Sean Pendergast

Houston Texans Fire David Culley After One Season

David Culley's run as Texans head coach ended on Thursday afternoon.
David Culley's run as Texans head coach ended on Thursday afternoon. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Someday, hopefully a long, long time into the future, my grandkids will be bouncing on my knee and they will look up from their phones long enough to ask me "Grandpa, when did you know that the decision to hire David Culley wasn't going to work out?"

Then, after wondering why the hell my grandson (or granddaughter) would care about a head coach who was employed by the team for under a calendar year, I will tell him or her, "Well, it was actually very early into his tenure?" They will say "Oh, you mean like first month of the season?" to which I will reply "No, the first three minutes of his introductory press conference."

When David Culley had to answer his first question about Deshaun Watson, whose trade demands had been public for a good three weeks up to that point, and he appeared to be utterly delusional, completely tone deaf, and maddeningly clueless ... well, THAT was the moment.
On Thursday afternoon, David Culley's demise as head coach of the Texans became official, as he was fired, the first "one and done" head coach in the history of the franchise. There will be many more posts and follow up discussions on what happened Thursday — hell, since I began typing this, the Texans also fired offensive coordinator Tim Kelly! — but for now, here are my initial thoughts:

Culley was in way, WAY over his head as an NFL head coach
If Culley's sole role as head coach of the Texans was to just be a caretaker for a couple of years while the Texans tried to rebuild this thing, and the way his contract was written (four year deal, with just two years guaranteed) that would seem to be the case, then he really couldn't even handle that properly. Culley oftentimes seemed overwhelmed by game decision making, and in the end, he was overly loyal to his coaching staff, while blaming the players' execution for a lot of the team's issues, especially offensively. When he said he was going to bring back his whole staff next season, that appeared to be the last straw, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. From Day One all the way up to his final days, Culley acted more like a fan who won a contest to coach an NFL team than displaying the presidential qualities needed in a head coach.

So why are people feeling sorry for David Culley?
This is a tough one for me. Let me preface this by saying that the Texans could have handled this firing much more elegantly. Also, the organization has put themselves in a spot where they get criticized for practically everything they do. They earned that. They've been a mess for two years now. That said, I have a hard time feeling sorry for a coach who is going to get paid reportedly $8 million for doing his job poorly for one year, especially when this was the only head coaching job he was ever going to get. David Culley had never even been a coordinator before, and he was getting one of the 32 most prestigious coaching jobs in the sport. If that's disrespect, if that's hanging someone out to dry, then got ahead and disrespectfully hang me out to dry every day of the week. I di not feel sorry for David Culley one tiny bit. Nor do I feel sorry for Tim Kelly or any of the other assistants whose areas of the team massively underperformed all season. That's life in the big city.

The Texans organization under Cal McNair has been chaos in the front office and on the sideline since 2018
Under their founder, the late Bob McNair, the Texans' calling cards when it came to employment at the head coach and general manager levels were stability and patience. Under Bob McNair, the Texans had three head coaches and two general managers in the 16 years he was running things before he passed away. Since McNair's son, Cal, took over in 2018, the Texans are headed toward their third full time head coach, and are under the stewardship of their third general manager. Coincidentally, these changes all began about the time Jack Easterby strolled into the building. Even with all these changes, the Texans sit right now with one of the worst rosters in the league, and a season ticket waitlist that has disappeared.

Who's next?
It stands to reason that GM Nick Caserio probably has somebody specific in mind for this job. The Texans will likely have to follow league protocols in interviewing candidates, including adhering to the Rooney Rule, which requires minority candidates be included, as well. As of right now, according to Aaron Wilson, recently fired Miami head coach Brian Flores is the target of the search:
The chaos continues on Kirby.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast