Episode 132: How Great Can Stingley Become – Deep Into The Valley

Part One: Exploring the 2022 Draft Class Series I’m Joined to cover the #Texans Double-Dip into the LSU program by Lonn Sullivan Phillips

@LonnPhillips Answers: How Great Can Stingley Become? Could Deculus’ best trait be perfect fit to command playing time?

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Episode 131: Setting The Course Whilst Fostering The Future

Joined by Brandon K Scott  https://twitter.com/brandonkscott from Radio 610 to talk:
– Rookie Mini Camp
– Matt Bazirgan leaving the front office
– The Influx of Veteran edge signings, post the draft
– schedule reaction – toughest stretches, winnable games and a misplaced bye week

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The Texans ‘22 Season Schedule Is Set

The Texans schedule was finally revealed on Thursday, after the networks trailed breadcrumbs for the adoring masses. A process which saw one Twitter account provide a reminder of how powerful the league’s news cycle has become but similarly, how the information around it can easily become false. But the Texans in a year where they’ve placed faith in Davis Mills to grasp his opportunity, they now know the road they must take, if that vision is to be realised.

The schedule has a few key points:

The Bye Week: Not since the impact of hurricane Ike have the Texans had such an early bye. The earliest scheduled bye was 2010, week-7. So being allocated to week-6, within the backdrop of a 17 game schedule, appears punitive to a teams chances that were already hindered. Never mind the potential positive impact a timely bye can have on a squad’s health.

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4 Later Kick-Off’s: In terms of prime broadcaster slots, this is an upgrade on last year. By only having the mandatory Thursday night, at home, for the consecutive season, shows the temperature of executives hasn’t yet warmed towards the quality of Texans football. But they have however, opened the door for future years.

In the week-2 slate Houstons are to provide the foe’s for Russell Wilson’s home debut at Mile High. The Texans are then given a trio of later games post the bye week. The team will dawn the 15:05 slate, in back-to-back weeks, at Vegas, then host Tennessee. Both, prior to hosting the Eagles on Thursday night football, to commence the Week-9 slate. Thereafter, the familiar noon kick-offs revert for the remainder of the year.

The Pre-Bye Health Check: facing the AFC contender reel of the Colts, LA Chargers & Denver as three-fifths of your opening games, isn’t too helpful to a team looking to take steps with a young quarterback. For all the lack of proven offensive weapons beyond Brandin Cooks, the offensive line’s stature will be tested after going against those team’s respective fronts. Passing tests or at least surviving against Bosa/Mack, Chubb/Gregory, Buckner/Ngakoue will be an early milestone in this offence’s ability to produce.

A Pivotal 5 Game Stretch: These weeks – bookended by the visit of Tennessee & a post thanksgiving trip to Miami – will likely define this 2022 team, regardless of their record. For all the Texans deep-rooted roster flaws, the run of Philadelphia, visiting East Rutherford & South Beach, whilst in between hosting Wentz’s Washington, provides Houston’s best chance of momentum. As pitting your team against those in the similar echelons of the leagues hierarchy, is a far more accurate test than against any of the big guns.

Watson’s Return & Two Triples: The week 13 return of Deshaun Watson & Cleveland for many reasons will be a spectacle and not just for those wishing to vent at the player, who turned his back on Houston whilst wrangling in unprecedented legal troubles. But this run of games also has the potential to tail-spin the season. It was notably, a game the networks chose not to hero, with the hovering civil litigation uncertainty, it was understandable.

But the visit of the Browns, the trip up i-45 to Dallas & the visit of Mahommes’ Chiefs provides a hat-trick of games where Houston would be well placed, just to cover the point-spread. These games may push their backs against the ropes, in need of the bell to relive them. But they are followed by trips to both Tennessee and to end the year in the way it started, against Indianapolis.

Respite may come once again come from Jacksonville to prop up their win total, which has been the case over the last two seasons. But considering Duval’s regime change, the undoubted talent of Trevor Lawrence, it’s difficult to see that continuing to be the virtual guarantee it once was.

