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Texas Native Lovie Smith Ready For Round 3 With Houston

Lovie Smith returns to Texas with the opportunity to end his career the right way with the Texans

HOUSTON -- Lovie Smith isn't looking for praise. Heck, he isn't even looking for a third chance to lead an NFL franchise. 

Still, Tuesday felt good for the 63-year-old. He's earned the right to end his career on a positive note. 

Smith was named the Houston Texans head coach Monday evening after a nearly month-long search by general manager Nick Caserio and ownership. It wasn't a goal for Smith to be promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach when signed on last season, ultimately, the Texans believed he was the right man for the job. 

Maybe Smith agrees with that statement as well. 

"I’ve been a head football coach for a lot of years and gone through a lot of the process," Smith said Tuesday "In the end, you end up with the guy you ultimately feel like is right to lead the program to the next phase. 

"The opportunity presented itself to me, late in the game, I was just excited for it because I know what we can be around here.”

Fans pondered at the decision to promote Smith after Houston's defense finished 31st overall. Sources told TexansDaily.com that Caserio was ready to hire former NFL quarterback Josh McCown to the position despite having zero coaching experience before a last-second drawback. 

Smith isn't worried about how he was hired. He probably isn't concerned about when the conversations internally landed him an interview and later the job. 

His primary focus is fixing the Texans' woeful ways and leading the franchise to positive days ahead. That starts by selling the product to the fans and getting them back in their seats after a staggering drop in attendance over the past two seasons. 

"I have seen a day when it’s tough playing inside NRG Stadium, and it’s our responsibility to get the fans back and get them excited about the product we’re going to put on the football field," Smith said. "I guarantee you we can do that."

Smith's qualifications might make him one of the more polished hires of the offseason. A 21-year veteran at the NFL level, he's worked as both a coordinator and head coach, something only Jacksonville's Doug Pederson and New Orleans' Dennis Allen can attest toward. 

Hired in 2004 by the Chicago Bears, Smith brought balance to the Windy City franchise, helping them go 84-66 during his nine seasons at the helm. He helped the Bears win the NFC in 2006 and won AP Coach of the Year for breaking their playoff drought in 2005. 

Despite stabilizing one of the league's most historic franchises, Smith was fired after going 10-6 in 2012. Since his departure, the Bears have had four different head coaches and have posted a 61-84 record, with only Matt Nagy finishing above .500. 

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Then came the hard years for Smith and his reputation. 

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Hired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he went 2-14 his first season, landing the top selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. A year later with then-rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, Tampa improved to 6-10, but it was enough for Smith to remain in charge. 

He was fired in favor of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Smith returned to the state of Illinois to coach the Fighting Illini for five seasons. He finished 17-39 at the helm and only tallied 10 wins in Big Ten play. 

Smith said that his intentions were never to return to Houston as a head coach. He enjoyed coaching one side of the football and simply wasn't ready to retire. 

Then again, who can say no to an opportunity for one of 32 openings in the league? 

"It’s not often you get a chance to lead three professional football teams," Smith said.  "I don’t know if there’s a guy that looks like me that’s had the opportunity to do that. So, that’s pretty special."

Smith already has gone to work at building his staff. He retained passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton, promoting him to offensive coordinator. The Texans also will keep special teams coordinator Frank Ross following his second-half success. 

Hamilton had offers to interview with other teams. He spoke with New York Giants and Bears about joining their staffs, but elected to stay in Houston to work with Smith. 

Smith initially hired Hamilton in 2007 and hoped to hire him again in the future. The timing never worked in the past. This time, the stars aligned.

"Pep has an expertise," Smith said. "You look at his background with what he did in San Diego with [Justin] Herbert to what he did with Davis here, he’s a fundamental coach." 

Rome wasn't built in a day. Neither will Smith's version of the Texans. He's a realist and understands address that even with moments of quality play in 2021, Houston has work to do on both sides of the ball. 

Time will tell if Caserio's last-second mulligan of hiring Smith will be in his favor. For now, the Texans must roll up the sleeves and get to work on fielding a team that can improve after a woeful downtrodden year. 

As for Smith, he's happy to be home. A native of Big Sandy, the bearded wonder is back in action, this time ready for brighter days ahead. 

"It’s a great day. We’re excited," Smith said. "As we go forward, look forward to working hand-in-hand, side-by-side with Nick to get the Texans back to where they need to be."