According to multiple reports, the Houston Texans will seemingly bring an end to their confusing and befuddling head coaching search by promoting associate head coach and defensive coordinator Lovie Smith. Smith will succeed former head honcho David Culley, who was relieved of his duties at the conclusion of the regular season following just one season as Houston's head coach. It's worth noting Smith initially joined Houston's staff under Culley in 2021. It's extremely difficult to wrap your head around this ill-advised process. Other potential candidates throughout Houston's strange proceedings included former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, current Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, and Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo. All three ascending coaches represented worthy candidates, with Flores and Mayo particularly serving as likely contenders given their ties to Caserio and Easterby via their shared days with the New England Patriots. Smith's name was essentially not mentioned until his now strongly rumored appointment, further proving that general manager Nick Caserio and Jack Easterby continue to operate in an extremely peculiar fashion. In reality, Flores, Mayo, and Gannon always had an outside shot as former NFL quarterback Josh McCown emerged the frontrunner in recent weeks despite never coaching at the collegiate or professional level. The 42-year-old McCown conducted several interviews with the Texans after also interviewing for the same position once in 2021 prior to Culley's appointment. The McCown-to-Houston train picked up considerable steam, with reports even emerging that the Texans were hoping for another franchise to interview McCown in hopes of refocusing the public's perception regarding his candidacy. McCown is still expected to join Smith's staff in some capacity, perhaps as an offensive quality control assistant or as a position coach. Pep Hamilton, who worked as Houston's passing game coordinator in 2021, could be elevated to the role of offensive coordinator following Tim Kelly’s departure. It’s possible the Texans allowed public opinion to sway their decision away from McCown, which opens up another can of worms altogether regarding good and bad hiring practices. By likely retaining and promoting Smith and Hamilton, the Texans are essentially keeping much of last year's coaching staff intact ahead of the 2022 campaign. The Texans won four games last season. Look, Smith is a solid coach with a decorated resume, but how the Texans arrived at this juncture qualifies as a truly dumbfounding development. Nine head coaching vacancies revealed themselves throughout this year's coaching cycle and the Texans will be the eighth team to make their hire, despite ultimately promoting from within nearly a month into their process. The Culley hire stunk of 'one-and-done' potential, and the Smith hire feels like more of the same. The Texans' roster is nowhere near truly competing with the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South, and Smith's appointment feels like another setup for a coach to fall on the metaphorical sword. Caserio and Easterby may have allowed bad optics to get in the way of the hire (McCown) they intended to make, and it’s not fair to Smith or the process in general. Either way, Smith is now preparing to become the head coach of the Texans. Smith rose to coaching prominence by enjoying an excellent nine-year run as the head coach of the Chicago Bears (2004-12), an astounding and long-lasting reign that catapulted the Bears to annual prominence. The Bears won 10 or more games four times under Smith's tutelage while securing three division titles. Smith oversaw a dominant defense that just fell short of capturing Super Bowl XLI in a defeat to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Smith's Bears later reached the NFC Championship Game in 2010. Smith's tenure in Chicago was largely successful and the Bears have since then struggled to recapture the magic of his era. Smith, too, has struggled to build upon the momentum he once found in Chicago. After taking the 2013 season off, Smith was named head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he previously enjoyed a lengthy stint as the team's linebackers coach. Smith lasted just two seasons in Tampa and was fired following the compiling of an abysmal 8-24 record. Smith then returned to the state of Illinois and the collegiate level by taking the reins of the Fighting Illini. Smith largely failed to restore the historic program to prominence, as a five-year tenure came to a well-deserved close following a combined record of 17-39. Questions regarding Smith's ability to coach a winner in 2022 will arise given a recent track record that unfortunately indicates otherwise. Reports will continue to emerge and paint an ugly picture regarding Houston's unfocused and muddied process. Head coaches rarely receive third opportunities to oversee an NFL franchise, and Smith will be thankful to find himself in this position. It doesn't necessarily indicate the Texans led a fair, focused, and unbiased search. How they unwittingly arrived at this juncture should be further analyzed and scrutinized.
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