Deshaun Watson was not present at the Texans’ Tuesday practice, their first padded scrimmage of training camp. When asked by reporters, Texans head coach David Culley didn’t offer up much of an explanation.
For his part, Caserio doesn’t seem to be in any rush. The Texans would have to pay Watson to not play if he’s placed on team or the Commissioner’s Exempt list. Still, his $10.54MM salary isn’t necessarily a backbreaker, and Caserio would prefer to wait it out. This way, he’ll have a chance at a better haul next year rather than accepting pennies on the dollar.
Up until today, Watson was at training camp and successfully avoiding $50K in daily fines. Even then, his participation was light with no team drills.
Obviously, there is no way to know when Watson’s legal situation will be wrapped up. There may or may not have been recent settlement talks between his legal team and the team representing the 22 women who have filed lawsuits against him, but even a best-case scenario for Watson — a dismissal of the suits (which isn’t happening) or a quick settlement that allows him to escape a major financial hit — still leaves the Texans in a bind because of Watson’s previous trade demands.
A settlement, along with minimal or no punishment from the league, would at least allow Watson’s trade market to heat back up. One way or another, it appears that the Texans will be rolling with either Taylor or Mills when the 2021 regular season opens, and new head coach David Culley had a lot of good things to say about Mills during a press conference yesterday.
“Davis Mills, I thought [GM Nick Caserio‘s] staff did a great job of all of a sudden earmarking a guy that fit what a quarterback in the NFL is all about,” Culley said (via the Texans’ PR department). “Obviously he didn’t play as much football as some of the other guys because of the COVID situation in the Pac-12, but we really love what he’s all about. We love all of the intangibles he has. He’s a pro-type NFL quarterback and we feel good to have him. He’s smart. He can make all the throws and we feel good and feel fortunate that we’re able to get him when we got him.”
The Texans would presumably like for Mills to beat out Taylor for the starting job so that they can get a complete picture of what the rookie can do and set their 2022 priorities accordingly. But when Culley was asked how important it is to give Mills ample playing time this season, Culley had something of a predictable answer. “We’re not looking at it like that,” he said. “We’re looking at it like there’s going to be competition at all positions. This is a new football team here. Basically, we’ve created competition all around this football team. Not just at the quarterback position, but basically at all positions.”
At least one NFL scouting director believes Mills could have been a first-round pick in 2022 if he had stayed in school, so there is some cause for optimism for a franchise that appears to be headed for a major rebuild. “Davis Mills, man, the ball comes out of his hand really nice,” the scouting director said (via veteran NFL reporter Aaron Wilson on Twitter). “His release quickness is really good. A lot of people around the league are saying he could have been a first-round draft pick next year if he had stayed in school. Very intriguing.”
When asked specifically about Watson, Culley said, “we have nothing to say about that situation at this time.”
March 11th, 2021 at 2:50pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
New Texans head coach David Culley has finally spoken on the Deshaun Watson saga, and he didn’t exactly clear things up. In a press conference with the general media, Culley was insistent that the team was all in on Watson.
“We are very committed to Deshaun [Watson] as our quarterback. He is our quarterback,” Culley said, via this tweet from Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com. Culley also deferred questions about Watson asking for a trade to GM Nick Caserio, who wasn’t there. “It’s not a matter of me trying to change anyone’s mind. We’re committed to him. He’s a Houston Texan and we’re going to move forward with that,” Culley said when asked if Watson could be talked out of his trade request, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).
Culley added that “there is no contingency plan” for if Watson decides not to report. He also said “yes, he is,” when asked if Watson is committed to the Texans, which would seem to be demonstrably false. What makes these comments interesting, is that they’re in sharp contrast to what Culley told Jim Trotter of NFL Network just hours earlier.
Trotter tweeted that he walked away from his conversation with Culley “firmly” believing that Watson will be traded. Culley told Trotter that “he is our starting quarterback right now. He is our starting quarterback. Things happen between now and then. We’ll see what happens.” When he spoke on that more free-wheeling podcast, Culley gave the quarterback kiss of death of ‘right now.’
Culley also told Trotter that “we want guys who are all in.” Reading the tea leaves there it certainly sounds like Culley knows there’s a very good chance Watson is dealt before the 2021 season. It also sounds like somebody spoke with him between that podcast interview and his press conference and asked him to change his tone.
Anytime ‘right nows’ start getting thrown around, it’s seemingly the beginning of the end. This drama could still take many more twists and turns, but as Trotter himself noted, it now sounds like the writing is on the wall.
Deshaun Watson has met with his would-be new head coach. That summit does not look to have changed anything.
In the Friday meeting with David Culley, Watson informed the new Texans HC he does not plan to play for the team again, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (on Twitter). This follows a report expressing that Watson is dug in on his desire to leave Houston.
Cal McNair and new Texans GM Nick Caserio have repeatedly insisted they are uninterested in trading Watson. But this situation is approaching the two-month mark, and suitors have emerged. More figure to surface soon, should the Texans make Watson available. The Dolphins, Jets, Broncos, Panthers and 49ers have been connected to the four-year veteran passer, who is not expected to be picky regarding his destination.
The Texans hired Culley after Watson’s discontent became public, creating a tough situation for the first-time head coach. The team has since cut future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt. As of now, the Texans do not have first- or second-round picks in this year’s draft — thanks to the 2019 Laremy Tunsiltrade Culley predecessor Bill O’Brien made. The uncertainty surrounding Watson may also create issues for the Texans in free agency, further making Culley’s opening months as the team’s head coach challenging.
