Sean Pendergast

David Culley Expected Back for Second Season With Texans, Per Source

David Culley is expected back for the 2022 season, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic.
David Culley is expected back for the 2022 season, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic. Photo by Jack Gorman
If we are speaking generalities about criteria for retaining a head coach in sports, I would say "meeting or exceeding preseason expectations" should be at the top of the list. "Expectations" as a concept can be a bit nebulous. After all, whose expectations are we talking about? Well, in my world, the expectations for the amount of wins a team SHOULD have are set by oddsmakers in Las Vegas.

Before the season, the Houston Texans' season win total in most sports books was four. In other words, if you wanted to bet on the number of wins the Texans would achieve, you'd bet over or under four wins. Heading into Week 18, the final week of the season, the Texans sit right at four wins, with a likely loss coming Sunday against Tennessee to close out the season.

In other words, as wretched as expectations were for the Texans coming into the season, first year head coach David Culley has at least met said expectations. Thus, according to a report from Jeff Howe of The Athletic, it would appear that Culley will be back for a second season as Texans' head coach in 2022:
The Texans are expected to retain Culley in 2022, according to a source. Barring an unforeseen turn of events, the Texans are expected to finalize that decision next week after their regular-season finale against the Tennessee Titans.

The Texans (4-12) lost Sunday to the San Francisco 49ers, 23-7, but they already matched their win total from last season. The organization has maintained realistic expectations amid a massive roster overhaul, and the Texans believe Culley has done well enough so far to return next season.

The 66-year-old has earned respect within the building for his steady leadership during a difficult rebuild. Culley, a first-time head coach, has led a more competitive team over the second half of the season despite those challenging circumstances.
OK, so assuming this report is accurate, what does this all mean for the Texans in 2022 and beyond? Here are four thoughts on the Texans' reportedly bringing back David Culley:

This should not be a huge, big surprise
It seems pretty evident that Culley wasn't brought in as the rocket ship to strap to a Texans' team that was shooting for the moon in 2021 or 2022. Culley is a caretaker, a positive voice to steer the ship during one of the most difficult and perplexing rebuilds in recent NFL history. That rebuild is barely even underway, considering Texans GM Nick Caserio hasn't even enjoyed the benefits of a first round draft pick, a second round draft pick, or a franchise quarterback yet. So, in a weird way, the catastrophic damage inflicted upon the Texans by Bill O'Brien continues to provide a year more job security for David Culley. There was barely even talk of heat on Culley's seat during the season, which is remarkable considering how historically bad the Texans have been in some categories. Like Caserio, Culley will be judged much more harshly in Year 2 of the Great Rebuild.

The two COVID-affected games probably sealed Culley's return
If indeed there were discussions of Culley being "one and done" as head coach for he Texans, as some had speculated in the weeks prior to the team's recent two-game winning streak, then those two wins against the Jaguars and Chargers, with the Texans missing between 15 and 20 players for each game due to COVID protocols, likely sealed Culley's return for another season. Say what you will about Culley's lack of real X's and O's oomph he brings to the table, but the team does play hard for him. They're just not very talented.

BUT, prepare for more game management head scratchers in 2022
So that's the positive for Culley — his affable personality means that he is well liked in the building, by staff and the roster. It seems like that translates in the effort level given by the team. The downside to Culley is that, as bad as you would imagine a first time head coach without any coordinator experience would be at game management, Culley's been worse. Some of the gaffes were so bad, Culley came in the following Monday and admitted that he had completely botched the situation the day before. The honesty was refreshing, the incompetency was not. Even this past Sunday, Culley opted to punt from the opposing 41 yard line on 4th and 8, down 10 points with seven minutes left in the game. Unless he goes and gets a Masters in NFL game management in the offseason somewhere — by the way, I would totally take that course if a school offered it — we will see more of the same next season.

So is Culley the guy in 2023, two years from now?
If our hypothesis that Culley is just a caretaker, hired to eventually give way to an actual elite head coach when the Texans are ready to compete for playoff spots again, then by definition GM Nick Caserio will be under some fire if the team isn't looking for a new head coach in 2023. There have been rumors that Caserio has a specific head coach in mind to steer his team in the future (Josh McDaniels, perhaps?). I do think that if we are reading into this report, that Culley is indeed coming back, then it's safe to assume that the Texans won't be spending a high draft pick on a quarterback. The last thing they want to do is hand a future franchise quarterback to a head coach (and possibly offensive staff) that won't be here for the long haul.

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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