culley also made mistakes in the game, including declining a penalty in Week 2 that would have given the Texans a first down after a punt.
Again, the Texans had a weak roster, and Culley had never been a full-time coordinator – let alone a head coach – at the NFL level. So this type of performance was somewhat expected. Yet even after a thorough assessment, the Texans’ front office recommended owner Cal McNair that the team fire Culley because John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports.
According to sources familiar with the matter, after the Texans spent four days assessing the personal side of the organization, chief executive Nick Caserio and senior executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby recommended Culley’s dismissal. President and CEO Cal McNair endorsed it.
It seems Houston never had much faith in Culley to begin with. The Texans only built two years of guaranteed money into his deal, so they had the option of easily parting ways with him after a year. A league source expected this to always be the case, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
When the Texans hired David Culley, they only guaranteed him two years of money; they knew there was always a real chance it was and it was over. As a league source wrote of his one-year tenure, “I knew that when he got hired.”
– Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 13, 2022
So why did the team hire Culley in the first place? Maybe the candidate they were looking for wasn’t available, but they thought he might come off in 2022. Either way, it looks like Culley was just a stopgap, like NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport explained.
“Everyone knew it would be an off season,” said Rapoport.[The Texans] I just really wanted to see if this was going to be the coach to take them into the future, or would it just be a band-aid – come in, coach the team as they prepare to take them to the next level. Obviously, the answer here for David Culley and the Houston Texans is that it was just a band-aid; A bridge.”
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Who will replace David Culley in Houston?
There is a close connection between the Patriots and the current Texans front office. Caserio made a name for himself in New England and Easterby made his debut there as well. As such, it makes sense that they are reviewing many former New England staff members, the most important of which could be:
- Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels
- Patriots Defensive Coordinator Jerod Mayo
- Former Dolphins coach Brian Flores
Bill O’Brien would be technically suitable for this category as well, but he coached the 2014 Texans early in the 2020 season. Things didn’t end well with O’Brien, so Cal McNair won’t consider bringing him back.
The other option for the Texans could be to attempt to extend an olive branch to Watson. He would have wanted the team to interview Eric Bieniemy last hiring cycle and it didn’t, so maybe the Texans are chasing him this time around in an effort to convince Watson to stay. This path seems unlikely, but Bieniemy would still be a good hire.
Flores would be too. Watson reportedly wanted to play for him in Miami, so maybe he would reconsider his business request if Caserio could get Flores on board. Again, that seems unlikely, but it’s at least worth considering.
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