Mandatory Credit: Photo by Eric Christian Smith/AP/Shutterstock (13091613g) Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio before an NFL preseason football game against the New Orleans Saints, in Houston Saints Texans Football, Houston, United States – 13 Aug 2022
For nearly two years, Nick Caserio has been slicker than Teflon and about as interesting.
Even in his most candid interview settings, Caserio’s version of unguarded candor has been something of a cross between a surgeon talking into a Dictaphone and a data analyst explaining coding.
Yet we have loved every second of it.
Because Caserio is smart, polished, and actually has a football resume that does not involve being an overly ambitious chaplain, a despotic ogre, or a bungling figurehead. But we will get to Jack Easterby, Bill O’Brien, and David Culley.
For a dysfunctional, untrusted franchise, Caserio was a welcome change. He was a distant hope that someday, maybe, hopefully, for-the-love-of-all-things-holy, these Texans would be more than a team known for estranged players and strife. They would be more than bad decisions, alienated fans, and the face of the franchise embroiled in a bona fide tabloid sex scandal.
Since taking over as Texans general manager, Caserio’s team is 5-23-1, but who cares? Caserio arrived with a plan, and outside of a few hiccups – hey, nobody is perfect – that plan has gone swimmingly.
Year One was a swab-the-decks kind of experience. O’Brien was gone, Easterby was tolerated, and Deshaun Watson’s head-spinning scandal was ignored more than 1939-1945 in German history books. Did we mention PR has not been the Texans’ strong suit?
Meanwhile, Caserio got his feet wet by bringing in an empty-suit head coach named Culley, drafting potentially serviceable warm bodies, and signing last-leg players willing to cash a few more big checks for the sake of the bigger picture. That is, the big picture being stinking. But with grace.
Year Two fell perfectly for Caserio, too. In fact, it could not have gone better if pre-oxycodone Paula Abdul choreographed it.
Everyone else was a focal point and potential fall guy, while Caserio was the Teflon-smart Silicone Valley-referencing adult in the room. He avoided an Easterby-inspired disaster of former NFL backup and high school Bible-thumping volunteer coach Josh McCown taking over. Instead, thanks to a well-timed lawsuit by Brian Flores, Caserio landed with the normal, if low-key surly next guy in the room, Lovie Smith.
And so there he was, a hero. Caserio finally traded Watson for superb draft compensation and drafted young talent that seemed skilled and significantly interesting. Ultimately, even Easterby was ousted earlier this season. (By the way, thank you, baby geebus, for that.)
For nearly two years, most everything has gone Caserio’s way. Mostly, it has been because so many other parts of this organization were so bad and/or incompetent. It was so hard to find flaw with the guy who was just trying to keep this wayward ship between the buoys; even his word-salad deflective answers and explanations were tolerable.
The insulation has been stripped. The buffer is gone. While the best thing Caserio has done is rid this club of bad things, bad people, and bad vibes, the result is now he is the focal point. Caserio has nowhere else to deflect, no more purdy words to use as a shield.
The final piece of insulation between Caserio and fans’ focus turning to him and his endless string of non-sequiturs was starting quarterback Davis Mills. Mills was benched heading into Houston’s game against the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 27.
Or so we hear. So it has been reported.
Neither Caserio nor Lovie Smith confirmed or denied, with Caserio, when asked, stringing together a number of Caserio-isms about Mills struggles being a microcosm of the team, looking at things “in totality” and referencing Colt McCoy, Taylor Heinicke, and “everyone around him.”
That stuff will not play anymore.
Caserio needs to put Slick Nick on the shelf. Starting Sunday and into the offseason, which will include more premium draft picks, this team is his. And his alone. So, too, is the public accountability.
The decisions are his. The repercussions are his.
There may well be another head coach on the way – Caserio’s third hire. Thank you, baby geebus for that, too. Lovie has been a disaster, especially in front of the microphones trying to explain himself.
As much as Caserio has been able to avoid criticism for nearly two years, whatever happens from this point forward is on him. And no amount of deflecting will change that. The days of references to systems and processes, global views, and organizational behaviors are over.
It was cute and welcomed for a while, but tick, tick, tick. The clock on Nick Caserio’s tenure has started. Time to quit with the catchphrases. This team needs a coach, a quarterback, and a future fans can embrace.
Year Three is all about Slick Nick.