David Culley did exactly what Houston Texans asked him.
When they were hired by the Baltimore Ravens, the mainstream media was puzzled. A veteran coach – but with no experience as a coordinator, let alone manager – has been tasked with fixing a plummeting team just 12 months after they held a 24-0 lead over the eventual Super Bowl champions?
Culley never had a chance make it the face of the team for the long term. He would be lucky to get a second season with one of the worst teams in the league.
But Culley did exactly what the Texans asked him to do. He pointed out Houston’s long-term flaws and got to work on immediate solutions. At least Texans fans can take comfort.
Despite being handcuffed by the NFL’s worst running game, a rookie quarterback and the ominous, ever-present cloud of Deshaun Watson, Culley led the Texans to four wins. By the way, the same amount they earned the year before he arrived when Watson led the league in passing.
Was it fair? When you look at the big picture, no.
Culley was doomed with the cards dealt to him, but he never folded. He went all-in. Sometimes it was the wrong call, and several games and moments on Sunday are ones he probably wished he could get back.
Other times there was promise and potential. Houston has managed to win four games, the exact number predicted by Las Vegas bettors since the start of the season.
Along the way, the Texans managed to produce one of the biggest upsets of the NFL season when in November they traveled to Tennessee and beat the eventual No. 1 seed in the playoffs. of the AFC. Houston also beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 67-26, and beat the Los Angeles Chargers to help dash their playoff hopes.
Culley can hold his head high. Some thought he was treading water before Week 1 and wouldn’t win a single game. He quadrupled those expectations.
“I loved every minute as head coach of the Houston Texans,” Culley said in a statement Thursday. “I appreciate the players and the coaches for sticking with me through the ups and downs of our season.”
The change is coming to NRG Stadium in 2022. Texans general manager Nick Caserio has signed 29 players to one-year contracts and 33 are expected to enter free agency. Only a few so far are expected to return, meaning the 2021 roster was like Culley’s tenure: a one-year wonder.
Culley was able to maximize the skills of the young core that should be part of the rebuild. Quarterback Davis Mills produced the most prolific rookie passing season in franchise history, beating David Carr’s mark for yards (2,664) and finishing second among all NFL rookies in yards , touchdowns (16) and passer rating (88.8).
Other rookies like defensive tackle Roy Lopez, wide receiver Nico Collins and tight end Brevin Jordan have shown enough to likely start OTAs as starters. Linebacker Garret Wallow is expected to fight for first-team reps. Names like nickel cornerback Tavierre Thomas and return specialist Tremon Smith are expected to have key roles next fall.
the next coach is in the spotlight for Caserio’s tenure to go as planned. Currently, sources indicate that the former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores is the favorite. Not far behind is Jerod Mayo, a former All-Pro linebacker who is currently the linebackers coach for the New England Patriots.
Other names like Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and former coach Jim Caldwell could all be in the running. The first two names are likely the narrow choices and could be announced in the coming days.
No one saw Culley as the slam dunk hire or the right name for Houston. He didn’t care. He graciously took criticism from fans, the media and the front office, never once blaming his players or staff for problems.
He took all the credit for the big moments and celebrated the small wins like it was the Super Bowl. He answered tough questions and didn’t avoid negativity.
It’s easy to see why he enticed Caserio, Jack Easterby and CEO Cal McNair for the job. But in NFL business, no one is safer with a 4-13 record in the league.
“I’m forever grateful for the experience,” Culley said. “I wish this team and this organization the best, they are building a special program and I truly believe the future is bright for Texans fans.”
Culley probably wasn’t the Texans’ first choice. He definitely wasn’t the fanbase after the #FireEasterby trended after hiring. In the end, it was always going to end with the 66-year-old head coach being shown the door.
Culley did exactly what the Texans expected of him. And he did it with class despite the impossible expectations set at the start of the season.