Nick Caserio

Coaching Searches Starting To Come Into Focus

As the playoffs begin, some teams are narrowing in on their preferred targets. Some teams don’t need to worry about the playoffs because their candidate isn’t participating, while others may just be waiting until their candidate’s season is over.

Jason La Canfora, of CBS Sports, reported that former Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores is considered the favorite to get the Texans’ open head coaching position. He suggests that firing David Culley may have been a reaction to Flores’s surprising availability. Both firings came as a shock to NFL media, so it’s not outrageous to assume that the Texans saw Flores get cut loose and decided to make a bold move of their own.

Flores and Texans’ general manager Nick Caserio worked together as scouts in the Patriots’ system. Flores won eight of his final nine games in Miami this year, showing a promising potential. Not to mention that Flores was a factor in Deshaun Watson waiving his no-trade clause for the Dolphins earlier this year, before that deal fell through. The Texans have other candidates, but Flores has interviewed with the Bears and will continue to be a target for other teams, so Houston will likely want to secure their target sooner, rather than later.

Tom Pelissero, of NFL Network, reported that Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is looking like the favorite to replace Vic Fangio in Denver. This situation is a little more fraught. The connections aren’t quite clear. Obviously Quinn’s resume speaks for itself as he made it to the Super Bowl with Atlanta and has helped develop an impressive, young Cowboys’ defense, but the Broncos just fired a defensive-minded coach in Fangio and it’s a bit surprising to see them double-down on that philosophy.

There’s also the issue that, unlike Flores, Quinn isn’t currently available. He hasn’t even interviewed with any teams. Even when he does, it seems those teams may be in competition with his current employer. La Canfora put out a report that Dallas holds Quinn in such high regard that they might be willing to move on from current head coach Mike McCarthy in order to secure Quinn as his successor.

There’s plenty of moves to be had and plenty of time for it all to play out. Be sure to follow all our updates on the 2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker.

Culley’s Departure Doesn’t Affect Watson

According to multiple sources, the departure of former Texans’ head coach David Culley has no effect on where the franchise stands with quarterback Deshaun Watson. Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported that Watson’s issue was never with the coaching staff and Culley, Watson’s issue was with the ownership. 

The Texans are hoping to trade the 3-time Pro Bowler before the new league year starts on March 16. Watson holds a bit of power in the decision-making for the trade, as he holds a no-trade clause in his contract. Watson, in theory, must approve of his trade location and waive his no-trade clause for the chosen team, as he did with the Dolphins.

The Dolphins’ deal, which valued Watson at multiple first-round picks plus some ancillary picks, ended up falling through as Miami erred on the side of caution when they weren’t able to secure conditions attached to the picks as a safeguard against Watson’s possible discipline. Watson’s deposition is set to take place on February 22, with Watson not due in court until May 2. This makes Texans’ general manager Nick Caserio‘s job a bit more challenging, as the case on Watson will still loom over any potential deals.

Regardless, any head coach or offensive coordinator interviewing for Houston’s open positions should be aware that Watson is not part of the deal. Any coaching candidates will have to do their homework on Davis Mills instead.

Texans Interested In Brian Flores, Jerod Mayo For HC Role

3:47pm: Another Patriots connection is set to be a factor here. Jerod Mayo is expected to be a frontrunner here as well, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Bill Belichick‘s latest right-hand man on defense, Mayo spent time with both Flores and Caserio in Foxborough — as a player and assistant coach. Mayo received an interview request from the Broncos this week but has not been linked to the other jobs just yet. A Texans interview summons seems likely.

2:53pm: The David Culley and Brian Flores firings appear connected. Not long after the Dolphins surprisingly canned him, Flores has surfaced on the radar as a prime candidate to replace Culley in Houston.

The Texans have Flores positioned as the top candidate to take over as head coach, Aaron Wilson of Sports Talk 790 reports (on Twitter). Flores and Texans GM Nick Caserio worked together with the Patriots for over a decade, with Wilson adding the duo’s relationship remains close.

