The Houston Texans fired Lovie Smith on Sunday night, less than a year after making him the fifth head coach in franchise history.
This marks the second straight season the Texans fired their coach after one season. David Culley was let go last year, and Smith was named the head coach after serving as the team’s defensive coordinator. Houston’s prior two coaches served at least seven seasons apiece.
Smith’s dismissal comes one day after the team concluded a 3-13-1 regular season with a surprise win over the Indianapolis Colts. The Texans trailed by seven points with less than a minute remaining when Davis Mills connected with Jordan Akins for a 28-yard touchdown. Smith decided to go for two, and the Texans were successful with Mills connecting again with Akins, giving Houston a 32-31 victory that pushed the Texans out of the top slot in the 2023 NFL Draft.
After the game, Lovie Smith said, “Do I expect to be back? Yeah, I expect to be back.” The Texans had other plans.
The Houston Texans released a statement from Chair and CEO Cal McNair:
“Nick Caserio and I spoke with Lovie Smith tonight and informed him that we will be moving in a different direction as an organization. I appreciate Coach Smith and his entire family for their contributions over the last two seasons. We are grateful for his leadership and character, and we wish him the best moving forward. While we understand the results have not been what we had hoped for, we are committed to building a program that produces long-term, sustainable success. Our fans and city deserve a team that they can be proud of. I will work alongside Nick Caserio throughout this process and I’m confident we will find the right leader for our football team.”
Smith, hired last February, was expected to provide experience and leadership to a rebuilding Texans team that had not made the playoffs since 2019. He brought 11 years of NFL head coaching experience, helming the Chicago Bears from 2004-2012 (making the Super Bowl in 2006) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2014-2015.
However, things never clicked this season. After a season-opening tie against Indianapolis, Houston lost 12 of its next 13, spending the majority of the season as the last-place team in the NFL.
“In my opinion, they were a competitive team [with Smith],” said analyst Greg Jennings of The 33rd Team. “Who knows how they would have turned it around if Lovie Smith gets another year, gets some pieces in there, gets some free-agent signings, gets some pieces he wants. Anything can happen, and he wasn’t given that opportunity.”
Whoever succeeds Smith will inherit a roster that began the 2022 season as one of the oldest in the league and is in the early stages of a considerable rebuild. They will have assets to continue the rebuild in earnest.
The Texans own the second overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Houston also owns Cleveland’s first-round selection, which is the 12th pick, an extra third-rounder and four picks in the sixth. The Texans are also one of the teams with the most cap space available to spend in free agency with an estimated $47.6 million in cap space per Spotrac.