Texans general manager Nick Caserio issued an unequivocal statement, stomping on rumors surrounding his plans while channeling his inner Leonardo DiCaprio portrayal of the Jordan Belfort character from the Wolf of Wall Street movie.
Caserio, under contract for four more years under a deal that pays him up to $6 million annually, addressed speculation from former New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns executive Mike Lombardi that he’s been involved in discussions for a potential move back to the Patriots.
“Quite frankly, I’m almost embarrassed that I have to say anything,” Caserio said Monday morning during a press conference at NRG Stadium. “I feel like Leonardo DiCaprio in the Wolf of Wall Street. I’m not leaving. There has never been any substantive discussions of the sort. Grateful and appreciative of the opportunity that my family and I have here in Houston. We understood when we arrived, when we got here, that there was a lot of work to be done, and I think when you look across the NFL landscape there is work to be done in every organization.”
Rumors surrounding Caserio’s future status emerged during the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. Multiple league sources, including high-level executives and other NFL officials, have mentioned the rumors to KPRC 2. None have provided any concrete proof, though, that something is definitely afoot with Caserio. Team sources have expressed confidence that Caserio will return, emphasizing that ownership is happy with the job that he’s been doing. Privately and publicly, a strong collaborative approach has been emphasized to KPRC 2 about the relationships between Caserio and new coach DeMeco Ryans.
“Unfortunately, I think this time of year there is a lot of information and a lot of topics that are discussed,” Caserio said. “Some are more accurate than others, and I think it transcends multiple landscapes. I’m honestly almost embarrassed that I have to say anything, but I feel like I have an obligation to make that statement. I don’t think there is anything else to say or question about it.
“Again, appreciative of the opportunity that we have here. Very grateful. My philosophy and goal is just to try to do the best job that I can for the people in this organization, in this building, for the city, and as long as ownership approves of what we’re trying to do, then certainly their sport is welcomed.”
Caserio was hired in 2021 and signed to a six-year contract that averages $5.5 million annually with the potential to earn as much as $6 million annually, according to sources. He has control of the 53-man roster. Ryans has control of the 46-man gameday roster and reports directly to the owners, working in partnership with Caserio. Ryans, a former Texans Pro Bowl linebacker and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year signed to an extremely lucrative six-year contract, has emphasized a good relationship with Caserio.
“Working with Nick has been great,” Ryans said. “Working with our coaches, that’s been outstanding, everybody having their input. Everybody’s input has been valuable to me to make sure that we’re having a thorough process in everything that we’re doing. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun work when you’re doing it with really good people.”
A former Patriots director of player personnel, Caserio has overhauled the Texans roster and fixed their salary-cap situation. He oversaw a blockbuster trade that sent former Texans Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns, netting three first-round draft picks. He signed Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil to a three-year, $75 million contract extension making him the highest paid lineman in the game for the second time.
Caserio was more active in free agency this year, with more salary-cap space to utilize, signing defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, tight ends Dalton Schultz, safety Jimmie Ward, running back Devin Singletary, wide receiver Robert Woods, linebacker Denzel Perryman and traded for offensive guard Shaq Mason. Caserio traded wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Dallas Cowboys for fifth-round and sixth-round picks and the Texans are paying $6 million of his $18 million salary.
The Texans, who hold the second overall and 12th overall picks after losing the top overall pick by defeating the Indianapolis Colts in the final game of coach Lovie Smith’s one-year tenure, have made strides. They still aren’t regarded as a contender, though. The Texans have gone 11-38-1 over the past three seasons and 7-26-1 under Caserio’s leadership with two one-and-done coaches in David Culley and Smith.
“I think we’ve made some progress,” Caserio said. “We still have a lot of work in front of us. Certainly it’s been a joy to work with DeMeco in concert as we build the team and continue to build the staff.”
Where do the rumors start? What’s the ultimate truth? Caserio and Patriots coach Bill Belichick remains close and both attended the Texas Christian University Pro Day scouting wide receiver Quentin Johnston and other players.
Caserio said he’s been receiving text messages since last week making fun of the rumors.
“You guys know more than I do,” Caserio said. “My first inclination, people are reaching out to me last week and I’m like literally laughing. So, I can’t speak for anybody else other than myself. So, I mean, again, like maybe you can do some digging on that. I mean, my focus is on the draft, the team, the people in this building. It’s on the coaching staff. My responsibility is to the people that are here.”
Caserio called it a “joy” to work with Ryans, a former defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers’ top-ranked defense and NFL Assistant Coach of the Year.
“I think we have a lot in common in terms of how we view players, how we see a football team, the things that we deem important,” Caserio said. “I’ve really enjoyed my time with him in the short period of time. I can’t speak highly enough of him as a person, as a football coach, his perspective, his view point, kind of what he brings to the table. I think he has solidified what we thought going through the hiring process, and we’re excited to build this together and just to build a good, solid, sound football team that plays well situationally that I would say the organization and the city can be proud of.
“Is that easy? No. Is there one way to do it? Absolutely not. We’ve both had the good fortune of being in good programs and being part of good teams and understanding what good football looks like, so how do we put our stamp on the Houston Texans 2023. In the end, that’s the goal and the most important thing.”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.