I don’t care who the Texans hire as their next head coach.
Last year was different than this year. Last year when the Houston Texans were working to find a new head coach and general manager there was a sun the team orbited around. RIck Smith did the hard part, and found the thing every team is striving for, obtaining a franchise quarterback. Deshaun Watson had supplanted himself as a top five quarterback—after his teammates didn’t allow him to pull off the miraculous to win the close games they had won in 2020. Despite going 4-12, an immediate bounce back was in sight. Find a head coach who can scheme an offense to get the most out of Watson, trim the fat on the roster, and find players to build around Watson with.
During last year’s coaching search there was a blueprint sitting there. A franchise quarterback is the staple of teams who consistently make the postseason. It isn’t a great running attack, or secondary, or winning in a tough and gritty way. Numerous parts are banded together to win in this fashion, creating numerous points where one piece can break, forcing the entire operation to break down. A quarterback is immune to this to a certain extent. Year in and year out, the great ones consistently carry a team to the postseason.
The head coaching decision last year was based entirely around getting the most out of Watson. Bill O’Brien drew up a great gameplan occasionally, but overall, his run heavy offense limited Watson’s performance and production. The Texans won because of the overall talent on the roster, and O’Brien was able to get by year after year, until the dam finally burst. Tim Kelly did the bare minimum in his absence. He utilized an empty spread passing attack, with Chad (chad) Hansen and Jordan Akins at wide receiver, with Watson picking apart defenses from five wide receiver formations, with his running ability acting as a kill switch if everything was covered. Houston had the best passing attack of O’Brien’s entire tenure in Houston, and it came after he was fired.
Who can build an offense around Watson year in and year out was the question to answer? Brian Daboll’s quarterback heavy scheme turned Josh Allen from incredible athlete to a MVP caliber quarterback. Eric Bienemy calls the plays for Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs all-time passing attack. Byron Leftwich could bring in the vertical passing attack he learned from Bruce Arians. Greg Roman would ground Watson into dust, but could finally tap into his rushing ability.
These were the ideas we had. Then Watson asked for a trade. Then Watson was accused of sexually assaulting 22 women. Everything fell apart. Houston fired O’Brien to get ahead of their head coaching search, and ended up being the last team to hire a head coach, a head coach named David Culley. Those ideas were eviscerated.
A year later the Texans finished 4-13. Culley was one and done, unable to do the bare minimum aspects of the job. Insane in game decisions, players constantly out of position, an obtuse loyalty to the worst offense in the NFL. The Texans are now once again back to the drawing board and trying to find a new head coach, and I don’t care at all.
The difference this year is the Texans no longer have a source of light and energy after last year’s supernova. The franchise is cold. Maybe Davis Mills can improve on his accuracy, Houston can create a competent run game, acquire a second and third wide receiver, and Mills can become a starting quarterback. Maybe Jonathan Greenard can be the third best player on a good front seven. Maybe they finally stop screwing around and leave Tytus Howard at left tackle and trade Laremy Tunsil, who has an impossible cap hit in 2022. Maybe the rookie class from 2021 has a starter aside from Roy Lopez from it.
The Texans have a talent issue. O’Brien mortgaged everything to give up a 24 point lead to Kansas City. His own failings, and mismanagement of the offensive line led to the Tunsil trade. DeAndre Hopkins became Brandin Cooks, Ross Blacklock, and David Johnson. Eric Murray was the answer to a crumbling pass defense. The defensive talent that had carried him for years declined because of time, or moved onto other franchises. The Texans were left in ruins.
There isn’t a scheme out there that makes perfect sense for the Texans as they’re currently constructed. Jonathan Gannon’s quarters defense, that he was unable to really run in Philadelphia without linebackers or safeties, Kevin O’Connell’s zone heavy play action attack, Leftwich’s power run vertical play action scheme, Todd Bowels’s and Brian Flores’s high blitz defense, none of them are symmetrical with the Texans current personnel, except for the FCA leadership Josh McCown brings. Houston has maybe one cornerstone player in Howard, and the rest requires more work and time to discover if they will stand the test of time.
The key to this offseason is for Nick Caserio to find good football players. That’s it. It’s simple. Firing Culley allows Houston to bring in a head coach who can grow with the team, and match an ideology with their roster construction. There isn’t a perfect scheme. Houston is malleable. The key is to find players the next good Texans team can be molded around, whenever that may finally be.
Because of these reasons, I don’t care who the Texans hire as their head coach. It could be Flores, or O’Connell, or McCown, it doesn’t matter. What I care about is what Houston gets for Watson and Tunsil, if they trade down from third overall, which positions they address in the draft and free agency, and which one-year mercenaries stay around for another season. The coach, the scheme, this doesn’t matter at the moment. Finding good players and improving the overall talent of the roster is what does.