It's not an overstatement to say that the Houston Texans, and more specifically owner Cal McNair, are on the cusp of the most important tandem decisions in the history of the franchise. In the midst of a lost 4-8 season, the search for a new general manager and new head coach has begun, and having found the most elusive asset in the sport — franchise quarterback, Deshaun Watson — it's imperative they cease burning wasted daylight on Watson's career and get him a GM and head coach deserving of his elite traits.
Ultimately, this will be Cal McNair's decision, but he will solicit input from others. The team has been very public about the fact that team president Jamey Rootes and Executive VP of Football Operations Jack Easterby are part of the internal group aiding McNair in the process, and McNair himself has said that they will form an ad hoc committee of experts from around the world of sports to give input and feedback. The committee would have a mix of backgrounds — professionally and demographically.
On Tuesday morning, that committee was announced. In an email to season ticket holders, we learned that these are the names:
R.C.BUFORD, CEO of the San Antonio Spurs
Buford has done so much in his career in basketball that you forget he is only 60 years old. Originally joking the franchise as part of Larry Brown's coaching staff in the early '90s, he eventually moved over to scouting under Gregg Popovich, and became general manager of the team in 2002. As GM, he was the overseer of the roster for four NBA championships (2003, 2005, 2007, 2014), and was with the team in some capacity for all five of that dynasty (1999, as well). With the Spurs being the NBA's answer to the New England Patriots this century, Buford has seen championship culture up close, and the diversity of the jobs he's held has had him viewing the world through many different prisms.
TONY DUNGY, former Super Bowl winning head coach, current NBC analyst
A former player and elite defensive coordinator early in his career, Dungy eventually broke through as a head coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1996, taking them to a level of NFC contender before the team decided to hand the reins to Jon Gruden in 2002. Dungy eventually got his Super Bowl as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2006. Aside from his coaching chops, Dungy is known for his measured management style and faith in God. Today, he is an analyst on NBC for both the NFL and for Notre Dame on game day Saturdays. Having been part of the build of a championship-level roster in Tampa Bay, and inheriting a Hall of Fame quarterback in Indy, Dungy's career background aligns nicely with the situation the Texans find themselves in currently.
ROD GRAVES, former NFL executive, current Executive Director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation
Graves has held various administrative and executive positions across the league, most prominently, he was the general manager of the Arizona Cardinals from 2002 through 2012, a decade which included their most successful stretch in franchise history, culminating in a Super Bowl appearance in 2008. More recently, Graves was named Executive Director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation, whose mission is to champion diversity in the NFL. Diversity in hiring is a massive action item for the NFL, so logically, the Texans will be looking at several minority candidates for both of their openings, so Graves' spot not he committee makes sense.
ANDRE JOHNSON, former All Pro Texans wide receiver
Johnson is, arguably, the greatest player in the history of the franchise, and inarguably the greatest FORMER player in the history of the franchise. He was with the team for 12 seasons as a player, and spent a couple seasons on Bill O'Brien's staff, before settling back into retirement again in 2020. He is still around the team pretty frequently, and he is highly respected in the building, from ownership on down. Significantly, he is the only player in franchise history to play for all three full time head coaches in the history of the organization — Dom Capers, Gary Kubiak, and Bill O'Brien. His opinions on what to look for in a head coach would be fascinating to hear.
JIMMY JOHNSON, former Super Bowl winning head coach, current FOX analyst
If you're looking for a template for what the Texans should be seeking in a head coach, the Dallas Cowboy version of Jimmy Johnson might be the favorite. Having built the Dallas Cowboys dynasty of the 1990s from the ground up through shrewd personnel moves (Herschel Walker trade, anybody?) and razor sharp evaluation, Johnson's sheer force of personality was enough to allow an organization in desperate need to recover its swagger to do just that. He was also masterful at assembling a coaching staff, with many of his assistants going on to stints as head coaches, to varying degrees of success. I love this selection for the committee.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.