The Houston Texans officially announced on Monday that they've hired 2021 defensive coordinator Lovie Smith as their head coach.
The former Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and University of Illinois head coach emerged as a surprise candidate late in the interview process and will now replace David Culley, who was fired after a single season in the position.
"I am excited to introduce Lovie Smith as our next head coach," Texans general manager Nick Caserio said via the team website. "He is one of the most respected coaches in the NFL and an established leader. 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."
Winding path in Houston's head coach search
The Texans reportedly focused on former NFL quarterback Josh McCown and ex-Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores early in hiring process. But Smith, who spent a single season as Culley's associate head coach, instead will land his third NFL head coaching job.
McCown, 42, retired from the NFL in 2019 after 16 seasons as primarily a backup quarterback. He's never held a head coaching position at any level. Flores was widely believed to enter the offseason as one of the NFL's most coveted head-coaching candidates after leading the Dolphins to consecutive winning seasons. He'll instead remain without a job after suing the NFL and multiple teams claiming racism in the league's hiring process.
Lovie Smith's résumé
Smith has spent 15 seasons in the NFL as a coordinator or head coach. He's best-known for a nine-season stint as the Bears head coach from 2004-12 that saw Chicago go 81-63 and reach a Super Bowl. He was fired after missing the playoffs five times in his final six seasons.
In 2014, he accepted the Bucs' head coaching job. He was fired in 2016 after after posting an 8-24 record in two seasons. He then coached Illinois for five seasons that resulted in a 17-39 record and his 2020 dismissal. Houston's defense finished next-to-last in the NFL last season while allowing 384.4 yards per game.
The Texans hire Smith as the NFL faces increased scrutiny over its hiring practices with Flores' lawsuit in the spotlight. Smith joins Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera, New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh and newly hired Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel as the fifth person of color among the NFL's 32 head coaching positions.
Smith is the second head coaching hire under general manager Nick Caserio, who joined the franchise last January and oversaw the hiring of Culley weeks later.