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Texans' Coaching Search: Pros, Cons of Joe Lombardi

Joe Lombardi could be the surprise hire of the 2022 offseason for the Houston Texans

HOUSTON -- Sometimes the name that comes out of left field is the right fit after all. Is that what Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio is looking for this offseason in perhaps Joe Lombardi?

Take a look at the Philadelphia Eagles entering the 2022 offseason. A year ago, critics panned the hiring of Indianapolis Colts' offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni as their head coach. Sirianni, who rarely called plays under head coach Frank Reich, helped Philadelphia win six of its last eight games to make the NFC playoffs. 

Still think it was the wrong hire?

Caserio was asked last week how long it would take to complete the hiring process following the firing of first-year head coach David Culley. He promptly responded that the timetable does not have a set date, meaning whenever the right name appears, they will seal that deal.

“We’ll be patient, and however long it takes, it takes,” Caserio said. “When we have a solution that we feel comfortable about, then we’ll go ahead.”

Currently, Houston has interviewed five candidates, one of which was Lombardi, the current offensive coordinator the Los Angeles Chargers. 

Could he end up being Sirianni of the 2022 cycle?

PROS

Football flows through Lombardi's blood. The grandson of the late Vince Lombardi, Joe Lombardi has over 20 years of coaching experience at both the collegiate and professional level. 

Unlike Culley, Lombardi has served as a coordinator on multiple occasions. He was named the Detroit Lions' offensive coordinator from 2014-15 and recently was brought over with Brandon Staley to help with the progression of Chargers' standout quarterback Justin Herbert

Lombardi's biggest flex would likely be his work with quarterbacks. Serving as the position coach for the New Orleans Saints from 2009-13, and then from 2016-20, he played a massive role in the growth of future Hall-of-Famer Drew Brees. 

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Brees' best season came under Lombardi's direction. In 2011, he led the NFL in passing yards (5,476) and passing touchdowns (46) while also posting a 110.9 passer rating. In 10 seasons working with Lombardi, Brees threw less than 30 touchdowns in a season only three times, two of which came in the final years of his career. 

All-time, Brees threw for 44,278 yards, 338 touchdowns and 116 interceptions with Lombardi serving as the Saints' quarterback coach. Lombardi also helped with the progression of Teddy Bridgewater in 2019 and Taysom Hill in 2020 when Brees suffered injuries during the regular season. 

Combined, Bridgewater and Hill won eight of nine games in place of Brees with Lombardi's help. 

Lombardi also has helped talent flourish at receiver. During his time with Lions, Calvin Johnson recorded back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Golden Tate also finished with 1,000-plus yards in 2014 and recorded 813 yards and six touchdowns during the 2015 campaign.

In his first season with the Chargers, both Mike Williams and Keenan Allen surpassed 1,000. Los Angeles was one of two teams (Cincinnati Bengals) with two 1,000-yard receivers. 

The Texans have a young core in place for the passing game with wide receivers Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins and tight end Brevin Jordan. Houston also has its quarterback of the present with Davis Mills to build around in 2022. 

CONS

Things weren't all smooth sailing for Lombardi in both Detroit and Los Angeles. Despite the success of Matthew Stafford and the playmaking receivers, the Lions finished 29th and 32nd, respectively in rushing offense under his regime, leading to his eventual firing after a 1-6 start in 2015. 

With the Chargers, there still are concerns for his longevity as a play-caller. The Sean Payton 2.0 offense never blossomed in Year 1, leading to a more one-dimensional offense. 

Herbert posted MVP-caliber numbers under Lombardi, but the offense also was inconsistent. The Chargers finished third in passing offense, but 21st on the ground, averaging roughly 108 yards per game. Austin Ekeler, who was expected to take on a more Alvin Kamara-type role, averaged only 4.4 yards per carry on the ground. 

The Chargers averaged 4.3 yards rushing as a team. Houston, who finished dead last in rushing in 2021, averaged 3.4 yards per attempt. The Texans also do not have an Ekeler-type back on the roster, meaning Lombardi's play design could be one dimensional at best in Year 1.