Nick Caserio

AFC South Rumors: Titans, Anderson, Jags

While we are more than two months away from offensive linemen working in pads, the Titans are in the process of determining first-rounder Peter Skoronski‘s position. They are cross-training the No. 11 overall pick at tackle and guard. Skoronski only played tackle at Northwestern, but plenty of pre-draft buzz pointed to a future at guard in the NFL. Arm measurements affected Skoronski’s pre-draft perception, and the Tennesseean’s Nick Suss notes the Titans were alternating possessions of the rookie at tackle and guard during their rookie minicamp.

In Nicholas Petit-Frere and free agent signing Andre Dillard, the team looks to have its two starting tackles in place. The Titans gave the ex-Eagles first-rounder a three-year, $29MM deal, despite Dillard having never commandeered an Eagles starting job, that includes $10MM fully guaranteed. For 2023, at least, this setup points to Skoronski at guard alongside Daniel Brunskill and Aaron Brewer on a new-look Titans line.

Here is the latest from the AFC South:

  • Veering back toward C.J. Stroud after weeks of pre-draft reports indicated they were drifting in another direction, the Texans ended up with their coveted edge rusher (Will Anderson Jr.) via a monster trade-up with the Cardinals as well. They became the first team to make two top-three picks in a draft since Washington in 2000. The Texans held pre-draft meetings about how to obtain a quarterback and a pass rusher with their Nos. 2 and 12 picks, Albert Breer of notes. Texans ownership was believed to be more involved this year, though Cal McNair denied influencing GM Nick Caserio to select a quarterback. The trade cost Houston what may well be a top-five pick in 2024, giving Cardinals fans a reason to follow this Texans season, so the AFC South team will bank on Anderson having an All-Pro future.
  • Regarding Anderson, DeMeco Ryans said his top pass rusher will operate primarily out of a three-point stance on the edge. The Texans have used a 3-4 base defense for years, dating back to J.J. Watt‘s heyday, but Ryans played in a 4-3 look in Houston and used it as his base alignment in San Francisco. Anderson worked primarily as a linebacker at Alabama. “It’s not a huge position change for Will,” Ryans said, via’s Deepi Sidhu. “Will will be an edge defender for us, and that’s what he did at Alabama. Mostly at Alabama he was standing up. We’ll have him down in a three-point stance.” As sub-packages now rule the NFL, the line between a 3-4 outside linebacker and a 4-3 defensive end has blurred over the past several years, making this a standard switch for the prized edge prospect.
  • Ryan Cowden finished last season as the Titans‘ interim general manager. The veteran executive is no longer listed on the team’s website as part of the front office (h/t Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky). This marks a quiet exit for Cowden, who worked alongside Mike Vrabel atop the Titans’ decision-making structure after GM Jon Robinson‘s firing. Ran Carthon has since taken over in Tennessee. Cowden had been with the Titans since Robinson’s 2016 hire. Prior to that, he spent 16 years in the Panthers’ scouting department. Having interviewed for several GM jobs over the past few years — including the Tennessee vacancy — Cowden should have an opportunity to catch on elsewhere soon.
  • The Texans have bumped Tom Hayden to their college scouting director post, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 notes. Previously the team’s college scouting coordinator, Hayden remains with the team despite arriving during the short-lived Brian Gaine GM tenure.
  • Jaguars cornerback Chris Claybrooks was hit with two misdemeanor charges — domestic assault with bodily injury and vandalism under $1,000 — last month stemming from an incident in Nashville. Authorities have dropped each charge due a settlement being reached, Michael DiRocco of notes. Claybrooks allegedly grabbed his ex-girlfriend’s arm and threw her cellphone to the ground.

Texans WR John Metchie Participating In Offseason Program

The draft was the source of many significant developments for the Texans, but another one also took place last week. Receiver John Metchie III made his long-awaited return to the practice field after battling both injury and health concerns in 2022.

Metchie missed his entire rookie campaign after being diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia in July, something which happened amidst his recovery from a torn ACL in his final college game. That understandably led to questions about his playing future, but Metchie has continued to make progress for several months. He is now set to take part in spring workouts in preparation of his NFL debut.

