David Culley has left the Ravens for his dream job, and he is grateful to the people who helped him land it.
The Houston Texans officially announced Culley as their new head coach Friday, and during his introductory press conference, he thanked Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh for being a mentor and friend.
Culley spent the past two seasons as the Ravens Assistant Head Coach/Pass Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach, and he also worked with Harbaugh for eight years (1999-2007) on Andy Reid's staff with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Getting his first chance to be a head coach at age 65, Culley said he would carry some of Harbaugh's philosophies with him to Houston. One those main values is honesty.
"I'm very fortunate to have had the opportunity to come to the Baltimore Ravens with John Harbaugh, knowing the kind of human being he is, the kind of coach that he is, going back to his family," Culley said. "I knew his daddy (Jack Harbaugh) before I knew him. I coached against Jim.
"[John's] record speaks for itself. He's one of the top guys in this league. The one thing I love about John Harbaugh is, I've taken this with me, the honesty is so there with him in everything that he does. Whether he's dealing with a player, whether he's dealing with a coach, whether he's dealing with y'all, you may not like what you hear, but what you get is the honesty. I learned that. I appreciate that. And that's what I'm all about. I appreciate him for being that for me."
Earlier this month, Harbaugh gave Culley a ringing endorsement after the Texans requested permission to interview him. Culley had strong relationships with many Ravens players, particularly the wide receiver group who loved the passion Culley brought to work every day.
"I do believe that David Culley would be a tremendous hire for any team; maybe, especially the Texans with Deshaun Watson," Harbaugh said. "I'm really excited for him.
"David Culley is prime example of the term 'servant leadership. He is singularly focused on conducting himself in a manner that brings out the very best in everyone around him. He is one the finest communicators and teachers I've encountered – someone who is able to dig deep into the potential of his players, helping maximize their own abilities in a way that benefits the entire team. Two of his greatest qualities are how he genuinely connects with people and the approach with which he motivates them. Most importantly, David is an outstanding man who cares about creating success for others in the most positive way."
Now that Culley is Houston's head coach, one of his first challenges will be to convince Watson to remain with the organization. According to multiple reports, Watson has requested a trade, but both Culley and new General Manager Nick Caserio were adamant Friday that they had no plans to deal their 25-year-old franchise quarterback.
"Deshaun Watson's a Houston Texan," Culley said. "He's the quarterback of the Houston Texans. … I want him to be a Houston Texan, and the reason I'm in this position today is because I knew he's going to be a Houston Texan."
Culley will be the NFL's third active Black head coach, joining Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins, and Culley will be the fifth minority head coach, joining Ron Rivera of the Washington Football Team and Robert Saleh of the New York Jets. There were seven NFL head coaching vacancies this offseason and only two were filled by minorities.
Culley takes pride in his coaching ability, and when he left Baltimore to interview in Houston, he believed he would get the job. Now he believes he has what it takes to win in Houston.
"I'm the head coach here for a reason," Culley said. I don't feel like I'm the head coach here with the Houston Texans because I'm a minority. David Culley was the best hire for this job, for this family and this franchise, who just happens to be African-American. That's how I look at that. That's how I look at that all the way across the league.
"Do we need to have that happen more? Yes, and it's happening. For all that you've been reading about for the minority hires and all those kinds of things throughout the league … I think the franchises and everybody is doing a wonderful job trying to get that to happen. It didn't happen. All I know is it happened for me.
"I got this job simply because I'm the best coach they wanted in this situation. I happen to be African-American. I'm proud of that. If me getting this job, because of that reason, allows other teams in this league to see that with all the other African-American coaches that are in this business right now (that are qualified), then so be it."