HOUSTON — The message seemed clear last week for Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio: The time for him is now.
Time is running out for Caserio to turn things around heading into Year 3 in the position.
“I have a responsibility, and I understand, let’s be real, let’s be honest, the clock is ticking,” Caserio said. “Time is short, but that’s OK. We work in a high-pressure environment. The expectations are high, and it’s about performance. If I don’t do my job well enough, and quite frankly, some probably think I haven’t done my job well enough at this point, and that’s more than fair.”
After the Texans’ 32-31 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the season finale, Caserio fired coach Lovie Smith before the day’s end. Smith’s release made him the second straight coach to be fired after one season under Caserio, following David Culley’s ousting last January.
The Texans are 7-26-1 under Caserio’s supervision and on the field, quarterback has been an issue that has not been resolved.
A viable option at quarterback would go a long way in helping Caserio have more time on the job, as would finding the right person to fill the coaching void.
“I’m going to do the best job I can,” Caserio said. “We’re going to try to continue to move this organization forward the best we can. We’ve made some progress in some areas. We haven’t made, quite frankly, progress in enough areas. I realize that. I recognize that . I’m certainly not going to run from that. Again, like I said from the beginning, I’m going to hold myself accountable.
“In the end nobody is more disappointed in myself than myself. The only thing I can do is try to come up with solutions to try to present what I believe is the best thing for our organization, and that’s my commitment to this organization.”
CEO and owner Cal McNair also spoke last week and affirmed his belief in Caserio.
“I have full confidence in Nick,” McNair said. “He has led our football operations through a difficult stretch and continues to prove he is an elite talent evaluator.”
There was hope that Davis Mills could develop into the long-term answer at quarterback, but his 15 interceptions were tied for the league high this season. It didn’t help that the Texans were outscored by 47 in the fourth quarter, and Mills played a major part in that as he led the NFL in fourth-quarter interceptions with seven.
Despite all of that, Caserio has created some optimism.
The Texans’ dead cap number will go from $77,919,210 to $895,325 in 2023. The Texans have $41,822,293 in cap space, seventh-most in the NFL, and could create more by releasing or extending players such as offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil (cap hit of $35,210,834 ) and Tytus Howard ($13,202,000) with signing bonuses to lower their cap hits.
Beyond the cap space, the draft capital acquired from trading Deshaun Watson netted the Texans five picks, including three first-rounders, from the Cleveland Browns.
Going into the draft, the Texans currently have the No. 2 and No. 12 (from the Browns) picks in the first round, and their 2022 draft class has already been fruitful.
The Texans also got fourth-round pick Dameon Pierce in the Watson trade. The running back had 1,104 yards from scrimmage, fourth among rookies, despite missing four games with an ankle injury. At the time of Pierce’s season-ending injury, he was seventh in the NFL in rushing yards (939), second in broken tackles (27) and fourth in rushing yards after contact (506).
Safety Jalen Pitre, who was a second-round pick, made history as the only rookie to finish with 147 tackles and five interceptions. He’s also one of eight players to finish with at least 140 tackles and five interceptions.
No. 3 overall pick Derek Stingley Jr. flashed potential to become an impact cornerback. Stingley didn’t allow a touchdown in coverage during his rookie year, but he did miss eight games with a hamstring injury. Houston’s other first-round pick, Kenyon Green, struggled in pass protection at times, but he flashed promise in the run game.
The Texans have players to build on, so the job could be attractive for the next coach.
The Texans have submitted interview requests for Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, former Saints coach Sean Payton, Rams assistant head coach Thomas Brown and Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen.
So far the Texans have completed interviews with Payton, Gannon, Steichen and Johnson.
If Caserio decides to draft a quarterback in the first round, the most popular options are Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud and Kentucky’s Will Levis.
As far as free agency, the top options at quarterback could include Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson, Geno Smith, Baker Mayfield, Daniel Jones and Jimmy Garoppolo, whom the Texans considered trading for prior to training camp, per league sources.
Caserio’s seat is warming and he knows it as he has created some of the heat. But he has also created a situation with assets.
Now it’s time to cash in.