With a record of 2-12-1, The Texans currently sit in pole position for the first overall pick in the NFL draft. This would seem to be partially by design, given their roster construction, which features a mixture of both young and old players not in their primes.
The same could be said for head coach Lovie Smith.
On paper, it would appear that he’s likely the next NFL head coach to be given his walking papers (happy trails Nathaniel Hackett). But it could be argued, especially in recent weeks, that Houston has somewhat turned a corner.
So is Lovie Smith actually a good coach worth keeping around? Let’s investigate.
There’s an old saying, “You are what your record says you are.” If this is the case, it’s difficult to argue against Lovie being a bad coach.
His career record in the NFL sits at 94-102-1, which is nothing to write home about. After being fired by the Bucs in 2015, he took over at the University of Illinois where, in 5 years at the helm, he failed to have a winning season. He did begin his beard trend in Champagne though, which has to count for something.
The Texans have been out of playoff contention for weeks, and have been listed as double-digit underdogs multiple times this season—a relative rarity in a league where parity is so prevalent. Despite making his bones as a defensive mind, the Texans sit third to last in the NFL in total defense. The rushing defense in particular has been putrid, ranking dead last in the NFL by more than 13 yards per game.
A defensive-minded coach with an objectively awful defense doesn’t have much to hang their hat on. There are plenty of issues in Houston, but the case could certainly be made that Lovie is one of them.
There’s an argument to be made that Vince Lombardi himself couldn’t make this Texans team decent.
The team had just one player make the Pro Bowl (Laremy Tunsil) and from the outset, it appeared that this was a rebuilding season for the franchise. When that’s the case, you don’t expect to make the playoffs or even win. What you look for is improvement, and by that metric, there’s reason to be encouraged by the Texans' performance in recent weeks.
It would be logical for a team in their position to have players quit late in the season, but interestingly it appears the opposite has happened. Despite being huge underdogs against the Cowboys and the Chiefs, Houston came out and gave both Super Bowl contenders absolutely all they could handle in close losses. Then last Saturday in frigid temperatures, the Texans traveled to Nashville and upset a Titans team still very much in the playoff hunt.
Given his struggles in recent years, it’s easy to forget just how good of a coach Lovie Smith was for the Bears. He’s been to a Super Bowl before in addition to multiple playoff appearances, and thus knows what it takes to get to that level. If the Texans decide to let him go, they’ll be starting over with their third coach in three seasons. Given the objective improvement they’ve seen in recent weeks, there’s a definite case to give Lovie another chance next season with more talent in tow to see if the momentum continues.
Lovie Smith is fine, relax everybody.
Could the Texans hire a better coach? Probably.
Could they hire a worse coach? Absolutely, 100% — yes.
Let’s see what he does with another year and an improved roster. Then fire him.