As Nick Caserio spoke with the media Friday, to discuss the release of Coach Culley, you could have easily been mistaken in thinking he’d only just stepped into the General Manager’s role. But it was his hiring of David Culley on January 27th, 2021, that was now deemed untenable. There was a slight change in tone from the former long-time New England executive. But Caserio didn’t pose as someone who was feeling the strain. Conversely, he’s “immune to pressure” to be precise.
As a first time general manager who’d just conceded his biggest decision to date was the wrong one, there was an aura of calm. This is not uncharacteristic of the Ohio native, but perhaps more of a sign of the unwavering trust placed in him by ownership. If Friday’s comments had of been borne out of a scenario where Caserio as new GM, had inherited the incumbent head coach, very little beyond the standard outbound pleasantries would have changed on the transcript.
The question will always loom. Was this always the plan? Perhaps it should have been abundantly clear they were only seeking a caretaker, when the three final candidates were Culley, Frazier & Caldwell. Perhaps Culley was complicit with the fact also? Few in his position, nearing retirement, having come nowhere near to his professions pinnacle after 40 years, could not have turned down a $22m pay-day. Sparing the condolences appears appropriate considering the renumeration for less than a year’s work.
As Culley this year, did not implement football his own philosophy, schematics, nor did he hire any of the staff. So the reported issues of differences in outlook and openness to change – is just PR smoke. It was a decision that was either always coming, or one that became apparent quicker than they would have hoped. After a series of decision making errors in-game & in front of the press. The prophecy became fulfilling rather conveniently.
But not for the first time, the public nature of the Texans “review of football operations” was questionable. We should not forget that’s the second time that phrase has been publicly flouted. The former was a process that lead to the premature and franchise-defining sacking of Brain Gaine. Despite decrees of being “philosophically aligned” with Gaine, that ended, leading to the ill-fated decision of a O’Brien & Easterby’s “unique model” that set this team back years.
There can be little doubt this time, that the club are in far safer hands. But this next HC hire will be Patriots South attempt 3.0. The inevitable groans of distrain will follow. But if it’s ultimately successful and the team wins, who will care?
This coaching hire will define Caserio’s tenure with the Texans, regardless of the McNair family’s resolute belief in his abilities. Will the hiring of Brian Flores or Jerod Mayo turn the dial? It’s legitimate to question if this approach will work as it has spectacularly failed for many teams. Much of that will be answered, by what coaches and players are acquired over the next 24-months. But the reneging of the Culley hire, added to multiple failed trades and dead-cap hits, gives little reason to say this team has even begun on the right track.
Year one was in essence a free-pass year & with expectations of organisational competence at rock-bottom, Nick had the cushion of fans being abused by the previous regime. As whatever was decided it was always going to pale into insignificance. It’s also been refreshing to hear Caserio’s clear public acknowledgement of the teams current plight, as realism hasn’t commonly been exhibited by the Texans. Perhaps the empty seats on Sunday’s crystallised that for ownership? Or maybe they are blissfully unaware of outside noise & are being endlessly managed by everyones favourite preacher.
But as all eyes are now on Caserio, there is little room for further unjustified lauding of a man who is yet to kick this “major undertaking” into gear. Progress will again be limited over the ’22 season beyond embedding the new. Caserio was keen to stress that on Friday. As whether these changes will pay any dividends towards becoming a viable pro-football team, may only become clear in the midst of the ’23 season.
The road to redemption for Texans football is lengthy. Acquiring the services of bonafide pro-football head coach will at least provide a facade of progress towards the promise land & that’s something that could never have been said under the reign of David Culley.
Nick you’re on the clock – lets see what you’re made of.