[RELATED: Texans Fire Culley After One Season]

This would be an interesting step for Flores, given the state of the Texans. The team has gone 8-25 over the past two seasons and does not have much to bank on long-term on its roster. Deshaun Watson, however, was believed to be interested in playing for Flores in Miami. That certainly does not mean the Pro Bowl quarterback would rescind his longstanding trade request, but it would be an interesting element injected into this equation.

Flores took over a Dolphins roster that was soon gutted in his first season, so the Texans would present somewhat familiar territory. The Dolphins are coming off back-to-back winning seasons, giving Flores some momentum — despite his clashes with team management — as this year’s hiring period gets going.

Texans Unlikely To Trade Deshaun Watson Before Deadline?

Despite reports that the Dolphins and Texans have agreed to compensation in a prospective Deshaun Watson trade, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com says that, as of this morning, there is not much hope of a deal being completed prior to Tuesday’s deadline. Josina Anderson of CBS Sports HQ had reported earlier in the week that Houston was not feeling any pressure to swing a trade by the deadline and was content to wait until the offseason (video link).

Although Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wants to see his team land Watson, he is said to want more clarity on the passer’s legal situation before green-lighting a trade. And, as Watson’s legal situation is rife with uncertainty at this point, Ross might not be comfortable in authorizing a deal that likely includes three first-round draft picks.

Schefter’s report also casts doubt on whether Miami and Houston are actually in agreement on the trade package. The ESPN scribe suggests that, in addition to all of the legal concerns, there are still lingering “compensation issues” that would need to be hammered out before a trade can be finalized. Indeed, GM Nick Casersio is unwilling to trade Watson for anything less than what he perceives to be maximum value. On the other hand, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reports that the Dolphins and Texans were close to a deal a few days ago, and that a trade was not consummated only because the ‘Fins want Watson to settle his legal matters first (via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald on Twitter).

Of course, Watson theoretically could settle the civil suits that 22 women have filed against him, but he can’t control whether criminal charges are filed. Glazer’s report, though, lends credence to the notion that a deal will not be consummated within the next two days.

Meanwhile, Texans owner Cal McNair wants to put the matter behind him and would like to see Watson traded by Tuesday. But Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says McNair has given Caserio full authority to handle the situation however he sees fit, and if that means retaining Watson through the deadline, then so be it.

We also have an interesting nugget to pass along with respect to the Panthers’ involvement in this process. Schefter confirms that Watson did not waive his no-trade clause for Carolina — or for any team other than Miami — which is at least one reason why the the Panthers are not pursuing Watson in advance of the deadline (though other reporters have said an offseason deal could still happen if Watson remains with the Texans). However, there was speculation that a deal that would send Watson to Carolina would see star RB Christian McCaffrey heading back to Houston as part of the return.

Joe Person of The Athletic says McCaffrey was never part of the trade talks (Twitter link), and Schefter adds that Panthers GM Scott Fitterer and head coach Matt Rhule actually called McCaffrey on Friday night to tell him as much.

Texans Draft Stanford QB Davis Mills

In his first pick as the Texans’ general manager, Nick Caserio selected Stanford quarterback Davis Mills. The No. 67 overall pick will now join Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Finley, and embattled star Deshaun Watson on the team’s QB depth chart.

Mills went in the midst of a Day 2 QB run, hearing his name called just after Florida QB Kyle Trask (Buccaneers) and Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond (Vikings). Some prognosticators preferred Mills to Trask and Mond, and most oddsmakers actually expected him to come off the board first. Mills does not project to be a world-beater, but he is nearly 6’4″ and fairly built with better-than-average footwork.

Injuries to starter K.J. Costello thrust Mills under center in 2019. That year, he threw for 1,960 yards and eleven touchdowns across eight games. In 2020, he was named the starter as Costello left for Mississippi State. In his (abbreviated) 2020 campaign, Mills completed 66.2% of his throws for 1,508 yards and seven TDs.

In related news, the Texans fielded inquiries from the Pats, Bears, and the Washington Football Team prior to the draft. By now, at least two of those teams are probably out of the Watson picture.

