Emerging from the latest disaster of a Houston Texans season with yet another fired coach under his charge — yes, I’ve heard the tea leaves that he didn’t hire them entirely, but the decision still resides on his record — Nick Caserio did something a little out of character for his tenure in Houston on Monday evening. He talked to the press at NRG Stadium, after Cal McNair said that ownership would have a bigger role in hiring this head coach, and he sounded like a man who had been shaken about his convictions.
Caserio can’t help but dress everything up in Business Jargon Word Salad when he talks, it’s just part of who he is. But beyond dropping the greatest hits like “best interests of the organization” and talking vaguely about processes and organizations, he had to admit that where the process has gotten them is not good enough.
Now, that in and of itself isn’t a news flash. Caserio has admitted several times over the last calendar year that various things haven’t been good enough when asked about it. But he came into this presser and made that a focal point. Something he referred to himself without being prompted by the press. Something that got circled back to in several answers. And, in a surprising twist, referred to himself as someone who very well might lose his job if a new coach comes in and doesn’t think much of his work.
The way that Caserio answered some of these questions, where he speaks about guiding ownership, talked about a bigger tent in the decision-making process, proving counsel — he’s talking like he is the head coach search committee for the team rather than someone who has supreme power. This was not the confident Nick Caserio who vowed to Go Down Swinging after David Culley was fired and talked about philosophical differences. This was not the guy that boasted that he wanted to be on the headset because he’d done it his whole life and didn’t look at it as a title thing.
This was not a talk about being in a better position than they were last year, like it was after firing Culley:
It was a wild shift in tone. Hell, it was a wild shift in tone even from the little press clips they let out after firing Lovie Smith, where they talked about creating a long-term future of the franchise. This was a guy who sounded like he’d already gone down swinging.
I particularly wanted to juxtapose these two answers together. Here’s Nick Caserio’s opening press conference from his introduction in 2021:
It wasn’t much of a concrete promise — there’s that vagueness again — but there was optimism in that answer. The small foundation was part of it, as well as the character of the team later on in the presser. Let’s compare that to what happened here:
“I don’t know if it guarantees results … nothing’s guaranteed, I mean, we’ve seen that, really — a lot of things aren’t guaranteed on a day-to-day basis. We can’t take anything for granted … all we’re guaranteed is an opportunity … the clock is ticking, time is short.”
How can you listen to that answer and have any belief that this man believes what he’s doing will matter?
I’ve been trying to wrestle with my own feelings about this presser for a few hours. It’s not like I want Caserio to fail — I did write most recently that he should feel some heat for this, but it’s not like I thought it would happen this soon or feel like every move he’s made has been bad. I’m earnestly surprised we’re seeing this situation this offseason. Lovie Smith being fired after one season was so predictable that I’m surprised anybody even bothered to care — even when it happened, I was surprised that local media bothered propping up narratives like “Lovie won the press conference!” — but this felt like a public admission that the last two years have been the complete waste of time I’ve been saying that they are. The only thing that matters are the draft picks and the youth, and neither of them have developed in a home run sort-of-way exempting maybe Dameon Pierce.
In many ways I felt like I was watching someone quit without actually quitting. And, well, depending on what happens from here, that can be a good thing or a bad thing for this franchise. I’d love to tell you I have more certainty about what happens when Texans ownership takes the wheel. It certainly doesn’t sound ideal on paper. But as is usually the case with these things, it depends on who they hire to run things. Caserio by his own admission sounds like an ancillary figure in the proceedings.
We can only hope that ownership hires the right person to turn this team around, as we have hoped since the day it was obvious Bill O’Brien was in over his head.