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Buddy System: Logic of Texans Hiring Coach Josh McCown

McCown? Is he one of the “best candidates,” or simply a highly “comfortable” one?

One of the proud foundations of football is that getting hired as a player is a “meritocracy.”

Notable, then, that the same proud guideline doesn’t apply when it comes to hiring the players’ bosses.

Former NFL quarterback Josh McCown is a head coaching candidate for the Houston Texans, which is grand except for the fact that at age 42, he’s never really coached before.

Attached to that resume gap is this: The only two interviews he’s ever gotten over the course of the last two years of hiring cycles are with …

The Texans last year.

And the Texans now.

(As was first to report, he has has also had a conversation with the Jacksonville Jaguars. His discussion with Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke, however, wasn't a formal interview, per sources.

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McCown has emerged as a dark-horse entry into the Texans’ head coaching search one year after he first interviewed with them for the head coaching vacancy that went to David Culley, who was fired after a 4-13 seaon.

How can this be?

It can be as the result of one or more of the following four things:

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1. The Texans truly see greatness in coach McCown - greatness that other NFL teams in need to not seem to see. (We know the Eagles liked the idea of him as an assistant - but not as the man in charge.)

2. The Texans are actually interested in hiring him in another, lower-level capacity.

3. The Texans are doing somebody a favor - this a “courtesy interview” (and Houston has conducted a few of those.)

4. McCown, despite his “coach on the field” reputation, has previously coached only at the high school level, including coaching quarterbacks for his sons’ team at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, N.C., and is therefore getting Houston interest because he’s got a friend in high places.

McCown, as it happens, is close with Texans exec Jack Easterby.

“The Buddy System” and even blatant nepotism run rampant in the NFL. Owners’ kids get to be executives. Coaches kids get to be assistants. It’s really cool that the 2013 staff featured a trio of “kids” named Kyle Shanahan, Mike LaFleur and Sean McVay. But it never happens if Kyle’s dad isn’t Mike Shanahan, if Mike’s brother isn’t LaFleur or if Sean’s dad isn’t John McVay.

The Texans are building an organization that will surely be populated in a similar manner. The Patriots connection is one reason GM Nick Caserio is here; his interviews will reflect that background (see Brian Flores), and his days at tiny John Carroll, where a couple generations of graduates keep hiring one another, will as well.

McCown grew up on a ranch in Jacksonville, Texas, and played at Sam Houston State, meaning he’s double-tied to this area and this organization. But is he one of the “best candidates,” or simply a highly “comfortable” one?

The Texans eventually will owe explanations to their “stockholders” (that’s you, the fan) about this process, They will almost certainly have good reasons for their actions.

What they probably will not address frankly is why McCown gets annual consideration while, say, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy can’t get a phone call from this area code. And supporters of somebody like, say, Bieniemy are left to wonder how quickly he’d get hired if this or any other team had Bieniemy’s dad or best friend in charge.