If the Texans finalize a contract, Culley would be the first Black head coach hired by an NFL team during this hiring cycle. Culley, who also had the titles of assistant head coach and passing game coordinator with the Ravens, would join Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin and Miami’s Brian Flores as the league’s active Black head coaches.
Culley’s hiring would make it two minority head coaches hired this cycle among seven teams that had vacancies. The New York Jets hired Robert Saleh, an Arab-American coach who was born in Michigan to Lebanese parents. The moves come after the NFL took several steps last year to attempt to bolster its minority hiring.
The Ravens will receive two third-round draft choices under the league’s new diversity measure to reward a team that has a minority candidate hired by another franchise as a head coach or general manager. The Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints also will receive two third-round picks each under that initiative, which was ratified by team owners in November. The San Francisco 49ers will receive a trio of third-round selections after Saleh, their defensive coordinator, was hired as the Jets’ head coach and front office executive Martin Mayhew was hired as the Washington Football Team’s general manager.
Three minority GMs were hired leaguewide among seven openings. In addition to Mayhew, Rams executive Brad Holmes was hired by the Detroit Lions and Saints executive Terry Fontenot was hired by the Atlanta Falcons. All of the head coaching and GM vacancies have now been filled.
In Houston, Culley is set to replace Bill O’Brien, who was fired by the Texans in October as their head coach and general manager. Romeo Crennel took over as the interim head coach and completed a 4-12 season. Culley would work with Nick Caserio, the longtime New England Patriots front office executive who was hired by the Texans as their general manager.
Houston must deal with disgruntled quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is said to be seeking a trade because the Texans promised he’d have input on their organizational retooling and failed to follow through.
Culley, 65, has never been a coordinator on an NFL coaching staff. But he has spent nearly three decades as an assistant coach in the league, first coming to the NFL as the wide receivers coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1994. He also had stints on the staffs of the Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills.
Culley emerged as the Texans’ choice Wednesday after he and Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier had second interviews with the team this week. The Texans also interviewed former Lions coach Jim Caldwell and former Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis; offensive coordinators Eric Bieniemy of Kansas City and Joe Brady of Carolina; defensive coordinators Brandon Staley of the Rams and Matt Eberflus of Indianapolis; and veteran NFL quarterback Josh McCown.
Staley was hired as head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. McCown could join Culley’s new coaching staff with the Texans.