Candidates have questions
Watson’s feud with front office could impact who becomes coach
With growing media speculation that quarterback Deshaun Watson has played his last game with the Texans, new general manager Nick Caserio continues to interview candidates to become the next head coach.
Hiring a good head coach is difficult enough, especially when there’s as much competition as there is this year. But having to answer questions about Watson and controversial executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby makes it even more challenging for Caserio.
Watson is angry because owner Cal McNair won’t fire Easterby, according to those familiar with the situation. McNair continues to support Easterby while Watson stews and Caserio interviews.
Unless Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy changes his mind, he won’t be available for an interview for at least another week. The Chiefs beat Cleveland in the divisional round Sunday, and Bieniemy has said won’t agree to any more interviews as long as Kansas City is playing.
Caserio hopes to interview Bieniemy as soon as he’s available, but if the Chiefs reach a second consecutive Super Bowl, it’ll reduce the odds he’ll get that long-overdue opportunity to become a head coach after waiting so many years.
Over the last three days, Caserio interviewed Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, Indianapolis defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and Buffalo offensive
coordinator Leslie Frazier. Baltimore assistant head coach David Culley is interviewing Monday.
Staley was hired by the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. National media reports had the Chargers hiring Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, but they went across town instead.
Caserio should be getting closer to hiring a new coach after spending his first week on the job meeting with candidates on Zoom conference calls. Once he finishes his initial round of interviews, Caserio will move into the next phase and bring in finalists for in-person interviews at NRG Stadium.
When the search is over, will Caserio recommend to McNair a coach with an offensive or defensive background? Will the next coach be a current coordinator or a former head coach?
Or what if Caserio offers the job to a candidate who declines because the Texans have become so chaotic with the incessant controversy surrounding Watson and Easterby?
Based on what we know about Caserio’s candidates, he’s not leaning
either way. The only thing we know for certain is the Texans are interested in a head coach with NFL experience and not a college coach — unless the general manager is being disingenuous.
There’s no shortage of interesting candidates who deserve to be head coaches. Bieniemy, 50, has been besieged with interview requests. Frazier, 61, is looking for a second chance to be a head coach.
Four of Caserio’s candidates
were involved in the divisional round of the playoffs over the weekend: Frazier, Bieniemy, Staley and Culley.
Frazier and Bieniemy will be competing in the AFC Championship Game. Frazier’s defense will try to contain Bieniemy’s offense to determine who’s going to the Super Bowl.
Bieniemy interviewed with five teams during the Chiefs’ bye week and said he wouldn’t do any more until the Chiefs’ season
ends. The Texans didn’t ask to interview Bieniemy during his bye week — the week before Caserio’s first day on the job. Caserio reached out to Bieniemy, who’s no stranger to the Texans because he has coached against them so many times.
Like Bieniemy, Frazier has done an outstanding job as a coordinator, in this case working for Bills coach Sean McDermott. Frazier won Super Bowls as a player and as an assistant coach. He might win another with the Bills if they can upset the Chiefs.
Frazier posted one winning record, 10-6, during three years (201113) as Minnesota’s head coach.
Frazier has respect around the NFL. His personality, experience and maturity might have a calming effect on the incendiary operation the Texans have become.
Eberflus, who knows more about the Texans’ offense than any of the other candidates, is an intriguing possibility who has an interesting background.
After coaching linebackers during a sevenyear career at Dallas, Eberflus got his first chance to be a defensive coordinator with the Colts.
He was hired by Josh McDaniels, who then resigned after a brief stint as their head coach and returned to New England to remain the Patriots’ offensive coordinator.
Frank Reich was hired to replace McDaniels. He liked the idea of having Eberflus as his coordinator, and their partnership has worked well, even though he’d been hired by McDaniels. Eberflus has coached against the Texans seven times, including three times in 2018.
After a second disappointing Texans defeat against the Colts this season — both in a threeweek span near the end of the season — Watson sought out Eberflus on the field. Watson said he talked with Eberflus about being impressed with how much the coach changed his strategy for the Texans in such a short period of time.
Eberflus, 50, knows how prolific Watson and the Texans’ offense can be. Watson helped the offense reach the Colts’ 2-yard line in the last minute of both games this season before losing because of fumbles.
Culley, the only candidate who isn’t a coordinator, is another Andy Reid protégé. Culley, 65, spent 18 years with Reid at Philadelphia and Kansas City. He coached the last two years under John Harbaugh at Baltimore.
Before Caserio was hired, McNair and the search committee interviewed three candidates — offensive coordinator Joe Brady (Carolina) and former head coaches Jim Caldwell (Indianapolis and Detroit) and Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati).