David Culley

2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, seven NFL teams opted to make a head coaching change. Sean Payton stepping away from the Saints created nine full-time vacancies available this year.

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:

Updated 2-7-22 (1:45pm CT)

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Texans Considering Lovie Smith For HC

Despite reports that the Texans had narrowed their list of candidates down to journeyman quarterback Josh McCown and former Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores, Adam Schefter of ESPN has reported that current defensive coordinator and associate head coach Lovie Smith is now in talks with Houston about potentially becoming their next head coach. Smith interviewed with the team earlier tonight, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. This is the second time Smith has been considered for the Texans’ head coach position, the first time being when he interviewed with the team in December 2013 prior to accepting the head coaching job in Tampa Bay. 

Smith has spent 16 of the last 18 years as a head coach at some level. After three years of coaching at the high school level, Smith spent the next 13 years bouncing around the NCAA as a position coach with stops at Tulsa, Wisconsin, Arizona State, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio State. He accepted a job as the Buccaneers’ linebackers coach in 1996 and, after five seasons in Tampa Bay, was hired as the defensive coordinator of the Rams. Smith took the St. Louis defense from a league-worst 29.4 points per game to seventh in the league allowing 17.1 points per game in his first year leading the defense.

Smith soon earned the head coaching job for the Bears in 2004. Despite losing starting quarterback Rex Grossman to injury for most of the 2005 season, the Bears would get a first round bye in the playoffs as the NFC’s number two-seed in Lovie’s second year as head coach, winning Smith the AP NFL Coach of the Year Award. In 2006, the Bears were the NFC’s number one-seed, owning the NFL’s second-ranked scoring offense and fifth-ranked overall defense. In his third season as an NFL head coach, Smith became the first Black head coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl, and the second minority head coach after Tom Flores.

The next six years saw the Bears miss the playoffs five times despite only two losing seasons and never finishing with a record worse than 7-9. Smith was fired after failing to reach the playoffs in the 2012 season despite finishing with a record of 10-6, the last winning season the Bears would see until 2018.

After a year hiatus from the NFL, Smith was brought in to replace Greg Schiano in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers went 2-14 and 6-10 in Smith’s first two seasons and Smith was fired with three years remaining on his contract.

After Tampa Bay, Smith accepted the job of head coach at the University of Illinois. A perennial basement-dweller in the Big Ten, Smith amassed a 17-39 record in five seasons at Illinois. In 2019, he did lead the Fighting Illini to their first bowl game appearance since 2014, but was fired the next year after starting the season 2-5.

Following his stint in college football, Smith was hired by Houston in March of 2021 in his current role under rookie head coach David Culley, returning to the NFL after a 5 year hiatus. Smith did improve the Texans’ defense from ranking 30th in defensive DVOA in 2020 to 23rd in 2021, but Houston was not one of the league’s better defensive units.

Schefter reported that Smith was always included in the Texans’ discussions, but his candidacy for head coach didn’t start gaining momentum until very recently. The consensus in the media is that, along with this revived interest in Smith, McCown is no longer being considered for the position, as Schefter, Rapoport, and NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero have all tweeted as much.

It looks, for now, as if Brian Flores and Lovie Smith are the two candidates the Texans are focusing on for the position moving forward, unless any more surprise candidates find their way into contention. Be sure to follow our 2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker to keep up with updates to the remaining open positions.

Coaching Rumors: Saints, Texans, McDaniel, Giants, Broncos

The Saints began their cycle of head coaching interviews this week, conducting meetings with the following candidates: former Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson (1/30; hired by Jaguars), former Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores (2/1), Lions’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn (2/2), their current special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi (2/3), their current defensive coordinator Dennis Allen (2/4), and Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy (2/6).

New Orleans also requested permission to interview Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. There were some early reports that permission had been granted, but that hasn’t been confirmed and nothing has been scheduled, as of yet. ESPN’s Saints’ reporter Mike Triplett also mentioned that current offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael was offered an opportunity to interview for the position, but Carmichael declined. Despite being a part of Sean Payton‘s staff since Payton’s tenure in New Orleans began back in 2006, it appears Carmichael has no interest in running the show in the Big Easy. Whether he has retirement or another destination in mind or he is just comfortable in his role, Carmichael will not be the Saints’ next head coach.

