In his 30-plus years in football, dating back to high school and including 21 years working in the NFL, Nick Caserio has only experienced two losing seasons.
After a 1-7 start, his first year as Houston Texans general manager is shaping up to be the third. The path to success won't be a quick one, Caserio admits, but the results shouldn't be either. With "purposeful effort and purposeful work," Caserio is looking to build a team program made to last.
"I would say, what are we trying to be? What are the Houston Texans trying to be? We're looking for good players who are good people that care about winning, that put the team first, that put the team above themselves, and are committed to work through purposeful action," Caserio said. "If you're asking me, 'What are we trying to do?' That's what we're trying to do. Now, does that happen all at once? No, not necessarily. There's always a lot of moving parts, but the goal is to put some of those parameters in place and to place something we can sustain for a long period of time."
With no 2021 first or second-round draft picks, a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback facing civil suits and requesting a trade, plus hiring a new coaching staff and overseeing a major roster overhaul, Caserio's first season has been unprecedented and also not without its share of normal challenges coming off a 4-12 record last year. With a goal of long-term success in his sights, Caserio defined what "culture" meant to him and how it impacts what the Texans are looking to build.
"I think everybody kind of gets caught up in culture, like what does that exactly mean?" Caserio said. "I think there are a lot of different definitions of how that's interpreted. Culture's about habits and about action. It's about work. That's what culture's about. It's being able to build up a series of habits, a series of actions and putting those in place, so you have something sustainable for a long period of time and that's what we're trying to do. There's a lot of work that goes into it, it's not going to happen all at once."
Ahead of his first NFL trade deadline as GM, Caserio traded RB Mark Ingram II and DL Charles Omenihu. The player that did not get traded was QB Deshaun Watson who remains on the roster. Caserio addressed the roster moves on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the trade deadline had passed.
"David (Culley) and I have a lot of good discussions, myself, our staff and ultimately, we try to do what we think makes the most sense for our team," Caserio said. "Charles was a good player for this team. He's done a lot of good things. In the end, we felt like this made the most sense for our team and for him to get a good opportunity to go to a good organization with a lot of good people. In Mark's case, when you look at players and trades, it's a case-by-case basis. In the nature of this discussion, we're kind of talking about three different situations, and they're not all the same. Deshaun, Mark and Charles."
Ingram's trade to the Saints was one that was "the right thing to do by Mark and the right thing to do for our team and our organization," according to Caserio. The veteran RB was a source of leadership and energy but returned to New Orleans, where he began his NFL career. As for Watson, Caserio spoke to the quarterback Wednesday morning and will continue to evaluate the situation day-to-day.
This past offseason, Caserio brought in over 50 new players to compete for a roster spot. The Texans' path to success relies heavily on optimizing player performance, whether that's through finding the right players or adding football staff to help players reach those goals. Either way, Houston is on the path to finding that long-term success and getting wins in the short term.
"Look, we're 1-7, nobody's happy with where we are," Caserio said. "I think all of us need to be better, myself included. Myself, players, coaches, we're all accountable. We all need to do a better job with our performance, and we're going to try to figure out ways that we can do that. I think any time that you put a program in place, you're trying to build a program. I think all of us understand there's going to be some bumps that come along the way."
The Texans will travel to Miami to face the Dolphins (1-7) in Week 9. The next time you can see the Texans at NRG Stadium will be on November 28 as they host the New York Jets in Week 12. Kickoff is set for noon CT. Click here for tickets.