Despite reports that the Texans had narrowed their list of candidates down to journeyman quarterback Josh McCown and former Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores, Adam Schefter of ESPN has reported that current defensive coordinator and associate head coach Lovie Smith is now in talks with Houston about potentially becoming their next head coach. Smith interviewed with the team earlier tonight, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. This is the second time Smith has been considered for the Texans’ head coach position, the first time being when he interviewed with the team in December 2013 prior to accepting the head coaching job in Tampa Bay.
Smith has spent 16 of the last 18 years as a head coach at some level. After three years of coaching at the high school level, Smith spent the next 13 years bouncing around the NCAA as a position coach with stops at Tulsa, Wisconsin, Arizona State, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio State. He accepted a job as the Buccaneers’ linebackers coach in 1996 and, after five seasons in Tampa Bay, was hired as the defensive coordinator of the Rams. Smith took the St. Louis defense from a league-worst 29.4 points per game to seventh in the league allowing 17.1 points per game in his first year leading the defense.
Smith soon earned the head coaching job for the Bears in 2004. Despite losing starting quarterback Rex Grossman to injury for most of the 2005 season, the Bears would get a first round bye in the playoffs as the NFC’s number two-seed in Lovie’s second year as head coach, winning Smith the AP NFL Coach of the Year Award. In 2006, the Bears were the NFC’s number one-seed, owning the NFL’s second-ranked scoring offense and fifth-ranked overall defense. In his third season as an NFL head coach, Smith became the first Black head coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl, and the second minority head coach after Tom Flores.
The next six years saw the Bears miss the playoffs five times despite only two losing seasons and never finishing with a record worse than 7-9. Smith was fired after failing to reach the playoffs in the 2012 season despite finishing with a record of 10-6, the last winning season the Bears would see until 2018.
After a year hiatus from the NFL, Smith was brought in to replace Greg Schiano in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers went 2-14 and 6-10 in Smith’s first two seasons and Smith was fired with three years remaining on his contract.
After Tampa Bay, Smith accepted the job of head coach at the University of Illinois. A perennial basement-dweller in the Big Ten, Smith amassed a 17-39 record in five seasons at Illinois. In 2019, he did lead the Fighting Illini to their first bowl game appearance since 2014, but was fired the next year after starting the season 2-5.
Following his stint in college football, Smith was hired by Houston in March of 2021 in his current role under rookie head coach David Culley, returning to the NFL after a 5 year hiatus. Smith did improve the Texans’ defense from ranking 30th in defensive DVOA in 2020 to 23rd in 2021, but Houston was not one of the league’s better defensive units.
Schefter reported that Smith was always included in the Texans’ discussions, but his candidacy for head coach didn’t start gaining momentum until very recently. The consensus in the media is that, along with this revived interest in Smith, McCown is no longer being considered for the position, as Schefter, Rapoport, and NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero have all tweeted as much.
It looks, for now, as if Brian Flores and Lovie Smith are the two candidates the Texans are focusing on for the position moving forward, unless any more surprise candidates find their way into contention. Be sure to follow our 2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker to keep up with updates to the remaining open positions.