HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio on Friday defended his decision to fire head coach David Culley after just one season, citing differences of opinion on the way forward for the organization.
The Texans announced the layoffs of Culley and offensive coordinator Tim Kelly Thursday night after a 4-13 season.
“When you look at the way we played – the effort, tenacity, consistency and competitive spirit we played with – a lot of that should be attributed to David,” Caserio said. “Philosophically, there were some things at the end that we maybe saw a little differently, and that’s what drove the decision we made yesterday.”
Culley’s firing left only one black head coach in the NFL, Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brian Flores was fired this week after leading the Miami Dolphins to a 9-8 record.
Culley, 66, spent 43 seasons as an assistant in college and in the NFL before finally getting his first head coaching job.
Caserio declined to go into detail about his differences with Culley and stressed that it was his decision to fire him.
“It’s about solving problems and finding solutions,” Caserio said. “We have to do a better job in this area, and I have to do a better job in this area. It’s not necessarily one thing in particular. In the end, there were some differences on next steps and how we move forward, not necessarily a rear-view mirror on what happened.
Culley was hired last January to replace Bill O’Brien after working as an assistant in the NFL since 1994. He took over a team that went 4-12 in the 2020 season with Deshaun Watson at quarterback.
“We’re in a much better position, and frankly, I think it’s because of the leadership, guidance and direction that David Culley has provided to this football team,” Caserio said. “I have a lot of personal respect, appreciation and admiration for what David has done for this team. Forever we will be indebted to him for what he has done for us.
Watson called for an exchange around the time Culley was hired, and before 22 women filed lawsuits against the QB, alleging sexual harassment or assault. Those issues kept Watson on the sidelines all season and precipitated a rebuild in Houston that left Culley leading a depleted team.
Culley didn’t have much luck without Watson and with a roster where most of the few remaining quality starters were traded or released as the season progressed.
A month after Culley joined the Texans, longtime star defensive end JJ Watt requested his release from the team. Houston gave it to him and he signed with the Arizona Cardinals.
On Thursday, Texans owner Cal McNair thanked Culley for his work and looked to the future.
“I have entrusted Nick Caserio with the direction of football performance, and I am confident that he will find the best leader for our team,” McNair said in a statement. “These decisions are tough, but Nick believed it was necessary for the future of our organization. We look forward to continuing to build our team and finding the right coach to move us forward. »
The Texans finished last in the NFL with just 278.1 yards per game and 30th in the league with 16.5 points per game.
“It’s a production thing,” Caserio said of the infraction and Kelly’s firing. “There are some areas, quite frankly, where we need to do better. I have a lot of respect for Tim, and I think Tim is a good coach, but it was just one thing we felt we had to do to move up in the organization.
Kelly had held various positions with the Texans since 2014 and had been the offensive coordinator since 2019.
Caserio and the Texans will now look to replace Culley and Kelly. Caserio said it was too early to tell if any further coaching staff changes would come and that many of those personnel decisions could be up to the next head coach.
Caserio said there is no timeline for hiring the next head coach and the organization will be thorough and patient.
“The head coaching position is probably a leadership position more than anything else,” Caserio said. “My responsibility is to continue to provide support and infrastructure for the entire organization to be successful.”
Beyond hiring a new head coach and offensive coordinator, the Texans will have their hands full trying to find a solution to the Watson situation and gauge how they want to use what could be the third overall pick. .
“We have a lot of work to do,” Caserio said. “This year, I feel like we’ve laid a very good foundation. When you go forward, our current situation is much better than it was at this time last year.
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