The 22-year-old Canadian put himself on the draft radar with a pair of productive seasons at Alabama in 2020 and ’21. Across that span, he totaled 151 catches, 2,058 yards and 14 touchdowns, helping the Crimson Tide to the national title game in his junior campaign; it was during that contest that he tore his ACL. The injury didn’t cause much a slide down the draft board, though, as Metchie was selected in the second round by the Texans.

“Nobody’s worked harder over the last however many months to get himself to this point,” general manager Nick Caserio said, via ESPN’s DJ Bien-Aime“So I wouldn’t say anybody is surprised that he’s arrived at this point… There are a lot of people that deserve a lot of credit that helped get to this point, starting with John. I’ll say it’s kind of inspiring to see somebody see that.”

Houston’s OTAs begin on May 22, and they will represent another signficant milestone in Metchie’s ongoing return to full health. He will look to compete for a place in the WR pecking order on a team which has made a few additions at the position in free agency (including Robert Woods) and selected a pair of rookies (third-rounder Nathaniel Dell and sixth-rounder Xavier Hutchinson) in the draft. The Texans’ offense will look different given those new pieces in the receiving corps, along with No. 2 pick C.J. Stroud at quarterback. Metchie’s ability to regain his college form with the team’s new signal-caller could go a long way in determining their individual and collective success in the short- and long-term future, provided his recovery continues as planned.

“He’s making progress,” Caserio added. “He’s in a good spot. You could have been any setbacks, but you know, [there’s] still a long road ahead of us. We had played a lot of football, but we’re all certainly cautiously optimistic about where he’s at.”

Latest On Cards’ Trades With Texans, Titans

A key party in a few teams’ early-round draft machinations, the Cardinals played a particularly important role in what could be long-term AFC South roster construction. They made deals with both the Texans and Titans, equipping each with potential 2020s pillars.

Both teams discussed prospective trades with the Cardinals before the draft. The Titans did not have to give up what it would have cost to move from No. 11 to No. 3 — a climb Tennessee was continually connected to attempting — but they had C.J. Stroud in mind. The new Texans quarterback was the Titans’ target at No. 3, with Albert Breer of confirming the team dropped out of trade talks after Houston took the Ohio State passer at 2.

The Titans were viewed as high on Stroud, and with the Texans believed to be planning to take a momentous risk — tabling their quarterback need yet again to select an edge rusher — it looked like Tennessee could have a clear path to trading up for its preferred passer. But Nick Caserio confirmed (via NBC Sports’ Peter King) his team had decided on Stroud at No. 2. That decision ran counter to just about every Texans-centric report leading up to the draft. Though, reports of Houston’s defensive end intent were not entirely inaccurate, given how the team proceeded at No. 3.

Although Caserio taking Stroud at No. 2 removed a buyer for 3 in the Titans, the Texans still traded a monster haul to land the Cardinals’ No. 3 choice. Houston gave up No. 33, along with first- and third-round picks in 2024. The Texans held two 2024 firsts, thanks to the historic Deshaun Watson package, and Houston’s first — not Cleveland’s — now belongs to Arizona. The Texans’ lengthy rebuild process has involved top-three draft real estate in each of the past three drafts, running a risk the team gave a prime draft asset for a non-quarterback in Will Anderson Jr. Two of the three Browns first-rounders acquired in the Watson trade ended up going toward Anderson.

Caserio and former Patriots coworker Monti Ossenfort had engaged in pre-draft talks about a trade involving the Nos. 3 and 12 picks, Breer adds, and King confirms the Cards and Texans agreed to the swap with “close to a minute left” on the clock.

It helped that I had a personal relationship with Nick Caserio in Houston,” Ossenfort said during an appearance on the Dave Pasch Podcast (via “… There was some back and forth there and the clock’s going, the clock’s going, and I think it was around two-and-a-half minutes where we have a couple of [different] deals up written up on the board [with] a couple of teams and it’s ‘OK, Nick, I think we’re at a spot where we are close here. It’s this and this for this, this and this. Are you in?’ ‘Yeah, I’m in.’ And it’s ‘OK, great, call it in.'”

Ossenfort had planned on trading back up and called multiple teams in order to secure Paris Johnson draft real estate. After talks with fellow former coworker Dave Ziegler did not produce a deal with the Raiders, Ossenfort found a taker in the Lions, allowing them to avoid taking Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 6.

