Houston Texans Fire David Culley and Thoughts on Brian Flores, Josh McDaniels and Jerod Mayo

David Culley survived as the Houston Texans head coach for less than 365 days. He was officially hired on January 27th, 2021 which was a surprise to many and fired on January 13th, 2022 which was also a surprise to many.

I maintain my stance that there were more qualified candidates for the job but Culley was Nick Caserio and Cal McNair's "guy". So why did Culley last just one season and was that the plan all along?

Why now and was it deserved?

The reasoning behind the Culley hire has become clear in the past 24 hours. Culley was a place-holder head coach during a 2021 season that had a massive Deshaun Watson question mark and a coaching search that lacked former/current Patriot coaching candidates which Caserio desired to pair up with.

Therefore, Caserio went with a coach who was difficult for fans to dislike as a person and someone who players could seemingly play hard for. However, Culley was also an option that most Texans fans could quickly see does not have a long-term future as an NFL head coach and wouldn't be upset over his firing.

Turn on any game this year and you'd notice his poor clock/timeout management, egregiously conservative 4th down decision making and questionable at best challenges. That never really improved from Week One to Week 18.

Culley wasn't a great in-game manager, he wasn't a genius with the Xs and Os - was never even an offensive coordinator - and while the team never truly gave up in-game, Culley wasn't exactly a natural-born motivator either

Did Culley deserve a longer leash, the human aspect of this leads me to say maybe? However, the NFL is a business, Culley is getting compensated very well for his job - better than initially reported - and achieved a life-long dream, even if it was a short one. Despite not having the most promising resume, most fans gave him a chance this year but it was clearly time to move on and I don't believe Culley was blindsided by this news.

We are not Patriots South

Or are we? The next stage in the Texans rebuild is an enticing one. A new possibility for a different culture, different identity and different Houston Texans. Who will be the man to lead that movement? Sports Talk 790's Aaron Wilson has already reported three former/current Patriot coaches are the favorites.

Furthermore, Flores is reportedly the Texans' top candidate due to his strong relationship with Nick Caserio. Additionally, it was earlier reported that a major reason why Deshaun Watson was hell-bent on being traded to the Miami Dolphins was because of Flores. Two birds, one stone? I don't know enough to bet on it.

It's interesting but not surprising that the Texans are honing in on three former/current New England Patriot coaches. In the hiring world of any industry, it's usually about who you know, not always what you know.

Caserio and Jack Easterby - who reportedly was also part of the decision making process to fire Culley - have multiple candidates that they clearly feel more comfortable with than they did last year.

I believe this for multiple reasons. Firstly, the local and national media were infinitely quicker to report tangible names of HC candidates this year than they were last year.

Secondly, the Texans will be paying Culley 22 million dollars to part ways - a lot of dough out of McNair's pockets - and after deliberating for longer than they expected, I believe they were making calls to line up their next guy.

Lastly, Brian Flores wasn't available last year and Jerod Mayo had only two years of coaching experience, but both have become more widely accepted.

Caserio and Easterby find comfort in former/current Patriot coaches because they worked in the same environment and can align on the same philosophies. Honestly, I am torn on the whole "Texans want to be the Patriots South" sentiment. On one hand, I love the Houston Texans because they are the Houston Texans, not the New England Patriots.

Additionally, I don't particularly like New England coaches and executives' Bellichick'ian football jargon and desire to say nothing of value in press conferences. It seems disingenuous, monotonous, or that they are unhappy to share their thoughts with beloved fans who want to follow every aspect of this team.


On the other hand, no one is denying wanting to replicate the success the Patriots have had. They are the winningest team in NFL history and I love winning as much as the next person. If pairing a GM with Patriots' philosophies with a HC who shares Patriots' philosophies actually leads to sustainable long-term winning, I'll still enjoy those wins.

In the end, I share the "replicating Patriots' model" skepticism of many other fans. We've already endured seven years of the Bill O'Brien experience and multiple other Patriot coordinators-turned-HCs have had far worse tenures. Despite that skepticism, not every former/current Patriot is the same and using a scouting term here is valuable: scout the player, not the helmet.

Despite all coming from the Bill Bellichick tree, Bill O'Brien is different from Joe Judge, who is different from Brian Flores, Josh McDaniels and Jerod Mayo. With that being said, let's quickly discuss the three top candidates whom the Texans are targeting.

Brian Flores

Flores is my favorite option of the three reported favorites. He's risen amongst the ranks from his scouting background and has experience coaching offense, special teams, safeties, linebackers and an entire team.

Furthermore, he is a legit example of a head coach20 elevating a poor roster - yes this is a shot at the national media for claiming Culley was unfairly fired because he was actually a good coach who exceeded expectations.

Flores was asked to lead the 2019 Miami Dolphins who were actively and obviously "tanking for Tua". He inherited a roster that didn't have a single All-Pro or Pro Bowl player - the only team in the NFL with this accomplishment, per The Ringer's Benjamin Solak.

Despite Ryan Fitzpatrick (who led the team in rushing yards lol) and Josh Rosen starting at quarterback… despite Julien Davenport starting at left tackle… despite starting six rookies, five of which were 3rd round picks or later… despite having the toughest schedule in the NFL, rookie HC Brian Flores exceeded expectations and led the Dolphins to five wins.

He followed that up with two winning seasons - 10 wins in 2020 and 9 wins in 2021 - despite more constant struggles at QB, an offensive line worse than the Texans' and a pretty bad draft record which has not maximized the Minkah Fitzpatrick and Laremy Tunsil trade efforts - yet Chris Grier still has a job.

