When the Houston Texans were looking at head coaches last offseason, there were jokes about their desire to hire Josh McCown, who had never coached above the high-school level. There was a serious candidate in Brian Flores.
Nobody considered Lovie Smith. When he suddenly emerged as the leading candidate, it was strange.
It was also a relationship that was probably doomed from the start. The Texans fired Smith on Sunday night, team owner Cal McNair announced. The news was first reported by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo.
A statement from General Manager Nick Caserio: pic.twitter.com/rq44KxC2y1
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) January 9, 2023
Smith is the second straight coach to last just one season with the Texans. If you count Romeo Crennel, who was the interim for 12 games in 2020 after Bill O'Brien was fired, the next coach the Texans hire will be their fifth in four seasons.
Lovie Smith fired after losing season
The Texans were reportedly down to three candidates last offseason: McCown, Flores and Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. Then Flores filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL.
The Texans seemed set to hire McCown, despite his lack of experience. After the lawsuit, the Texans pivoted to Smith. It got messy. Flores said, through his lawyers, that he was passed over due to the lawsuit.
It left Smith in a strange spot. He was the defensive coordinator for a 4-13 Texans team in 2021 that gave up the second-most yards in the NFL. The Texans fired David Culley after one season, but hired the coordinator of a bad defense. Smith had coached the University of Illinois, but hadn't been a head coach in the NFL since 2015 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It was an awkward, unexpected hire and not a great fit. The Texans were expected to be bad, and they were. And Smith didn't last in Houston to coach a second season.
Another 1-and-done coach in Houston
The Texans were 1-3-1 to start the season, then lost nine in a row. They quickly got in the lead for the first overall pick of the draft. It was a bad team and the fans tuned it out.
They finished the season with a victory against the Indianapolis Colts, a win that cost the Texans the No. 1 pick of the 2023 draft.
It's rare for a team to have two consecutive one-and-done coaches. Since the merger in 1970, only the San Francisco 49ers have fired multiple coaches consecutively after just one season. The 49ers had three straight one-and-done coaches from 1976-78 and then had back-to-back one-year coaches in 2015-16. The 49ers made a Super Bowl not long after each of those bad stretches, so it's not like the Texans can't rebound quickly. But Houston is viewed as a disorganized franchise and firing Smith a year after he was a strange hire to begin with isn't the best look.
Houston is starting to dig out from bad trades that cost it draft picks and other poor decisions, and a new head coach can have a practically clean slate to rebuild. That might appeal to someone, but Houston isn't seen as a stable franchise. It could be a tough sell.
At this point, the Texans have to hope that their next hire lasts more than a season.