The Cardinals and Titans revisited their talks Friday, and GM Ran Carthon pivoted to the freefalling Will Levis. The Titans had discussed a deal to move back into Round 1, with Levis as the target, with Breer adding they discussed the move with the Bills — at No. 27 — late Thursday night. The Titans were one of many teams trying to move back into the first round, and teams also made offers to the Steelers for 32. The Titans may well have been one of those to send the Steelers a proposal for 32, but they ended up trading 2023 and 2024 third-rounders to climb eight spots to 33 for the Kentucky QB.

This draft brought some notable what-ifs regarding the non-Jaguars wing of the AFC South, seeing as the Colts were tied to Levis for weeks only to have been preparing an Anthony Richardson pick for a while. Should Stroud, Richardson and Levis become surefire starters, this will certainly go down as one of the most pivotal drafts in the AFC South’s 22-year history.

Texans Open To Trading Down; Team Preparing To Pass On QB At No. 2?

Nick Caserio does not intend to leave Houston after the draft, but the third-year GM is facing a decision comparable to the Texans’ 2006 Reggie Bush-or-Mario Williams call. The Texans stunned the football masses 17 years ago by taking Williams at No. 1; they continue to be linked to making another unexpected move.

The Texans are willing to listen to offers for their No. 2 overall pick, Caserio said Monday, adding calls have come in. Teams with top-five choices generally listen, though franchises with clear quarterback needs could be considered less inclined to entertain offers. But the Texans are believed to have placed a bit of a value gap between expected No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud, who is now expected to be available at No. 2.

Suddenly, this draft’s potential early run on quarterbacks is far from a lock to continue at 2. The Texans look likely to pass on Stroud or any other quarterback at 2, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said during an NFL Live appearance (h/t Brobible’s Dov Kleiman). The prospect of Houston punting on filling its QB need at 2 has been out there for a bit now, but the consensus viewpoint has still been the team taking a passer — presumably Stroud — with the first of its two first-round picks. But the Texans also could nab a potentially safer pass-rushing prospect in this spot.

While the post-Peyton Manning Broncos, late-Doug Marrone-era Jaguars and Mitchell Trubisky-years Bears provide examples of the uphill battles that can form when high-end pass rushers are on teams without reliable quarterbacks, the Texans may well be considering Will Anderson Jr. or Tyree Wilson at 2. A previous report indicated the Texans were high on Anderson, but NBC Sports’ Peter King points to Wilson gaining steam, indicating he would not be surprised if the Texans chose the Texas Tech edge rusher over the two-time Bronko Nagurski award winner.

Both Anderson and Wilson have visited the Texans, and certain NFL staffers view the less productive Big 12 edge as presenting more upside than the SEC dynamo. Anderson finished with 27.5 sacks over the past two seasons; Wilson collected 14 and is coming off a season-ending foot injury. The Texans need help at defensive end, and former No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa obviously made a considerable impact on DeMeco Ryans‘ career progression. It would still be a risk if the Texans leave Stroud on the board, and it would be interesting to see if the team makes an active effort to trade down if/once the Panthers select Young.

Sitting at No. 4, the Colts view the prospect of all the non-Young QBs being available to them as realistic, Schefter adds. A recent report indicated Indianapolis was leaning against trading up for a passer. The Cardinals have spoken with several teams about trading the No. 3 overall pick, as those teams would seemingly aim to leapfrog the QB-needy Colts, but Schefter indicates Indy has a real shot of staying at 4 and landing this draft’s QB2.

This reality would take the Cardinals standing pat and taking the best player available, which could be the edge rusher the Texans do not draft, but a QB-QB-QB start to this draft suddenly appears unlikely. Mel Kiper Jr.’s most recent mock draft has a QB-QB-QB-QB start, featuring Anthony Richardson and Will Levis going at Nos. 3 and 4, but Schefter doused that in cold water. The Colts are believed to rank Levis over Richardson, but we are in peak misdirection season. Stroud sitting there at 4 could render a Richardson-or-Levis decision moot.

A scenario in which non-QBs go off the board at Nos. 2 and 3 would hinge on the Cardinals not receiving the offer they want, and it would certainly make the Panthers’ eight-spot trade-up before free agency — which cost them D.J. Moore, their 2024 first-round pick and other assets — subject to scrutiny it has not yet received. The Texans also would be sitting at No. 12 in need of a quarterback.

