The Houston Texans’ problem was not Lovie Smith. Just like David Culley.
It’s much easier to fire the head coach than to admit who’s really to blame for the train wreck. In the case of the Texans, that means a general manager who is in over his head and an inept owner.
Smith, like Culley a year ago, was fired after only one season as head coach of the Texans. Neither firing was unexpected – let’s face it, both Smith and Culley were hired to be fired, fill-ins for coaches the Texans desperately wanted but couldn’t get – but the reasons given by both owner Cal McNair and general manager Nick Caserio were ridiculous.
“While we recognise that the results have not been as anticipated, we remain committed to developing a programme that produces long-term, sustainable success,” McNair said on Twitter.
“It is my responsibility to build a comprehensive and competitive programme capable of long-term success,” Caserio said in a statement. “We’re not there yet, but with the McNair family’s support and the resources at our disposal, I’m confident in the direction of our football programme moving forward.”
That brings us to one person.
Since McNair took over as CEO in January 2019 following the death of his father, Robert, the Texans have only had one winning season. During that time, they also had a former team chaplain as a de facto GM and allowed a sexual predator to operate freely (Deshaun Watson). They traded one of the team’s best players for a bag of footballs and parted ways with the other in an admission of the team’s dysfunction.
Brian Flores took an awkward step back after filing a lawsuit accusing the NFL and some of its teams of racial bias.
Not to mention seriously considering – not once, but twice! – hiring former quarterback Josh McCown as head coach despite his lack of experience. At all levels. (Ask the Indianapolis Colts how well that works.)
This isn’t a well-run team that has hit a rough patch, as the Pittsburgh Steelers have. No, the Texans are led by people who have no idea what they’re doing but believe they do. When things go wrong, as they inevitably do, they look for someone else to blame.
And how convenient that, for at least the last two years, they have had Black head coaches who were so desperate for a job that they were willing to take the job knowing full well how it would end.
“How are the Texans behaving?” On Twitter, Tony Dungy, the Super Bowl-winning coach who is now an NBC Sports analyst, inquired. “What kind of operation is this, where you don’t believe in the coaches you hire? Who will want to coach there if you only have one year to put your plans into action?
“Two years in a row is ridiculous,” Dungy added, referring to Smith and Culley as done deals.
Regardless of how extreme the NFL’s win-now mentality is, that usually means two or three seasons. Not a single one. To be fired before that, you have to be spectacularly bad – hello, Urban Meyer! – and neither Smith, who led the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl, nor Culley, a well-respected assistant, fit the bill.
Smith, on the other hand, had the last laugh.
Smith led the Texans to an unlikely late-game victory over the Colts on Sunday, costing the Texans the No. 1 pick in this year’s NFL draught.
The Bears, the team that gave Smith his first chance as a head coach, will benefit.
To say Smith ruined McNair and Caserio’s plans would imply the dynamic duo had one, and nothing in the last few years should give anyone confidence that this is the case.
Many questioned McNair’s decision to hire Jack Easterby, a former New England Patriots team chaplain, as vice president of team development. But look at what Dan Campbell has done with the Detroit Lions after he talked about biting kneecaps.
Easterby, on the other hand, alienated both players and team officials as he sought to consolidate power, and he was fired in October.
Caserio is looking for his third coach in as many years, and all he has to offer is a reasonable amount of cap space, a few good players, and the No. 2 pick in a draught devoid of clear-cut difference makers.
So, no, the Texans aren’t a coach, a player, or anything else standing in their way of making the Super Bowl. Houston needs a major rebuild, and it will take someone with vision and savvy to pull it off.
Someone the Texans do not possess.