The search is on for the Houston Texans' fourth general manager in team history after last Friday's shocking termination of Brian Gaine just 18 months into his five year contract. The interviews are underway, with Nick Caserio as the frontrunner and, presumably, the same cast of characters making the decision on just who will head up the roster architecture work for the team.
If the Texans are interviewing the right strata of candidates, then there will be just as much evaluation of the Texans going on by said candidates as there will be evaluation by the Texans of them, maybe even more. The good candidates will have lots of questions for Cal McNair and company, certainly question about just what exactly happened between Gaine and the Texans, but also regarding the overall state of the franchise.
So here is one man's opinion on exactly how good the Houston Texans job should appear to prospective general manager candidates:
This is the category that is essentially like the final exam in a college course — the existence of a franchise quarterback, and the caliber of that quarterback, should count for about half the grade of any job. It doesn't get much better than having Deshaun Watson with a couple years still left on his rookie deal (depending on whether or not the team wants to extend him early after the 2019 season). Watson is 23 years old, productive, respected, active in the community, and a possible face for the NFL heading into the 2020's. GRADE: A
OVERALL ROSTER CONDITION (non-QB)
Where the Texans are good, they are VERY good. DeAndre Hopkins might be the best wide receiver in the league. J.J. Watt is back in the conversation of being the best defensive player in the league. Jadeveon Clowney, contractual situation aside, is a piece that 31 other teams would love to have. Beyond that, there is a lot of hope, mystery, and work to do. Will Fuller, Justin Reid, Keke Coutee, D.J. Reader, and Bernardrick McKinney are all nice foundational pieces. The offensive line has been in shambles for years now. The new GM needs a better plan there than his last two predecessors. GRADE: C
SALARY CAP SITUATION
Ironically, if there's one FOOTBALL DECISION related reason to terminate Gaine, it might be his overly conservative approach with the salary cap. The Texans entered the 2019 offseason with over $70 million in cap space. Today, they still have the second most space with over $40 million and they haven't really fixed anything. The next general manager should have plenty of resources to spend on in-house extensions and free agent shopping. The Watson contract extension looms, though. GRADE: A-
The Texans have not traded any future draft choices, and they should have a couple extra compensatory picks coming up in the 2020 draft. The new GM isn't walking into the same situation Gaine was, where he had to operate the 2018 draft with no first or second round pick. GRADE: A-
The mere fact that Cal McNair is willing to eat over three years of Gaine's contract just to get rid of him should speak to the McNair family's willingness to spend whatever it takes to win a championship. If you've spent any time walking through the bowels of NRG Stadium over the last 12 months, then you know construction and rebuilding has been rampant, from the locker room to the weight room to the cafeteria. The Texans run a first class operation. GRADE: A-
There's a reason why the Jets, Dolphins, and Bills jobs are considered so subpar. Well actually, SEVERAL reasons, but one really BIG reason is that, if you've worked in any of those organizations, you've been trying to unseat Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for the last two decades. The AFC South doesn't have the Patriots, but the Colts should be a real pain in the ass to deal with over the next five to ten years, with Andrew Luck healthy and GM Chris Ballard running the show. Jacksonville and Tennessee don't scare me. GRADE: C+
This is the million dollar question inside the building over at NRG Stadium — how crucial is the long-term working relationship with Bill O'Brien for the next GM? O'Brien should be under just as much pressure as Gaine was apparently under, if not more. 2019 is shaping up to be a crucial year against a beast of a schedule. The head coach's seat should be at least warm, especially if the Texans endure another 0-3 start. There's no doubt that the next GM will be in synch with O'Brien early on, since it appears to be a prerequisite to getting the job. However, Gaine was once simpatico with O'Brien, and that soured. GRADE: C
OVERALL JOB GRADE: B+
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.