Sep 23, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio walks on the field before the game against the Carolina Panthers at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Caserio sheds light on why Lovie was fired after one year
In meeting the media Monday to announce the firing of head coach Lovie Smith and the start of a new coaching search, Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio revealed the reasons behind the firing and what he is looking for in a new head coach.
Caserio gave a peek behind the curtain at what led to the firings of Culley and Smith after one season. While there will be people who want to make the firings about race because it will generate a lot of clicks, the truth of the matter is both men failed spectacularly at their jobs. Perhaps Smith even more than the underqualified Culley. So why was the organization unwilling to work with the two coaches for more than one season?
Caserio’s answer to a question about why any black coach should trust the organization revealed the true issues.
“I think each individual is going to have to make that choice. In the end, it’s not about race. It’s about finding quality coaches. There’s a lot of quality coaches. David (Culley) is a quality coach. Lovie (Smith) is a quality coach. In the end, each coach has their own beliefs. Each coach has their own philosophy. Each coach has their comfort level about what we’re doing. That’s all I can do is just be honest and forthright, which I’ve done from the day that I took this job, and I’m going to continue to do that and try to find a coach that we feel makes the most sense for this organization. That’s the simplest way I can answer it, and that’s my commitment. That’s what I’m hired to do, and that’s what I’m in the position to do. At some point, if somebody feels that that’s not the right decision for this organization, then I have to respect that, and I have to accept it.”
The seventh sentence is where it all kicks in. Each coach had their own beliefs, philosophy, and comfort level with what the Texans were doing. In other words, the coaches were not on the same page as management. That is indicative of hiring coaches you have to settle for instead of coaches you want.
We know David Culley did not exactly have a firm grasp of “analythics,” as he called it, and never grasped an understanding of time management. There are already reports that Smith refused to listen to players and staffers, or really anyone giving him any input. He was going to coach his way, and he refused to adjust.
When the coach is shutting players out and not communicating with them, there is no way that is going to be a successful situation. Lovie’s defense was bottom three in the NFL, last in run defense and first in missed tackles. Defense is supposed to be his calling card. His outdated and predictable Tampa 2 was a failure. He wouldn’t make adjustments, wouldn’t listen to players’ ideas. Essentially, he put his players in a position where success was impossible.
His offensive unit was also bottom three, scoring the second-fewest points in the league. The offense was anemic. They didn’t demonstrate a downfield passing game until Week 18. They couldn’t run the ball without the tackle-breaking ability of Dameon Pierce. The play-calling, just as it was under Culley, was often mind-boggling.
To be fair, in pretty much every normal everyday job, if you aren’t on the same page as your boss, you get fired. If you don’t listen to your boss’ input and fail, you get fired. If you ignore your staff’s input and those who report to you because you know better but fail miserably, you get fired. The Texans aren’t doing anything different than essentially what the Astros just did with James Click. Click was successful, but couldn’t get on the same page as his boss. Culley and Smith failed terribly, and couldn’t get on the same page with the boss.
Whether it was a push for more power, whether it was the idea that the team wouldn’t dismiss a head coach (or two) after one season, whether it was stubbornness by 66 and 63-year-old head coaches, there was a refusal to work in concert with the front office. The new coach will not be hired without a stated commitment to working in conjunction with the front office, similar to how baseball managers and front offices usually work today (think Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch).
This is the kind of coach Caserio wants, someone who will embrace the data and analytics as he does. Someone who can work collaboratively. Someone he can trust to develop young players better. While he wouldn’t specifically say a younger head coach, I believe it’s pretty clear that is what he is looking for as opposed to an older, retread coach set in his ways.
Great article Pat.