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Houston Texans hire Lovie Smith as head coach

The Houston Texans have hired Lovie Smith as their next head coach, the team announced Monday.

Smith was the Texans’ associate head coach and defensive coordinator this past season.

“[Smith] is one of the most respected coaches in the NFL and an established leader,” Texans general manager Nick Caserio said in a statement released by the team. “A proven winner, Lovie has shown the ability to develop players both on and off the field for years. We had numerous discussions with countless coaches, executives, and players, and what revealed itself is that Lovie has both the leadership and people skills it takes to lead us forward. We both understand how much work is in front of us, but we embrace the responsibility and look forward to continuing to build a program that can have sustained success.”

Smith replaces David Culley, who was fired by the Texans in mid-January, less than one year after he was hired. Under Smith, Houston’s defense ranked 23rd in Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average but had 25 takeaways in 2021.

“I’m humbled to be the next head coach of the Houston Texans and incredibly excited to continue to work with Nick,” Smith said in a statement. “I have so many friends, family, teammates and coaches to thank for supporting me and helping me continue to do what I love, which is teaching and developing players. I understand the responsibility I have to this organization and this city to develop a championship-level program. I’m ready to get to work and build it together.”

Smith was previously an NFL head coach with the Chicago Bears (2004 to 2012) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014 to 2015). He joined Culley’s staff after being fired after five seasons as head coach at the University of Illinois.

Smith has an 89-87 record as an NFL head coach and was the 2005 AP Coach of the Year.

Smith, who is Black, joins the Miami Dolphins‘ Mike McDaniel, New York Jets‘ Robert Saleh, Pittsburgh Steelers‘ Mike Tomlin and Washington Commanders‘ Ron Rivera as the league’s only minority head coaches.

The Texans’ selection of Smith and the Dolphins’ hiring of McDaniel came after former Miami head coach Brian Flores filed a racial-discrimination lawsuit against the NFL, Dolphins, New York Giants and Denver Broncos last week over the interview processes in New York and Denver and his firing by Miami.

Seven of the nine head-coach openings this hiring cycle have been or are expected to be filled by white candidates.

The attorneys for Flores, who interviewed twice and was a finalist for the Texans’ job, released a statement after the announcement of Smith’s hiring.

“Mr. Flores is happy to hear that the Texans have hired a Black head coach, Lovie Smith, as Mr. Flores’ goal in bringing his case is to provide real opportunities for Black and minority candidates to be considered for coaching and executive positions within the NFL,” Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis said. “However, we would be remiss not to mention that Mr. Flores was one of three finalists for the Texans’ head coach position and, after a great interview and mutual interest, it is obvious that the only reason Mr. Flores was not selected was his decision to stand up against racial inequality across the NFL.”

The Texans will not receive compensatory draft picks through the Smith hire. Under the league’s Rooney Rule, teams receive two third-round picks for developing a minority assistant who is hired for a head-coaching job. However, because Smith is not leaving for another team and has not been on Houston’s staff for two years, the Texans will not receive compensation.

Houston also announced it has promoted Pep Hamilton from quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator to offensive coordinator, and that it has retained Frank Ross as special teams coordinator.

“The last couple of seasons have been disappointing, but I believe in the vision Nick Caserio has for our football team moving forward and I see the pieces coming together,” Texans chair and chief executive officer Cal McNair said in a statement. “Our goal here is to create an environment that’s conducive to winning on a day-to-day basis and compete for championships. I’ve had an extreme amount of respect for Lovie for years now and that only grew with the work he did last season and throughout this process.”

Caserio decided to move on from Culley after the Texans won four games — the same number the team did in 2020 under interim coach Romeo Crennel — and did it without quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson was on the Texans’ active roster but was a healthy scratch for all 17 games. Watson, who requested a trade in January 2021, is facing 22 lawsuits alleging sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during massage sessions.

Even without trading Watson, the Texans have their highest draft pick since they drafted Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 pick in 2014. Houston’s 4-13 record in 2021 netted the team the No. 3 pick, its first pick in the first round since 2019.

Houston interviewed seven candidates for its opening at head coach: Smith, Flores, former NFL quarterback Josh McCownPhiladelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, and former Steelers wide receiver and current Florida Atlantic receivers coach Hines Ward.

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