The last team in the NFL without a head coach in place, the Houston Texans still have plenty of options. ... for the top job and more.
Since his arrival, general manager Nick Caserio has interviewed David Culley, Tim Kelly, Jim Caldwell, Leslie Frazier, Eric Bieniemy, and Josh McCown for the opening. And while we don't know who ultimately gets the job, we do have a "wish list'' ... our "Dream Team'' on what their coaching staff could look like come the 2021 season.
Head Coach: Eric Bieniemy
Potentially the only hire that could save the relationship between quarterback Deshaun Watson and the Texans, Bieniemy is long overdue an opportunity as an NFL head coach. Having led the Kansas City Chiefs' offense to a Super Bowl victory just last season, the former San Diego Chargers running back has led one of the most well-rounded and dynamic offenses in the NFL as the Chiefs offensive coordinator.
A lauded leader and coach who has shown his ability to get the best out of his star players such as Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and Alex Smith, he would be a popular hire in H-Town. Throw in his ability as a running backs coach and Houston's current lack of a run game, and it seems like a perfect fit.
Offensive Coordinator: Tim Kelly
Perhaps not the flashiest of appointments, but a smart one nonetheless. Watson has spoken highly of Kelly since the end of the season, lending him his support to remain in the position. Given that Houston should be throwing everything but the kitchen sink at appeasing their despondent franchise quarterback, Kelly should remain.
Some will point out that in hiring an offensive head coach it seems counterintuitive to have another play-caller, however, Bieniemy is not currently the Chiefs' play-caller so this situation shouldn't be out of his comfort zone. Plus, Kelly would benefit from having another offensive mind to learn from, especially one with as much success rushing the ball. (He's also repped by super agent Bob LaMonte, as are GM Caserio and exec Jack Easterby.)
Defensive Coordinator: Wade Phillips
The "Son of Bum'' has already made it public knowledge that he wishes to return from his brief retirement. And given that he still lives in Houston, the well respected and successful coordinator would be a fantastic fit.
His ability to build championship-caliber defenses and develop talent would be a welcome addition to a defensive unit that has fallen flat in recent years. His hiring also comes with the added bonus of possibly being able to convince defensive end J.J. Watt to remain with the organization. Watt had some of his best years under Phillips during the Gary Kubiak era in Houston and has always spoken extremely highly of the former Texans defensive coordinator and interim head coach.
Not to mention that his experience would be invaluable to a rookie head coach.
Special Teams Coordinator: Tracy Smith
Last season was Smith's first as a special-teams coordinator after taking over from Brad Seely, and despite multiple injuries to key members and questionable returners to work with, the Texans' special-teams unit faired relatively well and did improve as the year went on and the returners were alternated.
In the end, they allowed an average of 20.7 yards on kickoff returns and 128 yards on punt returns, good for eighth and sixth least in the league respectively. Strong enough to warrant his return.
Other Notable Hires
Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line Coach: Romeo Crennel
A choice many will disagree with, but few know this team better than Crennel. And to know where to improve, you have to know what went wrong.
With last season's defensive coordinator and line coach Anthony Weaver now in Baltimore, the Texans would be wise to find a role for Crennel in an area he knows better than most. Another experienced coach whom Bieniemy could lean on, Crennel was the assistant head coach for Bill O'Brien from 2017 to 2020.
Oh, and with almost a century of coaching experience between Crennel and Phillips, they ought to be able to get this defense back on track. (Marvin Lewis is another coach who would make sense in this role if they were looking for experience, though sources suggest to us that his well-compensated role in college at Arizona State suits him nicely.)
QB Coach: Josh McCown
It's clear that the Texans envision keeping McCown in some capacity. He may have been interviewed for the head coaching role, but given that technically he is still their backup quarterback and has no professional coaching experience, offering to jump him straight to head coach seems unwise.
McCown is otherwise as experienced as they come, and you don't last that long in the league and get picked up that frequently if you aren't smart. His time in multiple systems should give him a great deal of knowledge to fall back on, and he would be an excellent mentor for Watson moving forward.
Offensive Line Coach: James Campen
Mike Devlin's tenure in Houston has been abysmal.
The ideal hire here would be a former colleague of Caserio's up in New England, Dante Scarnecchia. However, luring him out of retirement is wishful thinking.
This was a tough call, with Rams assistant offensive line coach Andy Dickerson an intriguing option. (Oh, and Dave DeGuglielmo is leaving the Giants, has Patriots ties and, yup, is a LaMonte client.) However, Campen would be a smart hire.
Having coaches eight Pro Bowl linemen since entering coaching in 2004 with the Green Bay Packers, Campen is available after being let go by the Chargers just this month. And frankly, his bio speaks for itself:
"The Packers were the only team in the NFL to have six different offensive linemen recognized as all-stars since 2010, all coming under Campen's instruction" ... "In his tenure in Green Bay, the Packers averaged the third-most points-per-game in that span (25.5). Campen served as offensive line coach for 11 seasons, in which the Packers offense ranked in the top 10 in scoring offense nine times and total offense eight times."
The Texans are not short of talented linemen, including tackles Tytus Howard and Pro Bowler Laremy Tunsil. Under Campen, this line could reach its true potential and allow Watson to play without the fear of constant oncoming pressure.