Houston Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair says the search for a new general manager and coach is already underway, and as evidence, McNair has already hired a guy to help him hire a guy.
“We’ll cast a broad net and look at all of our options and try to find just the right guys that are really going to work hard together, be smart, be dedicated, and bring championships to Houston,” McNair said.
And on the business end of that net? According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Texans have hired Jed Hughes, the vice chairman of the Korn Ferry search firm, to McNair and company find their next general manager ... which will lead to them finding their next head coach.
Who is Jed Hughes? Forbes magazine has labeled him, "the most connected and widely respected executive in the sports industry,'' adding, "what’s most telling about him is his choice to remain in almost complete anonymity while conducting his work.''
The move has been panned in some circles in part due to the facts that a) the Korn Ferry search firm are the fine folks who in 2014 recommended the Texans hire the just-ousted Bill O'Brien and b) it seems to the layman that it doesn't take a "search committee'' to ferret out names of NFL staffers ready to elevate up to a GM job, as there are only 32 teams and so many staffers.
In other words, in NFL circles, there are no secrets regarding qualified potential front-office and on-field leaders.
That doesn't mean a Hughes-led search is doomed to failure; there are other NFL owners who don't use "search firms'' and their results are as much a mixed bag as in the case with owners who officially seek outside advice.
Korn Ferry isn't just about football; the globally-based firm has, however, in terms of publicity, sort of made a living off of the former concept, however. And in fairness to Hughes?
He has a history of knowing what he's doing.
Old-time football fans, beyond the previous Texans search, might recognize Hughes - who has a Masters from Stanford and a Doctorate from Michigan - from his years as an assistant coach working under such luminaries as Chuck Noll (Steelers) and Bud Grant (Vikings).
But his life's work now is about a highly-intellectual approach to a distinct side of sports: Matching managers with sports-job openings. In Houston, Hughes is known as "the guy who recommended O'Brien.'' But, for instance, in Seattle? The Seahawks know him as "the guy who recommended GM John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll'' - as successful a match as there is in the NFL.
"Coaches get hired to get fired,'' as any one of them will tell you, so obviously, for every match he makes that works (Andy Reid to the Chiefs), there is another that does not (Chan Gailey to the Cowboys).
But what the Texans are doing here - while arriving with no guarantees - is fairly standard operating procedure in the NFL and big-time sports.
Hughes' philosophy in short? "We work hard to create an objective candidate selection process – the nature of sports industry hires creates pressure and bias that is simply not seen in other areas of business,'' Hughes told Forbes. "You have to eliminate the noise and get to the bottom of what critical components are necessary for a coach or executive to succeed in the given scenario.''
The Houston Texans not only need a new coach and a new GM, but also an "elimination of noise'' along the way. There is no problem with picking Hughes to "be the guy who helps pick the guy.'' And there is no proof that the choice will be right until the 2021-and-beyond wins come rolling in.