The Houston Texans have the longest road back to relevance of any of the head coach openings this offseason. They just recently hired Nick Caserio of the New England Patriots to fill their opening at General Manager, but the head coach position is one they have to get right. That is easy to say for any potential head coach hire, but there’s a bit more gravitas to this hire in Houston.
The ego of Bill O’Brien and his incompetence in building a team has put the Texans in quite the hole to dig themselves out of. Everyone saw just how bad the DeAndre Hopkins trade was, but that was just one of a litany of moves that took a team that went from 10-6 to 4-12. The Duane Brown trade netted them a third round pick that turned into Martinas Rankin, who played just one game this year for the Kansas City Chiefs. The ensuing hole at tackle forced their hand in creating a trade for Laremy Tunsil. They traded away two first round picks and a second round pick to get Tunsil and Kenny Stills, who is no longer with the team.
O’Brien then had his hands tied because of the ransom he surrendered for Tunsil. Brown finished last season with an 87.3 PFF grade to Tunsil’s 75.4. Tunsil is the second-highest paid tackle in football behind David Bakhtiari. Hopkins was ultimately replaced with Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb. As a result, Cooks finished with less yards and catches for the season than Hopkins and makes just $1.5 million less than Hopkins in 2021. Meanwhile, Cobb finished with 441 yards receiving and will make over $8 million next season. The second round pick from the Hopkins trade also became nose tackle Ross Blacklock. He had 12 total tackles in 15 games on the 27th-ranked defensive unit in the NFL.
The Texans will likely be subjected to the same style of rebuild commitment as the Carolina Panthers, who gave head coach Matt Rhule a seven-year deal. They might have to be comfortable giving their new hire the keys and telling them to take their time fixing the mess the Texans currently are. The Texans rebuild will be a large undertaking, with the lack of draft capital to kick off a rebuild process. The only piece set in stone they have as a selling point is quarterback Deshaun Watson.
On Thursday, ProFootballTalk are reporting he may want out as well. They have arguably two major trade chips outside of Watson if they want to hit the reset button: Justin Reid and franchise icon J.J. Watt. There are multiple problems trading these two. If the plan is to rebuild the defense to attempt to compete, then you can’t get rid of the two best players on the defensive side of the ball. Reid, 23, is in the last year of his rookie deal. His value in a trade hinges on the possibility of him signing an extension with whoever trades for him. Trading J.J. Watt would be like driving a stake into the heart of every diehard Texans fan. Watt has been a pillar in the Houston community raising millions of dollars for relief after Hurricane Harvey.
The AFC South also figures to be a competitive division for awhile with the division sending two teams to the playoffs this year and the Jaguars having the draft capital and presumptive top pick Trevor Lawrence to give their rebuild a shot in the arm.
The Texans have a lot of work to do to reconstruct this roster to return to relevance. Whoever they hire to act as head coach and Nick Caserio have a tough job in front of them.