On Sunday, the Houston Texans suffered yet another devastating loss at home to the New England Patriots. For most of the game, the offense was shockingly spectacular, the defense gave a maximum effort, and the Texans were in control. However, the combination of atrocious special team’s play and terrible game management turned Houston’s 22-9 lead into a 25-22 loss. And, at the end of the day, there’s no one to blame but head coach David Culley.
Lack Of Accountability
This game marks Houston’s fourth straight loss, but despite the team’s poor play David Culley has never gotten much of the blame. Instead, the Texans’ struggles have been attributed to injury and an overall lack of talent on the roster. However, a closer look at each of these games shows that Culley is just as much of a factor.
The first sign of Culley being ineffective as a game manager came in the second quarter of a week two matchup versus the Browns. After a defensive penalty on Cleveland, Culley was left with two options: accept, and have another chance at third-and-ten, or decline and go for it on fourth-and-two. He chose the latter but instead of going for it, Culley made a baffling decision and punted the football. Culley essentially gave up on his offense and handed the Browns an extra possession.
In a week three loss to Carolina, Culley had his first truly terrible performance. But, injuries and it being a short week earn him a pass. However, what isn’t being criticized enough is his response the following week against the Bills.
It’s understandable to lose in bad weather on the road with a rookie quarterback. In fact, it’s understandable to be blown out. But to not score a single point and to suffer the worst loss in franchise history? Embarrassing, to say the least. What’s even more infuriating was Culley’s post-game admission of not having the team “prepared”. The Texans had more than enough time to put some sort of a game plan around Davis Mills. They failed to do anything close. Instead, Culley threw his rookie out in the fire and accepted defeat by the end of the first drive.
Terrible Decision Making
Culley’s inability to manage the game was most obvious this week against the Patriots. The first half of the game went great for Houston, but then came one of the worst special teams plays in NFL history. Up big, Culley decided to get cute and had the team attempt a trick-play-style punt. Needless to say, it didn’t work and the Texans somehow ended up blocking their own kick. A few plays later, the Patriots scored with the short field, sparking a massive comeback.
With the game close, Culley had another decision to make on a fourth and four at the New England 38. Option one was sending in kicker Kaimi Farbarin to kick a career-long 56-yard field goal after he had already missed several kicks earlier in the game. Option two was going for it on a day when the Texans were already three for three on fourth down. Culley did the unthinkable, wasting a timeout just to send Farbarin in. As expected, Kaimi missed the kick, effectively ending the game.
Culley had one final shot at redemption but blew that too. The Patriots scored a touchdown with two minutes left but committed a penalty on the play. The logical thing to do would have been for Houston to decline the penalty, getting them the ball back with just under two minutes and a chance to tie. But instead, Culley accepted the penalty, allowing the Patriots to run the clock down all the way down to 15 seconds, before kicking the game-winning field goal.
In Over His Head
No, it isn’t justifiable to fire a coach over a few bad games. Especially considering the number of injuries the Texans have faced and the poor composition of their roster. In fact, Culley deserves a lot of credit for keeping this team focused and motivated despite the drama that unfolded during the offseason.
That being said, people need to understand that this is all Culley was brought in to do. He is simply a transition coach until Houston finally gets some talent back on its roster. Through just a few games, Culley has already confirmed the fear of him lacking the skills to be a head coach. He oftentimes looks lost and confused when it comes to managing the game, and is “in over his head” to quote Sean Pendergast.
No one was expecting the Texans to win games this year. However, it would be nice to at least see them compete, especially in winnable contests. Unfortunately, David Culley isn’t the man to get this job done and the media isn’t dinging him enough for it. Again, it is early, but he’s heading down a path many mediocre coaches have gone down before. It won’t be this year, maybe not even next year, but when Houston regains some hope, expect David Culley to be out the door.