HOUSTON – The Houston Texans introduced their new head coach, Lovie Smith, to the public on Tuesday, one day after announcing his hiring.
The #Texans will make it official with Lovie Smith as new Head Coach. He was with the Bears and led them to a Super Bowl. Struggled w Bucs & at Univ of Illinois but here w/Texans as Assoc HC/DC and now HC. Well respected by players. He should have been in mix earlier. @KPRC2— Randy McIlvoy (@KPRC2RandyMc) February 7, 2022
“The goal for a lot of us is ultimately to lead our football team,” Smith said. “For me, I had a great job last year being the defensive coordinator here. I got to see the potential of what we could do here. And when the opportunity, of course, presented itself to me late in the game, I was just excited for it because I know what we can be around here.”
Potential was a main theme on Tuesday even though Houston is coming off a 4-13 season in David Culley’s one year as head coach and back-to-back four-win seasons.
“Experience tells you what it looks like here and where you can go,” Smith said. “It’s not just about the finished product that you look for, it’s about the potential that you see. And being here this past year, I saw the potential of kind of starting from the bottom floor and then start building it up.
“History tells you we can make a quick turnaround,” Smith added, alluding to the Cincinnati Bengals winning four games just a season ago and now being in the upcoming Super Bowl. “I don’t know exactly how many games we can win. But if you look at our season this past year, we won four, but we had opportunities to win more.
“I don’t think there’s a big gap between (team) one and (team) 32 (in the NFL),” he continued. “If you get the right people together, you can achieve some great things.”
In the Texans’ first moves to help shape Smith’s coaching staff, the Texans promoted Pep Hamilton to offensive coordinator and retained Frank Ross as special teams coordinator. The continuity of retaining Hamilton on staff was paramount, Smith said, to the continued development of quarterback Davis Mills, who just finished his rookie season.
“It was a must, as I see it,” Smith said. “Pep has an expertise, as you look at his background, with what he did in San Diego with (Justin) Herbert to, of course, what he did with Davis here, he’s a fundamental coach that has a defensive mentality on toughness with the running game and all of those things. And I’m excited about him being on a staff where our Houston fans can see what he’s going to do.”
Before his ascension to head coach, Smith spent this past season as the Texans’ defensive coordinator. During this past season, his first with the team, Smith led a defense that recorded 25 takeaways, tied for 10th in the league, with the defense also intercepting passes from the opposition at the fifth-highest rate in the NFL at 3.1 percent of opposing passing attempts. Smith said on Tuesday that he will continue calling the defensive plays.
“I loved calling plays last year,” Smith said. “I think I can help our program the most right now with me in that same role, so I will be doing that.”
Smith has had head coaching success before in the NFL in his nine years as the head coach of the Chicago Bears. During that time, he led the Bears to an appearance in the Super Bowl following the 2006 season and helped lead the Bears to three NFC North titles and two NFC Championship appearances. He finished his nine years in Chicago with an 81-63 record.
Smith also was a head coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014 and 2015 with a combined record of 8-24.
Before coming to the Texans, Smith spent five seasons as the head coach at the University of Illinois, where he finished with a record of 17-39.
During the coaching process, the Texans interviewed Brian Flores, Jonathan Goddard, Hines Ward, Joe Lombardi, Josh McCown, Kevin O’Connell, and Smith. In the middle of this process, after he had interviewed twice with the Texans, Flores filed his lawsuit against the league and three teams - the Denver Broncos, the New York Giants, and the Miami Dolphins - alleging racial discrimination in the head coach interviewing process. Texans GM Nick Caserio said on Tuesday the lawsuit had no bearing on how the Texans’ process turned out.
“It didn’t affect us at all,” Caserio said. “I’ve known Brian a long time - personally and professionally. I have a lot of respect for Brian as a coach and as a person. He was a part of this (hiring) process. He’s been a good coach in this league for a number of years. Part of our responsibility was to spend time with as many quality candidates as possible and Brian was one of those.
“There were conversations with Brian after (the lawsuit) took place, so it really didn’t affect the process at all. A lot of it was me taking information, processing a lot of information, talking to various different people and different parties and different candidates, and ultimately arriving at an end point that I felt made the most sense for our organization and that’s what we did.”
“I don’t know enough about the lawsuit,” Smith said. “I realize the amount of Black head coaches in the National Football League. So there’s a problem.”
As an example of perhaps how to right the process, Smith talked about how Hamilton, as a Black offensive coordinator, is directing his offense.
“Maybe it’s about getting guys in a position for people to see exactly who they are and what they can do,” Smith said. “I understand the problem. I know the Houston Texans are doing something about it to make it better.”
The process also featured speculation about how the former QB Josh McCown, who has no coaching experience in college or the NFL, became a finalist for the Texans’ head coaching job. On Tuesday, Caserio said it hasn’t been determined yet if McCown will be a part of Smith’s coaching staff.
“Lovie and I will have discussions on that,” Caserio said. “Lovie will have a lot of input. There’ll be a number of other coaches that will have input. So the next step for us, really, after today, is to continue to build out the staff and I’d say we’re making progress on that.”
In the meantime, Smith laid out the fundamentals of his philosophies. On offense, he described a disciplined approach centered on running the football. On defense, Smith will be calling the plays and trying to create takeaways, much like this past season. He talked about the importance of special teams and also the importance of the fans.
“It’s our responsibility to bring the fans back and get them excited about the product on the football field.”
And so, the Lovie Smith era with the Houston Texans begins.
Watch the full announcement below: