Texans hire firm to find Rick Smith replacement at GM

The Houston Texans have hired a search firm to find a replacement for Rick Smith at general manager, a source informed of the team's plans told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport on Tuesday.

The development comes a day after Smith emphasized during a news conference that his tenure with the team was not over and that he plans to return after a leave of absence. Smith is taking leave to assist his wife, who recently was diagnosed with breast cancer. The decision, which was announced Sunday, came hours after the Texans lost to the Colts to finish the season at 4-12.

While Smith said he does plan to return, he left the door open to the Texans finding a new general manager while he maintains his other role as executive vice president of football operations.

"In whatever role that is, I am going to maintain executive vice president title," Smith said. "If we hire a GM and have a guy to run the personnel, then we'll do that. So, again, it's a fluid process, but I absolutely intend on coming back, I will maintain that at least the executive vice president title and if [owner] Mr. [Bob] McNair feels like he wants to hire a general manager, then he will hire a general manager and that will be just fine."

There are several outside candidates that likely would receive consideration in the search. Patriots executives Nick Caserio and Monti Ossenfort along with Bills VP of player personnel Brian Gaine and Packers director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst are expected to be targeted by the search firm and team, Rapoport reported.

Smith has worked for the Texans since 2006, when he became the league's youngest general manager at 36 years old. Houston has gone 92-100 in the regular season and 3-4 in the playoffs, and has won the AFC South four times during his tenure.

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