How Texans incessant focus on culture points to a much larger issue

Do the Texans have a culture problem, or a Culley problem? Composite image by Jack Brame.

This past week saw another step in the ongoing attempt to change the culture on Kirby. Safety Justin Reid, one of the Texans' best defensive players, was a healthy scratch. Coach David Culley called it a disciplinary issue they handled internally. Rumors quickly came about stating there was a disagreement in a team meeting following the win against the Titans. So now the public is left to wonder what's going on over there? ESPN's Ryan Clark shed some light on the situation this past Sunday.

If the public paid close enough attention, you'd know what was going on. This suspension was a part of all the moves they've made over the last several months to establish a culture of falling in line. The trades, the releases, the suspensions, all of them point to the organization laying down the law. Let's be honest. David Culley isn't the kind of coach that can command the type of power and respect to shift the organization's focus while also galvanizing the locker room. He didn't even know where to stand and when to run a team meeting in training camp!

While admirable in thought, the execution is falling short. Nick Caserio, and others to a certain extent, are the ones most feel are truly running things on Kirby. Culley is the figurehead. He's the one that's out in front of the cameras and mics that people see. He's also the one that'll take the blame for things appearing to fall apart. That's what things are looking like now. There were too many moves made that speak to a new direction the team is taking. The difference is, when this has happened before and been successful, the coaches have had a previous track record of success. They even had top tier talent in most cases.

Bill Belichick had Tom Brady and won six rings with different surrounding casts. Pete Carroll turned the Seahawks into a perennial contender with Russell Wilson as his trigger man. Andy Reid is the one that sticks out the most because he did it with Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick with the Eagles, then again with Alex Smith and Pat Mahomes with the Chiefs. Belichick and Brady built multiple dynasties with the same team. Carroll chose to start Wilson over their prized free agent signing that same offseason and the rest is Seahawk history. Reid did it twice each with two different teams! They all established their credibility, then culture. They all had franchise quarterbacks to work with. They all were coordinators and/or previous head coaches prior to finding the ultimate success.

The Texans are attempting to replicate this model with a coach who's never been a coordinator. A franchise quarterback that wants out no matter what. A first-time general manager. An owner who was supposedly groomed for this but isn't up to snuff. All the while their character coach chaplain turned EVP of football ops is lurking. Nobody really commands a room, except Caserio, but he's in the midst of his first run as the guy. Culley seems like a squire who does Caserio's bidding. The message isn't coming in clear because I feel there's a lack of respect behind the actions. Why else would players feel frustrated in this situation? Sure, the losing is detrimental, but perceived lack of direction and respect is more damaging.

Once this team gets the right pieces in place, they'll be fine. From coaches, to players, to personnel, I think it'll get put together sooner rather than later. Meaning, I think they'll be in the playoffs within the next three years. There will be players in place with the pedigree of talent to execute the organization's vision flawlessly. Questions still remain though: Will Culley be around to enjoy it? Will Caserio be allowed to see his vision to completion? Will we ever know what video game Cal was playing? Hopefully we get the answers whenever we see this team winning again.

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Here's why the Texans will make the playoffs under Lovie Smith

1. The Houston Texans had a mentally tough practice Saturday. The team has worked a lot in pads and Lovie Smith noted the days starting to build up on them during this practice. The head coach said this is a good practice because it is like the fourth quarter of the games the team will end up playing.

2. Davis Mills threw one of the best passes he has thrown all camp on Saturday. In a red zone drill, he dropped back and whipped a pass between two defenders into the tightest window he has had all camp. Nico Collins hauled in the threaded pass for a score.

3. A few reps later Davis Mills struck again. With traffic from linebackers and defensive backs, he found Chris Conley for a score. It wasn’t as tight of a window as the first one, but Mills snapped it off nonetheless.

4. Pharaoh Brown made something hard look very easy on Saturday. With Mills rolling out and tossing the ball to Brown in the back corner Brown hauled in a one-handed catch and had both feet down. Touchdown. Brown then acted like it was no big deal.

5. Pharaoh Brown has had a wonderful camp. Lovie Smith named him the starting tight end. The thing that really jumped out to me today is he makes his work look easy. He isn’t straining to excel in his opportunities. The good ones always make it look easy and it has looked easy for Brown so far.

6. Rookie linebacker Christian Harris is on the shelf for a few days. He joins fellow rookie Kenyon Green as players who are injured. Max Scharping played left guard with Green down. Wide receiver Phillip Dorset practiced while veteran wideout Chester Rodgers did not.

7. Roy Lopez flashed again today. While Friday was about the rushing attack and Lopez made his presence felt at defensive tackle, he got into the pass rush Saturday. Lopez would have had a bone-crushing sack in a live rep.

8. Ross Blacklock hasn’t been consistent. A statement like that is good and evil. There are some plays where Blacklock looks like he isn’t a factor. I watched one today. A play later he had what would have been a sack on the play. He’s a player to watch in the preseason games closely.

9. Don’t expect to see Derek Stingley in the preseason opener next Saturday. Lovie Smith wouldn’t commit to the rookie cornerback playing in the preseason. Smith did say Stingley is on track to play week one in the regular season.

10. Brevin Jordan has had a nice camp and should be an important piece for the team. Jordan had a bad drop in 7-on-7 drills that he was beating himself up over for a few minutes. That was out of the norm. He’s been used a lot and will be on the field a bit it seems for the Texans.

11. Brevin Jordan also rattled off a few contenders for the quote of the day. He exclaimed he had taken care of himself this offseason and he finally had abs. He also revealed he’s quite the fisherman and once caught a 125-pound tuna. When asked what he did with the tuna Jordan laughed and said “RIP tuna!”

Listen to Cody Stoots weekdays afternoons 3-7pm on his show "The Wheelhouse" live on ESPN 97.5 + 92.5 FM or anytime on demand at the podcast here.

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