Lovie Smith is heading back to a head coach's seat in the NFL.
The Houston Texans have agreed to a deal with Smith to be the team's new head coach, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo reported Monday.
The Texans later confirmed the hire and also announced that Pep Hamilton has been promoted to offensive coordinator. Frank Ross has been retained as special teams coordinator.
"I am excited to introduce Lovie Smith as our next head coach," Texans general manager Nick Caserio said in a statement. "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."
Smith's hiring essentially is a promotion after he spent the 2021 season working as associate head coach and defensive coordinator under the since-fired David Culley in Houston. It also is the culmination of what has been a rather lengthy process that has included bringing in candidates such as Josh McCown for not one, but two interviews as well as considering former Dolphins coach Brian Flores before pivoting to interviewing Smith over the weekend.
The hiring of Smith is highly intriguing for a number of reasons. First, it's Smith's third go-around as an NFL head coach after spending nine seasons in Chicago and two in Tampa, and his first as the head man since spending 2016-2020 as the University of Illinois head coach. Secondly, Smith's hiring means the elevation of a man in charge of a defense that finished 31st in yards allowed per game in 2021, but also showed some juice late in the season, forcing three turnovers in an upset win over the Chargers.
"I want to first thank Nick Caserio and the McNair family for giving me this opportunity," Smith said. "I'm humbled to be the next head coach of the Houston Texans and incredibly excited to continue to work with Nick. 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 certainly has the experience necessary to lead the Texans on a significant turnaround. Smith took the Bears from 5-11 in 2004 to 11-5 in 2005, earning Coach of the Year honors. He led Chicago to the Super Bowl a year later, going 13-3 in the regular season and riding its defense to a conference title before falling to the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI. He didn't enjoy similar success in Tampa, going 8-24 in two seasons with the Buccaneers.
Defense is Smith's hallmark, but there remains a question of quarterback in Houston. Davis Mills showed enough promise to give him the reins in 2022, however Houston will still need to resolve the situation regarding Deshaun Watson. The Texans will also need to add a significant amount of talent to its roster, which was among the least talented in the NFL last season.
That falls on the shoulders of Caserio, but having Smith in place should help with attracting potential free agents. From there, the journey will continue for Smith and the Texans.