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'Always Had Hope': Texans Ex Coach David Culley Reveals View on QB Deshaun Watson

Davis Culley was never willing to give up on Deshaun Watson playing quarterback for the Houston Texans in 2021

HOUSTON -- When David Culley agreed to become the fourth head coach in Houston Texans history, he expected to be working with Deshaun Watson. That was the enticing trait about joining a 4-12 Houston team that was less than 18 months removed from being up 24-0 against the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs in what would become a loss.

A year later, things have changed. 

Culley was fired following a 4-13 season. Watson never played another down in Houston after demanding a trade following Culley's hire. Along with the Texans not pulling off a trade, the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback sat out due to his legal troubles. 

Still, Culley was steadfast in hoping he'd get Watson on the field. He never lost faith that the quarterback he agreed to coach would change his mind prior to the start of the regular season. 

“He was at every meeting during training camp,” Culley said in an interview with Outkick 360. “He was at every practice during training camp. There was only a certain amount of things that he was only going to do during practice because of the injury factor, but he was there. He was in every meeting. He wasn’t a distraction.

"There was always hope that maybe he might change his mind.” 

Texans general manager Nick Caserio, however, wasn't holding out for a change of heart. Houston immediately signed journeyman Tyrod Taylor to a one-year deal in March. Come April, Caserio used his first pick, a third-rounder, on Stanford quarterback Davis Mills, thus signaling a potential departure of Watson. 

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As training camp ensued, Watson worked in limited drills during individuals before being set to the sideline. He wouldn't partake in team drills with the first-team offense, often being relegated to working scout-team defense. 

By the time the season was in swing, Watson was nowhere to be found at practice. He would come to the facility, but Houston began its process of moving forward without him.

“There was no need for him to be in our meetings anymore because he was not going to be active," Culley said. "We knew that going in, and we handled it that way. We knew were going to have one less guy on our active roster that wasn’t going to play during the year, and we understood that and we dealt with it.”

Taylor began the season as the Texans' starter, but a hamstring injury in Week 2 opened the door for Mills. The third-rounder went 2-9 in 11 starts, but vastly improved in his second stint working with the first-team. 

Mills posted a 102.4 passer rating in the final five games — eighth-highest among all active quarterbacks. He also threw nine touchdowns against two interceptions while picking up a pair of wins over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Chargers.

Of the six rookie quarterbacks who started at least one game, Mills finished second in every statistical category behind New England's Mac Jones. The Texans are hopeful he'll advance as a starter this fall with the promotion of quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton. 

Watson was traded in March to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for six draft picks — three of which were first round selections. Last month, Watson settled 20 of 24 lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct when he played for the Texans.