In the first full year of true rebuilding, Houston like any team could reach 5-6 wins & there are undoubted spots in the schedule to do so. But if the most unpredictable of all major sports was so simple, this release of games wouldn’t have been so anticipated, more merely acknowledged.

The schedule and the resulting record is a definitive means of assesses roster quality. In a match-up league, it places your players on a league scale, rather than evaluating in a vacuum. The vital development of Caserio’s latest draft crops will be realised. But quite how the Texans navigate these 17 games under Mills’ stewardship will attest to his & many others longer feasibility. As much of this roster is here on trial, until the squad is capable of consistently competing once more.

Episode 130: Potential Roles, The Undrafted & A Schedule To Slate

Joined by Matt Robinson from Battle Red Blog, as we review what the roles of the top picks, this coming season. Taking a further look at the yet to be announced UDFA class of free agents. And with the schedule announcement imminent we review the potential hurdles and & winnable games prior to the gods announcement. 

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As Texans Take Some Strides, How Are They Placed for 2022 Season and Beyond?

As the dust settles on the ’22 draft, the Texans are still in the early stages of their reclamation back towards pro-football relevancy. Nick Caserio inherited a threadbare talent-base, but after two drafts, two head-coaching appointments, a quarterback trade and countless free agent signings. Are they on the right track?

What Are Realistic Expectations For The ’22 Season?

Any NFL squad aiming to fill a number of roster-needs via the draft inevitably leads to a specific outcome for that immediate season. Despite another array of over-familiar & some lesser known free-agent signings, the team will be reliant on this ’22 class of rookies, if improvements are to be sought.

It can’t be ignored that post the draft & free agency, an unmistakeable hole exists at pass-rusher. Even if the Texans had drafted a future hall-of-fame candidate at third overall, that still may have left the most vital part of any defence lacking the required talent. Lovie may resort to un-characteristically blitzing to alleviate the lack of edge talent. But whatever their plans are at Edge and at number of other roster spots, it cannot be doubted that Derek Stingley Jr., Kenyon Green & Jalen Pitre won’t have many hiding places. They’ll all be asked to grow up fast this season.

Any rookie emergence this year should be taken as a bonus. Growing pains similar to what Kareem Jackson felt in year-one or the limited but positive contributions made by rookie DeAndre Hopkins, should both provide guides of reasonable, year-one expectations. Undoubtedly, watching the development of John Metchie in the slot or Teagan Q. at the Y-TE, are perhaps more important than wins during the ’22 season. Quite how many of these steps are taken in laying claims for future years, will determine their route back to relevancy.

Caserio has now cast his first net towards his chosen sections of the collegiate talent pool. Whether he’s found any keepers, is a two year maturation process requiring time and patience, in a ruthlessly competitive environment.

Year 2 Development?

It’s a well trodden theory, that appropriately assessing young players begins in year two and the 2021 class should be under a greater degree of scrutiny than any of the Texans newest rookie additions. As all rookies take varying amounts of time to acclimate, the required leap across a holistic set of expectations is seismic.

There may be some more surprises akin to Roy Lopez’s contribution last year. There will also be some inconclusive reports, similar to Nico Collins, who missed time with injury. But the Texans are also depending on their ’21 class to delver this year. If both Brevin Jordan and Nico Collins can provide 35-50 catches each & become reliable parts of the offence, in the same way Lopez can constantly wrestle double teams, such iterative improvements across the squad will culminate in a greater degree of competitiveness.

Davis Mills Showed Flashes last year & will be the biggest bet the front office has made this off-season, if he can lead the team.

Of course, there will be no greater focus than that placed on Davis Mills. His trajectory of improvement has the ability to be franchise altering. Though the general expectations of Mills, seem to be out-of-kilter with his limited tape thus far. It’s natural for a fanbase, who’ve been to the football equivalent of hell & back, to romanticise Mills’ limited displays to date. But forecasting the former Stanford Cardinal to become a franchise-leading player, considering he’s yet to be productive over 4-consecutive quarters, consistently beat man-coverage or assume full control of a game, is unfair on Mills but also unsteady in its foundations.

