Was Caserio coy on Texans’ plans at quarterback in draft, or did he give an outline?

Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio during the NFL combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Was Caserio coy on Texans’ plans at quarterback in draft, or did he give an outline?

Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio continued to be very guarded on any and all plans regarding the upcoming NFL draft.

It really is an art form, the ability to use a lot of words to say very little. Caserio is a master at this art.

Few in the NFL are as buttoned down when it comes to information as Caserio, no strange concept considering where he previously worked and who he previously worked for.

While common sense would dictate that not only are the Texans taking a quarterback with the second overall pick in a conference dominated by elite-level quarterbacks (Mahomes, Burrow, Allen, Jackson, Herbert, and Watson, to name a few), it is officially “lying season” in the NFL. It’s a time-honored tradition of blowing as much smoke as possible to convince everyone else that you may not do what seems to be the smartest and most obvious thing to do.

On Monday, when speaking to the media, Caserio gave a master class in how to serve word soup with nothing in it. However, he did leave enough between the lines to be interpreted.

When asked how important it is to get the quarterback position solved and settled, Caserio served some first course word salad.

“Yeah, I think there are a lot of different ways to go through the team. We’ll look at everything. I think DeMeco (Ryans) made some comments, I want to say he spoke last Monday or something like that and was asked some questions. We want to have a good football team. I think building a team is the most important thing. How that all comes together, there is always multiple moving parts, so we’ll do whatever we think is best for our team and try to make good decisions. The goal so to try to make good decisions over the course of time. Next opportunity is next Thursday night, so we’ll continue the team-building process and build on some of the things we’ve done here in the spring.”

Clearly, if they want to have a good football team, they need to have better talent at quarterback. Case Keenum is now 35 years old. Since his career season in 2017, he is 9-17 as a starter while playing for Denver, Washington, and Cleveland. He threw seven passes last season as Josh Allen’s backup in Buffalo. He completed two of them for eight yards. Case is not a starting quarterback in the NFL at this stage of his career.

If you watched any Texans football last season, I don’t need to remind you how badly Davis Mills played in 2022. Davis Mills is not taking this team forward, unfortunately.

There are no free agents worth pursuing, and considering the Baltimore Ravens offered Lamar Jackson a deal with $200 million guaranteed per Ian Rapoport, a trade isn’t likely forthcoming involving the Houston Texans.

All of these things together indicate the path to the best possible quarterback for this team is in the draft.

The expectation is that Bobby Slowik, who was the 49ers’ passing game coordinator last season and is now the Texans’ offensive coordinator, is going to run a similar offense to his former boss, Kyle Shanahan. Slowik knows exactly the kind of quarterback he needs to be successful with that system. He and his new boss DeMeco Ryans got an up close and personal look at several quarterbacks playing in San Francisco last season.

The high draft pick, Trey Lance, fizzled and then suffered a terrible injury. The veteran, Jimmy Garoppolo, overcame his offseason banishment as the team tried to trade him, took over for the injured Lance, and played very well (over 67% completion, 16 TD, 4 INT) before an injury would end his season. Brock Purdy, who was Mr. Irrelevant in the 2022 NFL Draft, also had success in the Niners system (over 67% completion, 13 TD 4 INT) due to his accuracy and ability to move through his reads quickly.

When Caserio was asked about what he may have learned from Ryans and Slowik in terms of what kind of quarterback they had success with in San Francisco and what they may be seeking in a quarterback, Caserio served an entire main course of word supper:

“I would say there is a lot of carryover in terms of like what’s important to the quarterback position. I would say in those conversations I think we’re in agreement on a lot of those qualities. Ultimately, it comes down to how your team plays on Sunday, so in the end, it’s going to be a collective effort. How we play offensively, situationally on both sides of the ball, how we play in the kicking game. So that doesn’t change. Are there things that are maybe not more important, but, hey, maybe this is something that we look for or put a little bit more emphasis on this, OK, you take that into consideration. But ultimately we’re going to try to make the best decision for our team that makes the most sense for everybody involved. Part of my job is to take in as much information as possible and to take in input from as many people as possible. And, again, we’ve had a lot of constructive and collaborative discussions across the organization, offensively and defensively, and then with Frank’s (Ross) input from the kicking game as well. In the end, it all has to fit together. The number one job of I would say a team, it’s about scoring one more point than the other team, so how do we get to that point. It’s about how you play on Sunday. How you play on Sunday is a product of how you handle situational football. How you handle situational football is a product of who is on your team and do the players on the field understand what’s important. So regardless of the team, regardless of who is coaching, those aren’t going to change. Philosophically how you get to that point could be different. Each team will approach it a little bit differently. I would say from that perspective it’s been kind of refreshing to hear just another viewpoint, another perspective. In the end, we have to mesh it all together and ultimately making a decision for the Houston Texans, not one individual person.”

Now it seems like Caserio just blabbered about nothing, but I highlighted the passages in that enormous quote for a reason. They were the windows that he left open for interpretation.

I don’t believe for one second that DeMeco Ryans took the Texans’ job so that they could stink and come in last place for another season. With the salary cap space they had and the draft capital they have, this has been the year that the team would be expected to make progress in winning football games. Of course, no one wins football games if the quarterback stinks.

Obviously, the best decision for the team is to find a franchise quarterback. Ideally, one capable of playing Week 1 in the 2023 NFL season for the Houston Texans, as they currently do not have a starting quarterback.

Then there is Caserio’s comment about situational football, which is a bigger hint. Bryce Young is noted for being at his best when he needs to improvise. C.J. Stroud showed off his athleticism and ability to make plays with both his arm and his legs on the run when Ohio State played Georgia in the CFP semifinal game in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta against the best defense in college football. They are the only two quarterbacks in the draft with extremely high grades across the board for arm talent, execution, improvisation, and accuracy.

Considering accuracy was a successful trait of both Garoppolo and Purdy in San Francisco, accuracy should be an essential trait for the Texans’ next franchise quarterback as well. Protecting the football and not turning it over would also be important, so an accurate quarterback who can work through their progressions quickly without turning the ball over. Again, that leads us to only two choices in this draft, Young and Stroud.

So while Caserio didn’t openly say what his plans were, you have to understand he was never going to. Caserio doesn’t deal in transparency when it comes to his future plans, and an argument can be made he can’t and shouldn’t.

However, he always leaves some meat on the bone for interpretation. That interpretation all seems to lead us right back to the one place many people seem to be trying to take your eyes away from, and that is the decision that the only two players ever being considered for the second overall pick were Young and Stroud, and that it seems logical that they still are.

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