Case Keenum and Davis Mills represent the Texans’ current QB room, and while the 2024 draft could include highly touted QB prospects Caleb Williams (USC) and Drake Maye (North Carolina), the AFC South team — which also hosted potential second-rounder Hendon Hooker on a visit — would certainly take a risk by not addressing its top need this year.

Nick Caserio Denies He Will Leave Texans After Draft

Given the opportunity to hire three head coaches in his first three offseasons as Texans GM, Nick Caserio is overseeing what has become a unique rebuilding project. Even after Caserio brought in HC DeMeco Ryans — on a longer contract compared (six years) to those given to David Culley and Lovie Smith — rumblings of a potential mid-offseason departure emerged recently.

Caserio, whom the Texans gave a six-year contract in 2021, has been connected to leaving the Texans after the draft. Post-draft GM shakeups — like the one that led Brian Gaine out of Houston in 2019 — are not entirely uncommon. The Bills, Chiefs and Jets made GM changes after the draft during the late 2010s. Caserio, 47, did his best to shoot down rumors he could return to the Patriots after the draft, doing so after veteran Houston reporter John McClain indicated he did not buy into a potential Caserio midyear exit.

Quite frankly, I’m almost embarrassed I have to. I feel sort of like Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘Wolf of Wall Street.’ I’m not leaving,” Caserio said Monday, via ESPN’s DJ Bien-Aime. “There’s never really been any substantive discussions of the sort.”

Gaine was on the job for barely a year when the Texans fired him. That decision preceded Bill O’Brien becoming the rare modern head coach/general manager; O’Brien’s brief GM tenure led the Texans to a place in which a lengthy rebuild became necessary. The Texans poached Caserio from New England, after failing to pry away the longtime Bill Belichick right-hand man previously, and gave him the keys to this overhaul.

Progress has proven elusive, and Caserio firing rumors did surface late last year. While Caserio still leads the Texans’ front office, ownership is believed to be more involved with this year’s draft than in previous springs. The Texans hold the No. 2 overall pick and are not certain to go with a quarterback, despite the Deshaun Watson mess leaving them without a viable signal-caller over the past two seasons. Houston has gone 7-26-1 and needed a final-minute fourth-and-20 conversion — one that gave the Bears (and then the Panthers) the No. 1 overall pick — to win in Week 18.

Caserio’s Watson trade gave the Texans three additional first-round picks, making the Browns quarterback the first to fetch three future firsts in a trade haul since Jim Plunkett in 1976. The Plunkett trade package included extra firsts across two drafts; the Texans obtained the Browns’ 2022, ’23 and ’24 Round 1 choices. Caserio worked without first- or second-round picks during his initial Texans offseason and has brought in a high number of middling veterans on one- or two-year deals; this blueprint, as expected, did not lead to many wins. Davis Mills‘ second go-round as a starter led to the Texans’ win total dropping in 2022.

Caserio’s first two HC searches produced strange endings, with neither Culley nor Smith connected to other teams before taking over, and Houston’s roster remains low on cornerstone players. But the team can add two more potential pillars in the first round this year. Caserio insists he will still be around to oversee this operation after making those picks.

Latest On Texans GM Nick Caserio’s Job Security

Nick Caserio has found himself on the hot seat for months now, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be leaving the Texans any time soon. According to John McClain of Sports Radio 610 (via Twitter), the Texans general manager “isn’t going anywhere.”

Caserio made a name for himself during his two-decade stint in New England that eventually culminated in him earning the role of director of player personnel (despite the title, Bill Belichick still retained final personnel decisions). Following multiple attempts at recruiting the executive, the Texans finally landed Caserio as their new GM in 2021.

From a glass-half-full perspective, Caserio has done an admirable job restocking the team’s draft assets as they embarked on a total rebuild. Deshaun Watson‘s sudden trade request (and subsequent sexual misconduct headlines) led to the organization deactivating the QB, but the Texans emerged from the year-long soap opera with three first-round picks from Cleveland. Houston had zero first- or second-round picks during Caserio’s first offseason at the helm, but the team had multiple firsts last year (resulting in Derek Stingley and Kenyon Green) and will be armed with a pair of firsts and a pair of seconds in both 2023 and 2024.

