The Texans reportedly are tapping David Culley to become their next head coach, a surprising hire that comes with the immediate challenge of convincing franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson to stay in Houston.
A 65-year-old football lifer, Culley was an assistant head coach, passing coordinator and wide receivers coach for the Baltimore Ravens the last two seasons.
Despite his 27 years as an NFL assistant coach, Culley, who is black, was not publicly viewed as a head-coaching candidate.
Culley will become the third active black coach, joining Miami’s Brian Flores and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin.
The NFL has long been criticized for not having many black coaches, when a majority of its players are black. In November the league passed a resolution to incentivize teams to develop and hire minority candidates for head coaching and general manager positions.
Baltimore will receive two third-round compensatory picks as a result of Culley being hired by Houston.
In addition to turning around a franchise that finished 4-12 after firing head coach/GM Bill O’Brien this season, Culley will be tasked with repairing the organization’s fractured relationship with its 25-year-old superstar.
Watson reportedly wants to be traded — and is said to have his eyes on the Jets — because he was unhappy over not having input on the organization’s offseason hires.
The Texans hired longtime Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio as their general manager before hiring Culley.
“I do believe that David Culley would be a tremendous hire for any team; maybe, especially, the Texans with Deshaun Watson,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said before Baltimore lost in the AFC divisional round.
But a report over the weekend said Watson wanted out regardless of who Houston hired as its head coach.
Before the season, Watson agreed to a four-year, $156 million extension with the Texans, with $110 million guaranteed and a no-trade clause.
Watson led the NFL with 4,823 passing yards this season, with 33 touchdown passes and a career-low seven interceptions.
The Ravens’ passing offense under Culley, which featured another star quarterback in Lamar Jackson, finished last in the NFL this season, though Baltimore’s offense largely revolves around the ground game.
Culley, who has never worked as an NFL offensive or defensive coordinator, considered by some a prerequisite to becoming a head coach, has also spent time with the Eagles, Steelers, Chiefs, Bills and Buccaneers.
A Tennessee native, Culley joined Tampa Bay in 1994 after 16 years as an assistant with various colleges.