Vince Lombardi, Al Davis, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, Bill Belichick—these are men who took over struggling NFL franchises and turned them into champions. None of these guys stepped into a great situation. None took over a treasure trove of talent or organizational greatness. Yet each overcame great odds and turned a dumpster fire into a dynasty.
If you’ve paid the slightest bit of attention to the current state of affairs with the Houston Texans, you know this team is a dumpster fire inside another dumpster fire. While Nick Caserio has probably aged ten years in the two weeks of his employment here, the opportunity to look like a total general manager rock star is sitting right in front of him. With a pretty major deficit in roster talent, Caserio has a lot of things on his “to do” list. From the mess of the salary cap, to a lack of draft picks, to the singular issues of what to do with J.J. Watt or how to talk Deshaun Watson off the ledge, Caserio is most likely losing sleep with the best of them right now. To make matters worse, the Texans are only one of two teams missing a head coach at this point.
All these things present a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, designed by German engineers (try assembling handmade German furniture to understand this analogy), which requires Caserio to adjust a lot of moving pieces all at once in real time. How he handles this will set the tone for what becomes his legacy as a general manager. Here’s what the Texans’ new general manager needs to do to get the Texans turned around.
Nick Caserio needs to take control of the Houston Texans.
We just need new energy. We just need discipline. We need structure. We need a leader so we can follow that leader as players. That’s what we need.
Before he can really make any moves, Caserio needs to be that leader Watson is clamoring for in the quote above. Based on his resume and experience, there’s no reason Caserio can’t be, particularly with Cal McNair - a man not particularly known for strong leadership - currently calling the shots.
Caserio needs to get in a room with Deshaun Watson.
If Caserio can talk Watson off a ledge, smooth over the rough edges by insulating the franchise quarterback from owner Cal McNair and Jack Easterby, and forge a partnership with DW4, everything else will get that much easier.
Caserio needs to make it known Watson is back in the fold.
No head coaching candidate worth hiring is looking at the mess the Texans present, minus Deshaun Watson, and thinking, “I want that gig.” There is no scenario that makes the Texans more appealing to a head coach than keeping Watson on the team.
Caserio needs to publicly stand shoulder to shoulder with J.J. Watt.
Let’s face it, Deshaun Watson is the emerging leader of the locker room, but J.J. Watt is the existing one. Crossing Watt is what ultimately led to Bill O’Brien exiting the building one final time. Caserio and Watt need to have a mutual understanding based on respect and a shared vision of what’s best for the Texans as an organization. If Watt truly wants to play elsewhere, Caserio needs to make it happen out of respect for what Watt has done for the Texans and the City of Houston. Anything less will only dig a deeper hole.
Caserio needs to make sure all this is transparent to the fan base.
Rarely in pro sports does a major franchise like the Texans completely lose their fanbase. However, with all the recent shenanigans, the McNairs are perilously close to doing just that. There was a protest scheduled to take place at NRG Stadium today comprised of a strong contingent of fans who wanted to show their displeasure with recent activities. Cal McNair should sit up and pay attention. While the NFL has a history of turning a blind eye to moral failures, criminal activity, and other unsavory behavior, doing something that costs the league revenue is a quick way to get on the wrong end of the most powerful organization in sports. Losing the Houston fan base will cost the NFL money.
Caserio needs to minimize the visibility of Jack Easterby.
If Jack Easterby was truly the man he claims to be, he would have resigned by now. His presence is causing an incredible amount of turmoil, and that’s having an adverse affect on a great many people. If Easterby truly loved others more than he loves himself, he would remove himself from the organization immediately. That right there is the litmus test for Easterby’s character.
Since that hasn’t happened and Cal McNair apparently won’t allow Caserio to #FireEasterby, the new general manager needs to push his friend out of the spotlight once and for all while publicly stripping him of any influence that could further incense players, fans. or other Texans employees.
Once Caserio has done all these things, he can turn to the more mundane tasks of NFL general management, like hiring the next head coach, fixing the poor salary cap situation, finding ways to generate a few more draft picks, and turning the Texans back into the class of the AFC South and on their way to becoming Super Bowl champions
If these things don’t happen, Caserio could quit and walk away blaming the mess he inherited, saying he was set up for failure and all that. Vince Lombardi, Al Davis, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, and Bill Belichick all could have said the same thing, but they didn’t. They triumphed in the face of adversity. Nick Caserio needs to do the same.