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Fired or Forward? Coach David Culley Reveals Thoughts on Texans Job

Texans' David Culley on unresolved future: 'I'm looking forward to being the head coach'

HOUSTON -- Although David Culley has yet to be informed about his status by management and is still being evaluated by the Houston Texans organization with a change in leadership a distinct possibility, according to league sources, the head coach expressed confidence in his status for next season.

Culley, 66, finished 4-13 in his first year as a head coach at any level.

"As of right now, I feel like I will be coaching this team next year," Culley said following a season-ending 28-25 defeat to the Tennessee Titans.

When asked to elaborate, Culley replied: "I'm looking forward to being the head coach of this team next year."

Culley acknowledged that there will be conversations with management, including general manager Nick Caserio, about his future with the AFC South franchise.

There has been plenty of speculation about whether offensive coordinator Tim Kelly will return, but Culley expressed confidence that he will return. There are questions about whether Kelly will return along with other staff members, including passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton.

"I expect everybody to be back," Culley said. "I’ve got confidence in in this entire coaching staff. I would want this whole entire coaching staff back.”

A detailed review is expected to take into account everything about Culley and the coaches' performance and how they operated in a difficult rebuilding situation with an overhauled roster.

Should the Texans move on from Culley, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could emerge as a top potential candidate to replace him. McDaniels, if he decides to leave New England, could be a strong head coaching candidate for multiple potential vacancies based on his track record and his success developing Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones.

Many league sources expressed skepticism Sunday when asked if McDaniels will leave the Patriots for any job, including the Texans.

The Texans finished with an identical amount of wins last year under former coach and general manager Bill O'Brien, who was fired after an 0-4 start and is now the Alabama offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and set to interview for the Jacksonville Jaguars' head coaching position, and Romeo Crennel, who finished 4-8 last season as the interim coach and is now the Texans' senior advisor of football performance.

A career assistant who previously worked for Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh as assistant head coach, passing game coordinator and receivers coach and an assistant coach under Andy Reid with the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles, Culley, 66, has earned respect for his leadership.

"He's a great guy, he's consistent," Texans defensive tackle Maliek Collins said Sunday. "That's what you want from a leader of men."

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Texans linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill also expressed support for Culley.

"I hope he is," Grugier-Hil said when asked if he thinks Culley should be back. "I think it would be great.'

Culley has acknowledged some growing pains with game management, referencing decisions he wishes he could have back in a narrow loss to the Patriots.

"I've learned to be ahead of those things," Culley said this month. "I just feel more comfortable doing those kinds of things, and we’re growing as we go."

Rookie quarterback Davis Mills has shown a lot of potential, especially in recent weeks when he's improved his accuracy and ability to orchestrate a run-first offense while consistently connecting with standout wide receiver Brandin Cooks. When asked Friday morning if he expected offensive coordinator Tim Kelly to return, Culley replied: "100 percent."

The defense, under associate head coach and defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, has excelled at creating turnovers with a plus-three turnover differential and 17 interceptions.

The Texans' up-and-down season has been overshadowed by embattled three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson's trade request that preceded Culley and general manager Nick Caserio, a former Patriots executive and top lieutenant to New England coach Bill Belichick, being hired. Watson remains on the Texans' roster and is facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct and 10 active criminal complaints with no charges filed at this time. The Texans are expected to attempt to trade him in the offseason after nearly dealing him to the Miami Dolphins at the NFL trade deadline.

Culley has displayed no hesitation to impose discipline, including deactivating the following players for disciplinary reasons: safety Justin Reid, former linebacker Zach Cunningham, released after multiple violations of team rules and now playing for Tennessee and former Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, and cornerback Desmond King.

The Texans released Cunningham after he showed up late for a mandatory COVID-19 test.

"We have standards and I didn’t feel like those standards have been met consistently,” Culley said. “I felt like I made a decision that was best for the team. This is about the team. This isn’t about any individuals. It wasn’t tough at all. It’s about the team. It’s not about any individual player. The one thing we always talk about is that it’s not necessarily trying to be the best player on the team but being the best player for the team. That’s our motto.

"Well, I got a locker room full of players in there that understand what our standard is. We preach it all the time. When guys aren’t going to those standards, they are looking at me cross-eyed when I am not practicing what I preach. He didn’t follow what we needed to get done and I made the move.”

Culley addressed some of the adjustments he's had to make in dealing with players' issues as well as the big picture involved in being a head coach after being a career assistant.

“Probably the big thing is just the psyche of the players," Culley said Friday. "Some of the things you’re having to deal with with the players that’s not in that manual that you get when you first get this job. But for the most part, it’s just about the stuff that you deal with that’s really not directly football-related but may have something to do with a player off the field or with a player personally.

"Those kinds of things have been some things that I’ve dealt with. Now, I’ve dealt with those things as an assistant coach but at a smaller scale. But here, it’s a bigger scale. Plus, it’s more of it.”

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