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Texans' quick hook for Culley latest hit to franchise's reputation

As Texans coach, David Culley was given one of the worst rosters in the league in '21, setting him up to failGetty Images

David Culley is the first one-and-done head coach in the Texans' 20-year history, and while GM Nick Caserio admitted that the action was “unusual," he said it was taken because of "philosophical differences" over the team's long-term direction, according to a front-page piece by Brooks Kubena of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Culley was the "only Black head coach hired during last offseason’s cycle, and his firing leaves the NFL with only one Black head coach -- the Steelers' Mike Tomlin," though there are still eight vacancies in the league and a number of Black coordinators are being considered. The Texans’ decision to move away from Culley "represents a shift in priorities," as a winning season was not expected for the team in '21. That an overhauled roster composed mostly of affordable veterans on one-year deals and rookies managed to win four games "revealed that Culley fulfilled the baseline expectations Texans leadership underlined when it made him the NFL’s oldest first-time head coach." Caserio is "taking a calculated risk with his own career." GMs "don’t often get to hire more than two head coaches." Caserio signed a six-year contract, but Culley was fired one season after signing a four-year deal. Caserio said in training camp that the '21 season "would be more 'process oriented' than 'results oriented.'" With Culley’s firing, the next coach, as well as Caserio, "will be more defined by results" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/14).

WHY WOULD THINGS CHANGE? In Houston, John McClain writes the Texans have become the "epitome of dysfunction." Culley was "set up to fail" by Caserio and Exec VP/Football Operations Jack Easterby. They gave him one of the "worst rosters in the league" and one that was undergoing constant change, but somehow they persuaded Chair & CEO Cal McNair to "sign off on a firing that was grossly unfair considering the hand Culley was dealt." Now the Texans are going to hire their fourth head coach in less than 15 months. This is the second head coaching search for Caserio and Easterby. By firing Culley after one season, they are "telling us they failed miserably with the first one." There is "no reason for fans to believe they’ll get the second one right until they prove it" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/14).

DOOMED TO FAIL: SI.com's Conor Orr wrote the entire setup was "deigned to fail." Orr: "If Culley was fired for doing a bad job, what is the standard for doing a good job in the NFL during a complete organizational rebuild, and what responsibility does anyone have in preventing or punishing a process that reeks of premeditation and further undermines the cause of Black head coaches everywhere?" (SI.com, 1/13). FS1's Emmanuel Acho said Culley was “set up to fail” with the Texans. Acho: "The Texans never want to David Culley in the first place. The Texans hired David Culley because they wanted Deshaun Watson, or they hired him because he was Black, or both” ("Speak For Yourself," FS1, 1/13). ESPN’s Marcus Spears said Culley “was a scapegoat from day one he was hired in Houston” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 1/13). ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop wrote the Texans organization "showed it never intended to give Culley a real shot at making it through this rebuilding period." Firing Culley "shows the entire organization is in the midst of a rebuild, not just on the field" (ESPN.com, 1/13).

LOSING HAND: In Houston, Brian Smith writes the stunning hire of Culley last year was "founded on a lie." He was "never going to last, and this was all CEO gibberish." The fact Caserio "stood inside the same team facility as Culley on Monday, then allowed him to hold a season wrap-up press conference with the local media while openly discussing the potential of Year Two?" That is the "opposite of organizational integrity." Black Monday was the "time to professionally move on from Culley." The Texans "got it all wrong, postponing Caserio's planned Tuesday press conference and dragging out a decision that had been in the works for weeks" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/14). 

NO DIRECTION: In Houston, Jerome Solomon writes Culley "never should have been hired" because he "wasn't qualified to be a head coach." Solomon: "This is what you get when you have an organization run by people who haven’t ever done what they’re doing, maybe don’t know what they’re doing, and possibly are incapable of ever doing what they are doing well" -- "The Three Stooges." McNair is "learning all that is involved in being an owner." Based on his track record thus far, the edification is "coming along veeeeerry sloooowly, bless his heart." Easterby has "proved to be a disastrous hire" and the Texans' team culture "has never been as pitiful as it has been since he showed up in town." Caserio has "zero experience in input and say without [Patriots coach Bill] Belichick holding his hand and having significantly more input and say." The Texans' biggest problem is they "have an inexcusable leadership void off the field." Without late owner Bob McNair around, the Texans "have been rudderless" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/14). ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt called this an "embarrassing way to conduct business” for the Texans. Van Pelt: “Somebody will take the job because there's only 32 of them. But I don't know how as an organization you can conduct yourself in that fashion” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 1/14).

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