Coming to the Texans after a stay with the Ravens, Culley only received one interview during this year’s HC carousel. He did enough to land the Houston job. It seems he will not sway Watson.
“Organizationally, we want to reiterate our commitment to Deshaun Watson,” said Caserio, pre-empting the slew of questions to come about Watson (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter). “We have zero interest in trading the player..We have a great plan and vision for him. We look forward to spending more time with him.”
Caserio believes that “honest” and “forthright” communication can mend fences between the Texans and their star quarterback. Culley agreed as he backed up the GM with an even more confident declaration.
“He is a Houston Texan. I want him to be a Houston Texan,” said Culley (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Field Yates). “The reason I’m in this position today is because I know he’s going to be a Houston Texan.”
“Throughout his entire coaching career, David has shown an ability to lead and bring people together,” said Texans CEO Cal McNair in a statement. “David brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our team as somebody who has seen it all in this league. In his over 40 years of coaching, David has learned from many of the best coaches in the NFL while helping players navigate both the physical and mental side of the game. Highly regarded individuals from all over the league reached out to us throughout this process in support of David because of his unique ability to connect with those around him and his passion for the game and the relationships he creates.”
Culley spent the first 16 years of his coaching career in the college ranks before transitioning to the pros. In the NFL, the 65-year-old served as a key assistant for the Eagles, Chiefs, and Ravens. Beloved by Andy Reid and John Harbaugh, Culley came out of nowhere to win the Texans job. To some, that was a head-scratcher, but many around the league have applauded the Texans for their non-traditional hire. Of course, the list of believers includes new Houston GM Nick Caserio.
“Heading into this process, it was imperative to find a head coach that our entire organization could rally behind and David is unquestionably that leader,” Caserio said. “David’s infectious energy, passion for the game and ability to command a room was clear from the start. As he shared his vision for how a head coach should lead a football team, it further solidified our belief in him.”
For Culley, it’s the high point of an incredible run up the coaching ladder. The 65-year-old started his coaching career at FCS school Austin Peay all the way back in 1978. He’s been a respected football mind ever since, though he’s never served as a coordinator at the pro level. He served under Andy Reid for 18 years — following him from the Eagles to the Chiefs — before making his way to Baltimore. He’s been a trusted lieutenant of John Harbaugh, and his endorsement helped him win the job.
Arthur Smith, Titans offensive coordinator, hired by the Falcons
Brandon Staley, Rams defensive coordinator, hired by the Chargers
Ultimately, Culley came away with the job. And, no matter what happens with Watson, it sounds as though he’ll have offensive coordinator Tim Kelly on board. The OC has drawn interest from other teams, but the Texans are still blocking requests for him.
WEDNESDAY: Frazier’s second interview took place Tuesday, according to veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson (on Twitter). Culley met with Texans brass Wednesday morning but was called back to continue his second interview later this afternoon, per Anderson and the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson (Twitterlinks). This has become a “neck and neck” race, according to the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain.
While Eric Bieniemy has been in this process for a bit now, the Texans cannot bring him back for an interview until after Super Bowl LV. The Texans were seeking a second Bieniemy meeting but may well have a coach by the time he would be permitted to interview again.
MONDAY: The Texans have arranged second interviews with Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Ravens assistant head coach David Culley as Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Both are now eligible to interview for the Texans’ top job in person since their teams are out of the playoffs.
Frazier served as the Vikings’ head coach for three-seasons-and-change, up until his dismissal in 2013. His 2012 team made the playoffs before falling to the Packers, but the rest of his run wasn’t all that successful. All in all, the Vikes went 21-32-1 with Frazier at the helm. Since then, he’s spent the past four seasons as the Bills’ DC, overseeing one of the league’s best defenses.
Culley, 65, got his coaching start at FCS program Austin Peay all the way back in 1978. Culley has never even been a coordinator at the NFL level, so it would be a pretty remarkable story if he’s able to land his first head coaching job in 2021. It’s worth noting that Ravens coach John Harbaugh has been a vocal supporter of Culley, who has a chance to secure the league’s last vacancy.
Exiting the regular season, six teams are searching for new head coaches. That number is up from last season but not quite as high as 2019, though there may well be more vacancies that emerge during the playoffs.
Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:
January 11th, 2021 at 3:38pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
We already learned of one new candidate for the Texans’ head coaching job earlier today when former Vikings coach Leslie Frazierpopped onto their radar, and now we’ve got another.
Houston will interview David Culley, currently the Ravens’ assistant head coach and receivers coach, for their job, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets. Culley is 65 and got his coaching start at FCS school Austin Peay all the way back in 1978, so it would be a pretty remarkable story if he’s able to land his first head coaching job ever now in 2020. As Rapsheet noted in his tweet, Ravens coach John Harbaugh has been “outspoken” in his support for Culley.
As if on cue, Harbaugh spoke to the media soon after the news broke on Monday, and said Culley would be a “tremendous hire” for any team. Culley has never even been a coordinator at the NFL level, and has mostly been a receivers coach, so this one would be a bit outside the box.
Of course that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable, and Harbaugh himself charted an unusual path by going from special teams coordinator to head coach. Culley coached under Andy Reid for 18 years, first with the Eagles from 1999-2012 as receivers coach, and then as an assistant head coach and receivers coach with the Chiefs from 2013-16. No matter who they hire, the first priority of any new Texans coach should be mending the now strained relationship between the franchise and Deshaun Watson.