From a glass-half-empty perspective, Caserio saw his organization fall from 4-13 in 2021 to 3-14 in 2022. The team was never expected to compete right away, but Caserio has seemingly acknowledged some of his mistakes along the way. The organization surprisingly fired David Culley after only one season, and they let go of Lovie Smith following his one season as head coach in 2022. DeMeco Ryans will now mark the third head coach in Caserio’s three years with the organization, and just the idea of that coaching carousel had the Texans losing confidence in their GM back in December. Further, the organization fired Jack Easterby, the executive who played a major role in bringing Caserio from Foxborough to Houston.

Following a 2022 campaign that featured few highlights, there were whispers that Caserio could end up getting canned. The organization decided to stick with Caserio through yet another head coaching search, and it sounds like they’re committed to him running another draft. However, if the Texans fail to show any progress in 2023, there’s a good chance the organization could be looking for a new general manager next offseason.

Texans, Lions, Bears Host Will Anderson Jr.; Houston Not Locked Into QB At No. 2?

Pre-draft visit season is in full swing, and the Texans are once again in possession of a top-three pick. The rebuilding team has long been expected to go with a quarterback at No. 2 overall, but GM Nick Caserio has not yet rushed into choosing a potential long-term Deshaun Watson replacement.

The Texans have met with Will Anderson Jr., Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 reports. Houston joins Chicago and Detroit in having met with the sought-after edge rusher. The Bears and Lions have made their plans known at quarterback, committing to Justin Fields and Jared Goff for 2023. The Texans’ meeting obviously proves more interesting.

Houston has been linked to Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud. Young and Will Levis have met with the Texans on pre-draft visits, and’s Ian Rapoport adds Stroud will do so Wednesday (Twitter link). Expected to be the second team to take a quarterback in this draft, the Texans are not a lock to do so. Were Caserio not to love a quarterback who will be available at 2, NBC Sports’ Peter King hears some chatter the Texans could draft Anderson, who is considered a safer bet. The team has not scheduled a meeting with Florida’s Anthony Richardson.

In this scenario, King notes the Texans could use their No. 12 overall pick to trade back into position for one of the top quarterbacks. But taking Anderson at 2 and sacrificing future draft capital for perhaps the draft’s third- or fourth-best QB may not be the best plan from a value standpoint, but if the Texans like Anderson that much, it is a potential blueprint to monitor. The Texans do not have much in the way of edge talent, having lost Ogbonnia Okoronkwo to the Browns in free agency. DeMeco Ryans built his head coaching candidacy on the strength of strong defensive lines. The Texans have signed Sheldon Rankins and still have Maliek Collins under contract, but they are light on edge-rushing presences.

This should still be considered the less likely route for Houston, and King expects Caserio to indeed commit to a quarterback at 2. This marks the GM’s second draft with Watson in the rearview mirror, and after making his first two HC hires (David Culley, Lovie Smith) one-and-dones, Caserio has likely moved closer to the hot seat. Passing on a quarterback — potentially a former Heisman winner in Young, as the Panthers have been more closely linked to Stroud as of late — in this spot will inject more risk into Caserio’s situation.

Anderson has recorded 27.5 sacks over the past two seasons; ESPN’s Scouts Inc. grades the two-time Bronko Nagurski trophy recipient as the second-best prospect in this year’s draft. Anderson sits between Young and Stroud on that list, further illustrating the risk the Texans would take by going with the acclaimed edge rusher. Both Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay’s most recent mock drafts have Houston taking Young at 2.

Holding the No. 6 pick, the Lions may be sitting a bit low for Anderson, who would obviously make for an intriguing pass rusher on an Aidan Hutchinson-anchored defensive line. Three quarterbacks are expected to be taken in the top five, though Richardson and Levis’ statuses are more difficult to peg compared to Stroud and Young’s. Anderson’s availability could depend on where the Cardinals end up — should they trade out of No. 3 overall — and how the Seahawks proceed at 5. Even if all four top QBs go in the top five, it would still leave one slot available for Anderson, whom both McShay and Kiper have as the first non-passer off the board. The Bears are eyeing pass-rushing help, but Anderson will probably be out of their reach at No. 9.

