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Houston Texans fire head coach Lovie Smith after one season

Lovie Smith, Houston Texans
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans have fired head coach Lovie Smith, marking the second consecutive season the franchise fired its coach after one season.

Smith replaced David Culley, who took over the position in 2021 to fill the void after Bill O’Brien was fired. After Houston went 4-13 last season under Culley, it took a step further back this season, winning just three games. Following Sunday’s win over the Indianapolis Colts, which cost Houston the No. 1┬ápick, Smith was fired by the Texans.

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Just as they did with Culley, the Texans fired Smith less than a year after officially announcing him as head coach. In the process, Houston became the first NFL team since the 2020-’21 Jacksonville Jaguars (Doug Marrone and Urban Meyer) to first a head coach in consecutive seasons. In addition, the Texans are the first team since the 2015-’16 San Francisco 49ers (Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly) to fire first-year head coaches in consecutive seasons.

Expectations weren’t ever high for the Texans in the regular season. Houston entered Week 1 as the favorite to land the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft order. After Smith’s team secured the top pick, guaranteeing Houston a shot at quarterback Bryce Young, he was fired.

This will certainly be the last time Smith is an NFL head coach. After several successful years with the Chicago Bears (81-63), the defensive-minded coach went 8-24 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014-’15) and then posted a 17-39 record across five seasons at Illinois.

Turning 65 in May, Smith still has a future in the NFL either as a defensive coordinator or a position coach with additional responsibilities. Considering his wealth of experience, he could be a perfect addition to any NFL team that has an inexperienced head coach.

Evaluating the Houston Texans’ coaching vacancy after Lovie Smith’s firing

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Houston won’t have the best job available, even with the opportunity to draft a franchise-caliber quarterback. While the shot at Young is valuable as is the fact this is just 1-of-32 jobs at the highest level available, there are factors working against Houston.

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Owner Cal McNair isn’t held in the highest regard around the NFL, especially among coaches and players. Barring a sudden willingness from the McNair family to sell the franchise, the Texans won’t be able to adequately address this factor working against them.

Recent history and a lack of stability also play a part in this. Houston tore its roster apart under general manager Nick Caserio then hired Culley as head coach out of nowhere. He was asked to coach one of the worst rosters in the NFL with the Deshaun Watson saga hanging over the team. When Houston fired him after he won four games, exceeding some external expectations, it diminished the organization’s reputation.

Related: NFL inside views Houston Texans as potential candidate to be sold

The process that culminated in Smith becoming the head coach also warrants a re-examination. By all accounts, Houston was prepared to name Josh McCown as its head coach in 2022. Despite his lack of NFL coaching experience, McNair, Caserio and executive Jack Easterby seemed to be sold on him.

Before he could be hired, Brian Flores filed a lawsuit aimed at the NFL’s racially-biased hiring practices. Shortly after, Houston backed away from McCown and promoted Smith to head coach.

The Texans likely improved their reputation for prospective candidates by parting ways with Easterby during the regular season. However, concerns might remain about how quickly a team chaplain and character coach climbed the ladder and was allowed by McNair to make football decisions.

As the Texans’ coaching search begins, McNair and Caserio will have plenty of questions to answer from candidates brought in for interviews. The responses to those concerns along with the organization’s plan for the future will have a significant impact on who pursues this job.