HOUSTON – The Texans hired former Cleveland Browns defensive line coach Chris Kiffin to coach the linebackers and retained defensive line Jacques Cesaire, according to league sources.
Kiffin, a former San Francisco 49ers pass rush specialist, overlapped with newly hired Texans coach DeMeco Ryans in San Francisco on coach Kyle Shanahan’s staff.
The younger brother of Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin and the son of legendary former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, Chris Kiffin, 41, has coached at Florida Atlantic, Mississippi, Arkansas State, USC, Nebraska and Idaho. He played defensive line at Colorado State.
Cesaire is a former Buffalo Bills assistant defensive line coach who was hired last season under former coach Lovie Smith. Under Cesaire, defensive end Jerry Hughes recorded a team-high nine sacks, defensive end Ogbo Okoronkwo had five sacks and disruptive defensive tackle Maliek Collins had 3 1/2 sacks and nine tackles for losses.
Cesaire is a former Chargers defensive lineman who played for them for nine seasons before retiring. He recorded 217 career tackles, 12 1/2 sacks and three forced fumbles.
A former undrafted free agent from Southern Connecticut State, Cesaire coached for the Bills for two seasons under defensive line coach Eric Washington and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
He coached the defensive line at the University of San Diego for five seasons before joining the Bills.
The Texans didn’t retain George Warhop, 61, who coached the Texans’ offensive line this past season as they allowed 38 sacks, left tackle Laremy Tunsil was a first-team Pro Bowl selection and rookie running back Dameon Pierce was a Pro Bowl alternate.
Indianapolis Colts offensive line coach Chris Strausser is the leading candidate to replace Warhop, according to league sources. Strausser, 59, was promoted from assistant offensive line coach in 2020 and was previously an offensive line coach for the Denver Broncos and coached collegiately at Boise State, Colorado and Washington.
The Colts offensive line, despite the presence of All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson, regressed last season as they allowed 60 sacks, third-most in the NFL and tied a league-high with 14 sacks allowed in the fourth quarter. Instability across the offensive line hampered them as they didn’t settle on a consistent starting five until November. There was a significant improvement toward the final stretch of the season, especially in pass blocking, after an extremely rough start to the season.
During the first three seasons under Strausser, the Colts allowed the fourth-fewest sacks in the NFL. In 2021 when star running back Jonathan Taylor was healthy, he rushed for 1,811 yards and Nelson and center Ryan Kelly were both named to the Pro Bowl.
Former 49ers defensive passing game specialist and secondary coach Cory Undlin is expected to join the Texans as defensive passing game coordinator-secondary coach, according to league sources.
The Texans previously hired former Arizona Cardinals defensive line coach Matt Burke as defensive coordinator and he and Undlin worked together with the Philadelphia Eagles before Undlin was hired as the Detroit Lions defensive coordinator.
Undlin, 51, has been an assistant coach for the New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos, Eagles, Lions and 49ers.
Undlin earned Super Bowl rings with the Patriots as a defensive assistant in 2004 and with the Eagles in 2017 as a defensive backs coach.
The Texans hired former 49ers offensive passing game coordinator Bobby Slowik as offensive coordinator, retained special teams coordinator Frank Ross, hired 49ers defensive quality control coach Stephen Adegoke as safeties coach as the replacement for Joe Danna, who’s now the Buffalo Bills safeties coach, hired 49ers chief of staff Nick Kray for the same position in Houston and retained head strength and conditioning coach Mike Eubanks, according to sources.
The Texans, under Ryans, didn’t retain Warhop, tight ends coach Tim Berbenich, assistant defensive line coach Kenyon Jackson, offensive assistant-quarterbacks Ted White, linebackers coach Miles Smith, defensive assistant-nickels coach Ilir Emini, defensive assistant Dele Harding, offensive assistant Robbie Picazo and several other assistants from former coach Lovie Smith’s staff, per sources.
“We want a diverse coaching staff, and that’s not only diversity in race, but diversity in experience,” Ryans said during his introductory press conference. “We want experienced coaches, some coaches with not so much experience. We want coaches who are great teachers. That’s the one thing we’re looking for, most importantly, is great teachers. We want guys who are positive, bring positive energy. We want guys who can connect with players.
“If you can connect with players, you can lead players. But if you can’t connect, there is no way you can coach those guys. We want guys who are bringing energy, doing it in a fun way, guys who are truly committed to working together. No egos allowed, no energy vampires allowed. We want a positive culture.”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com