Late season highs can often be fools gold but undoubtedly those flashes need to become consistent execution over a full slate of games, for an appropriate sample size to be meaningfully evaluated.  

An overlooked factor is the change in offensive scheme with Pep Hamilton assuming the role of coordinator. The offence isn’t quite starting over but the installation of new plays, gaining comfortability with players, isn’t a straight-forward, nor a quick process. Particularly when the Texans talent levels won’t be a fair match for a multitude of their opponents this year, far less 4 games against the AFC West. The unknown or the hope for new, can often bring around illogical conclusions and the “Mills Project” appears no different. But regardless of the outcome, it’s the biggest story line & inflection point for the Texans in 2022.

Are The Team Now On A More Certain Path?

The life cycle of every NFL team is 3-4 years by definition of the rookie wage-scale but where Houston is sitting on that curve, is a relative unknown. The 2024 cap number has Brandin Cooks as the solitary player of any dollars to note. The lack of true foundational pieces can’t be ignored. They will need to be found & then certified across the ’22 & ’23 seasons. The Texans games over that period, will pose the question to every player in the building: Are they good enough to play a role on a winning football team? It will pose an uncomfortable outlook for most a but it’s the reality of the Texans for at least another year or so.

Further considering, the expectation is that their primary means of talent acquisition will continue via the draft. As draft hit-rates tend to circle around 50% mark, so the roster churn will highly likely continue for a number of years yet. Stability of their 53-man roster, even in NFL-terms seems distant, until the talent levels can be stabilised across the depth chart.

Of course, what players, at which position emerge, will greatly determine the speed of this team re-building process. If Mills beats the odd’s and leads this team for the years to come, then it’s instantly kicked into overdrive. Or if the Texans are drafting a replacement in the 2023 draft, progress will have stalled but finding the right one, is by far the most important step for every team. 

The league is separated by the ‘have’s’ & ‘have not’s’. So for it all to truly mean something again, the Texans must find a franchise passer. But at the very least, if/when they do find the next QB, whoever that might be, they appear to be on far more stable footing than they were when they lost the faith of their previous one. 

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Building The Defense Through All Three Levels

Texans Mock Draft Scenario – Three Picks on Night One

The Texans absolutely want to give Davis Mills every chance of realising his potential but this draft consists of depth at the interior offensive-line & a basic analysis of the draft show skill players at – tail-back and wide-receiver – can be found in abundance after the first round.

Across the next three drafts Caserio needs to extract maximum value for the Texans, if they are to build a roster that has talent collectively, developing together with continuity, an imperative for a performing defensive unit. The ability to stack talented players will be required to help balance that over-indexed turnover ratio achieved in 2021, if they are to avoid significant regression.

2022 NFL Draft – Round 1 Mock

  • 1st Overall – Jacksonville Jaguars – Aiden Hutchison – Edge – Michigan
  • 2nd Overall – New York Jets (Trade) – Kayvon Thibodeaux – Edge – Oregon

3rd Overall:

Houston Texans

Kyle Hamilton -Safety/Hybrid

Notre Dame

Hamilton is a unique prospect who can impact the defense on any play. His range, transitional, down-hill quickness, play recognition and football IQ are a rare blend. His wonky 40 times don’t translate to tape, his playing speed & fluidity is clear to see. Creating an identity is vital for the Texans. Does he fit the traditional tampa-2 system? Not necessarily, but not finding a role for a unicorn of a player, would say more about the coaching staff than it would the player. Hamilton is a ‘cannot pass-up’ prospect who is albeit a Rolls-Royce type-pick but any team would be lucky to have this future star, who could play 4 positions across the defense.

