The Texans have made a coaching 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 becomes Houston’s only first head coach during their brief franchise history. Prior to that, the shortest stint by a Houston head coach was Dom Capers’ four-year stint from 2002, when the team entered the league as an expansion franchise, through 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 get tried every year,” Culley continued. “Basically, you’re judged on wins and losses, and if you judge it on wins and losses, I’m not happy with four wins at all. I was hoping to get more than four wins and I felt like we should have gotten more than four wins. This is a bottom-line business, and I wasn’t happy with the number of wins we got.”
It’s hard to argue that Culley had a good season, but his staff certainly showed 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 percent of his passes for 2,664 yards, 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 13 games (11 starts), and Houston he played well twice against the No. 1 team in the AFC, the Titans.
Still, the Texans have decided to go in another direction and will be making their second coaching search in the Nick Caserio era of a year.
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 Texans fire David Culley?
The Texans weren’t expected to be very good in 2021. They had one of the weakest rosters in the NFL and were dealing with the Deshaun Watson saga off the field.
As such, Culley’s 4-13 record came as no surprise; in reality, it was probably on par or a little better than expectations. Such was the game for Davis Mills, who showed plenty of upsides by starting most of the season for the Texans.
That said, there were issues with Houston’s overall performance. The team had a top-five offense and scored in single digits in seven of its 17 games, but Culley reportedly he didn’t want to make changes to his offensive body after the season. Houston also had a defense in the last five and allowed at least 30 points eight times. Culley also made a few mistakes in the game, including turning down 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 kind of performance was expected. Still, even after a thorough evaluation, the Texans’ front office recommended to owner Cal McNair that the team fire Culley, since John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports.
According to sources familiar with the situation, after the Texans spent four days evaluating the personnel side of the organization, general manager Nick Caserio and senior executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby recommended that Culley be fired. Chairman and CEO Cal McNair signed it.
For starters, it seems Houston never had much faith in Culley. The Texans included only two years of guaranteed money in his contract, so they had the flexibility to easily part ways with him after one year. A league source hoped that would always be the case, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
When the Texans signed David Culley, they only guaranteed him two years of money; they knew there was always the real possibility that it would be and that was it. As a league source texted about his one-year tenure: “I knew when he was hired.”
—Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 13, 2022
So why did the team hire Culley in the first place? Perhaps the candidate they were looking for wasn’t available, but they felt he might be loose in 2022. Either way, it sounds like Culley was just a stopgap, as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport explained.
“Everyone knew it was going to be an offseason, Rapoport said.”[The Texans] I really wanted to see if this would be the coach that would take them into the future, or if it would just be a band-aid: come in, coach the team as they prepare to go to the next level. Clearly, the answer here for David Culley and the Houston Texans is that it was just a Band-Aid; a bridge”.
Who will replace David Culley in Houston?
There is a strong connection from the Patriots to the current Texans front office. Caserio made a name for himself in New England, and Easterby got his start there, too. As such, it makes sense that they would look at many former New England staff members, the most prominent of which might be:
- Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
- Patriots defensive co-coordinator Jerod Mayo.
- Former Dolphins coach Brian Flores
Bill O’Brien would technically fit into that category as well, but he coached the Texans from 2014 through the start of 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 try to extend an olive branch to Watson. According to reports, wanted the team to interview Eric Bieniemy last hiring cycle and it didn’t, so maybe the Texans will go after him this time around in an effort to convince Watson to stay. That path seems unlikely, but Bieniemy would be a good hire all the same.
Flowers would be too. Watson reportedly wanted to play for him in Miami, so he might reconsider his trade demand if Caserio can bring Flores on board. Again, it seems unlikely, but it’s at least worth considering.