Texans GM On Deshaun Watson’s Future

In a Friday chat with reporters, Texans GM Nick Caserio declined to delve into the lawsuits against Deshaun Watson or the trade talk surrounding him. With respect to “the legal process,” Caserio explained that his focus is on the Texans’ offseason program and the upcoming draft. 

[RELATED: Five Watson Accusers Have Spoken With Police]

If you want to speculate, you should probably go buy Bitcoin,” Caserio said when asked about the QB’s future in Houston (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero).

We’re not entirely sure about cryptocurrency, but, right now, it doesn’t seem likely that the Texans and Watson will be moving forward together. Before the slew of suits, Watson had been demanding a trade for months. Now, it makes even less sense for the Texans to keep the embattled quarterback.

One of the civil suits against Texans QB Deshaun Watson has been dropped, but another lawsuit has been filed, bringing the plaintiff count back to 22. Meanwhile, five of Tony Buzbee’s clients have spoken to police, raising the possibility of criminal charges.

Poll: Where Will Deshaun Watson Play In 2021?

This Week in Deshaun Watson produced perhaps the most noteworthy headline of the saga thus far. The disgruntled quarterback’s meeting with new Texans HC David Culley did not cause him to back off his trade request.

New Texans GM Nick Caserio is dug in against the prospect of trading Watson, according to NBC Sports’ Peter King. With the Texans not viewing free agency as a deadline to make a deal, a resolution does not appear imminent. With teams pursuing Watson potentially moving to other options in the near future, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the days leading up to the new league year.

Thus far, the Texans have not budged. Caserio and Cal McNair have issued multiple statements indicating they want Watson back under center in Houston next season. In holding Watson’s rights, the Texans certainly have leverage. Trading Watson later in the offseason may affect his assimilation with his next team and affect that team’s 2021 roster plan, though that might be a small factor here. And Watson could be fined more than $20MM this year if he is truly committed to never playing for the Texans again, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

By waiting until after the draft, the Texans would put themselves in danger of downgrading significantly at quarterback and doing so without collecting the kind of trade package that would help kickstart a rebuild. Thanks to their Laremy Tunsil/Kenny Stills trade, the Texans are without 2021 first- and second-round picks. And they may be set to let Will Fuller walk; prior to his trade request, Watson wanted the Texans to retain Fuller. While they would stand to recoup these and much more were they to unload Watson, he remains a Texan for the time being. Where will he be when the season starts?

Although the Texans might not even view the draft as a loose deadline to trade their three-time Pro Bowl passer, the Jets and Dolphins’ draft arsenals would be enticing. Both pick in the top three this year — the Jets at No. 2, the Dolphins third — and hold extra Round 1 picks (the Dolphins at No. 18, the Jets at 23). The Dolphins also have two second-round picks this year, while the Jets have two 2022 first-rounders from the Jamal Adams trade. Watson is believed to be a Robert Saleh fan, but subsequent reports have emerged indicating he would favor a deal to Miami over New York.

The Dolphins and Jets have QBs they could send to Houston, in Tua Tagovailoa and Sam Darnold, and these incumbent options would hold more appeal compared to the passers the Broncos and Panthers could send over. However, Watson has a no-trade clause, and both Carolina and Denver outflank the two AFC East squads at the skill positions.

Carolina and Denver already discussed Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock, respectively, in talks with the Lions for Matthew Stafford. Both franchises have new GMs not tied to the acquisitions of either passer, and each team holds a top-nine pick — the Panthers at 8, the Broncos at 9 — this year. The Panthers thus far lead everyone in reported Watson interest. Multiple reports have emerged about owner David Tepper being beyond smitten with Watson and obsessed with his franchise making a major quarterback upgrade. Starting nine quarterbacks since Peyton Manning retired, the Broncos are planning to be aggressive as well — if Watson is made available.

The Panthers have both young assets that would intrigue Watson — in Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson — and players that would potentially appeal to the Texans in a trade package. So do the Broncos (Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant). Though new Denver GM George Paton was reluctant to part with young assets for Stafford, Watson being a 25-year-old superstar would change the equation surely.

