Texans owner Cal McNair's head coaching search, as it enters this new phase now led by new general manager Nick Caserio, will be among the most scrutinized hires in recent history. The unusual nature of the process to this point has already managed to upset numerous factions around the NFL while casting McNair in a challenging light.
To review, the owner was ostensibly overseeing concurrent head coaching and GM searches, and he was very vocal in how he was building coalitions that include numerous parties inside and outside his organization. Former player Andre Johnson, current quarterback Deshaun Watson, former Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy, the Texans' team president, and the search firm Korn Ferry were all supposed to be helping guide the pursuit. Only things went sideways quite quickly, according to numerous sources with direct knowledge of the situation.
Many of the candidates who were interviewed, including experienced Black candidates like Marvin Lewis and Jim Caldwell, could be excused for feeling as if they were being used as McNair was essentially running parallel searches for these openings -- simultaneously interviewing the men the search firm suggested while pining for Caserio, who he tried to hire in the past and clearly wanted all along. McNair hired Caserio before the full list of GM interviews were concluded and within hours of interviews still ongoing. This the expense of a previous list of coaching interview requests that had already gone out but are now largely irrelevant as he and Caserio begin their new search this week.
There was little to no real communication with many of the individuals who were led to believe this was going to be a diverse and sweeping process. The committees amounted to very little.
"Cal was going to do whatever he wanted to do," said one adviser to a member of this coalition, "and if they're really meeting I guess my guy wasn't invited."
The end result has irked many. You can see why.
Most notably perturbed is the franchise quarterback, who had years wasted by the Bill O'Brien debacle. As CBS Sports first reported in October, Watson had the distinct impression he would have some semblance of a voice in this process and that his opinion might matter a little. However, the candidate he supported most -- Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieneimy -- has not been approached about the job. Watson feels the process had lacked transparency, and here's where it gets really weird.
During the hiring process, according to numerous sources, candidates were specifically told the team was not looking to dip back into the well of candidates with Patriots ties. (Vice president Jack Easterby came from New England, as did O'Brien.)
"The entire gist of the interview was that we want to change the culture," said one source with knowledge of the situation. "It was all about how they want to have fun again and change things up and how this wasn't going to be 'Patriots South.' Can you believe that?"
Watson, for one, cannot. Especially with it not looking like Bieneimy will be a fit. This franchise's reputation regarding openness and diversity has been an ongoing storyline dating back to the NFL's handling of Colin Kaepernick's peaceful protests and the mounting social justice movement in the league when McNair's father, Bob, was at the helm.
None of this is on Caserio, who spent his entire career in New England and is beyond qualified. McNair had every right to want him as the Texans' new GM. But the way in which this search has been handled -- many parties basically kicked to the curb, a legion of coaches and executives who believe their time was wasted as part of a sham -- create a bad look for an owner whose tenure has been marred by blunders (like handing O'Brien full control of the building and backing the wrong ticket in the various power struggles so common in this organization).
The onus is now on Caserio to navigate this minefield, find the right coach, get Watson to buy in and not demand a trade, all while making the team better the third overall pick the Texans rightfully deserved going to the Dolphins via O'Brien's ridiculous trades. Oh, and he will also have to deal with a cumbersome salary cap situation. It's a lot for a rookie GM and for an owner who has not been steering the ship all that long but has managed to engender no shortage of controversy.
Washington to begin restructuring
The restructuring of the Washington Football Team is about to begin and include a search for multiple personnel executives to assist Ron Rivera in his vision to reshape the franchise.
I continue to hear the WFT will seek to speak with 49ers executive Martin Mayhew, a former player in Washington, as well as former Panthers GM Marty Hurney, who began his scouting career in Washington. Owner Dan Snyder also thinks highly of Colts executive Morocco Brown, who was in personnel with the WFT for years previously. Jimmy Raye of the Lions is another name I continue to hear in connection with the potential opening. Regardless, I anticipate the team jumping wholeheartedly into the search process early this week, especially with the market already more crowded than it's been in years for general managers.
It would make a lot of sense for Washington to reach out to former Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie, who has extensive experience and a great resume and works very well with others. I'm surprised more teams have not given McKenzie a legit shot in this cycle, although there is still time for that to change.
Seahawks should consider this OC
The Seahawks should seriously rethink their offensive approach and staff. There are so many coaches who are at the vanguard of the modern passing game who would love to work with Russell Wilson. A few years back, when Seattle hired Brian Schottenheimer, someone in the organization asked me for a few names for suggestion as OC. I gave him just one: Brian Daboll, who has gone on to do incredible things with the Bills and Josh Allen. This while Seattle's offense once again was all fits and starts, lacking much ingenuity down the stretch when it counted the most.
More insider notes from Super Wild-Card Weekend
- Gutsy win by the Bills, but their defense has some serious issues and if they had to come up against a team that specializes in running the football they could be in big trouble …
- Robert Saleh is making the rounds with interviews, but it remains to be seen if the 49ers defensive coordinator lands anything. I hear he is pushing 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur, brother of Packers coach Matt LaFleur, as his preferred offensive coordinator if he lands a job …
- The "Lamar Jackson can't win in the playoffs" junk is over. It never should have started. Kid literally just turned 24. He faced do-or-die games his entire rookie season after taking over for Joe Flacco and won them all to get them in the playoffs. He accounted for 508 yards of offense in the loss to the Titans last January and faced all do-or-die games this year with the Ravens at 6-5 (winning all the rest). Please. I'm just saying, that kind of hate ain't about football. He was far and away the best player on the field and took that game over …
- The Lions continue to get their ducks in a row about a potential significant offer for Steelers GM Kevin Colbert. He has long been their dream hire, and his contract with Pittsburgh is expiring. Those who know him best doubt he ever considers leaving the Steelers -- and he has been going year-to-year with his deals with the club at his own request -- but the Lions have been working for this for weeks behind the scenes and would love to be able to lure him away. Should the Steelers lose Sunday night, I'd expect them to make their move. Again, I don't see it happening, but he is the guy they covet the most, for good reason …
- Titans OC Arthur Smith had his roughest outing in quite some time against the Ravens -- tends to happen in the playoffs with young coordinators this much in demand for coaching interviews -- but his body of work is terrific. He was set to meet with Jacksonville on Sunday night with at least four other teams displaying some degree of interest in him as well …
- Plenty of people in this league believe Daboll will be the next coach of the Chargers, who he interviewed with Sunday.