Here are a few more notes from the ongoing coaching searches and staff changes throughout the NFL, starting with the other head coaching vacancy:

  • Houston recently narrowed their list of head coaching candidates down to three: Brian Flores, former quarterback Josh McCown, and Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. Well, according to USA Today’s Josina Anderson, the Texans are now down to two candidates, with Gannon being informed Saturday that he will not be receiving the head coaching position, leaving Flores and McCown as the two remaining names.
  • New Dolphins’ head coach Mike McDaniel reportedly has interest in holding on to some of the defensive assistants currently under contract in Miami, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. This includes current defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, who followed Flores to Miami from New England. The lack of staff turnover would be a positive for a defensive unit that played well during the team’s seven-game win-streak in the back half of the season.
  • The Giants were able to add a piece to Brian Daboll‘s new staff while missing out on another today. ESPN’s Jordan Raanan tweeted out that Andy Bischoff will become the Giants’ new tight ends coach. Bischoff followed David Culley from Baltimore to Houston and will make the lateral move over from the Texans with their head coaching position still in the air. Unfortunately, the Giants did not get their running backs coach, as Bruce Feldman of The Athletic tweeted out that Deland McCullough has turned down Daboll’s offer, choosing instead to remain the running backs coach at Notre Dame, believing it gives him the best opportunity to eventually become a head coach.
  • New Broncos’ head coach Nathaniel Hackett is also looking to fill out his staff. The Broncos are planning to interview Jon Embree who most recently held the position of tight ends coach/assistant head coach in San Francisco. Embree parted ways with the Niners after being asked to take a 60 percent pay cut after San Francisco’s NFC Championship loss. The man who has coached George Kittle since he was drafted in 2017 would be a nice addition to Hackett’s system.

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 To Fire David Culley

Despite little being expected of this Texans squad, the franchise is moving on from David Culley after one season. Culley is out in Houston after the team’s 4-13 slate, Mark Berman of Fox 26 tweets.

This move comes three days after Black Monday and two days after the Giants axed Joe Judge. While this clears out another HC position, it is a tough break for Culley, who took over a team in a bad situation.

In December, Culley was viewed as being safe to stay aboard for a second Houston season. Soon after, however, the winds started to shift a little. GM Nick Caserio may or may not have a successor lined up. Given Caserio’s connection to Josh McDaniels, speculation understandably ensued connecting those dots.

Culley navigated the messy Deshaun Watson situation fairly smoothly, deactivating the embattled Pro Bowler throughout the season. The Texans’ previous regime also saddled the new one without first- or second-round picks in last year’s draft. Caserio signed numerous midlevel veterans to one- or two-year contracts, setting up the 2021 season to be a transition year before the team becomes more aggressive on the rebuilding front. While the Texans improved and notched multiple major upsets late in the season, it was not enough for a placeholder HC to stay on.

The Culley hire came out of nowhere. The Ravens wide receivers coach was not involved in any other team’s interview process and had not called plays for an NFL team previously. The Ravens recouped two third-round picks, the second coming this year, because of this surprising hire. With Culley’s firing coming after Brian Flores‘ surprising ouster, Mike Tomlin is the NFL’s only Black head coach at the moment. Flores figures to have options soon, perhaps in Houston, with he and Caserio working together in New England for over a decade. But he has only been connected to the Bears thus far.

Some murkiness has surfaced regarding Culley’s contract. After Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweeted that just two years on Culley’s five-year deal were guaranteed, the 66-year-old coach indicated (via Berman, on Twitter) his full five-year deal is, in fact, guaranteed. A partially guaranteed deal would indeed be a highly unusual arrangement. Culley will collect $17MM through the life of this deal, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

Culley’s in-game decision-making certainly veered toward questionable often, and it was clear he was not viewed as a long-term leader in Houston. Davis Mills‘ promising performance down the stretch, despite being a third-round pick, does provide some hope for a franchise that has gone 8-25 over the past two seasons. Among rookies, only Mac Jones had a better QBR than Mills — albeit in a smaller sample size — this season.

Mills’ progress notwithstanding, the Texans are also firing offensive coordinator Tim Kelly, Schefter tweets. Kelly was a holdover from the Bill O’Brien regime and had been with the team since O’Brien’s 2014 hire. Kelly, 35, worked his way up from quality control level to become Houston’s OC by the 2019 season. The Texans advanced to the playoffs behind a Watson Pro Bowl campaign that year. While Watson excelled in 2020 as well, the team fell off a cliff.

The Texans ranked 32nd offensively this season, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds that Culley was asked to make changes to his offensive staff (Twitter link). While it can obviously be argued Culley was set up to fail this season, his refusal to fire Kelly may well have contributed to the one-and-done. Kelly’s ouster will certainly not be the last one, with the Texans pivoting again under Caserio.

Latest On Texans, Deshaun Watson

The Texans hope to trade quarterback Deshaun Watson before the league year begins on March 16, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. Meanwhile, they’ll also weigh the future of head coach David Culley, who isn’t guaranteed to return for a second season.

Watson still holds a no-trade clause, which could limit the Texans’ options in the trade market. Despite that and all of the baggage, GM Nick Caserio nearly had a mid-season deal with the Dolphins, one that would have netted him multiple first-round picks and then some. Ultimately, amidst all the uncertainty, the Dolphins backed out. The Texans are expecting a healthy market for Watson this time around, though his deposition cannot take place until February 22.

