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Houston Texans: Idle Speculation about Nick Caserio

Should Nick Caserio’s job be safe?

Philadelphia Eagles v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Battle Red Blog’s Mike Bullock already reported on the Caserio rumors yesterday. Of course, calling them rumors is charitable at this point. Most of the speculation is based on reporting by Jason LaCanfora. I hate to cast aspersions, but this is a reporter that Houston’s very own John McClain once called “Jason La Can’t Confirma” on Sports Radio 610. Suffice it to say that LaCanfora’s reporting has been hit and miss over the years.

In point of fact, LaCanfora uses a rhetorical technique we use a lot in public schools. We tell students all the time that they may be subject to various penalties or punishments. We tell them that they may not pass if they do certain things. LaCanfora’s reporting is very similar. He spoke with unnamed executives that all said that things may happen. That obviously means they may not happen. So, he is covered either way.

It doesn’t mean that his reporting is without merit. He is right sometimes. Executives may know things, but more than likely they are simply saying what would normally happen at the 31 other teams if similar things were happening. We know the Houston Texans are not the 31 other teams, so obviously they will choose what they want to do. So, the key point is not that Nick Caserio could be out. The key is that some people seem to think he should be. I personally doubt it will come to that, but I do think it is high time that the McNairs start asking Caserio some pointed question about what is going on, what has gone on, and what should happen in the future.

Most general managers get to hire two head coaches before they get in trouble. If Lovie Smith is one and done, how do you justify getting a third bite at this apple?

In short, only the people in that room know exactly what went down during the last two coaching searches. The David Culley hiring was the most bizarre. Lovie Smith had already been hired as the defensive coordinator. He had previous head coaching experience. He had led a team to a Super Bowl. Why wasn’t he the hire to begin with? No one could have listened to anything Culley had to say and come away thinking, “yup, that’s our guy.”

If I’m the McNairs, I need to know exactly what the thinking was behind those two hires. I can’t imagine that Caserio thought either was the most qualified, so what is the excuse going to be? Did Jack Easterby get his dirty little hands on the process? Was Caserio or Easterby thinking they could control them? Is there something else we are missing here? In short, he needs to convince the McNairs that this third coaching search is going to be different. If he really thought those two were the best people for the job then he doesn’t deserve a third bite at that apple. I can’t imagine that he really did, so he needs to explain exactly what happened.

There are a lot of rookies and second year guys playing, but there aren’t a lot of those guys playing well? Why?

I hear this a lot. “The Texans are playing a lot of rookies and second year guys, so Nick Caserio did a great job in the draft.” I’m not saying he didn’t do a great job, but simply playing guys doesn’t mean they are good. Admittedly, PFF is only one rating system, but it has Derek Stingley Jr., Jalen Pitre, and Kenyon Green as among the worst regular players at their positions. Dameon Pierce has been good, but there are current rookies at all of those other spots that are playing better than the guys above.

In particular, Sauce Gardner is one of the top ten corners in the NFL. Kyle Hamilton is the same at safety. Most of us are smart enough to know that you can’t judge a draft after 12 games, but it’s not necessarily off to a great start. This becomes a chicken vs. the egg kind of deal. Are they playing badly because of the bad coaching referenced above or is the team underperforming because the general manager picked the wrong guys?

Ultimately, this gets to the heart of the first question. When you hire a bridge coach you cannot draft players to match that person’s systems and philosophies. They won’t be here long enough to do that. So, you go with a pure “best player available” model. Stingley is a perfect example. He is a shutdown corner in a defense that doesn’t use man coverages. Sauce Gardner would have been a much better pick for that style of defense. Except, will the next coach use more man coverage? Would another coach use Pitre like he was used in college? We don’t know these things and so evaluating rookies is nearly impossible, but it isn’t a stretch to say this was a lost year for a lot of them.

Did you exercise more control over Culley and Smith because they were inferior coaches or is that your governing football philosophy moving forward?

Let’s pretend you are Sean Payton and you want to come back into the NFL next season. You currently have three openings and we are going to assume that Arizona will fire Kliff Kingsbury and the Broncos will fire Nathaniel Hackett following the season. So, we would have the Arizona Cardinals job, the Denver Broncos job, Indianapolis Colts job, Carolina Panthers job, and the Houston Texans job. If we consider just the current rosters, draft equity, and salary cap situations moving forward which job would you want?

I could make a very credible argument for the Houston Texans. They have extra picks in each of the next two drafts including the likely number one overall pick this next season and cap situations that will be completely cleaned up by 2024. I could completely reload with my pick of all of the college quarterbacks and plenty of cap space. Do I really want to hitch my wagon to Kyler Murray or Russell Wilson? Carolina and Indianapolis are roughly in the same boat as we are except they won’t have the number one overall pick.

We know two things. First, we know there is always a surprise team that will fire their coach. The Los Angeles Chargers come to mind and if I’m Payton, I’m hitching my wagon to Justin Herbert. Second, we know that roster, draft, and salary cap are not the only considerations. There is ownership. There is the general manager. So, this is the ultimate question for any aspiring head coach: do you want to work with someone that will be more involved than other general managers with job openings?

Give me a light at the end of this dark tunnel. When is this period of horrible football going to end?

Simply put, there are too many examples of bad teams that have played winning football shortly after making changes. Let’s not look far here. Gary Kubiak did it in his first two years here. Bill O’Brien did it in his first year here. Both New York teams are considerably better. The Vikings and Eagles made recent changes and they are the best two teams in their conference. I could go on and on.

Someone needs to explain to me like I’m a five year old why this isn’t happening right now. Sure, we have challenges those other teams didn’t have. O’Brien and Easterby did a number on this salary cap and roster that couldn’t be cleaned up in a year or two. Yet, shouldn’t we have improved this year? Shouldn’t things get better next year? if I’m the McNairs I need a realistic projection of when this thing will finally turn around.