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Flores is also one of the top defensive minds in football and has the results to back it up. My favorite comprehensive stat is Football Outsider's DVOA which essentially compares a team's success to the rest of the league's success in that same defensive situation and versus the same opponent. Flores' Dolphins showed great improvement, finishing 10th in defensive DVOA in 2021 and 11th in 2020 after placing dead last in 2019.

The magnitude and shock that overcame the NFL world when Flores was fired also speaks to his reputation around the league. This was particularly apparent by the Dolphins' player's reactions on Twitter and during press conferences.

Flores knows how to motivate his players and put them in positions to maximize their talents, he brings a strong defensive identity and acumen plus has gotten tangible results as a winner with the Patriots and Dolphins. In his 18 years coaching in the NFL, Flores has a record of 210 wins to 79 losses, good for 72.66%.

With three years of HC experience under his belt, Flores has made mistakes - I'm not saying he's perfect - and can now learn from them. Hopefully he gets the chance to do so in Houston and not for another team.

Josh McDaniels

The current Patriots offensive coordinator has long been linked to Caserio but I am hesitant about his credentials. McDaniels started his coaching career with the Patriots from 2001-2008 before being named the Denver Broncos head coach in 2009. He won a respectable eight games in his first season, but followed it up with just three wins and being fired after the 2010 season.

Many Patriots' coordinators have failed outside of New England and McDaniels is a prime example of just that. His "rebound" after the quick Denver stint was as offensive coordinator for a 2-14 St. Louis Rams team, which he got fired from after one season. McDaniels found his way back to the Patriots, replacing Bill O'Brien as OC/QB coach and has avoided glaring failures, for the most part (spoiler alert).

Furthermore, McDaniels seems to be a poor evaluator of talent. Determined to prove he could win without Tom Brady, he staked his reputation on developing a project quarterback and traded up to draft Tim Tebow.

Most HCs have say in personnel nowadays and a large benefit of having a HC-GM duo with the same Patriot philosophies is that scheme and personnel can match. But when that HC thinks Tebow is a franchise quarterback… well that's not someone I want having input on team-building.


Furthermore, McDaniels' personality/character is a difficult aspect to buy into. He's had numerous falling outs with players, most notably in 2008 with quarterback Jay Cutler which ended in a trade to the Bears.

Additionally, a large reason he was fired was because of not reporting a coach videotaping the San Francisco 49ers practice walkthrough leading up to their matchup in Week 8 of 2010. Finally, McDaniels accepted the HC position of the Indianapolis Colts and backed out of his spoken deal the evening before his introductory press conference.

From a player and assistant coach perspective, it is difficult to trust a guy who quit on his future team at the last minute. Successful business operations cannot operate efficiently without trust and with this incident occurring less than five years ago, it's still going to be on everyone's mind.

What does McDaniels have going for him? I think his strengths have been overrated too. Yes, Mac Jones looks like a good starting quarterback and the best rookie from the talented 2021 class. This makes sense if you watched Jones at Alabama as he was the most pro-ready quarterback who already operated a pro-style system.

McDaniels is not some uber-creative offensive genius who can morph his system to its personnel either. The most he's changed up is to call more QB runs for Cam Newton but the overarching scheme was still a power-based rush offense with heavy formations that operated under center 52% of the time and with an emphasis on play-action.

After one season with Newton, teammates didn't believe McDaniels meshed with Newton's skillset and the Patriots drafted Jones, a QB who better fit what McDaniels was used to with Tom Brady.

Overall, I think the negatives outweigh the positives when it comes to McDaniels and would be irritated if he was deemed the man for the job. Luckily, Aaron Wilson has reported that McDaniels doesn't seem content to leave his post, hopefully it stays that way.

Jerod Mayo

Hiring Mayo would represent an aggressive mindset that looks to cash out on taking a big risk. With just three years of coaching experience - as a linebackers coach, not even a defensive coordinator - Mayo is a baby in the coaching ranks.

However, this doesn't mean he cannot have success as a head coach, for example, Mike Vrabel has turned out to be a coach of the year candidate after just four years of coaching experience before making the big jump.

Mayo also boasts the desired former player experience which makes him more relatable to players and thus easier to buy into and believe in. Humans tend to value the opinion and advice of someone who has been in their shoes and succeeded at the highest level, which Mayo has during his Patriots playing tenure.


Therefore, I believe Mayo is the ultimate boom-or-bust candidate out of these three early favorites. I understand not wanting to miss out on the next young defensive riser who follows in the Mike Vrabel or Brandon Staley footsteps, but from an outsider's perspective, it just seems too soon as Mayo's resume is less proven than other candidates.

My stance has been strengthened by seeing how Joe Brady turned out with the Carolina Panthers. He too was a young bright mind who rose extremely quickly through the ranks and was this close to becoming the Texans head coach.

I thought it was too soon for Brady at the time and that his resume wasn't as diverse or proven as other candidates. His OC tenure with the Panthers wasn't dreadful but it wasn't good enough to warrant a third year on the job, let alone a promotion to run a team.

Thus, my hesitation towards Mayo exists as I simply want to see more from him - potentially a jump to DC first - before fully buying into his ascension to HC. I totally understand the risk in waiting but I think there are so many talented candidates out there this year that I'm willing to let another team take that risk for me.

Concluding Thoughts

Yesterday marked change for the Houston Texans. Positive change which involves moving on from a bridge coach. That was the right decision to make. Hopefully they make another right decision with this head coach and ideally they widen their search to non-former/current Patriot candidates as well.