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If Texans Fire Culley, is a Bill Belichick Disciple Houston's Next Head Coach?

Three names attached with the New England Patriots likely are front-runners to replace David Culley

HOUSTON - - The NFL is a business first. Houston Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks understand it, and so should most fans.

The Texans remain at a crossroads with coach David Culley even though Black Monday has come and gone. Culley said at his end-of-the-year press conference that he believes he will be retained as Houston’s head coach for the 2022 season.

If nothing else, he can hold his head high and remain thankful for the chance to be one of 32 men to claim that title during the 2021 season.

“I had people tell me that they feel sorry for me,” Culley said. “Feel sorry for me? Do you know what I do? I’m the head coach of the Houston Texans, regardless of what the record is, and that’s a beautiful thing.”

Culley’s fate will come down to general manager Nick Caserio and likely Jack Easterby, senior vice president of football operations. Easterby played a vital role in CEO Cal McNair hiring Caserio last offseason. Caserio said last month that all staff members would be under evaluation entering January.

Caserio and Easterby have seen enough from Culley to know if they believe in him long-term. The Texans were projected to be the worst franchise in the NFL by multiple outlets. Instead, Culley took a bottom-five roster and helped it win four games without Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Houston might not have its quarterback heir to the disgruntled Watson, but they do have something in the works with Davis Mills. The third-round pick from Stanford set a Texans' rookie record in passing yards (2,664) and threw for 16 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.

At times Cooks was his only option. Time will tell if rookie wide receiver Nico Collins and tight end Brevin Jordan create a trifecta a NRG Stadium for years to come.

Maybe Culley was always a one-year rental. Caserio convinced McNair that he was the right name to hire over other names like Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier or Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. He could persuade McNair to fire Culley the same way.

Culley seems prepared either way for whatever comes next. That includes Caserio having a say in the coaching staff with who is retained and who will be let go. In large part, fans have been clamoring for the firing of offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and the promoting of pass-game coordinator Pep Hamilton to the same position.

Hamilton, who helped names like Andrew Luck, Justin Herbert and now Mills improve, received a request to interview with the Carolina Panthers for their coordinator opening on Monday.

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“Pep and a number of guys on this staff are qualified to move on and become coordinators or head coaches,” Culley said.

If Culley is gone, the Texans would likely look for former Patriots’ coaches to take over in Houston. Early indications suggests that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels would be the front-runner to land the job.

Another name to monitor would be former Dolphins coach Brian Flores. After three seasons, Flores was fired by owner Stephen Ross with a 23-25 record, though Miami finished above .500 in each of the last two seasons.

Flores spent over a decade working with the Patriots, first as a scout and later a coach. When Matt Patricia was named the Lions head coach, New England’s Bill Belichick did not name a new defensive coordinator, but allowed Flores to have input on the play-calling.

If anything, Flores has handled adversity without question. Miami started the season 1-7 before going on a seven-game winning streak to close the year out 9-8. According to reports, Ross chose to stick with general manager Chris Grier over Flores despite player’s support for the head coach to remain in South Beach.

Patriots’ linebacker coach Jerod Mayo is another option. Similar to Flores, Mayo serves as the primary defensive name with input on the play design. He also is well respected around the league as a position coach and has interviewed for past coaching jobs.

If McDaniels interested in leaving Foxborough again? Would Mayo want the same the pressure as Culley? Flores didn’t seem to be an option entering Week 18 because of Miami’s turnaround, but with him available, does this change Houston’s output on Culley?

Culley is certain he’ll be back next season. Nothing is certain in life, but the NFL is a revolving door of changes.

Fair or not, Caserio is looking at all options at head coach. If Culley isn’t retained, it’s likely because another member of the New England pipeline is headed to Houston.