It is not known how aggressive the 49ers will be, but they did discuss Stafford with the Lions. No offer emerged, however. They have made statements indicating they are fine with Jimmy Garoppolo returning, but Stafford discussions certainly point to San Francisco being interested in a Watson swap. The 49ers’ plan, as of late February, would be either making a Watson-level splash or trot out Garoppolo again. While the Broncos are on Watson’s list of approved destinations, the 49ers may well be ahead of them on said list.

Who are the key dark-horse teams to monitor here? The Raiders have been mentioned as a potential suitor. Of course, they have since been named one of Russell Wilson‘s four acceptable destinations. How much should Watson fetch in a trade? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Texans GM: “Zero Interest” In Deshaun Watson Trade

Deshaun Watson wants out. The Texans won’t blink. On Friday, Texans GM Nick Caserio and new head coach David Culley reiterated their desire to keep the quarterback in Houston. 

[RELATED: Panthers To Pursue 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.”

Watson is interested in going to the Dolphins or the Jets with a slight preference towards the Jets…or the Dolphins, depending on who you ask. The Panthers have also jumped in, less than one year after signing Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $63MM deal. The Jets and Dolphins could line up especially well for a trade, given their wealth of draft capital. And, with the Dolphins, the Texans could try for a Tua Tagovailoa trade.

But, despite all of the possibilities — and Watson’s strong desire to get out of town — the Texans say he’s staying put.

Cal McNair On Watson, Caserio, HC Search

The Texans have faced scrutiny from several angles over the past two years. While Bill O’Brien bore the brunt of the criticism, the organization has continued to encounter issues since O’Brien’s dismissal.

CEO Cal McNair made another attempt to address concerns Friday. McNair said he has texted with Deshaun Watson since it became public the quarterback was unhappy. Watson expressed disappointment the Texans did not keep him fully in the loop regarding their decision to hire Nick Caserio as general manager, and McNair confirmed the franchise QB will have input regarding the next Texans head coach.

That’s the intent. We want him in the loop and part of the process,” McNair said, via Fox 26’s Mark Berman. “Deshaun and I connected over texts since he’s returned from vacation, and I believe in dealing with the personnel issues directly with the players — but in conjunction with our general manager. Deshaun, it’s no secret that he’s disappointed in the communication during the [GM] hiring process.

Following Caserio’s lead, McNair said he has no desire to trade Watson. The four-year veteran has been connected to a potential trade request, despite signing a $39MM-per-year extension last summer, shortly after the reports of his dissatisfaction surfaced. Watson is believed to be far more upset about recent Texans events than he was when the team traded DeAndre Hopkins without informing him of the decision.

He’s our quarterback,” McNair said. “I’ve liked Deshaun and watched him since he played at Clemson. I’ve believed in him and his leadership in (winning a) championship in college, and I think he can lead our team to championships here. 

We went to the second round of the playoffs and he was a good leader. This year, the flip side of the coin, our record wasn’t nearly as good, but he was still the same great leader. We believe in him. My mom loves him. He’s a great person. He’s a Texan.”

Watson has made it known he was a fan of Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who was initially left out of Houston’s HC interview requests. But the Texans have since requested a meeting with the third-year OC. McNair said this delay was related to Caserio taking over the search process. The Texans have been connected to several names, but hiring the longtime Patriots exec caused an understandable delay in their search process. Due to the Texans waiting until after the Chiefs’ bye week to submit a Bieniemy interview request, they will be unable to meet with him until after Kansas City’s season concludes.

We were waiting on Nick’s list of coaching candidates,” McNair said. “Nick added him to the list. Other candidates had been recommended. Like all the candidates, they are Nick’s and my choices.”

2021 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

This year’s NFL GM carousel figures to be more active than usual. The Falcons, Lions, Panthers, Texans, and Jaguars are all on the hunt for a new front office leader. And that’s only the official list. The real tally shows six clubs looking for a GM, since the Washington Football Team is expected to install a GM to work alongside head coach Ron Rivera. By mid-January, we could easily see a couple more jobs opening up — that’d put ~25% of the NFL on the market.

We’ll keep track of the GM candidates for each club here, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make general manager changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here’s the current breakdown:

Updated 1-19-21 (7:02pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers 

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Washington Football Team