Once Cal McNair hired general manager Nick Caserio in January, he and the Texans’ search committee zeroed in on two head coaching candidates as finalists to replace Bill O’Brien.
David Culley, the former Baltimore Ravens’ assistant head coach, passing game coordinator and receivers coach, and Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator and former Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier emerged as the last two coaches to receive second interviews.
At one point, Frazier and Culley overlapped during trips to Houston to meet with the McNair family, Caserio and other team officials.
Ultimately, Culley landed the job as a first-time head coach after the team interviewed him, Frazier, Jim Caldwell, Eric Bieniemy, Joe Brady, Marvin Lewis, Matt Eberflus and Brandon Staley. Culley, whose 1-2 Texans face Frazier and the 2-1 Bills on Sunday on the road, wasn’t sure what was going to happen in the interview process.
“I never at any point during that process, until Cal told me I was going to be the head coach, that I felt like I was going to be the head coach here,” Culley said Wednesday at NRG Stadium. “At no time during the whole process did I ever feel comfortable. Twice when I was here during the interview, I thought I was going back home, but I’m still here.”
Culley, 66, recalled his reaction upon learning the news.
“I prayed and said, “Thank you, Lord,’” Culley said.
Why all of the doubt as he competed with Frazier for the job?
“Because I was never told anything,” Culley said. “As a matter of fact, I believe at one point Leslie and I were here at the same time. I’m not sure exactly what the timetable was, but I think we were here at one time.
“Speaking of him, he’s actually, in this business, one of my closest friends that I have the utmost respect for, he and his whole family.”
The challenge for the Texans’ offense and rookie quarterback Davis Mills on Sunday is finding a way to score points against a stout, complex Bills defense that’s strong at every level.
“They can be very multiple and they will pressure you,” Culley said. “I know we expect they’re going to play man coverage every third down, because that’s what he’s always done. They like blitzing five guys. I know with a rookie quarterback, I know he’s not going to sit back and just let four guys rush the passer. I know he’s going to add an extra guy just to see how he can handle it, and we’ll be ready for that.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.