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The Houston Texans Should Move On From David Culley

Tick tock...

Seattle Seahawks v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

In their brief history, the Houston Texans have now employed 6 men as head coach, if you include 2 given the interim tag.

Dom Capers lasted from the inaugural season, hiring on in January of 2001, until January of 2006.

Gary Kubiak succeeded Capers in 2006, calling the shots until December of 2013.

Kubiak’s defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, son of legendary Houston Oiler coach Bum Phillips, took the reins as interim head coach for less than a month, when team founder Bob McNair relieved him of his duties in January 2014.

Bill O’Brien entered the picture on 1/2/2014 until he was promoted to fan on October 5, 2020 with his defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel filling the interim head coach role until January 3rd of this year.

David Culley, the only interim head coach without that prefix officially attached to his title, took over on January 28th, 2021.

While most of us would view Gary Kubiak as the greatest Houston Texans head coach so far, having elevated the team from bumbling expansion franchise to playoff contender, Bill O’Brien actually had more on field success.

Kubes won 61 games, lost 64 and secured the franchise’s first 2 division titles.

B’OB won 52 games, losing 48 and landing 4 division titles.

In terms of wins and losses, on field success and other important stats:

Ranking the Houston Texans Head Coaches

  1. Bill O’Brien 52 (W) - 48 (L)
  2. Gary Kubiak 61 (W) - 64 (L)
  3. Romeo Crennel 4 (W) - 8 (L)
  4. Dom Capers 18 (W) - 46 (L)
  5. David Culley (W) 3 - 11 (L)
  6. Wade Phillips (W) 0 - 3 (L)

Now, it’s not really fair to lump Phillips and Crennel in there, as both didn’t really get a chance to do anything more than shepherd the mess they inherited for a limited time. In which case, it’s pretty obvious going from Bill O’Brien to David Culley was a major step backwards in terms of just head coaching success.

However, looking through that lens, Culley inherited the mess O’Brien left behind when he was inexplicably given general manager powers.

If nothing else, Cal McNair’s legacy as an NFL owner has been one marked with the term “promoted beyond your competency” with Cal clearly in over his head, and he promoted O’Brien and Jack Easterby into roles they were/are completely unable to perform at a professional level.

But that’s a different topic.

Knowing the NFL’s Black Monday, the day when a flurry of head coaches find themselves suddenly unemployed, has moved from the first Monday after the regular season ends to the Monday after week 16, David Culley just might find himself on an early retirement plan in less than one week.

Now, painting Culley as a scapegoat for the 2021 Texans woes is inaccurate at best and lazy observation at worst. Culley was also promoted beyond his competency, most likely as no head coaching candidate worth his salt would have taken the wheel of a colossal franchise tank job like we’ve witnessed in H-Town this year.

However, let’s have no illusions that Culley is part of the rebound this team will eventually make. Which brings us to decision time:

A. Does general manager Nick Caserio believe that the team is at rock bottom right now and a rebound starts the minute they leave the field this weekend after, presumably, losing to the Los Angeles Chargers?

B. Does Caserio think this team will need to plumb the depths for 2022 also, in order to fully purge all the bad contracts and negative salary cap and draft capital he inherited?

C. Will Caserio listen to the (stupid) ghosts of Texans past and wait until all the quality coaching candidates have signed elsewhere and fire Culley in late January, then inexplicably sign another “not qualified to be a head coach” candidate no one ever heard of?

If we truly believed Caserio and only Caserio was calling the shots at NRG the first option would make the most sense. If he’s in a tug o’ war with McEasterby over how to run this team, the second option might be what we see happen. If he’s merely a puppet of Grima Wormtongue, then option three, or any infinite number of totally absurd outcomes are most likely what will occur.

Since we don’t have the time, space or whackadoo thought processes to detail the infinite number of “they did what??!” potential McEasterby outcomes, let’s look at what makes the most logical sense.

The Future of Houston Head Coach David Culley

While he certainly seems like a nice guy, Culley is very clearly in way over his head and has been since he arrived. This is the guy, after all, who was surprised to find out that practice reps and preseason games help rookies improve.

Going with the lens of logic, option A makes the most sense. It will definitely take a hot minute to fully rebuild this team into a contender, but if Caserio is serious about turning this team around, in the ‘what have you done for me lately’ NFL, he can let too much more water pass under the bridge. At the end of the day, Caserio's is probably bidding his time until Bill Belichick retires, at which point Caserio would probably love to return to the Patriots as the general manager. But, until that happens, he has to show the world he’s a competent general manager.

He’s been given a pass in 2021, as he, understandably, has taken out the trash and cleared the slate in order to properly build a winning program.

However, there’s a very, very fine line between ‘new GM cleaning up a mess’ and ‘another loser painted as such by association’. His window to assert himself and show the world he’s not just another Belichick disciple who utterly failed elsewhere is open now and will close soon.

To that end, it makes the most sense to view David Culley as the guy keeping the seat warm for the real head coach, to be named later.

Men like Eric Bieniemy, Brian Daboll, Byron Leftwich and Josh McDaniels will hear their names early and often in the upcoming coaching carousel.

While many will groan at the thought of Josh McDaniels coming to Houston, he’d be a massive upgrade over David “rookies need practice?” Culley. And, clearly, he and Caserio have a history.

Bieniemy was a contender last off-season, and presumably did the smart thing and walked away when he saw the Tank-a-palooza battle plan laid out in front of him. Does that mean a year later he might return to the table? And if so, could that entice Deshaun Watson to return as well (if his legal matters are settled)?

Daboll, another Belichick disciple isn’t shining as bright this year in Buffalo, however, that could be explained away in the team’s personnel and gameplan decisions, made by people above Daboll’s pay grade.

Leftwich has spent the past few seasons working with Tom Brady, and if anyone has Caserio’s ear on a head coaching hire, you can bet Brady does. If #12 believes Leftwich’s time to take a head coaching job has come, how likely will he be to call Caserio and lobby for his coordinator?

While we can look at the upcoming NFL Draft and free agency, wishing for a better roster, praying for new star players, hoping against hope for rebuilt offensive and defensive lines, in the end no matter what players Caserio brings in, David Culley will never elevate to the Gary Kubiak/Bill O’Brien level of coaching success.

With that in mind, it’s time to rip off the bandaid, pat Culley on the back and send him off into retirement sunset with a fat bank account and fond memories of “that time I was an NFL head coach”.