Latest On Sean Payton

JANUARY 22: A league source tells Ben Volin of the Boston Globe that, since the Chargers’ head coaching job will not become available this year, the Panthers’ and Texans’ posts will be of most interest to Payton. In Volin’s opinion, the fact that Wilson called Payton to sell him on the Broncos’ job is not a good omen for Denver, and if Payton were to be lured to Houston, he may ultimately push general manager Nick Caserio out and take over as de facto GM. Both Houston and Carolina have the cash to pay Payton the salary he wants.

JANUARY 20: Payton’s Panthers interview has not been cancelled. He will meet with the team Monday, Adam Schefter of tweets. That will be the former Saints HC’s third interview in a week. He met with the Texans on Jan. 16 and Broncos on Jan. 17.

JANUARY 19: The Broncos search for their fifth head coach since 2014 has been rolling this week as the franchise moves quickly and effectively in their plans. Denver’s three-person team of Broncos CEO and owner Greg Penner, owner Condoleezza Rice, and general manager George Paton has been cruising through initial interviews with a potential plan to move one to three finalists forward for second interviews next week, according to Mike Klis of 9NEWS.

Most speculation is that a final three is emerging, similar to last year’s trio of finalists which consisted of Nathaniel Hackett, Kevin O’Connell, and Dan Quinn. The obvious frontrunner in his year’s search is former Saints head coach Sean Payton. Quinn is projected to join Payton as a finalist for the second straight year, while former Stanford head coach David Shaw is reportedly a sleeper candidate to round out the top three.

Payton interviewed on Tuesday and appears to have lived up to the hype in the meeting. Contradicting earlier reports that the Broncos and Saints were “on the same page” with respect to the trade compensation necessary to acquire Payton’s contract, Klis avers that the two parties “have not engaged in trade talks.” There is also a rumor that, despite interest from essentially every other team in the NFL with an open position, Payton will either end up with the Broncos or back on television with FOX, a belief reported by Denver7’s Troy Renck.

Payton was scheduled to interview with Carolina tomorrow, but those plans are “on hold” as Panthers owner David Tepper is spending time with the grieving players of his MLS team, Charlotte FC, following the passing of young defender Anton Walkes in a tragic boating accident today in Miami, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Russell Wilson has reportedly reached out to Payton, according to Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd who was quoted on his show saying, “Wilson has contacted Sean, legally, by the way, through channels. He wants Sean Payton. He needs fixing. He knows he needs fixing.”

Following their Tuesday morning meeting with Payton, the interview trio met with Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris who impressed them “with his preparation and plan to win.” The same three executives interviewed 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans today in San Francisco and will travel to Dallas for a meeting with Quinn tomorrow. This will conclude the initial interview process, and Denver will choose candidates moving forward out of the above-mentioned Payton, Quinn, Shaw, Morris, and Ryans and previously interviewed candidates Ejiro Evero, who is the team’s current defensive coordinator, and Jim Caldwell, who formerly served as the Colts and Lions head coach. The team also previously interviewed Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, but Harbaugh announced his decision to remain in Ann Arbor.

Whomever the franchise decides to move forward with will meet with a new group of executives consisting of Penner, his wife and co-owner Carrie Penner Walton, and controlling owner Rob Walton. Paton will reportedly also be available to spend time with the final candidates and participate in follow-up discussions.

It’s certainly sounding like Payton will be one of the few to move forward next week as both parties sound hellbent on the union. That being said, Quinn is being considered a “co-favorite” and Shaw’s Stanford connections to the Penners and Rice make him a candidate to be brought in next week, as well. We’ll just have to wait through the weekend to see how the next round in the process unfolds.

Texans Owner Cal McNair Addresses HC Search

The Texans enter the offseason once again needing to find a new head coach, after they dismissed Lovie Smith last week. That move marked a second straight one-and-done year on the sidelines in Houston, and added to the tumult the organization has dealt with since the Bill O’Brien era came to an end.

The latter was fired during the 2020 season, and replaced on an interim basis by Romeo Crennel. That led to an underwhelming stint with David Culley last year, and then the unorthodox process by which Smith was installed as head coach after serving as the team’s defensive coordinator. Overall, the Texans have gone 11-38-1 over the past three years and have plenty of roster holes to fill as they continue their rebuild.

