After twice being blocked by the Patriots from interviewing for the Texans’ general manager job in the past three years, Nick Caserio has a deal in place to become the next general manager in Houston, a league source confirmed to the Globe on Tuesday night.
The Patriots have suffered an exodus of coaches and front office talent over the last few years, including Matt Patricia, Brian Flores, Joe Judge, and Monti Ossenfort. Now they are set to lose Caserio, who has been the Patriots’ director of player personnel and Bill Belichick’s right-hand man since 2008.
Caserio, 45, has been a valuable and versatile member of the Patriots’ organization since joining the team as a personnel assistant in 2001. He quickly rose up the ladder to become the top football executive under Belichick in 2008, and he also was an on-field coach in 2002 and 2007.
Caserio has handled most of the front office duties over the past several years — negotiating most contracts, working the trade deadline, organizing the draft — but also sits in the coaches’ box on game day and is on the headset talking to Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
“He has a vast amount of experience and talent in a number of different areas,” Belichick said of Caserio in November 2019. “He does a great job in all those areas, and has been extremely valuable to me on so many levels for such a long time. And again, when things pop up that need to be done, and it’s harder to find maybe a younger person, less-experienced person on your staff or in your organization to do those things, you look at him and say, ‘OK, he can do them,’ and then that maybe allows you to shuffle some things in other areas.”
But Caserio was always going to be second in command as long as Belichick was around, and in Houston he gets the GM title and full charge of the football operation. His first undertaking will be hiring a new coach to replace Bill O’Brien, who was fired as head coach and GM of the Texans in October.
Caserio reunites with Jack Easterby, the Texans’ executive vice president of football operations, who was the Patriots’ character coach from 2013-18. Caserio also could hire a new coach with Patriots connections — McDaniels, linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, or Brian Daboll, a former Patriots assistant who is currently the Bills’ offensive coordinator.
The Patriots have an obvious internal replacement for Caserio in Dave Ziegler, the team’s assistant director of player personnel. But Ziegler is also on the Broncos’ interview list for their GM vacancy.
Caserio attempted to interview with the Texans in 2018 and 2019, but the Patriots blocked each attempt. In 2019, the Patriots filed tampering charges against the Texans for their pursuit of Caserio, and the Texans subsequently backed off and apologized.
Caserio signed a two-year extension with the Patriots last February, but the Patriots no longer have the ability to block him from interviews. New NFL rules passed last May prevent teams from blocking employees from job opportunities that represent a clear promotion, which Caserio will be getting in Houston. Caserio also interviewed for the Panthers’ GM vacancy this week.
While Caserio finally gets the GM title and control of the Texans’ football operation, he’s walking into a less-than-ideal situation. The Texans finished 4-12, don’t have first- or second-round picks after trading them to Miami last year for offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, and their first pick isn’t until No. 67 in the third round. The Texans also have a tight salary-cap situation and likely won’t be major spenders this spring.
But the Texans do have a phenomenal quarterback in Deshaun Watson, who led the NFL in passing yards (4,823) this season and was second in passer rating (112.4).
Caserio, who won six Super Bowl rings in his time with the Patriots, is joining a Texans team that has never reached the AFC Championship game in their 19 years of existence. The Texans are set to host the Patriots in a regular-season game next fall.