  • 4th Overall – Detroit Lions – Sauce Gardner – Cornerback – Cincinnati
  • 5th Overall – New York Giants – Ekem Ikwonu – Offensive Tackle – North Carolina State
  • 6th Overall – Carolina Panthers – Evan Neal – Offensive Tackle – Alabama
  • 7th Overall – New York Giants – Jermaine Johnson III – Edge – Florida State
  • 8th Overall – Atlanta Falcons – Travon Walker – Edge – Georgia
  • 9th Overall – Seattle Seahawks – Malik Willis – Quarterback – Liberty
  • 10th Overall – New York Jets – Garrett Wilson – Wide Receiver – Ohio State
  • 11th Overall – Washington Commanders – Trent McDuffie – Cornerback – Washington St.
  • 12th Overall – Minnesota Vikings – Derek Stingley Jr – Cornerback – LSU

13th Overall:

Houston Texans

George Karlaftis – Edge

Purdue

It would be remiss to disregard the Texans affixation on culture fits & Karlaftis checks those boxes. He’s relatively young in football-terms but his flashes in passing downs & against the run, give evaluators enough to be excited about that his best football lies ahead. His size at 266lbs/6’4″ also gives interior rush possibilities. He already fits the mold of a NFL lineman, it would be up to Jacque Cesaire &the defensive coaching staff to refine his processing of his hand-fighting technique to complement the already refined relentless motor/athleticism. Karlaftis, for his frame, can bend the edge surprisingly well but for every Wisconsin or Notre Dame tape, there is a Michigan State or Ohio State sprinkled in there. He posses a risk but also a huge potential pay-off type prospect, considering who’s come off the board at this stage.

  • 14th Overall – Buffalo Bills – Kaiir Elam – Cornerback – Florida
  • 15th Overall – Philadelphia Eagles – Devonte Wyatt – Defensive Tackle – Georgia
  • 16th Overall – Philadelphia Eagles – Devin Lloyd – Linebacker – Utah
  • 17th Overall – L.A. Chargers – Charles Cross – Offensive Tackle -Mississippi State
  • 18th Overall – New Orleans – Trevor Penning – Offensive Tackle – Northern Iowa
  • 19th Overall – Philadelphia Eagles – Andrew Booth – Cornerback – Clemson
  • 20th Overall – Pittsburgh Steelers – Kenny Pickett – Quarterback – Pittsburgh
  • 21st Overall – Kansas City Chiefs (Trade) – Jameson Williams – Wide Receivers – Alabama
  • 22nd Overall – Green Bay Packers – Drake London – Wide Receiver – USC
  • 23rd Overall – Arizona Cardinals – Jordan Davis – Defensive Tackle – Georgia
  • 24th Overall – Dallas Cowboys – Treylon Burks – Wide Receivers – Arkansas
  • 25th Overall – Baltimore Ravens (Trade)- Tyler Linderbaum – Guard/Centre – Iowa
  • 26th Overall – Tennessee Titans – Chris Olave – Wide Receiver – Ohio State
  • 27th Overall – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Zion Johnson – Guard – Boston College
  • 28th Overall – Green Bay Packers – Arnold Ebiketie – Edge – Penn State
  • 29th Overall – Kansas City – Cameron Thomas – Edge – San Diego State
  • 30th Overall – New York Giants (Trade) – Kenyon Green – Guard/Tackle – Texas A&M

The Texans Trade the 37th Overall Pick, 107th Overall Pick, 183rd Pick & 208th Pick
For Cincinnati’s 31st Overall Pick & 136th Overall Pick

31st Overall:

Houston Texans

Nakobe Dean – Linebacker

Georgia

Trading up in the draft, was exhibited by Caserio last year, whilst Dean is a top 15-talent, he feasibly falls due to being undersized and his positional value. So trading back into the 1st round, to get the 5th year option on a player who slips is a viable option. Dean was the leader of that Georgia defense who can stay on the field for all three-downs. Added to his explosive play ability to attack the ball carrier, he can cover tight-ends and running backs on passing downs. A true day-1 MIKE-linebacker who could take a commanding role in the Texans defense very early on.