Culley, meanwhile, has made some questionable in-game decisions in his first year as HC. Some of his players are also frustrated with his communication skills, Rapoport hears. Culley remains highly regarded in the organization, but, at minimum, there will likely be changes made to his staff.

The Texans entered today’s game at 4-12 on the year. Midway through their season finale, the Texans trail the Titans 21-0.

Coaching Notes: Jags, Culley, Nagy

Things have not gone well for the Jaguars this year. Urban Meyer failed to make it through his first year as an NFL head coach, No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence has the second-worst QB rating among qualified passers, and the club has mustered just two wins against 11 losses. The good news, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, is that the Jacksonville head coaching job is considered a desirable one, and many candidates who are expected to be hot commodities in the upcoming coaching cycle are anxious to secure an interview with owner Shad Khan.

That is largely because of Lawrence, who is still considered a generational talent despite his rookie struggles. Former Eagles HC Doug Pederson is reportedly interested in the post, and Patriots OC Josh McDaniels and Bills OC Brian Daboll might also be attractive options for Khan given their recent work with young signal-callers. One way or another, Khan should not have any difficulty luring a top candidate to Duval, though he obviously needs to get this hire right.

Here are several other coaching-related items:

  • Jaguars interim HC Darrell Bevell will have a chance to have the interim tag removed and interview for the permanent head coaching gig. He does have Lawrence’s support, but his candidacy will depend on how the team’s offense performs down the stretch. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com expects Ravens DC Don Martindale — the architect of the Jags’ Joe Cullen-led defense — to be in the mix as well (Twitter link).
  • We recently heard that the Texans are expected to retain head coach David Culley for 2022, but GM Nick Caserio is at least considering his options, per La Canfora. Culley, a 66-year-old coach who had spent his entire career as an assistant, was the most surprising hire of the 2021 cycle, but as Houston was (and is) in the midst of a complete rebuild, the club was perhaps looking for more of a caretaker than anything else. Caserio is rumored to have his eye on one unnamed candidate for the next phase of the rebuild, and it’s not difficult to connect the dots to McDaniels. The Houston HC job may not attract many in-demand candidates for 2022, which means that Culley could get one more year at the helm. However, if McDaniels does not land his own head coaching post in the coming months, he and Caserio could reunite in Texas in 2023.
  • No surprises here, but La Canfora, in the same Culley piece linked above, says many assistants on Bears HC Matt Nagy‘s staff are operating under the assumption that they will need to find new employment at season’s end. It has been assumed that Nagy will be terminated after the season is over, though La Canfora leaves open the possibility that Nagy could get his walking papers before then so that Chicago can get a head start on the interview process.

Texans Likely To Retain David Culley In 2022

Three AFC teams have been outscored by at least 140 points this season, but the Texans lead the pack (and the NFL) with a minus-159 point differential. David Culley‘s debut is tracking toward finishing with the worst margin of defeat in franchise history.

That said, the Texans — at the start of a potentially long rebuild and navigating a complex Deshaun Watson situation — were expected to be one of the NFL’s worst teams. And they are likely to bring back their head coach for a second season, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com notes (ESPN+ link).

[RELATED: Texans To Start Davis Mills]

Culley, 66, was an unexpected hire due to his age and lack of connection to other teams during this past HC hiring period. Only the Texans interviewed the ex-Ravens wide receivers coach. Houston GM Nick Caserio then proceeded to fill the roster with numerous midlevel free agents, some of whom have since been traded or cut, on short-term deals. Culley was also tasked with an awkward transition from Watson, who requested a trade before 22 criminal and civil suits alleging sexual assault and/or sexual misconduct emerged.

Houston’s job would not exactly be appealing were it to become available again in 2022, so keeping Culley — who was given a five-year contract in January — makes sense. That said, Caserio might have another plan in mind ahead of the next phase of the team’s rebuild. The first-year GM has eyed one unnamed coach since before accepting the Texans job, Albert Breer of SI.com adds. Given the rumors of Caserio and Josh McDaniels being a package deal elsewhere in previous offseasons, the longtime Patriots OC would certainly be a reasonable guess as the ex-New England exec’s preference for a longer-term option.

If the Texans can unload Watson before the draft, that would do well to accelerate their rebuild. The team still has a shot at the 2022 No. 1 overall pick, but the Lions (1-11-1) still lead the way with five weeks to go. Joining the Jaguars at 2-10, the Texans landing a top-five choice is a near-certainty. Because of trades by the previous Houston regime, the team did not have first- or second-round picks in the 2021 draft.

Texans Practice Without Deshaun Watson

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. 

[RELATED: Texans Set High Asking Price For Watson]

We make decisions every day based on what’s best for our football team,” Culley said (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com). “Nothing new today on that.”

Watson still wants out of Houston, even in the midst of 20+ lawsuits. The Texans are willing to make that happen, though they’re asking for a lot in return. Texans GM Nick Caserio reportedly wants a combination of five high draft picks plus quality players in exchange for the embattled quarterback.

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.