Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
John McClain: Caserio declines to disclose quarterback strategy during interview at scouting combine
INDIANAPOLIS – About two out of every three questions directed at general manager Nick Caserio on Tuesday involved the Texans trying to solve their quarterback problem with the second overall pick in the draft.
Caserio certainly didn’t step out of character on the first day of media sessions for general managers and coaches at the scouting combine. In other words, he talked a lot but disclosed nothing. He’s turned it into an art form.
Caserio pointed out in DeMeco Ryans’ introductory news conference as the new head coach that because the Texans have only one quarterback under contract, Davis Mills, they have an obvious need to fortify the most important position on the team. He didn’t say how they could go about fixing the problem.
Caserio said Tuesday they might draft a quarterback with their first pick, but they also might select a player at another position. He didn’t mention names, but the highest-rated prospects are Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter and Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. Caserio also acknowledged the Texans could swap spots with the Bears, who have the first pick, but they also could stay at No. 2. And, of course, Caserio could trade down.
“It’s how do we build the best team?” Caserio said. “That’s what the focus is. Offensive football isn’t about one person. We’ll do the thing we feel is best for the organization. Whoever that player is, whether it’s a quarterback or a player at another position, we’ll do whatever we think makes the most sense.”
The bottom line is the Texans are desperate to find a franchise quarterback, but Caserio will never admit it publicly, even though everyone knows it. It doesn’t matter how many questions he’s asked about it, he’ll never disclose his strategy.
We do know this: Caserio isn’t going to find a franchise quarterback in free agency that begins March 15. It’s the draft or bust. The top-four quarterbacks who’ll go in the first round are Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis, and Florida’s Anthony Richardson. Stroud, Levis, and Richardson are throwing at the combine on Saturday when quarterbacks take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Asked about his plan to find a quarterback, Caserio said with a straight face,
“We’re really looking at the entire team-building process. We know we’re going to add to this position. I would say it’s probably going to be a combination of the draft and free agency. It could be two (quarterbacks), however it goes.
We’re going to look at whatever resources we have available to us (and) try to make the right decision, but it’s not about one position.”
You could strap down Caserio and start to pull out his toenails, and he wouldn’t budge from what he’ll reveal about their plans. He knows the Bears are going to try to get the Texans and AFC South rival Indianapolis, which has the fourth overall pick, in a competition to trade up to the top spot so one of them will get the quarterback they covet.
Caserio has 11 draft choices this year, including the 12th overall pick, and 10 next year, including two more first-round selections. He’s got the draft capital to wheel and deal if he chooses to. In a perfect world for the Texans, Caserio and Ryans will like two quarterbacks equally and be guaranteed of getting one of them.
“I think we’re focused on the Texans,” he said about a possible trade with the Bears. “We’re not necessarily worried about what other teams around us are doing. You’re cognizant of that (trading up), but ultimately, you have to be prepared to pick wherever you’re going to pick. Then, be prepared to pick whatever player. Again, you can’t really get too caught up in what other teams are doing. You just try to make decisions that you feel are best for your team.”
A large part of what the Texans do in the draft is based on what they do in free agency. They have a lot of needs on both sides of the ball. Going into his third season with the Texans, Caserio has some room under the salary cap. Does he go for the grand slam in free agency or settle for players who don’t break the bank?
“Philosophically, DeMeco and I feel the same way,” Caserio said. “It’s not about one player. It’s not about one position. It’s about building a good team, and if you have a good team, that gives you the best chance to have some success. That’s what our focus is going to be.”
Since Ryans was hired, he and Caserio have spent a lot of time together. Until the draft is over, they’ll spend more time with each other than their wives.
“It’s been awesome,” Caserio said. “He’s been great. Everything I heard or knew about him beforehand has come to fruition. The things you experience during the interview process, and then you’re able to see that up close and personal. It kind of matches. The honeymoon period is probably over, and now we have some work to do. It’s been a lot of fun to come to the office. The staff has been great to work with to this point. We know we have a lot of work in front of us. Nothing is going to happen overnight, but it’s been great to have him around.
“He’s been very open-minded, very thoughtful. We take our time and really want to think through decisions. We’ve had a lot of open communication. There’s been a lot of dialogue. We met as a staff (Monday) offensively and defensively and went through their evaluation. We wanted to hear the staff’s thoughts. DeMeco has his thoughts, and I have my thoughts, and we’re going to try and blend everything together.”
Ryans, who came to the combine Tuesday night, is scheduled to meet with the media on Wednesday. The Texans left their coaches in Houston.
“We just felt the best thing for the new staff was to stay back and work on scheme and familiarizing themselves with our team,” Caserio said. “We’ll try to maximize our opportunities here this week and then head back to Houston to get ready for free agency and keep building the team. Exciting time for the organization. Exciting time for the city.”
And it’ll be even more exciting for Texans’ fans if Caserio and Ryans find a franchise quarterback in the draft.
(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).