  • 32nd Overall – Detroit Lions – David Ojabo – Edge – Michigan

The lack of faces to dawn the season tickets books was a question that was asked of Caserio, post the Watson trade. Picking up three day-one starters with a full season to grow before the team becomes competitive again, would certainly be a start to laying the foundations of a defensive unit in need of talent.

Credit to the UK NFL Fans Mock Draft who providing the picks, follow the full 7-rounds of the draft on Twitter:

What Can Nick Caserio Get For Deshaun Watson?

As we stand on the precipice of the Deshaun Watson trade, a point of inflection faces the Texans & Nick Caserio. Acquiring a plethora of assets would give him the necessary capital to invest in a talent-barren roster that looks, at present, multiple years removed from competitiveness. But is that all about to change?

Parameters of a trade:

There’s been diverging narratives placed into the media over last few days. In the absence of legal issues and if the Texans had of traded Watson before the draft in 2021, a baseline price of 4 first round picks – considering the unicorn-like rarity of the proposition on offer – would have been the fair asking price. But now, if Caserio ends up within the region of: three first-rounders, two second-rounders, plus multiple starter calibre players (ideally on rookie deals), most would accept that as fair return on investment, albeit not ideal.

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) stops to talk to general manager Nick Caserio during an NFL training camp football practice Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, in Houston.

Potential Trade Partners:

Carolina – A Home Coming For Deshaun with an Aggressive Owner?

Carolina Receives: Deshaun Watson,

Houston Receives: 2022 6th Overall
2023 1st, 2023 3rd
2024 1st, 2024 3rd
Derrick Brown, Yetur Gross-Matos, CJ Henderson, Robbie Anderson

Trade-judo versus owner, David Tepper’s pressure for quick success is a factor that can’t be overlooked. But from a QB replacement angle, a trade being weighted into future years is preferable for the Texans though year 1 may feel short changed, it will be eased by procuring Derrick Brown. 

Acquiring from teams more than one top tier player will difficult without waiving premium picks but both Jaycee Horn or Chinn would be worthwhile considering. Brain Burn is a flashy option but Derrick Brown’s top-10 talents are far rarer than a mid-1st round pick form a poor 2019 draft class.

Houston acquires an extra player up-front due to the lack of year-1 picks. Robbie Anderson is cut-candidate, throw-in who can stretch the field. Matos – 38th overall pick in 2020 has shown some mixed results due to a combination of limited snaps and injuries in first two years. The 35inch arms at 265lbs is a prototype to work with. Whilst adding much needed help in the secondary, via C.J. Henderson, who may be a slot primarily for this career. The top 10-pick from Jacksonville that Urban hastily threw away, again can bring some upside.

New Orleans – A move to Louisiana despite the coaching transition?

New Orleans Receives: Deshaun Watson, 2022 4th

Houston Receives: 2022 18th Overall, 2022 2nd, 3rd (Comp.)
2023 1st, 2023 4th
2024 1st
Paulson Adebo, Cesar Ruiz, Marcus Davenport

If this is the Watson camp’s preferred route, there’s logical to believe that it suppresses the pick value, whilst the Saints have less plausible players to return. Having the 18th pick, isn’t ideal as the primary future asset. But Loomis can offer this years 2nd and allow the Texans then trade up from their 4th round spot into a key spot in the 2022 draft class. This via the compensatory pick from the Trey Hendrickson contract.

Adebo presents a young corner who was taken in third round last year, 66 tackles & 3INT’s in year one, is a N.O. primary concession. The upside of Payton Turner who only played 5 games last year may be enough for the Saints to part with Davenport who would needs to be extended against a tricky cap situation, he set to play on his 5th year option. Therefore giving up Paulson over Turner seems feasible, whilst Cesar Ruiz would be a perfect need to fill on the interior.

Seattle – Can Carroll & Schneider convince Watson it’s not another re-build?

