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
John McClain: Nick Caserio commits to remaining as Texans’ GM but won’t commit to drafting a franchise quarterback
General manager Nick Caserio didn’t wait for what would have been the obvious first question at his pre-draft news conference on Monday. He addressed the elephant in the room – speculation that he’s leaving the Texans after the draft. It was a preposterous story that made no sense to begin with, but it grew some legs after starting at the NFL meetings in Phoenix late last month.
“I’m not leaving,” Caserio said at NRG Stadium.
He couldn’t have been more emphatic. Unlike some general managers, Caserio isn’t known for telling lies when he doesn’t have to. He talks a lot to the media but says very little. It’s an art he’s mastered — not giving honest answers to questions because he doesn’t want to disclose anything he believes is pertinent to the Texans doing business. But this wasn’t a response to a question.
“There’s never been any substantive discussions of the sort,” Caserio said. “I don’t think there’s anything else to say or question about it.”
Common sense told us Caserio wasn’t going anywhere before he brought it up. Think about it: He’s in the third year of a six-year contract that pays him $5 million a year. Hannah and Cal McNair praised the heck out of Caserio at the NFL meetings. They couldn’t be happier with him. He hired DeMeco Ryans as the new head coach, a popular decision with the McNair family, fans, and media. He and Ryans work well together. He’s helped the Texans stockpile 12 draft choices next week, including two in the first round, three of the top 33, and five of the top 73.
Even though the Texans have combined to win 11 games over the last three seasons, the destructive and embarrassing atmosphere that existed at NRG Stadium has been replaced by optimism and excitement. There’s positivity rather than negativity, and Caserio has helped foster that environment. He’s not going anywhere.
“Unfortunately, I think this time of year there’s a lot of information and a lot of topics that are discussed,” he said. “Some are more accurate than others, and I think it transcends multiple landscapes.
“(I’m) grateful and appreciative of the opportunity my family and I have in Houston. My goal is to try to do the best job I can for the people in this organization, in this building, for the city, and as long as ownership approves of what we’re trying to do, then certainly their support is welcomed. We understood when we got here there was a lot of work to be done. I think we’ve made some progress (but) we still have a lot of work in front of us. It’s been a joy to work with DeMeco as we build the team.”
This is an important draft for Caserio. It’s the third consecutive year he’s been challenged by preparing with a different head coach. Ryans follows Lovie Smith and David Culley.
Caserio appears to have solved some needs in free agency by signing prospective starters in tight end Dalton Schultz, receiver Robert Woods, safety Jimmie Ward and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins as well as trading for right guard Shaq Mason.
Caserio also acquired some quality depth to enhance competition, including quarterback Case Keenum, running back Devin Singletary, receiver Noah Brown, defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway and linebackers Denzel Perryman and Cory Littleton.
One thing we know about Caserio is there will be trades during the draft. Perhaps before. He admitted Monday he’s had calls about the second overall pick and is open for business if a team wants to pay enough to get him to deal.
“We’ve received some calls on the No. 2 pick,” he said with a laugh. “Are we open for business, I would say we’re open to listening. I think our job is to not rule anything out (and) to listen, try to take the information in, and then make the right decision. I think whatever the end result is, we’ll be prepared to go either way.”
There’s growing sentiment around the NFL that quarterback Bryce Young is going to Carolina with the first pick and that the Texans could bypass the second-ranked quarterback, C.J. Stroud, for an edge rusher like Will Anderson Jr. or Tyree Wilson.
An edge rusher is one of the Texans’ most glaring needs. Jerry Hughes, who led the team with nine sacks last season, turns 35 in August. Jonathan Greenard, who led the team with eight sacks in 2021, enters the last year of his contract and has missed 14 games over the last two seasons, including nine in 2022. Caserio elected to not re-sign Obo Okoronkwo, who had five sacks last season and signed with Cleveland.
Quarterback is the most desperate need. If the Texans had to play this week, either Keenum or Davis Mills would be the starter. There are talented edge rushers who’ll be available with the 12th and 33rd picks. The only quarterback who’s expected to be available at 12 is Hendon Hooker, who’s 25 and coming off major knee surgery. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, and Will Levis should be long gone.
Caserio was asked if it’s possible the Texans will finish the draft without a quarterback, and he gave a typical response.
“Anything’s possible,” he said.
And he wasn’t winking.
“I think what’s possible — and what the hope is — we can come out of this draft with good players we think can help our team,” he said. “That’s what we’re focused on doing. I think we’ve been consistent, look at our options and what those entail. We won’t eliminate anything. That’s really the decision-making process we’re going to go through.”
And if that process doesn’t include a franchise quarterback in the first round, maybe Caserio will shock the world – not by leaving the Texans but by pursuing Lamar Jackson. That’s the only reason not drafting a quarterback would make sense.
(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).
John what is your new email address?
I think it’s time for Cal McNair to step in and tell Nick Caserio that with the #2 pick you are taking the QB that is left and then at#12 you are taking the WR from Ohio State. End of discussion then you are in your own for the rest of the draft.