The alarm was loud, a recorded voice over the loudspeaker would not stop bellowing out instructions, yet it was at this exact moment that I felt my first positive moment of the Lovie Smith Era as head coach of the Texans, as Smith just calmly answered the questions with the building possibly burning down around us. (NOTE: That's a slight exaggeration, as there was no fire, just to be clear.)
Lovie Smith has always come across as cool, calm, and collected, and he was all three of those things and then some in a press conference that likely represented his first victory as head coach of the Texans. In short, he did a fantastic job conveying hope, conveying his desire to take on this herculean rebuild, and conveying well reasoned answers on the sensitive topic of race in hiring.
Let's get to a few thoughts on Lovie Smith's big day:
Lovie Smith conveys a much more presidential aura than David Culley
I get tired of doing this, but I'll do it anyway — the classic David Culley preface in which I say "WE ALL LOVE DAVID CULLEY, BUT...." The fact of the matter was Culley never seemed like a head coach. Even before he started proving that he wasn't a head coach with his actual in-game gaffes, Culley always seemed more like a fan who won a contest to be a head coach than an actual head coach. That's awesome, if you are, well, a fan who won a contest to be a head coach. Eventually, the Texans needed something more, someone who felt like they've been there and done that.
Lovie Smith, no doubt, has been there and done that, both good and bad. The bottom line is that Smith is battle tested, been through hundreds of games, thousands of press conferences, and there is no scenario he hasn't seen (particularly now that a fire alarm has gone off during one of his press conferences. Put simply, Smith has the presidential feel of an NFL head coach. That, unto itself, is a small bit of progress.
Lovie Smith handled the questions about race in hiring beautifully
This whole presentation, from the actual hiring of Lovie Smith to the press conference on Tuesday morning, was all occurring with the Brian Flores racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL as more than just a backdrop. It was inextricably woven into the fabric of Smith's hiring, whether the Texans want to admit it or not. On Tuesday, if the timing of the Flores lawsuit was at all a trigger for the team to pivot off of Josh McCown and onto Smith as the choice for head coach, Caserio was not admitting it.
As for Smith, he was asked numerous wide ranging, big picture type questions on the Flores lawsuit, the Rooney Rule, and how to fix the racial hiring problems, and he was fantastic. His most astute point, in my opinion, was the issue of equality needs to be about opportunity at the very basic levels of the coaching trees in the NFL, getting more minorities in at the entry level, so there would at least be a proving ground for more of them to get promoted, and eventually become head coaches.
Lovie Smith WILL be calling the defensive plays this season
The Texans will be promoting QB coach Pep Hamilton to offensive coordinator (more on that in a moment), and retaining special teams coordinator Frank Ross, but the position of defensive coordinator (vacated by Smith for his promotion) remains open. As it turns out, the title will likely get affixed to somebody, but Smith will still call the defensive plays, as he did as the DC last season. So while the defense will maintain a sense of continuity, it is fair to wonder how Smith will manage essentially doing two jobs on game day. The Texans have seen this movie before with Bill O'Brien calling offensive plays while trying to be the head coach, and one of the side effects was O'Brien's horrific game management mistakes for years and years. We will see how Smith does with this.
Lovie Smith said bringing back Pep Hamilton as OC was "a must"
Now, as for Hamilton, he received a healthy amount of interest around the league as a possible offensive coordinator in places like Carolina and in New York with the Giants. Ultimately, he is coming back to Houston to work for his old boss from the Chicago days, as Hamilton was Smith's QB coach with the Bears from 2007 through 2009.
Smith called bringing back Hamilton "a must," which conveys exactly how important the head coach (and probably the organization, as a whole) see the development of soon to be second year QB Davis Mills. Hamilton's promotion, and the results it generates, are an even more compelling storyline than Smith as the head coach.
Here is the full video of Tuesday's proceedings:
For the record, here are the press statements from all parties involved in the Lovie Smith hiring:
NICK CASERIO, General Manager
"He is one of the most respected coaches in the NFL and an established leader."— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) February 8, 2022
A statement from GM Nick Caserio. pic.twitter.com/KUe6pcgsoO
LOVIE SMITH, new Head Coach
CAL McNAIR, Chairman and CEO
𝗦𝗢𝗨𝗥𝗖𝗘: The man himself 🗣 pic.twitter.com/cmLtHCIqHh— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) February 8, 2022
"I’ve had an extreme amount of respect for Lovie for years now and that only grew with the work he did last season and throughout this process."— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) February 8, 2022
A statement from CEO and Chairman Cal McNair. pic.twitter.com/2iAa9UpPXW
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.