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- American football player and coach
While I’ve heard plenty of nice comments about Middle Tennessee’s David Culley, I can’t say I know him personally.
I tried, though.
In May, I reached out to a Houston Texans media relations staffer to try to set up an interview with Culley, the pride of White County and former Vanderbilt player who’d worked for 27 years in the NFL to finally land a head-coaching job at age 66.
That I never heard a word back from the Texans didn’t surprise me.
And neither did Thursday’s news that the Texans had fired Culley after only one season.
I cover sports in Nashville, not Houston. So I don’t know the details of what went into this decision. But I was at NRG Stadium this past Sunday when a badly outmanned Texans team with zero to play for kept scrapping despite being down 21-0 at halftime to the Tennessee Titans, the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
The Texans, who’d already beaten the Titans once, genuinely scared them Sunday with a promising third-round rookie quarterback in Davis Mills throwing TD passes to the likes of … checks notes … Danny Amendola and Chris Moore.
“We were taking on water,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel told his players in the locker room after holding on for the 28-25 win. “Give them a ton of credit. Got a lot of respect for them. They fought their (expletives) off.”
You’ve got to hand it to the rest of the AFC South, don’t you?
This is a division that continues to do an uncanny job of ensuring the Titans maintain the top spot.
In Jacksonville, you had Jaguars fans dressing up as clowns at a game to mock the team’s leadership (most notably general manager Trent Baalke) in the wake of the Urban Meyer fiasco.
And then the Indianapolis Colts showed up on Clown Day and couldn’t even beat the Jags. Couldn’t even hang with them, actually. The Colts gagging up a playoff berth in Week 18 to a 2-14 foe in front of HBO’s "Hard Knocks" cameras was so stunning it defied explanation. And it exposed serious flaws in Indianapolis, most notably that GM Chris Ballard has yet to get anywhere close to replacing Andrew Luck at quarterback.
Those rough situations, though, aren’t as bad as the past few years in Houston. The Texans went from division champs to NFL chumps in record time.
Culley went 4-13 with the Texans, but it could have been 0-17. That’s how weak the roster was, and yet the Texans improved. They spanked the Los Angeles Chargers the day after Christmas. There were positive signs amid the chaos.
When it comes to coaches, players on non-contending teams vote with their effort. They don’t fight their (expletives) off for coaches they don’t like and respect.
But respect, however, wasn’t being extended Culley’s way from the front office.
Aaron Reiss, who covers the Texans for The Athletic, tweeted Thursday that GM Nick Caserio “was on the headset advising Culley on game management” this season.
Nick Caserio was part of David Culley's practices and was on the headset advising Culley on game management. It'll be interesting to see if any of that changes with a new Texans head coach.
— Aaron Reiss (@aaronjreiss) January 13, 2022
So a career front-office guy wants to call plays and be the coach, too? Caserio thinks he knows better than a 40-year coaching vet like Culley? Could you imagine Caserio ever trying that with Bill Belichick in New England?
Moving forward, who’d want to be the Texans' coach when – you know – they won't be allowed to be the Texans’ coach?
The Texans should have praised Culley for putting up with this silliness and making the final product look better than it should.
Instead, they fired him.
Again, I don’t know Culley. But I’d hate this for anyone who clearly deserved so much better. He worked an entire career for a head-coaching opportunity – then he finally gets one and has the GM on the headset telling him what to do on the sideline?
I hope Culley gets a chance somewhere else. Somewhere better. He deserves it.
The Texans, on the other hand, didn’t deserve him.
Reach Gentry Estes at email@example.com and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: For Tennessee Titans, David Culley firing by Houston Texans latest gift