The modern NFL has proven time and again a team can go from losers to winners in a very short time span.
The Houston Texans have now strung together enough losing campaigns, they're actually dragging down the turn-around average.
The team currently has only nine wins over the last 2.5 seasons. While continuing to tank this year makes all the sense to load the roster in the 2023 NFL Draft, continuing to suck next season doesn’t.
It’s time to put up or shut up.
Lovie Smith is a great guy. Players love him. He’s been just what this franchise has needed to heal the wounds between the team and fanbase. However, his day in the sun is likely past.
Young quarterback Davis Mills has failed to flourish under the tutelage of Smith and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
The H-Town defense is so bad J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing are rolling over in their graves and both former Texans stars are still very much alive.
There’s a lot of sentiment that this team needs another year to really rebuild. But, this is the modern NFL - the ‘what have you done for me lately’ of pro sports. If Nick Caserio and company can’t turn this around faster, then they aren’t cut out to compete with the rest of the league.
However, Caserio has done some good things - and made some head scratching moves as well. But, for the sake of discussion, we’ll focus on the good stuff.
He minimized the deleterious impact of Jack Easterby. He cleaned up the salary cap crap salad Bill O’Brien left him. He deftly worked the Deshaun Watson situation and walked away with solid draft capital. And, he’s brought in a group of talented young players such as Nico Collins, Brevin Jordan, Dameon Pierce, Jalen Pitre, Derek Stingley Jr., Kenyon Green, Christian Harris and John Metchie III.
With that stable of young ballers, and the draft and cap space capital the Texans will have in 2023, this should look like an appealing team to a would-be head coach.
Sports Illustrated recently compiled a solid list of potential leaders-of-men for the 2023 season. While the Indianapolis Colts already have a head start on the coaching search, and the Las Vegas Raiders should follow suit, Houston can still start shopping now.
Offensive Minded Houston Texans Head Coaching Candidates
The most recent loss by the Texans came at the hands of the league’s last undefeated team, the Philadelphia Eagles. This game should have provided Caserio a close-up view of Philly’s offensive coordinator Shane Steichen.
Shane Steichen, Offensive Coordinator, Eagles
Steichen is our top candidate for the 2023 season. In the pressing search for the next great offensive-minded head coach, Steichen seems to have slipped between the cracks despite a strong track record. He was instrumental in preparing Justin Herbert for his surprise rookie season (Herbert was thrust into a starting role with almost no preparation) and has been equally important in the development of Jalen Hurts—the Eagles’ offense is behind only Miami, Kansas City and Baltimore in terms of efficiency. It’s not hard to see their multifaceted approach, which helps Hurts and the Eagles transcend the idea of a “system,” being copied around the league. Steichen is a mastermind at creating mismatches and had a roster trending in the right direction with a rookie receiver as the primary passing threat in ’21 before Philadelphia upgraded their talent set.
Notice the lack of “we have to do a better job” comments from Steichen...
Hate ‘em all we want, but the current Dallas Cowboys team is lighting up opponents with an electric offense that didn’t seem to miss a beat when the starting QB went down to injury. That certainly will translate to opportunities for their OC when the season ends.
Kellen Moore, Offensive Coordinator, Cowboys
Moore’s stock was boosted after a stellar round of interviews last year with the Jaguars, Broncos, Vikings and Dolphins. Moore, 34, has served as either a quarterbacks coach or an offensive coordinator in Dallas since 2018, and has a chance to cement his candidacy with a strong performance sans Dak Prescott. Cooper Rush posted a 95 quarterback rating in a surprising win over the Bengals and on Monday night posted a QB rating just shy of 100 against the Giants in a victory. All the while, regardless of who is under center for Dallas, there have been open receivers and chunk plays available.
Another team that’s overcome adversity to rocket up the win column is the Miami Dolphins. Tua, a QB many thought to be a total bust, is having a Pro Bowl year and the ‘Phins are decisively in the playoff hunt after a train wreck of an offseason.
Frank Smith, Offensive Coordinator, Dolphins
Smith could be the first apple off the Mike McDaniel tree. If the Dolphins continue to succeed, so, thankfully, will the idea that coaches should care about their players. Read about what star Raiders tight end Darren Waller said about Smith, who was Waller’s position coach after he returned to the NFL from suspension: “I never had a relationship with a coach like I do with Frank. I honestly text him more than I text my friends. We laugh every day at practice, but I seriously respect him as a teacher and a coach and an authority figure you can talk to as a friend. Nothing’s off limits. We can be real and honest with each other about everything. That’s so important to me, having him in my life.” Ask around, and you’ll hear stories about Smith going all out as a person as well as a coach, which is, ultimately, what it takes to succeed in the NFL.
