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NFL Draft

5 Potential Head Coach Candidates For Houston Texans

  • The Draft Network
  • October 6, 2020
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No one was genuinely shocked when Bill O’Brien was fired Monday; maybe only O’Brien himself or those who thought the Texans might hold off a couple more weeks. He didn’t have an inkling of what was to come, showing, again, a significant lapse in self-awareness. The most surprising part of O’Brien’s departure from the Houston Texans organization is that it came before New York Jets head coach Adam Gase’s or Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn’s. 

Houston deserves its fair share of criticism for letting O’Brien run amuck for as long as he did. After trading away star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, having next to no draft capital, and being at the helm of an 0-4 team with one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, O’Brien’s maddening era with the Texans is over. 

Owner Cal McNair must now find two—hopefully, two—replacements. The good news for McNair is the Texans have, mostly, what they need to improve quickly with the right hires. 

Here are five of the top names that should be considered in Houston’s coaching search. The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs contributed to this list.

Eric Bieniemy

Offensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs

The only reason Eric Bieniemy wouldn’t have a head coaching job after what should be a string of new openings sparked by O’Brien’s firing is the NFL’s brass’ own bias. In the league’s recent awakening, which included painting “End Racism” in end zones across the country, there can be no more leeway granted to the overwhelming lack of diversity across top team positions.

Do we collectively want Bieniemy, who is currently the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, in a better position to succeed than taking over the Texans, who are on pace for one of their worst records since the four-win 2017 season? Yes. But with quarterback Deshaun Watson and limited resources around him, there’s no one better to get the most out of this young passer; just look at the job he’s done in Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes.

TDN’s scout’s take:

“Bieniemy is the hottest offensive coordinator in football. It was a stunner to see him passed over in the 2020 hiring cycle and hopefully, the league will remedy the oversight in 2021. There's little question that Watson would thrive with a play-caller like Bieniemy in the building; he should be considered the top candidate for the position given his success with Mahomes and the Kansas City offense."

Greg Roman

Offensive coordinator, Baltimore Ravens

After O’Brien traded the team’s best playmaker and failed to get Day 1 draft picks out of the Hopkins trade, the new coach will be tasked with continuing to build this team around Watson. Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman has the resume to do that. He spent time developing former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and is currently coaching the NFL’s reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. 

Roman has found success utilizing Jackson’s strengths, and Watson, another mobile quarterback, can have a similar trajectory under his tutelage. Roman has done well leading rushing offenses in San Francisco and Baltimore, and he’s been fearless in changing things to best fit a quarterback’s skill set. Things certainly need to be adapted to Watson after his receiving corps was depleted of three-time All-Pro Hopkins.

TDN’s scout’s take:

“Roman has done an incredible job pivoting his offense to cater to the strengths of Jackson. In Houston, Roman could take many of the same concepts and put a different spin on them to focus more volume into pure drop-back passing. Watson is athletic enough to keep the entire playbook on the table for Roman, but he's also a better passer at this point than Jackson—there's plenty to sell on this duo.”

Robert Saleh

Defensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers

Robert Saleh has been on the head candidate carousel since running one of the NFL’s most efficient defenses last season. The San Francisco 49ers’ ascension from “Mobile to Miami” was, in large part, due to the strides made by the defensive unit, and with its success came a watchful eye on where Saleh would end up.

He remains in his current role this season, and while some may argue his position as a defensive coordinator won’t translate well to a head coaching job in this high-powered, offensive-minded league, I would suggest looking no further than Tennessee Titans’ Mike Vrabel; Vrabel spent three seasons as linebackers coach and one as a defensive coordinator for the Texans before taking over as head coach in Tennessee. In his second season, Vrabel led the Titans to the AFC Championship Game.

TDN’s scout’s take:

“Saleh would go a long way in helping to remedy some of the Texans' defensive woes. Houston sports one of the worst defenses in football this season, and Saleh's work in San Francisco has made him one of the stronger head coach candidates for 2021. The catch? Houston will likely be forced into a quasi-rebuild this offseason under new management and some of the team's more prominent defensive names may be on the chopping block as a result.”

Josh McDaniels

Offensive coordinator, New England Patriots

If Josh McDaniels gets impatient waiting to take over in New England, he could be enticed with another head coach opening. Who knows when Bill Belichick will hand over the reins, and if Houston is going to stick with what’s familiar, McDaniels is another name to consider.

It’s not hard to imagine Texans executive vice president of football operations, Jack Easterby, who served as the Patriots’ character coach for six years, throwing McDaniels’ name into the conversation. On the other hand, this speculation is muddied by the connection former Patriots defensive coordinator and interim Texans head coach Romeo Crennel also has with Easterby.

TDN’s scout’s take:

“The biggest question with McDaniels is how willing he is to leave the friendly confines of Foxborough. His spurning of the Indianapolis Colts won't be easily forgotten, and McDaniels has felt like the heir apparent in New England for the past several years now. That said, the Texans have a strong pipeline to the Patriots organization, so if anyone could coax him away, it might be Houston.”

Wade Phillips

Former defensive coordinator, Los Angeles Rams

There’s a similar argument for Wade Phillips, who most recently was the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive coordinator. Phillips’ contract wasn’t extended in Los Angeles, but he could have another go around in Houston. Phillips’ experience is unmatched and has a history with this organization. Phillips was Houston’s defensive coordinator from 2011-13 and interim head coach in 2013.

If the Texans are looking for some sort of familiarity, Phillips would be a great place to start. He’s also itching to get back in the NFL.

“I feel like I could help somebody,” Phillips recently told the Buffalo News. “That’s the only thing. But they’ve got to feel that way too. But there’ll be some teams that don’t do as well. Whether they'll consider me to help, I don’t know that.”

Well, Phillips, the Texans need all the help they can get.

TDN’s scout’s take:

“Phillips is a terrific defensive coordinator. But he hasn't been an NFL head coach since 2013 and at 73 years young he'd become the NFL's oldest head coach. Age is just a number, but hiring Phillips would be a tough sell for a Houston team that is looking for stability with their next head coach instead of onboarding a coach that may only have a few years left in the tank.”

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