Seattle Receives: Deshaun Watson, 2023 4th

Houston Receives: 2022 9th (via Denver), 41st Overall
2023 1st, 2023 1st (via Denver), 2023 2nd (via Denver)
Darrell Taylor

Going down the primary pick-heavy route is the idea scenario for Houston but wether Watson will waive his clause for Seattle is a bigger question. Their roster is in need of picks & there’s few players they could give up beyond throw-in types. This trade allows the Seahawks to retain two 2nd’s over the next two years, whilst Houston is in prime spot with three 1st’s next season to address quarterback, should they be convinced by the ’23 class. The valuation (3x1st & 2x2nd, 1-player) pays a premium versus the Seattle selling price of Wilson, accounting for the 7 extra years of youth Watson can give a club.

Darrell Taylor represents an unknown but trading former Vol. saves a pick of third-round equivalent value. After missing his rookie year, he rebounded with 6.5 sacks in his first pro-season, there’s an adage of: you can never have enough pass rushers

Whatever the outcome, the Texans could be about to kick start a new era, as fans from multiple clubs eagerly await the outcome, of the Deshaun Watson saga.

Are The Texans Finally Entering The Rebuild?

As the realisations of last season set in, the soundings from the team started to shift away from their flouted delusions to the refreshing but harsh reality. Nick Caserio’s task is finally re-setting this roster, as Texans circumstances are veering towards normal & it may have just levelled out enough where material progress is an option. After forming an iteration of last years coaching staff, the hurdles of free agency, the draft & the protracted Watson trade are coming quickly around the corner.

New Head Coach

The hiring process that was ultimately abandoned in favour of promoting defensive co-ordinator Lovie Smith, was similarly perplexing to both the sacking and hiring of David Culley. Quite what adverted the near hire of Josh McCowan or Jonathan Gannon is yet to become gospel. However, it’s undoubted that the right choice was made, considering the franchises continued state of flux that last season only perpetuated but never stemmed. The question of why Lovie wasn’t hired last year, will linger but his undoubted professionalism and much needed leadership, at the very least, gives a sense of momentum for the 2022 season.

Free Agency

Last season’s free agency period, was marked by in-house restructures, high volume but low value deals on a vast array of veteran players. Did any of these pay-off? Not in a way that would assist in narrowing down the teams need areas a year on. Even if Grugier-Hill, King III or Collins were to re-sign, none are medium term answers at their positions.

Yet more turnover will be in part due the mismanaged & self-created $36m in dead cap by Caserio. A raft of cuts are required across the disparity contracts of Murray, Cannon, Pierre-Louis et al. to freely operate. On the cusp of free agency, the Texans have 49 contracts, so it’s likely they sign in the region of 25 free-agents. Constant change for a consecutive year, but if this class is younger & contains higher potential, across mid & lower factions of the market, that will be progress.

The Draft

Last year’s covid-disrupted draft, meant Caserio’s first run was limited to a 5-man class. For the most part, all could have varying future roles. From the number of starting snaps by 6th-rounder Roy Lopez had at defensive tackle, to the progression of third-round quarterback Davis Mills. But just is the case for a General Manager, draft classes can’t be judged after a single season but the draft process offers the primary route of laying necessary foundation in bettering the Texans roster. A city & team so bereft of stars is badly in need of one, Caserio has little room for error, with his earlier round picks.

This collegiate class, even within the landscape of huge error probability, isn’t boding as memorable one, particularly in terms of day-1, blue-chip level talent. Coupled with an absence of quarterbacks enamouring team evaluators, both will likely impact Houston’s ability to trade down the board. There are a multitude of ways in which Caserio may lean come April 28th but whether it’s Kayvion Thibodeaux, Travon Walker, Kyle Hamilton or Ikem Ekwonu, Caserio’s got no other option than a home run.

Trading Watson

The darkening cloud that Caserio unknowingly inherited may finally pose an emerging escape route. Following the widely felt reverberation of the Russell Wilson trade for two firsts, two second round picks and players, gauges the market. Anything less than three first round picks will bring an inevitable sense of being a shortchanged. Whether, Caserio is afforded the “runway” via a resolution to Watsons legal troubles, will be the dominant determinant. But Watson now represents the last standing, proven, franchise-passer available for another year & that’s the factor the Texans have to leverage, until the last possible moment. 

