Former Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith is reportedly interested in getting back in an NFL front office. Could it be with the Lions?
Smith, who served as the Texans' general manager from 2006-17 and previously as the Denver Broncos' director of pro personnel from 2000-05, is reportedly set to be interviewed by Detroit for its GM vacancy at some point before Christmas.
Since he's currently not employed by an NFL organization, he's eligible to be hired by Sheila Ford Hamp and the Lions' ownership group immediately.
Hamp revealed in an email to team employees Monday that "this process will play out over the next six weeks or so, with the result being a well-vetted and proven head coach/GM team that can finally take the Lions where we all so earnestly wish to go -- to the top!"
If Hamp & Co. truly want a man with experience to replace Bob Quinn as the franchise's lead decision-maker on personnel matters, it makes all the sense in the world why Smith would be interviewed.
Smith oversaw Houston's first ever winning season in 2009 (9-7) and its first ever playoff appearance and AFC South division crown, which came simultaneously in 2011 (10-6).
The Texans, led by Smith and then-head coach Gary Kubiak, also won their first playoff game in 2011, beating the Cincinnati Bengals in the wild card round.
Overall, with Smith calling the shots, Houston amassed a 92-100 record, suffering just four losing seasons and making four trips to the postseason.
And a lot of the Texans' success during this time and even since (the organization won back-to-back division crowns in 2018 and 2019) can be attributed to Smith hitting on multiple first-round draft picks, including defensive end J.J. Watt in 2011, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in 2013 and quarterback Deshaun Watson in 2017.
Detroit, meanwhile, could badly use a young franchise passer, like Watson, to build around, and could be looking to acquire one in next year's NFL Draft.
I would trust Smith with choosing Matthew Stafford's successor, due to the success that Watson has garnered in his first four years in the league.
While all of the above makes Smith a more-than-qualified candidate to fill the void in the Lions' front office, there are at least a few factors that I believe will prevent him from getting the gig.
First off, since stepping down at the end of 2017 to take care of his ailing wife, he hasn't held another job in the NFL.
Although I don't believe it's the biggest negative on his record, it's something that I can envision Detroit and other franchises using against him.
Then, there's the fact that he hired Bill O'Brien to be Houston's head coach in 2014.
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Sure, O'Brien was a decent head man (although Houston fans will surely bring up his fair share of postseason play-calling miscues), having led the Texans to a 52-48 mark during his nearly seven full years on the job.
However, he wasn't a very good front-office executive. He took over as the team's de facto general manager in 2019, and made a variety of questionable decisions leading up to his dismissal earlier this season.
Most notably, he traded Hopkins, a three-time All-Pro, to the Arizona Cardinals for a package that included running back David Johnson, who's arguably on the downside of his career, and a second-round pick.
And no, that's not a mistype. He failed to land a first-rounder for one of the best receivers in today's game.
It was completely inexcusable then, and looks even more foolish now, as Hopkins has formed a dynamite connection with Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray.
Now, it is true that Smith didn't hire O'Brien to run the front office in Houston.
However, he still will forever be attached to O'Brien, who single-handedly tore down the playoff-caliber roster that he had built.
It's a permanent stain on Smith's legacy that will likely keep him from landing a variety of NFL GM gigs, including Detroit's.
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