Defensive Minded Houston Texans Head Coaching Candidates
As SI.com points out, the modern NFL is as offensive minded as it gets. However, that doesn’t mean a great defensive minded head coach can’t bring in a brilliant offensive coordinator and light the league on fire.
Any self-respecting Texans fan will love the first name on this list. So many great memories revolve around this man blasting opposing offensive players when he prowled the middle of the Houston D.
DeMeco Ryans, Defensive Coordinator, 49ers
Kyle Shanahan said of Ryans last year: “DeMeco is going to be a head coach. He’s too good not to be, whether it’s this year, whether it’s next year, whether it’s anytime.”
Ryans had the 49ers sixth against the pass last year and picked up right where he left off in 2022. Currently, the 49ers are fourth in EPA per play, fifth against the pass and ninth against the run. Ryans interviewed with the Vikings last winter but declined a second interview with the club.
As with Raheem Morris, Ryans should have access to a solid support staff—the Rams and 49ers are both deep with talented offensive coaches like Thomas Brown, Zac Robinson in L.A. and Anthony Lynn in San Francisco, among others. And, as mentioned above, the idea that a defensive coach cannot build a solid offense is dated and indirectly harmful to many coaches in the candidate pool.
The Los Angeles Rams lost their offensive coordinator this season to the 7-1 Minnesota Vikings. You can bet your bottom dollar other teams have taken notice of what the Vikings did when they grabbed Kevin O’Connell.
Raheem Morris, Defensive Coordinator, Rams
When discussing this year’s available coaches, one industry source made it a point to mention that, because the offensive coaching landscape has essentially been strip-mined, a ton of defensive coaches who have been patiently waiting their turn are overripe on the vine. Morris, the former Buccaneers coach, checks all the boxes. He is coaching the best run defense in the NFL this year. He has head coaching experience, which was a major plus on the market last year. He has experience as an offensive coach, serving as Kyle Shanahan’s passing game coordinator in Atlanta, and he is working in Los Angeles, which means he could assemble a staff that contains some talented younger coaches on the McVay coaching tree. Morris is beyond ready for his second shot as a head coach.
And let’s not forget a runner up to Lovie Smith from last season’s coaching search - Gannon seemed like he had a legit shot before the Twilight Zone theme started playing and Smith was named head coach.
Jonathan Gannon, Defensive Coordinator, Eagles
If you had taken a drink every time Troy Aikman said “Jonathan Gannon” during the Eagles’ Monday Night Football dismantling of the Vikings in Week 2, you would have needed a stomach pumping. This is for good reason, though. Gannon was high on the Texans’ wish list a year ago and interviewed with the team before they promoted Lovie Smith. This offseason, Gannon’s list should be far more substantial. His Eagles defense is currently the third-most efficient passing defense in the NFL. As a complement to its offense, the unit is versatile and ever-changing to fit the strengths of its personnel.
Houston Texans Head Coaching Candidates for 2023
That gives us:
- Shane Steichen
- Kellen Moore
- Frank Smith
- DeMeco Ryans
- Raheem Morris
- Jonathan Gannon
Among others. (If you mention Josh McCown, the H-Town Sports Police should escort you to your new home in a Tulsa suburb of no consequence).
DeMeco Ryans is likely to win the popularity contest aspect of this, but would he make the best head coach for this team?
There are so many factors to consider, from overall experience and track-record, to leadership ability, to how well they can assemble a staff, to what sort of scheme they would bring (and does that bring a “force fit the players to my scheme” or “mold my scheme to fit the talent at hand”?) and lots of other variables.
Another concern is Nick Caserio’s own track record. Clearly, with Darth Belichick sitting on the throne of Mt Doom in New England since the last century, Caserio has no practical experience in hiring head coaches, until he signed David Culley and Lovie Smith (insert rimshot).
That begs the question: Does Caserio have the ability to make a great head coaching hire? Or is he simply treading water knowing the McNair’s don’t have the football savvy to hold his feet to the fire if he misses the target?
Either way, standing pat in 2023 with Lovie Smith and crew isn’t a move a winner would make. Hopefully the one thing Nick brought from the NFL’s most dominant modern dynasty was a distaste for losing.