Time for the monthly, “who will replace Lovie Smith?” conversation.
Despite all the silly, uninformed national media conversation about Nick Caserio making three head coaching hires in three years, the Houston Texans need to bring in a solid head coach in 2023. To address the rumors once more, David Culley was likely a Jack Easterby informed hire, since he came aboard far too soon after Caserio’s hiring. And, Lovie Smith was never seen as in the running until the Brian Flores lawsuit was filed.
It’s hard to know those things and really believe that either Culley or Smith was Caserio’s prime candidate.
Now, heading into the 2023 offseason, Caserio has salary cap space, draft capital and the ability to finally clean the coaching house and bring in “his” guys.
To say the 2023 offseason is make or break time for Caserio is an understatement.
Who are the hot coaching candidates right now, you ask? Well, ProFootballNetwork did a nice breakdown just last week.
Houston Texans Head Coaching Candidates
Dan Quinn, DC, Dallas Cowboys
Shane Steichen, OC, Philadelphia Eagles
DeMeco Ryans, DC, San Francisco 49ers
Leslie Frazier, DC, Buffalo Bills
Kellen Moore, OC, Dallas Cowboys
Raheem Morris, DC, Los Angeles Rams
Eric Bieniemy, OC, Kansas City Chiefs
Jonathan Gannon, DC, Philadelphia Eagles
Brian Callahan, OC, Cincinnati Bengals
Ejiro Evero, DC, Denver Broncos
Mike Kafka, OC, New York Giants
Jerod Mayo, Inside Linebackers Coach, New England Patriots
Ken Dorsey, OC, Buffalo Bills
Ben Johnson, OC, Detroit Lions
Frank Smith, OC, Miami Dolphins
Shane Bowen, DC, Tennessee Titans
While this isn’t the ultimate exhaustive list, there are more than enough potential contenders on here that have far more promise ahead than Lovie Smith.
Names on this list that probably pique the interest of most Texans fans:
Not only was Ryans a stud linebacker for the Texans years ago, his level of intensity and success has translated well to the coaching ranks. If Houston doesn’t give him his first head coaching role this offseason, another team likely will.
There’s a belief within the 49ers organization, and around the league, that defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is in line to become a head coach in 2023. If so, it would mark the 3rd straight year the 49ers staff has produced a HC, with Robert Saleh 2021, Mike McDaniel last year.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 11, 2022
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.
While this name rises high on the lists of lots of casual fans, for those with a deeper interest and knowledge of coaching searches, there’s a very sizable asterisk next to the former running back’s name. Bieniemy has hit this list for several years, done interviews with a lot of teams, and time and again been passed over by multiple clubs.
Is he incapable of taking the next step? Unable to show he can assemble a great staff? Unwilling to leave Andy Reid’s side with the Kansas City Chiefs? Or does he just interview poorly?
Gannon made the list of Caserio prime candidates last offseason, before Houston took a hard left turn and hired Smith.
Multiple league sources have either been told or seen notification —and shared with me—Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon was informed, as of yesterday, he would not be receiving the head coach job for the #Texans, at said time. The process is ongoing.— JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) February 6, 2022
The Eagles ranked in the middle of the pack in most defensive metrics a season ago, but Jonathan Gannon still landed three head coaching interviews (Broncos, Texans, Vikings). As NFL teams become more interested in building their defenses from back to front, a former defensive backs coach like Gannon should receive even more opportunities.
Philadelphia went on a defensive acquisition spree over the offseason, adding James Bradberry, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Haason Reddick, and Jordan Davis to an already-talented depth chart. Gannon has thus experimented with more varied schemes, fronts, and coverages, and the Eagles are currently fifth in defensive EPA per play.
Allegedly, inside the walls of New England Patriots HQ, the players, coaches and other personnel call him “Jerod Belichick”. If ever there was a connection tying a general manger to a head coaching candidate this is it. Caserio was in New England when Mayo was a player and a coach. Mayo interviewed with Caserio last offseason and rumor had it they walked away with a “put that back in the oven for another season” mindset. Well, that season is almost over. Does that mean Mayo might be the next Houston Texans head coach? Only time will tell.
Still in just his fourth year of coaching, Mayo has already taken head coaching interviews with the Eagles (in 2021), Broncos and Raiders (both in ‘22). Before going into coaching, Mayo played eight seasons for Bill Belichick in New England, running the defense and relaying the signals for most of that time, including as a rookie to the veteran likes of Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi and Vince Wilfork. He now serves as de facto coordinator for a Patriots defense that has played well again this season, ranking among the league leaders in sacks and takeaways. Mayo’s pedigree and makeup are intriguing.
Who do you think will be the Houston Texans next head coaching hire?