Keep Culley 2022

It has been almost a year since David Culley was presented as the Texans’ new head coach. We all knew he had no prior experience as a head coach, but as I recall, it was generally agreed around the league and media that it was a good hire. The Chief’s Andy Reid commented that Culley would bring positive energy to the team; Ravens coach John Harbaugh said David Culley would be a tremendous hire for any team; and GM Nick Caserio added that Culley unquestionably was the leader that the entire organization could rally behind.

So what happened? First, Bill O’Brien didn’t do 2020 interim coach Romeo Crennel or the next head coach any favors. He was an average head coach in a bad AFC South division and ultimately benefited from a superbly talented QB in Deshaun Watson. But trading DeAndre Hopkins for next to nothing and giving away drat picks was shameful. Losing JJ Watt and Will Fuller certainly didn’t help. Second, there was the year-long distraction of Deshaun Watson, which to his credit, Culley seemingly never whined about. Enough about that.

No excuse, the season was mostly forgettable at 4-12, with 2 of the wins coming over the lowly Jags. On the flip side, the other 2 wins were against quality teams in the Titans (surprise) and the Chargers. Of the 12 losses, 6 were to playoff bound teams: Titans, Patriots, Bills, Rams, Cardinals, and Niners. And 3 other losses came against near playoff contenders in the Colts twice and Dolphins. It’s unclear the extent Culley was involved in roster moves during the season, but some decisions undoubtedly had an impact: Trading Mark Ingram with no clear alternative at running back, waiving both Vernon Hargreaves and Zach Cunningham, and releasing Whitney Mercilus.

So what is there to look forward to and the case for keeping Culley? First, he now has a season of experience behind him. His coaching decisions need improvement – clock management, play challenges, game preparation – which he should look back and learn from. He’s just completed the 1st of his 4-year contract. Do we really want to start a new search for someone else the organization can rally behind? Gary Kubiak was 6-10 his first season and probably had more to work with.

Davis Mills. He wasn’t stellar but he showed growth and improvement which is a credit to Culley, Tim Kelly and Pep Hamilton. Tyrod Taylor proved not to be the answer. It could be fun to see what Culley and company can do with Mills next season. Other roster bright spots, some of whom may or may not be back, include Danny Amendola, Rex Burkehead, Nico Collins, Brandin Cooks, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Desmond King II, Roy Lopez…

The Texans will have 4 of the top 80 draft picks in 2022, as of this writing. Hopefully, GM Caserio and EVP of Football Operations Jack Easterby can help Culley by filling some holes through the draft and free agency. The team also has huge draft pick and player trade potential with Deshaun Watson. If his legal troubles can be resolved maybe the Texans can soon get a good return for him.

It would be interesting to see what Culley can do with a more favorable schedule next year. There are 6 games against 2022 playoff teams: Titans twice, Chiefs, Raiders, Cowboys and Eagles. Other games outside the division include the Browns, Chargers, and the Wahington Football Team at home, with away games against the Giants, Broncos, Dolphins and Bears. If the Texans can again split the division games at 3-3, an overall 2022 record of 8-9 and maybe 9-8 seems within reach.

Finally, what are the other options? Brian Flores was released by Miami, but would he even want the job? Same with Matt Nagy who was fired in Chicago. Mike Zimmer is 65, like Culley, and may be past his prime as a head coach. Vic Fangio’s record in Denver was not impressive. Jim Harbaugh reportedly wants to come back to the NFL, but who knows? That basically leaves candidates without head coaching experience, again. Maybe there is another Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan or even Mike Vrabel out there. Or maybe David Culley is that guy. Let’s find out.