Ideally the trade is made before the draft but similarly, if picks are gathered for the ’23 draft & beyond then that might be a prudent step. Particularly, considering the landscape of potential quarterbacks declaring compared to this ’22 class. As everyone knows, without thee guy under-centre, the rest pales into insignificance. And Caserio may have additional cards to play, depending on what he decides to do with the contractual cross-roads of Laremy Tunsil & Brandin Cooks, as both will require extension or could garner more value to re-invent this team.

Regardless for the first time in three years, a sense of progress appears tangible, as this off-season is positioned to add those necessary complimentary pieces. That is the essential first step to redemption in the eyes of fans, subsequently the objective then becomez re-entering the realms of relevancy after such an extended absence. 

Caserio’s Watershed Moment Looms As The Head Coaching Cycle Starts To Turn

After just over a week of quiet. It emerged that the Texans had found time to interview Kevin O’Connell. The viable list of candidates looked narrow even with the L.A. Ram’s coordinator included, so it was a much welcomed development. The process has been clouded by the raging debate of Josh McCowan and the inevitable inference of Jack Easterby which continues to detract from the teams sense of progress.

It’s impossible to doubt that Caserio is in charge of this search. It’s an often floated notion: why would Caserio leave the most successful franchise in pro-sports, to have his authority singed by his long time colleague? Of course he wouldn’t. It is however, possible that he is overly influenced by him, as he wouldn’t be the first or last. But if Caserio was to hire McCowan, then it would be based on merit. There is of course no proven or consistent development path for an NFL head coach, there have been many routes.

Experience after a certain point, in terms of the basic operational aspects of being a head-coach, has a limit in its benefit. We have just witnessed 40-years plus in the league wasn’t enough to prepare David Culley. Capability and natural ability counts for a lot and is honed by experience but cannot be directly substituted, a balance needs to be sought. Even with only a few years of the 10-month, 18-hour daily grind, then McCowan could be the perfect candidate, undoubtedly.

But in the teams recent past, they have been neither functional nor conventional. The time for innovate or novel approaches is not now. The League, via its media allies will do everything they can do discredit anyone that steps too far out their accepted norms. Nick needs to look no further than along the hall or at his predecessor. The list of candidates they have silently whittled down for this final round of interviews have been inhibited by their previous actions. Agents will have rightfully advised clients against the Houston job, they’d be doing their clients a disservice by not at least voicing some reservations.

After a week where Denver, Giants and Chicago all announced their new head-coaches, the team are a tick behind the curve. Brain Flores remains on paper the most qualified, pushing his reported temperament aside, but progress appears limited since the initial interview. O’Connell brings a proven offensive philosophy but hasn’t called plays in LA, he has only supported Sean McVay in that role. Jonathan Gannon defence was questioned by many in Philadelphia but has a similar background to Caserio. All would likely have to accept the job with caveats on control, influence and coaching staff. Few of these candidates are traditionally viewed as ideal but neither is the role on offer.

It is potentially a crossroads moment for Caserio but considering the implicit trust placed in him by ownership, it’s difficult not to envisage a scenario where he’s allowed a third crack of it. The context and external pressures which are partly created by ownership, could easily be sited as mitigating factors & open the door for final chance to get it right.

Reserving judgement for any hire is prudent, considering this roster and transitional period, relative success will be subjective until 2023. Regardless of the outcome, the teams process, whether it proves to be successful and signal a new dawn, will be questioned regardless. Their approach continues to leave the club perilously short of credibility with its suffering fan-base, for at least the time being.

Caserio has kept many of his own staff in the dark on this process for a reason we are yet to learn. Hopefully for everyones sake he can nail this hire to galvanise everyone connected to the team, as for too long segregation and frustration has left game day looking a shadow of its former self. 

