This past NFL season, only two coaches made more than $10 million in salary. New England's Bill Belicheck, a staple in the northeast for nearly a quarter-century, earned $12.5 million. Pete Carroll, who, despite a down year, has led the Seahawks to two Super Bowls in the past decade, made $11 million.
Every other NFL coach's salary was below $10 million. Yet it's an unsung name who's going to walk away with more money than anyone else.
The Houston Texans fired head coach David Culley after one season. Culley's salary for this year was $5 million. However, his entire contract is guaranteed. As NFL Network's Tom Pelissero notes, that means Culley will get another $17 million over the next three years. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly was also fired.
The Texans were among the worst teams in the NFL, with a 4-13 record. But Culley was put into a tough situation. At 65 years old, he joined the Texans as the oldest first-time head coach and immediately walked into a firestorm.
Franchise quarterback DeShaun Watson was facing sexual assault allegations and was inactive for every game, despite being healthy. The team was also without defensive end J.J. Watt and wide receiver Will Fuller, who departed after the 2020 season to Arizona and Miami, respectively. Losing key pieces like that didn't give Culley much of a chance to improve on a 4-12 record from the prior year.
Culley released a statement about his time in Houston:
"I loved every minute of being the head coach of the Houston Texans. I appreciate the players and coaches for staying the course with me through the ups and downs of our season. I'm disappointed we didn't win more games and I won't have a chance to improve on the lessons I've learned, but I fully understand this is a bottom-line business and I didn't do enough. I want to thank the McNair Family and Nick Caserio for giving me this opportunity, I am forever grateful for the experience. I wish this team and organization the best, they are building a special program and I truly believe the future is bright for Texans fans."
In his own statement, Texans general manager Nick Caserio addressed the oddity of firing a coach after one season. However, he said there were "philosophical differences over the long-term direction and vision for our program moving forward."
To add further insult to injury, the Texans sent two third-round picks to the Baltimore Ravens to hire Culley away from the Ravens staff. Baltimore will use the second of those picks in this year's draft. Now, on top of owing $17 million in additional money, the Texans are without a head coach, a draft pick, and have a mess of a situation internally.
Alas, this isn't the first time a team has paid someone to go away. Florida State gave Willie Taggart plenty of money to leave, Charlie Weis has earned additional money at multiple stops, and Bobby Bonilla has the sweetest deal in all of sports.