HOUSTON - The Houston Texans better hope new head coach David Culley will inspire the roster ... because in my gauging of the situation, he does nothing in that regard for those outside the building.
In tabbing Culley, owner Cal McNair continues his devotion to a process that screams "it's worst than you thought" as he hires a candidate only his team wanted to be a head coach.
No other team was interested in Culley for a coordinator spot, much less being the head coach. That’s not an indictment of David Culley the man, or even of David Culley the coach.
But pending Houston winning a big, delightful pile of NFL games? It’s an indictment of the Texans’ front-office process.
The lack of interest, pretty much ever, in Culley as a head coach didn't matter to McNair, Jack Easterby, and general manager Nick Caserio. Houston identified its candidate, withstood criticism and interviews with seemingly more qualified coaches, and decided on Culley.
With a fanbase, Deshaun Watson, and J.J. Watt among the many all needing inspiration, the Texans delivered with all the skill of a kindergarten kid tasked to paint the Mona Lisa.
Culley, 65, is spoken of well by his peers. He's spent over 40 years coaching before getting this chance with the Texans. He might be an unknown to many, as his Wikipedia page before getting hired contained but five sentences, but in NFL circles he seems to get glowing reviews.
Here, he has an uphill climb to prove the Texans knew something nobody else did before them.
For all the criticism levied against Eric Bieniemy's involvement in the Chiefs offense, at least Kansas City was excellent. Leslie Frazier is four years younger than Culley and has coordinated a nasty Buffalo defense for a few years. Matt Eberflus has coached one of the best defenses in the AFC.
Culley was the wide receiver coach and passing game coordinator for the worst passing offense in football in 2020. He was the quarterback coach in Buffalo in 2018 as the Bills finished 31st in the NFL in passing, the same as the previous year when Culley also coached quarterbacks. He was the wide receivers coach in Kansas City in 2014 when no wide receivers caught a touchdown for a 9-7 Chiefs team.
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Yes, Houston needed a strong head coach. The team needed a leader the locker room could buy into. ... Someone with elements that jumps off the page of their resume, not a ten-page long resume of position coaching jobs.
It's hard not to think of Bill O'Brien's commitment to "tough, smart, and dependable" players and obsession with special-teams aces when touting Culley's intangibles. This team needed better coaching, not better intangibles. Culley has to deliver both.
It seems Culley will keep Tim Kelly as the offensive coordinator. Kelly has been a coordinator for two seasons, which is two seasons longer than Culley has in 40-plus years of coaching. The Texans at least have a direction on offense (assuming Deshaun is playing), though Kelly has plenty of work to prove he's not running a watered-down version of O'Brien's offense.
Lovie Smith as a defensive assistant isn't exciting, but his defense has worked before. Smith's experience will be necessary for Culley's elevation from position coach to head coach to go smoothly.
Assembling an impressive staff is always a chore for a first-time head coach, but it is paramount to any level of success Culley will have. This Texans team has been poorly coached for the better part of three seasons. Average coaching could have doubled the wins in 2020 and sent the team to the AFC Championship game in 2019.
This move - important as it is because Culley, as a Black man, represents an all-too-slow NFL movement - will do nothing to cure the unrest of a fanbase fearing their franchise quarterback has his sights set elsewhere. My immediate thought:
Almost any other hire presented a path to keeping Watson and righting the ship. Maybe Culley having spent a Pro Bowl week getting to know Watson is part of this path. We shall see.
It's hard, though, all things considered, to see a future where David Culley is outproducing Bill O'Brien - with or without Deshaun Watson.
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In the most important offseason in the history of this franchise, the Texans, to me, just executed the most curious hire of a head coach in the last decade. It is at best, going against the grain to clean up past self-inflicted issues. At worst, it’s a disaster driven by a front office with goofy priorities that could lead to the Texans going through this process all over again all too soon.
Watson and Watt have clamored for a culture change. Watson spoke of foundation and a desire for a leader. In a sense, the Texans needed to hire the Anti-O'Brien, and they did just that.
Now, again, Culley's first order of business is proving to Watson he is a coach full of inspiration. Will Watson give him that chance?
That’s today’s big Texans culture question, which replaces yesterday’s Texans' culture question, which was, “Who the heck is David Culley?”