As the Texans wrap up their first wave of interviews in search of the eighth head coach in franchise history, and their fourth in as many years -- desperation is setting in for many.
Are the Texans desperate for change? Yes, of course.
At what point is too much, too much?
We’re about to find out.
By the end of the weekend, the Texans will have concluded interviews with the following:
Jonathan Gannon (Eagles DC) Ben Johnson (Lions OC), Shane Steichen (Eagles OC), Thomas Brown (Rams TE/asst. head coach), Ejiro Eviro (Broncos DC), Sean Payton (Property of Saints for two more years), Demeco Ryans (49ers DC) and Mike Kafka (Giants OC).
Only one of the aforementioned candidates will cost the Texans in more ways than one.
And that's assuming he’s actually serious about the job, as I have my doubts.
As Payton explained on the Colin Cowherd Show earlier this week, he believes the Saints want a steep price from whichever team hires him to be their next head coach.
“Mickey Loomis (Saints GM) and I have talked already about it,” Payton said. “I think ultimately the compensation for the Saints would be a mid or later first round pick. Now we can arrive at that at a lot of different ways.”
There’s no doubt that history has shown us how creative teams can get to making things happen for coaches they believe are can’t miss guys.
“But each team has got different ammo or different pick selections and it could be a future one, maybe where you’ve got to throw in something,” Payton said. “Now, it changes if nothing happens this year and we go next year, then that changes considerably.”
Is Sean Payton a can’t miss guy?
His track record is a proven commodity. That is inarguable. The candidates he's up against in this hiring cycle can’t hold a candle to his resume.
Is Payton a guy the Texans absolutely need at this time to turn things around RIGHT NOW? I don’t believe so.
However, you don’t have to worry about Payton if Texans CEO Cal McNair selects him to be his team's next head coach, because once again, he’s a well-respected, trusted, battle-tested, and highly proven commodity. That shouldn’t be the deciding factor.
Is he worth the reported $20-$25 million per year?
Who cares. That money comes straight out of the owners' pockets and has nothing to do with the salary cap or would hinder the organization in any way of building the team.
Is he worth what it would reportedly take to get his services?
I’d follow that up with another question. Where do you draw the line?
Payton said it himself, if he doesn’t get hired this year then the asking price for him “changes considerably” next year. The Texans aren’t in a position to wait. They must make a move now.
There are a handful of qualified coaches available in this hiring cycle, and two of the top candidates are on the defensive side of the ball in Demeco Ryans and Jonathan Gannon. The other top candidate, an offensive mind in Shane Steichen, who has also interviewed for the Colts, Broncos and Panthers openings is gaining steam.
The Texans have a difficult decision to make, but it doesn’t just come down to whether or not they believe Payton is the right fit for them. Payton may not even be that serious about wanting to work in Houston for the next handful of years, regardless of what a record-setting payday may look like for him.
The Texans are primed for a drastic turnaround with or without Payton, but they still need to make the right hire, and there could be two or three candidates we look at in hindsight and say then that they were a ‘can’t miss.’
With the draft capital of 11 total picks entering the NFL draft in April, having the seventh most money to spend in free agency this offseason, a new head coach, new ideas, new staff, a change in culture, and better players, the Texans very well could be the next team to go from last in their division to playing meaningful games the final month of the season at worst.
Since 2000, at least one team that finished at the bottom of the division has won the division the following season.
Throughout the last 22 seasons, 25 teams have gone from last in their division to first the following season. Nine teams during that time span changed coaches to get those results.
Here’s the list:
03/04 SD/ATL - Falcons went from Dan Reeves/Wade Phillips in ‘03 to Jim Mora in ‘04.
05/06 PHI/NO - Saints went from Jim Haslett in ‘05 to Sean Payton in ‘06.
07/08 MIA - Dolphins went from Cam Cameron in ‘07 to Tony Sparano in ‘08.
10/11 DEN - Broncos went from Josh McDaniels/Eric Studesville in ‘10 to John Fox in ‘11.
12/13 PHI - Eagles went from Andy Reid in ‘12 to Chip Kelley in ‘13.
16/17 JAX/PHI - Jags went from Gus Bradley in ‘16 to Doug Marrone in ‘17.
17/18 HOU/CHI - Bears went from John Fox in ‘17 to Matt Nagy in ‘18.
19/20 WAS - Redskins went from Jay Gruden/Bill Callahan in ‘19 to Ron Rivera in ‘20.
21/22 JAX - Jags went from Urban Meyer/Darrell Bevell in ‘21 to Doug Pederson in ‘22.
I’m not betting that the Texans are the 2023 version of the above examples. However, with everything they have at their disposal this offseason and the prospect of hiring one of the hottest commodities on the market, the mere idea of playing meaningful games the final month of the season in 2023 is a good start. Anything else would be gravy after sustaining the agony of Kirby the last three seasons.
Is Sean Payton the only candidate that could yield that type of result and sustain it? He’d certainly make you feel more comfortable, but at what cost?
Demeco Ryans, Jonathan Gannon, or Shane Steichen could very well do the same and for a lot less draft capital and money.