HOUSTON (AP) — As Nick Caserio embarked Monday on his third coaching search in as many years, the Houston Texans' general manager was peppered with questions about the team’s failures and how he plans to turn things around.
Caserio and team owner Cal McNair addressed reporters a day after they fired coach Lovie Smith, who led the team to a 3-13-1 record in his only season. A year earlier, David Culley was let go following one season with a 4-13 mark.
McNair opened with a statement but did not take questions before turning things over to Caserio, who was hired in January 2021.
“We’re always looking to up our game in every area and take our organization to the next level,” McNair said. “Now we’re committed to getting this one right. I have full confidence in Nick.”
McNair added that he would be taking a more “active role” in hiring the sixth coach in franchise history. Caserio said he didn't get help from enough people in past searches and that he planned to increase the circle of those involved in this hiring process.
“We’ve already talked about implementing some different techniques and tactics that we feel can help us,” Caserio said. “And relying on more members and people in the organization to make it a more inclusive process and not just make it about one individual or one person.”
The Texans have faced criticism since Smith’s firing for not giving their last two coaches a chance to succeed. Culley and Smith are both Black, and many former coaches and players have broadly criticized NFL teams for not giving Black coaches adequate resources and for giving up on them more quickly than their white counterparts.
In Houston, both coaches were working with rosters devoid of stars and lacking much established talent. They also had to contend with an inexperienced young quarterback in Davis Mills with Deshaun Watson sitting out last season after requesting a trade before his sexual misconduct allegations surfaced and then being traded to Cleveland before this season.
When asked about how the coaches were treated and when other people in the organization would have to be accountable for the team’s problems, Caserio acknowledged that everything certainly won’t be solved by hiring another coach and that he needed to do a better job.
“So, we’re going to try to find ways that we can improve,” he said. “We’re going to try to make sound decisions. We’re going to try to make better decisions. And that’s the only way we’re going to move this organization forward. I think that’s the most important thing.”
He said that when he has landed on his choice for the team’s next coach, he would make a recommendation to McNair and the owner's wife, Hannah McNair, to get their approval.
“We’re going to be respectful of each other’s perspective, which is ultimately we’re going to do what we feel is in the best interest of the Houston Texans organization,” Caserio said. “But in the end, I think the owner has a trump card.”
Caserio is hopeful the team's change in approach to the hiring process will yield better results. He’s also cognizant of the fact that this might be his last shot to get it right.
“Let’s be honest, the clock is ticking, time is short,” he said. “But that’s okay. We ... work in a high-pressure environment. The expectations are high and it’s about performance. And if I don’t do my job well enough in the end — and quite frankly (people) probably think that I haven’t done my job well enough at this point and that’s more than fair — at some point decisions will have to be made.”
Whoever Houston hires as its coach will take over a team that will have 11 picks in the upcoming draft. The Texans have the second overall pick after their season-closing win over Indianapolis knocked them out of the top spot.
They’ll also have the 12th pick in the first round as part of the deal that sent Watson to Cleveland.
Houston's priority will be finding a quarterback after the last two seasons made it clear that Mills wasn’t their long-term solution at the position.
Houston picked third in last year’s draft and selected cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. with no elite quarterback prospects available. This season the Texans should have a chance to draft a potential franchise quarterback to replace Watson — perhaps Alabama’s Bryce Young or Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud.
McNair said the team will begin conducting virtual interviews with coaching candidates this week before moving to in-person meetings after the wild card playoff games.
One name has already emerged, with the Texans seeking permission to interview Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Detroit's interview candidates were not announced.
AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Allen Park, Michigan, contributed to this report.
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