A headline reading “Texans Hire David Culley” had many people quickly searching the name “David Culley.” The Houston Texans announced they were making that man to be the new head coach of their team. He was the assistant coach with the Baltimore Ravens for the last two seasons. Before that, he was the quarterback coach for two years with the Buffalo Bills.
Even though 2020 produced a lot of head coaching vacancies in the NFL, the Texans position is one of the most intriguing of them all. Before 2020, Houston won two AFC South titles in a row, with a powered offense under Deshaun Watson and a feared defense led by J.J. Watt. If injures from 2020 are taken out, Houston is in a great position to bounce back in 2021…if they can get the right coach to make Deshaun Watson happy.
Who is David Culley?
While the name David Culley might not be familiar with the average fan, or even devout fans, he is known in NFL coaching circles for his energy, positive attitude and work ethic he brings into the job. His last boss, John Harbaugh with the Ravens, had nothing but great things to say about the guy. He called him an “excellent” head coach candidate before the playoffs started, and expressed genuine appreciation for him when he took the Texans job.
Apart from two years in Baltimore and two more in Buffalo though, Culley grew under the wing of Andy Reid, both in Kansas City and Philadelphia. In total, Culley worked for Reid for 18 years, learning not only how to tear up defenses in the passing game, but how to build a team culture of success.
At 65 years old, Culley is set to be the oldest head coach hired in NFL history, bringing over 40 years of coaching experience with him from both professional and collegiate football.
While he has plenty of experience and more quality references from head coaches than most of us can count, this will be the most important position Culley has ever taken in his career. Even though he was an assistant coach for both the Ravens and the Chiefs, he has never been a head coach before. In fact, the only time he was even an offensive coordinator was during this 1989-1990 coaching gig at Texas El-Paso.
He has had many titles of “assistant” in his career, but never a coordinator, never a head coach. This is why many fans were surprised by the Texans hiring Culley so quickly, instead of possibly reaching for other well-known candidates.
Even more surprising is that in 2020, Culley was one of the leaders of the Ravens 2020 passing game, which ended up being the worst in the league. So bad it cost them their chance in the playoffs.
Coming off a poor season to put on any resume, many are wondering what Culley brings to the table that other coaching candidates couldn’t. What is so special about Culley to give him the keys to the city?
What Culley Does Bring
To be blunt, the biggest thing Culley might do is help keep Deshaun Watson in Houston for a few more years. Watson is clearly fed up with the organization, and it has been reported that he has demanded a trade from the team. A team he just signed a huge extension with that included a “no-trade clause”
Watson will carry a $40 million cap hit if he is on the roster in 2021, and the Texans would love to keep him but only will if he will actually play. Watson already got his money, he can afford to sit out if the Texans refuse to trade him.
And this is where Culley might come in. The reason that John Harbaugh loved the guy so much? Culley is a culture guy. He is a team guy. He is an energy guy. He is a guy who can get a locker room fired up about doing one thing and one thing only: their job.
Head coaches like John Harbaugh, Mike Tomlin and Pete Carroll are not “X and O” guys, at least not in the sense of coaches like Andy Reid or Bill Belichick. These coaches are leaders, culture guys, “players coaches”. They are able to build a culture of a team, and use that to lead it to success.
While Culley sure has his experience with the “X and O” part of football, he is also a culture guy. While he might not be able to “unlock Watson’s potential of an MVP caliber year”, he might be able to build something the Texans have been lacking: a culture.
Cultures hold up over time. They can handle losses, injures, losing seasons.
DeAndre Hopkins wanted a trade last year, and Deshaun Watson is wanting one this year. That is two superstar players who want to leave a playoff team. That’s not a culture. Players buy into a culture, regardless of what is happening. If Hopkins and Watson aren’t buying into the culture, then someone needs to create one.
So calm down the “The Culley hire makes no sense!” talk, and appreciate what this team really needs. It has the pieces in place for a playoff run, they don’t need a hot shot offensive guru to get this team to the playoffs again.
They need someone who can keep Watson happy, get the players into a “Play like a Texan” mindset, and motivate those players to chip in 100% of the time. After it is all said and done “Texans hire David Culley” seems like a pretty smart hire for this organization.