There is no sugar-coating it: the Houston Texans are a dumpster fire. Not only are they in a difficult salary cap situation and lacking a first-round draft pick following a blockbuster trade, franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson is also in open rebellion against the organization’s leadership and has officially requested to be traded.
Needless to say that general manager Nick Caserio has his work cut out for him.
Caserio arrived in Houston earlier this month after having spent the last two decades working his way up the New England Patriots’ organizational ladder. Between 2008 and 2020, he eventually served as Bill Belichick’s right-hand man: as director of player personnel, he was responsible for a wide range of areas — from contract and trade negotiations, to pre-draft work, to even sitting in the booth on game days.
Now, the 45-year-old faces a challenge unlike anything he experienced in 20 total seasons with the Patriots. He will have to turn a 4-12 team around that has limited resources available, is dealing with major internal questions stemming from the relationship between owner Cal McNair and ex-Patriots chaplain Jack Easterby, and has a disgruntled quarterback looking to pack his bags and leave town.
Given all the turmoil that has developed over the last few weeks down in Houston, it all begs one major question from New England’s point of view: Why again did Caserio leave the Patriots to take the Texans’ general manager job?
First things first, speculating about one’s motivations behind accepting any job offer cannot be done without intimate knowledge of that person’s background and the circumstances. Personal considerations may play a role in this, the family and financial aspects cannot be disregarded, and prestige is also a factor to be considered. Add them all up and you get a “Yay or nay” scenario that everybody has to answer for him- or herself.
As for Caserio, his reasons to leave the Patriots and become Houston’s new GM are valid regardless of how one looks at them from the outside: he made the decision that was best for him and his family all things considered. His personal motives cannot and should not be questioned.
The circumstances mentioned above can be analyzed, however, considering that they are based on indisputable facts: Houston could be up to $20 million over the salary cap given its current payroll, while the organization does lack first- and second-round draft picks due to a trade with the Miami Dolphins in August 2019 that brought wide receiver Kenny Stills, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, and other assets to the team
We know all this, and so did Caserio when he took over the job. Whether or not he also knew about the brewing dissatisfaction within locker room leaders like Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt can only be speculated about. That said, he was asked about their reported unhappiness right during his introductory press conference.
Caserio had the following answer to that question:
“I think it’s important for all of us to take some time, and I think when the time is appropriate, we’ll have discussions with the players. I think it’s important for us, whatever conversations that we’re going to have with players about their individual situation, that we do it directly and we do it face to face. When the appropriate time comes, we’ll sit and spend some time with Deshaun. But certainly looking forward to the opportunity to work with him.”
So far, Caserio has reportedly not sat down with Watson to talk to him. Maybe he will talk to him. Maybe he will persuade him to stay in Houston. Maybe both come to an agreement that a trade is the best-case outcome for both. If “Ifs” and “Buts” were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas.
The job of a general manager is not just building a roster, but also maintaining it. Can Caserio do that in Houston? Does he even want to instead of starting from scratch?
All those questions remain unanswered for the moment, as is the one about his motivations behind accepting the Texans’ general manager position in the first place. All we do know is that he inherited a difficult situation within an organization seemingly on the brink of internal collapse — and that he signed up for the journey, regardless of where it takes him.