The Houston Texans got their guy in Bobby Slowik.
The San Francisco 49ers passing game coordinator joins DeMeco Ryans as the former defensive coordinator takes over his original draft team from 2006. Interestingly Slowik and Ryans both started their 49ers tenures at the same time — 2017 — and as defensive quality control coaches under rookie coach Kyle Shanahan. However, Slowik diverted towards offense after that season and Ryans stayed on his defensive path.
Slowik, 35, is tasked with turning around a Houston offense that was one of the league’s worst the last two years under coordinators Tim Kelly and Pep Hamilton. The projected offensive system, from the Shanahan and Gary Kubiak tree, is one that’s been widely celebrated around the league. Former Shanahan protégé and current Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel implemented the system with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa this year and made the playoffs in their initial campaign.
The hire comes after a brief courting of former Texas Tech and Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury. For all the experience that Kingsbury was projected to bring with quarterbacks along with the well-documented “Air Raid” offense, Slowik represents more of a wild card than the other options available.
It could be just what Houston needs to play a new brand of football next season.
Slowik got his start in the NFL in 2011 as a defensive assistant for Washington, working alongside his father, Bob Slowik, who had been a defensive coordinator in the league for two decades and coached against some notable names at practice every day. The Washington offensive staff at that time included Shanahan, McDaniel, Sean McVay and Mike LaFleur.
Not a bad group to be around for someone who was destined to be an offensive coordinator.
He joined the San Francisco staff originally on the defensive side of the ball as well before pivoting over to offense. Slowik joins Houston as the next young offensive-mind in the Shanahan tree. He’s prepared for this moment having spent the last four seasons learning from whom many consider the premier offensive mind in the game.
For the Texans, the implementation of the Shanahan West Coast system will retain the emphasis on the run game that Lovie Smith once preached a year ago, but go about that in very different ways. The run game will be entirely predicated on zone blocking concepts and is one that has seen somewhat unheralded players like Elijah Mitchell find early success the last few seasons.
General Manager Nick Caserio will need to find strong interior offensive line play, both to support 2022 first-round pick Kenyon Green and his development but also to ensure that Houston is able to win games the way that Slowik’s offense is designed. Attacking right guard and center either during free agency or the draft will be non-negotiable.
No team featured two backs on the field more than San Francisco in 2021, so it may be safe to assume fullback Troy Hairston’s role will grow and the Texans will look to prioritize finding a complimentary back to Dameon Pierce. The offensive scheme under Shanahan prioritized running the ball through a variety of formations and was unafraid to do so in a throwback fashion.
The under-center nature of the west coast and its ties to a quick passing scheme should work to make life easier for whoever lines up under center in Houston. The team is currently projected to draft a quarterback at second overall by most analysts, so this speaks well for either Alabama quarterback Bryce Young or Ohio State’s CJ Stroud. Both showed a propensity to play well in rhythm this past season and both would be able to do so at a high level in Slowik’s projected scheme.
Even if the team decided to roll with former quarterback Davis Mills, this is a friendly system for any signal caller in football.
The team will need more receivers who can separate, currently Amari Rodgers, Nico Collins, and 2022 second-round pick John Metchie are the only wide receivers on the roster after Brandin Cooks. If Cooks is indeed traded as anticipated, Caserio will have to replace both his production and speed on the perimeter. A rookie wide receiver like Jalen Hyatt from Tennessee could be impactful for his ability to punish safeties and get defenses out of stacked boxes. A wideout like Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba could do so through his known playmaking ability after the catch.
This is not to say Houston is entirely unprepared to transition. The team is set up well with offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard to protect the quarterback at a high level on passing downs. The previously mentioned Pierce should absolutely excel in what will be predicted to be a career-best season. It’s not unreasonable to think that young wideouts like Nico Collins will also have their best years in a new scheme and with improved quarterback play.
Slowik has never called offensive plays before. It will be an interesting transition to see how a coach who is very well respected for his ability on the chalk board and assisting with game plans will perform within the game. However, there’s no reason to imagine Slowik will struggle.
What makes the Slowik acquisition more interesting is the team working on hiring Clint Kubiak, former offensive coordinator and the son of former Texans coach Gary Kubiak, as their run game coordinator. Minnesota assistant quarterbacks coach Jerrod Johnson has been brought in as quarterbacks coach. Slowik will have plenty of help getting his offense ready for Sundays.
The transition to Slowik’s offense away from Hamilton ran in 2022 will be markedly different for the Texans. However, after the failure of the last two seasons, their attempted embrace of a well-renowned system will likely be a welcome sight for fans.