Despite Nothing On-Field, It Was Another Notable Week for The Texans

Being a Texans fans translates into a multitude of meanings for thousands of people. Within the NRG Stadium hallways, their actions continue to instil distain & divide the fanbase on a range of issues, whilst the on-field remains secondary to the self-created side-show. With eyes on the future, that all seemed to be waning until this week.

The arrival of Nick Caserio, the subsequent arrival & departure of David Culley, has been an undoubted period of limited progress with a nagging sense of familiarity. In part, due to the perseverance with the now removed Tim Kelly’s tedious offence but most is borne out of the resentment towards Jack Easterby. His continued “meddling” within any willing faction of the ball club will continue to cause on-going consternation.

In the space of a week, many had felt a growing sense of ease about his role, despite Nick’s articulation containing a mis-representation of Easterby’s duties prior to his own arrival. But nonetheless, with a list of viable head-coaching interviews, progress was palpable. Then the perceived bomb-shell of Josh McCowan being interviewed for the consecutive year emerged. 

In the climate of digital sports media being structured to derive clicks, the Texans perceived dysfunction and anything related to the former character coach will deliver that. It’s important to not live and die with every churn of the news cycle and see things objectively, over a greater time span than the here and now. It’s also important to not take a perception of a few comments on whatever social channel as general views. As many who buy season tickets, merchandise and travel with this team, pay little attention to these mediums.

Whether you view this team from a “global view” or tailgate every Sunday, conversing views heard on local sports radio, personal perception will override or sway your thoughts. Considering much of the NFL’s media’s narrative is placement by shadowed figured (agents) to create a perception, regardless of validity. In the absence of wins, the Texans continue to provide a perfect storm for commentary.

Whether you label it as media bluster or genuine criticism, that will never dissipate with Jack Easterby as an executive. The McCowan interview showed further disregard for outside commotion. In some cases you could say, rightly so. But in this particular case, considering the protagonist, it required a more careful approach.

Rather than a public flaunting of his interview, what stopped them quietly picking up the phone to McCowan? It would have made zero material difference to the process of constructing this next coaching staff. Similarly to announcing they’d spoken with Hines Ward, he and McCowan are both in stark contrast to the calibre of Brian Flores, Jonathan Gannon, Joe Lombardi and Kevin O’Connell. But Ward wasn’t oddly hired in the final year of his career, standing at the podium outwardly lavishing Jack Easterby’s supposed vision for this club. McCowan did. Moreover, these actions contradict the GM’s comments, only days earlier.

As a position-coach, there aren’t many more qualified, as back-up QB is effectively a coaching role. After eighteen years of learning, developing and teaching younger quarterbacks on 12 teams, McCowan was even given play-calling duties during Philadelphia’s pre-season. His experience & credentials are there in abundance but not for the top job. Furthermore, the optics how this translates in football-circles could be very counter productive for a club trying to build back.

Regardless of how this plays out, it begs the question: who would want to take this job, if McCowan is on the staff? Would you take your first dream job, at the pinnacle of the profession, with someone over your shoulder, who’s uniquely placed next to a controversial figure with a track history of having people axed? Once more it’s a self-made problem. How real is that issue? We will only know once the next head coach is announced.

The Texans and Caserio have a chance this off-season to give this team an identity and that is typically created through the head-coach. There’s been a stern fixation of Caserio’s role and how he appears to be the dominant partner in the GM-HC relationship. Whether his approach & Easterby’s influence will continue to be so public, remains to be seen. But it’s clear that the incoming coach will have to accept both those facts as conditions of the role.

Gannon appears to the perfect fit when considering their current structure. Surprisingly, Jerrod Mayo or Josh McDaniels have yet to be called upon, whilst Gannon is reported to be set for a 2nd interview. So if Caserio is about to pleasantly surprise many by abandoning the Patriots guard-rails. Then that may be first step, in a long, long time that we can even feel a sense of progress and footballing normality.

But we all know it won’t be that simple.