January 25, 2022

McClain: David Culley never had a chance with Texans – Houston Chronicle

On the day the Texans made him a one-and-done head coach in the NFL, David Culley showed them a lot more class than they showed him.

An organization that’s become the epitome of dysfunction fired Culley after a 4-13 season in which they were projected to be one of the worst teams in the league, so their record should not have been a surprise.

Culley was set up to fail by general manager Nick Caserio and executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby. They gave him one of the worst rosters in the league and one that was undergoing constant change, but somehow they persuaded chairman and CEO Cal McNair to sign off on a firing that was grossly unfair considering the hand Culley was dealt.

Now the Texans are going to hire their fourth head coach in less than 15 months, after Bill O’Brien, interim coach Romeo Crennel and Culley. How’s that for dysfunction?

Despite his disloyal treatment, Culley thanked the players and the organization for the opportunity he waited 27 years to receive.

“I really appreciate those guys,” Culley said about his players. “I appreciate how hard they played for us. I want to wish them the best of luck and wish the Texans good luck, too.”

Culley, 66, knew he was taking over a team undergoing a massive rebuild engineered by Caserio, a first-time general manager who spent 20 years in New England.

The McNair family gave Caserio a six-year contract to oversee the teardown, and he signed Culley to a four-year deal. Culley said Thursday his contract is guaranteed through 2025.

“I’m disappointed,” Culley said about being fired, “but I’ve been in this league long enough to know this is a business. And I understand this is a part of that business.”

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Houston Chronicle writers Jerome Solomon, John McClain, Brooks Kubena and Brian T. Smith discuss the Texans firing coach David Culley. Video: Houston Chronicle

Culley said he’s going to take a step back and see what’s out there. After his 28th year in the NFL, Culley could keep coaching. He has a lot of friends in the league.

Retirement is also a possibility. He’s in no rush to make a decision.

With Culley out of the picture, Caserio and Easterby can begin their search that’s almost assuredly going to lead to one of their cronies from New England.

Easterby loves Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo. Caserio went to college with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and worked with him for 20 years with the Patriots. Brian Flores, fired by Miami on Monday after back-to-back winning seasons, spent 15 years in New England.

This is the second head coaching search for Caserio and Easterby. By firing Culley after one season, they’re telling us they failed miserably with the first one. There’s no reason for fans to believe they’ll get the second one right until they prove it.

Just about everyone in the NFL will be shocked if Caserio doesn’t hire someone with a New England background. Even though Bill Belichick disciples mostly have bombed out as NFL head coaches, they continue to get opportunities. O’Brien is the most successful. That should tell you something.

David Culley, waving to fans after beating the Chargers, remained up beat all season in what turned out to be his only year as head coach.

David Culley, waving to fans after beating the Chargers, remained up beat all season in what turned out to be his only year as head coach.

Godofredo A. Vásquez, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer

Culley, a first-class act and a great guy, did everything Caserio and Easterby wanted him to do. Culley coached a roster deprived of the kind of talent it takes to win in the NFL, and he never complained.

Culley took criticism, some well deserved, without complaint. He admitted in-game mistakes and vowed to get better. And he did.

Culley accepted the blame for losing and the team’s poor play. When the Texans closed with a 2-2 record and rookie quarterback Davis Mills showed so much promise, Culley was quick to credit his players and coaches.

Culley’s replacement has to be someone who knows Caserio and Easterby well. Most head coaches don’t want a general manager and executive vice president of football operations telling them who to hire and fire.

It’s hard to imagine a head coach unfamiliar with Caserio to agree with what the general manager does that extends to the coaching staff. If he hasn’t worked with Caserio, can you imagine a strong-willed head coach allowing the GM to take on the role of an extra coach in practice and work with players — not to mention wearing a headset during games and communicating with the head coach and offensive coordinator?

That’s the way Caserio operated when he worked for Belichick, and that’s the way he operated in his first season as a general manager. And it’s not going to change.

When it comes to hiring the new coach, do the Texans really want to build a winner, or do they want a puppet regime that dooms them to wallow in mediocrity at best and total failure at worst?

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