Dec 18, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans chief executive officer D. Cal McNair and wife Hannah McNair on the field before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
John McClain: Cal and Hannah McNair ‘thrilled’ about the draft and the direction Texans are headed under Caserio, Ryans
Nobody in the organization was more excited about the Texans’ draft than owners Janice, Cal, and Hannah McNair. With the hiring of coach DeMeco Ryans and their selection of quarterback C.J. Stroud and defensive end Will Anderson Jr. at the top of their draft, the Texans have finally turned the corner from a whirlwind of controversy and negativity to a new direction that is reinvigorating the fan base.
“I’m thrilled about the draft,” Cal McNair said. “We’re trying to make good decisions, and, hopefully, time will tell that we’re getting the kind of results we want.”
General manager Nick Caserio solved the Texans’ two biggest issues – a quarterback and a pass rusher by using the second and third overall picks on Stroud and Anderson. Caserio’s stunning move up to get Anderson sent shock waves through the NFL.
“It took almost the whole 10 minutes,” Cal said about the trade. “You never know until it goes through and becomes official. It took us until the last minute to get it agreed on. We were a little on edge, but it worked out.”
In the trade with Arizona, Caserio received the third overall pick and a fourth-round draft choice. He sent the Cardinals the 12th and 33rd overall picks this year and first- and third-round selections next year. The trade left the Texans have eight picks in 2024, including selections in the first, second, and third rounds.
When the draft concluded with nine selections, Ryans, offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, defensive coordinator Matt Burke, and the other assistants celebrated the talent and potential in this class of prospects.
After taking Stroud and Anderson, Caserio targeted other needs with receivers Tank Dell and Xavier Hutchinson and centers Juice Scruggs and Jarrett Patterson, both of whom can also play guard. Defensive end Dylan Horton, middle linebacker Henry To’oTo’o and safety Brandon Hill also will compete for playing time.
“I think we added good players all over the place,” Cal said. “It’s exciting to get good players who’ll come in and make a good contribution. They’ll work hard and be a good part of the team. It’s really fun to see. I can’t wait to see them get here for the rookie minicamp (May 12-13).”
The excitement over the Ryans hiring and the draft class seems to signal a reversal of misfortune for the Texans that began in the playoffs after the 2019 season when they blew a 24-0 lead at Kansas City and lost 51-31 in the divisional round.
The unraveling continued when Bill O’Brien made one of the worst trades in NFL history. In March of 2020, he sent All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona for running back David Johnson and a second-round draft choice that was wasted on defensive tackle Ross Blacklock. Both were busts with the Texans.
After the 0-4 start in 2020, Cal McNair fired O’Brien as coach and general manager. He promoted Jack Easterby to interim general manager. The week after that four-win season, Deshaun Watson demanded to be traded, and then J.J. Watt asked for and was given his release. The first Watson civil lawsuit was filed, and they continued to pile up, accusing the quarterback of sexual assault and misconduct.
Caserio, who was hired in January of 2021 not having a clue about what he was getting into, was given the assignment of cleaning up the mess. He didn’t have first- and second-round draft choices in 2021 because of O’Brien’s trades. He did have a salary cap issue. But the biggest problem of all was what to do with Watson, who was inactive for every game that season until he was shipped to the Browns.
It’s hard to imagine Caserio getting a better deal than he got from Cleveland. He traded Watson and a sixth-round draft choice in 2024. He received three first-round picks, a fourth-round selection in 2022, a third-round pick in 2023, and a fourth-rounder in 2024.
But the Texans’ bumbling continued. They won four games in 2021 and three last season. Coach David Culley was fired, and they almost hired Easterby’s candidate, Josh McCown with no head-coaching experience, before turning to Lovie Smith, who was also fired after one season.
“I know it seems like we just turned the corner, but we’ve been working on this for quite sometime,” Hannah McNair said. “It’s just nice to see it all come to fruition.”
Off the field, the perception of the Texans took a turn for the better when Easterby was fired last season, removing a dark cloud over the organization that was created when he was hired in 2019 and developed a close relationship with O’Brien. The fan meter reached its highest level in January when the McNair family brought back Ryans to Houston, where he played six seasons. Then last week’s draft provided hope for the organization rather than despair.
“The buzz is so incredible,” Hannah said. “The energy is great. I can’t wait to see our stadium full.”
Just about everyone associated with the Texans draft saw how well Caserio and Ryans worked together. They met with the McNairs almost every day to keep them up to date with what was transpiring.
“Nick, DeMeco, and Cal were totally aligned,” Hannah said. “It was awesome to see that alignment across the board. They worked through everything together. There was no disagreement. It was like, ‘We love these guys. How do we get them?’ That’s what they worked so hard on. It gave me goose bumps to see them all together – the energy is so magnetic it’s incredible.”
Hannah and Cal McNair aren’t looking over their shoulders, only straight ahead. They’re thinking about the positive, not the negativity from three disastrous seasons.
“We have short memories, like a goldfish,” Hannah said with a laugh.
Now the Texans have to take the optimism to the field, where the rookie minicamp, OTAs, and the mandatory minicamp precede training camp and preseason. When the schedule is released on May 11, fans will start to make predictions about the Texans’ record, and many will get carried away, but that’s a good considering the current climate.
(John McClain writes four columns a week for GallerySports.com. He can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on SportsRadio610.com).