A mild buzz emerged from Houston today after Texans coach David Culley spoke freely and candidly about his in-game communications with G.M. Nick Caserio. Unlike situations that have created problems for the likes of, for example, former Browns G.M. Ray Farmer, Caserio is indeed permitted to communicate with Culley because Caserio speaks to Culley not via cell phone but with an official coaching headset.
Before the season began, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reported that Caserio would have a headset during games. It’s obvious that Caserio is using it.
On Monday, Culley was asked by reporters to explain his in-game discussions with Caserio.
“Just like I go back to the two-minute situation when we’re in it,” Culley said. “I immediately went on a line with Nick, and obviously he and [senior football advisor] Romeo [Crennel] talked about it, and he says, ‘OK, our timeouts now, how do we need to use these timeouts?’ And then immediately, ‘OK, depending on what happens on this play, we need to call it. If this doesn’t happen then don’t call a timeout.’ So all those things are discussed before we ever get to that point. We’re usually a play ahead of that. When it happens, then I’ve got to be ready to make that decision. That’s usually with all those kinds of decisions.
“I go back again to the New England game, I can remember just like it was yesterday that the conversation went, ‘Let them score.’ I heard the conversation, and then all of a sudden it didn’t compute to me at that time. All of a sudden now from that point on I’ve learned to be ahead of those things. When you’re ahead of those things like that, you’re much better to make those decisions. [It does] not mean you’re going to make the right decision, but when you make that decision, you’re pretty sure about making that decision. When you make those decisions, those players know. They know immediately whether you’re going for it on fourth down. A lot of times when we get in a third-down situation, third-and-two or whatnot, I tell [offensive coordinator] Tim [Kelly], ‘You got two downs.’ I want him to make the decision knowing that you’ve got two downs to get this first down. Nobody knows that but he and I. The point is, being able to have those things ahead of time allows us and allows our play callers to be able to do the things that they need to do.”
As McClain noted when he reported that Caserio would have a headset, Caserio did that in New England with coach Bill Belichick. The difference, as a source with knowledge of the dynamics in New England explains it to PFT, is that Belichick wanted Caserio to have a headset in order to better understand the decisions made during games, and the connection between the issues arising in games and the ongoing search for the right players. Caserio didn’t have the headset to speak, but to listen. In Houston, Culley isn’t the one who implemented this approach; Caserio did. And Caserio uses it to speak, not to listen.
As the source put it, any G.M. who actively communicates with the coach during games on matters such as calling timeouts, going for two, and making other decisions is necessarily not staying in his lane.
That said, Culley took the job fully aware that Caserio would do this. Which means that, as some wonder whether Culley will be one and done, Caserio won’t be inclined to replace Culley with a head coach who would say to Caserio, “Yeah, I don’t want to hear from you during games.”
Caserio has found a way to serve as the puppet master for his head coach. To keep that going, he needs a head coach who is willing to go along with having his strings pulled by someone else.