The Texans have three finalists for their head-coaching job, which has been vacant for more than three weeks. Former Dolphins coach Brian Flores, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, or Josh McCown, unaffiliated, will get the job.
Amid unconfirmed chatter that the job will go to Flores or Gannon (it becomes much more difficult, even for the Texans, to hire a completely unqualified white candidate after the filing of the Flores lawsuit), would the Texans actually hire Flores?
One school of thought, as articulated during Friday’s PFT Live by Peter King, is that the Texans would be wise to hire Flores. Any players who pay attention to league news and matters would view the Texans very differently than they already do if the Texans were to entrust the head-coaching job to the man who has filed a landmark racial discrimination case against the entire league. And as to any potential retaliation by the NFL against the Texans for giving a head-coaching job to someone who has made inflammatory allegations that have prompted the issuance of strong statements from the likes of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, former Broncos G.M. John Elway, and the New York Giants, perhaps the league office would be relieved by the potential benefits — especially from a P.R. standpoint — of Houston doing something that the league has been trying desperately to get more teams to do.
That still may not make it easy for the Texans to do. Flores devotes a full section of his lawsuit to the Texans and their treatment of former coach David Culley. Here are the statements made about the Texans, converted from the numbered-paragraph format of the civil complaint:
“David Culley has been a collegiate and NFL coach for more than 45 years, including 27 years in the NFL. Despite his reputation and success, Mr. Culley was never hired into an Offensive or Defensive Coordinator position. However, in January 2021, the Houston Texans hired Mr. Culley to be Head Coach, though it was widely considered to be one of the most difficult situations for a first year Head Coach in memory. The previous season, the Texans went 4-12 despite having Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson start every game, throw 33 touchdowns against only seven interceptions and end with a passer rating of 112.4.
“However, Mr. Watson was unavailable to play due to allegations of sexual misconduct and Mr. Culley was forced to start Davis Mills, a rookie third round draft pick at quarterback. The team had also lost its top two players in recent years, J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins. Mr. Culley’s prospects for success were near impossible, but Mr. Culley managed to coach the team to the same record as the team had its previous season. [Editor’s note: The Texans were 4-13 in 2021, and 4-12 in 2020.] Immediately after the season ended, the Texans fired Mr. Culley without explanation other than vague ‘philosophical differences’ — which begs the question why he was hired just one year earlier in the first place. Even the Texans GM acknowledged that, ‘a change after one season is unusual.'”
To hire Flores, the Texans would have to look beyond not only the allegations against the rest of the members of Club Oligarch but also the statements made about the Texans themselves. Indeed, if Flores’s lawyers hope others will join in the lawsuit, Culley would be a prime candidate to contend that the Texans hired him struggle in an impossible situation before being fired, with the team articulating the insulting-to-the-intelligence notion that Culley had made some sort of power play after winning only four of 17 games.
Finally, the Texans are the Texans. They have made a series of unconventional (putting it nicely) decisions in recent years. Even if it would help them to hire Flores, who had back-to-back winning seasons, who went 8-1 over the final nine games of 2021, and who swept the Patriots last season, would they do it? Would Jack Easterby welcome Flores, given the possibility that Flores has little regard (as many do) for Easterby’s act? Would G.M. Nick Caserio want Flores, based on the fact that Culley was willing to be micromanaged by his boss — and that Flores likely (and rightly) wouldn’t stand for someone telling him what to do and how to do it?
The winner in all of this could be Gannon. He may end up being the compromise candidate. Can’t hire McCown. Won’t hire Flores. Enter Gannon. Dysfunctional teams do dysfunctional things, and the sweet spot of dysfunction for the Texans would be to realize that they can’t hire McCown while not understanding that their best move would be to hire Flores.