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Will Texans’ track record make coaching candidates leery of Houston?

By newadmin / Published on Monday, 09 Jan 2023 23:11 PM / No Comments / 4 views

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On paper, the Texans have one of the most attractive head-coaching jobs in the NFL

They have two first-round picks in the top 12 of the upcoming draft — Nos. 2 (original pick) and 12 overall (the Browns‘ selection acquired in the Deshaun Watson trade). They’re set to have 11 selections overall. And they currently have $46.8 million in cap space for 2023, eighth-most in the league, according to Over The Cap. 

Houston has the draft assets and financial flexibility to quickly improve a roster that already has promising young players in running back Dameon Pierce, safety Jalen Pitre and cornerback Derek Stingley Jr

But Lovie Smith’s firing Sunday, just hours after the season finale, is a reminder why coaching candidates could look at the opening with skepticism.

Smith is the Texans’ second consecutive one-and-done head coach, joining David Culley, who was fired last January after going 4-12 in the 2021 season. Neither had what most NFL observers would call winnable rosters (Culley arguably overachieved given his circumstances), and considering both are Black coaches in a league that has a poor track record in the hiring and retention of those who look like them, the optics are not good for Houston. 

It’s fair to speculate why a potential hire should believe they’ll have time to build a winning culture. Houston will have its fourth coach in four years in 2023 (technically its fifth, if you count Romeo Crennel’s interim stint in 2020 after Bill O’Brien’s firing). The Texans will have promising young talent to work with in 2023, but it could take a season or two for that to translate into wins. Will the next coach be able to see that through?

Here’s a question candidates will inevitably pose to general manager Nick Caserio and Chair/CEO Cal McNair: How will the organization define progress under a new coach next season? Because that wasn’t clear with the previous two coaches. Culley didn’t have a rookie first- or second-round pick on his roster. Smith had arguably the NFL’s worst roster. Will the next Texans coach be afforded to have a bad season? 

There are several examples of NFL coaches who’ve turned losing at the start of their tenures into success. The Bengals‘ Zac Taylor won six games combined in his first two seasons, then went to the Super Bowl last season. The 49ers‘ Kyle Shanahan won 10 games combined in his first two seasons, then — like Taylor — went to the Super Bowl his third season. Bill Belichick and Andy Reid won just five games in their first seasons with the Patriots and Chiefs, respectively. Both have a Super Bowl victory (in Belichick’s case, multiple titles). 

Organizational patience, which the Texans didn’t offer their last two head coaches, has led to success with other franchises. 

Of course, the counter argument is that the need for time doesn’t always trounce the reality of really poor results. The Broncos‘ firing of first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett after 15 games this season, for example, appeared justified considering the caliber of Denver’s roster. 

And ultimately, the Texans’ head coach job will be coveted — not just because of the draft assets and cap space, but also because NFL head-coaching gigs are so rare. There are only 32, of which just a few are open each year. There are an endless number of coaches who’d line up just for the opportunity to interview for one of them — let alone jump at the chance to turn around a losing franchise. Security is fleeting in NFL coaching, but that won’t deter candidates from exploring the Texans. 

Less than 24 hours after Smith’s firing, Houston has reportedly requested interviews with at least five candidates already: Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. 

If the Texans’ choice has other head-coaching options, though, what reason is there to go with Houston considering its track record? 

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Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.


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