For better or worse, Texans ready to prove doubters wrong
Houston Texans running back Mark Ingram II (2) carries the ball during an NFL preseason football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Patterson)

First-year Texans coach David Culley has seemingly waited his entire 43-year career for Sunday afternoon when he makes his head coaching debut against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the season opener.

But as the minutes tick closer to the day the 65-year-old coach thought may never come, his thoughts are anywhere but about what the moment will mean to himself.

“I haven’t really thought about it at this point but I do say the three preseason games that I’ve had, I don’t foresee things being in any different other than when the game is over whatever the result is, it does count,” Culley said to The Defender. “Those that just happened did not count.”

Starting Sunday, they start to count against his ledger.

And by all accounts, the career assistant coach has been handed a doozy. Given the lack of an established franchise quarterback, a roster full of serviceable players at best and a first-year general manager in Nick Caserio who admits he is more concerned with the process than wins and losses, Culley and his staff are in for an uphill battle.

Surely, Culley understands how the deck is stacked and it’s all about the rebuild and preparing for the next couple of years. But like any coach, Culley’s goal is to win.

He expects that his team will have the same mindset.

“We only think the one way, and the one way is that every time we go out to play, we’re going out to win,” Culley said. “And we feel like the guys we are going out there to play with are good enough to win with. We approach it that way. It’s never brought up. It’s never even an issue.”

Still, it’s the reality. Culley announced to no one’s surprise that even though All-Pro quarterback Deshaun Watson remains on the active 53-man roster, that veteran journeyman Tyrod Taylor will be the starter and rookie third-round pick Davis Mills will serve as the backup.

The team won’t even say if Watson will suit up or even attend the game against the Texans’ AFC South rivals.

“He will not play this week,” Culley responded flatly this week.

If the mess that is the Watson situation was all that dogged the Texans the season might be salvageable. But it isn’t.

There is a serious void in winning talent on this roster.

The Texans have been unloading talented players at a head-scratching pace the past few years, which has put them in this position. It began under the Bill O’Brien regime when he parted ways left tackle Duane Brown, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins with little in the way of trade capital in return. The purge has continued under Caserio with the team allowing J.J. Watt to leave and then this week trading their best cornerback, Bradley Roby, to New Orleans for not a whole lot.

Until this week’s decision to trade Roby, there was at least some hope that the defense might actually be better under defensive guru Lovie Smith.

“We feel like when we make those decisions, we feel like we make the decision that’s best for the football team,” said Culley, who inherits a team that went 4-12 last season under O’Brien.  “We feel like looking at the big picture. Looking at where we are right now, if this thing goes through, then we feel like it was the best thing that we needed to do for our football team.”

Caserio has remade the roster with draft picks and a bunch of one-year players. Taylor, who is playing for his fourth team since 2017, is looking forward to the opportunity to start after a medical mishap prematurely ended his season after one game last year with the Los Angeles Chargers and ushered in the Justin Herbert era.

“It’s exciting,” Taylor said. “It’s fun, and just to see the energy around the locker room, guys are excited. It’s our first time being able to play in a regular-season game with each other, going out and making plays as a group.”

Follow Terrance Harris on Twitter @terranceharris

I've been with The Defender since August 2019. I'm a long-time sportswriter who has covered everything from college sports to the Texans and Rockets during my 16 years of living in the Houston market....