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Texans Coaching Search: Pros, Cons of Kevin O'Connell

Kevin O’Connell’s work with the Rams could make him an ideal candidate for the Texans

HOUSTON --  Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio is looking for "his" guy this offseason. Maybe it's a name he once picked up the phone to call on draft day? 

The Texans fired David Culley after one season, thus solidifying what many fans believed this time last year. Culley, a 27-year veteran at coaching, was never viewed as the long-term option to fix the woes in Houston. 

The next coach must be a stable option if Caserio wants to remain in the good graces of ownership.  Most general managers make approximately two hires in their tenures. Houston will be looking for its fourth head coach in less than 20 months. 

Caserio was asked at his end-of-the-season press conference on when the next hire could be made. He promptly responded that the timetable does not have a set date, meaning whenever the right name appears.

“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.”

Houston has interviewed five candidates, one of which is Los Angeles Rams' offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell. With L.A. in the NFC Championship Game, plus a high-tempo offense working like charm, is this the sign Houston needs to pull the trigger?

Is O'Connell a name that would make Texans fans content? 

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Kevin O'Connell

PROS

O'Connell, 36, comes with seven years of coaching experience, but also has ties to Caserio. A former star quarterback at San Diego State, O'Connell was selected by the New England Patriots in the third round in 2008. Caserio, who spent 20 seasons with the Patriots in multiple roles, helped make the selection along with Pats' coach Bill Belichick. 

Although his career as a passer never panned out, O'Connell has been a quality name on the rise in the coaching ranks. He's well-versed in different offensive personnel, having worked with both Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan in differing roles. While Shanahan served as the Cleveland Browns' offensive coordinator, O'Connell was the team's quarterbacks coach. 

In 2020, O'Connell was named the Rams' offensive coordinator under McVay. Working with Jared Goff, Los Angeles finished 11th in total offense, 13th in passing, but 23rd in scoring at 21.9 points per game. 

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Following a trade for Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions, the Rams offense exploded in 2021. Los Angeles finished fifth in passing offense (273.1 yards per game), seventh in scoring offense (27.1 points per game) and ninth in total offense (372.1 yards per game). O'Connell also helped Stafford finish second among all quarterbacks in touchdown passes with 41 scores. 

The McVay coaching tree has also been a hot commodity as of late for aspiring clubs. Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur, Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor and Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley all spent time under the 36-year-old McVay. 

This past season, all four coaches finished above .500, with three making the postseason. Taylor, entering his third season, led the NFL's seventh-ranked total offense thanks to the emergence of quarterback Joe Burrow.

O'Connell also served as the offensive coordinator for the Washington Football Team in 2019. On both rosters, the offense has catered to a more balanced approach with a potent run game utilized in the game plan. 

CONS

O'Connell's first stint as an offensive coordinator was a disaster. Washington finished 31st in total offense and 32nd in scoring offense. Its saving grace was the rushing attack, which finished 22nd, but still averaged less than 100 yards per game. 

McVay also is the primary play-caller for Los Angeles. In a similar concept to that of Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, O'Connell will have a say in the play design, but McVay makes the final call. 

In Houston, the Texans won't have a Stafford-esque quarterback to begin the 2022 season. Rookie Davis Mills proved enough to earn first-team reps in the preseason and potentially Week 1, but the Stanford product still has much to learn before being named the franchise quarterback for the organization. 

In Washington, O'Connell worked with a multitude of different quarterbacks, including Case Keenum, Dwayne Haskins and Colt McCoy. None of them amassed more than 1,800 passing yards or finished with a passer rating over 92. 

In his lone season with Goff, O'Connell wasn't able to fix most of the flaws with the former No. 1 pick. The now Lions quarterback threw for 3,952 yards, but only finished with 20 touchdowns against 13 interceptions despite having Pro Bowl receivers in Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp.

McVay calls the plays and Stafford put up similar numbers in Detroit without standout receivers. How much of the offensive execution is O'Connell truly a part of? More importantly, without calling the shots, can he handle running a whole team?