The team’s search for what they hope will be a long-term hire on the sidelines will take on a slightly different look this time. Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 details how owner Cal McNair will use a more hands-on approach during the selection process, a departure from his stance in previous years which left general manager Nick Caserio at the forefront of Culley’s and Smith’s respective selections.  

“Now we’re committed to getting this one right,” McNair said. “I have full confidence in Nick. He has led our football operations through a difficult stretch and continues to prove he is an elite talent evaluator. We talk constantly and have a plan for this process that we’ll execute together over the next days and weeks. For this hire, I’ll be taking on a more active role in the process.”

Caserio himself has also said the 2023 hiring process will be more comprehensive in terms of the personnel involved. He noted the organization’s intention of “implementing some different techniques and tactics” and receiving input from a larger number of voices in the building. That admission comes at a time when changes could be coming in the front office. CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson reports (via Twitter) that “due diligence background and research” is ongoing regarding Texans personnel, though any moves will likely not threaten Caserio’s job security.

As for the HC vacancy, one factor to watch could be the latter’s background in New England. Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reports that McNair would be “leery” of hiring a coach with Patriots ties, in light of Caserio’s experience with the team. That could hurt the candidacy of, for instance, Jerod Mayo and Brian Flores, and at least partially explain why neither of them have been connected to this year’s Texans vacancy.

In spite of the uncertainty surrounding Houston’s future, McNair remains optimistic. “We know the last two seasons have not been what we had hoped for, but we’re committed to building a program that’s successful long-term,” he said. “We’ve dealt with unprecedented circumstances over the last several years, but we’re excited about our future and where we’re headed.”

Texans Could Fire HC Lovie Smith, GM Nick Caserio

9:13pm: When speaking to reporters after the team’s win over the Colts (which, given its effect on the upcoming draft, has not been perceived as such), Smith downplayed the swirling speculation that he is on the way out.

“First off, there are reports,” he said, via Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. “I don’t know what the reports are… Do I expect to be back? Yeah, I expect to be back. Absolutely.” He added that his most recent meeting with McNair was simply the latest in regular post-game sit-downs between the two. Depending on what takes place tomorrow, his remarks could prove to be well-founded or wind up being a moot point.

2:44pm: One of the teams generating the most attention around the NFL with respect to potential changes on the sidelines and in the front office is the Texans. Houston has been marked by instability and underwhelming win-loss records in recent years, and their rebuild could soon be headed in a very different direction.

Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reports that one of head coach Lovie Smith, general manager Nick Caserio or both “will be gone” at the conclusion of the regular season, putting them in danger of being fired tomorrow (video link). Given recent reporting on each of them, that would come as little surprise, in spite of the continued turbulence the organization would be undergoing in the event of a third straight coaching change.

KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson corroborates the sense that Smith, 64, will not return in 2023. As his sources explain, the team’s on-field performance – including a 2-13-1 record heading into today’s season finale against the Colts, and struggles in almost every category on both sides of the ball – is only one reason for a likely change. Others include the way he is perceived in the organization with respect to his approach and his stubbornness to alter it.

Smith (whose job status was one the Texans were already reported to be planning to evaluate following the season) has taken steps in recent days to try and avoid receiving a pink slip. The former Coach of the Year has been meeting with owner Cal McNair to “state his case” for being retained for at least one more year, per Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Smith would join David Culley as a one-and-done bench boss in Houston in consecutive seasons should his efforts prove futile.

Notably, Wilson reports that Caserio should actually be considered to be on relatively solid footing, adding that sources would be “extremely surprised” if he is let go. The longtime Patriots exec was, like Smith, reported to be on thin ice in the wake of the Texans’ struggles this year, one in which expectations were tempered. The 2022 season was always likely to include a long list of losses, but a lack of development by quarterback Davis Mills in particular has made the season a disappointing one.

The Texans are slated to pick no worse than second overall in the upcoming draft, however, which will give the franchise an opportunity to add a long-term answer at the position. That – coupled with a notable stock of other picks, cap space and a small group of young, encouraging players – could make the GM job an enticing one, should Caserio be dismissed. As for a potential Smith replacement, both Glazer and the NFLN pair name 49ers defensive coordinator (and former Texans linebacker) DeMeco Ryans as a name to watch when the coaching cycle begins to heat up.