Sean Pendergast

Houston Texans: Best and Worst Moves Each Year Under Rick Smith

 “I would have to tell you that there was a lot of stuff happening yesterday. It was absolutely, personally for me, it was the busiest day and the most rewarding day, I mean this is a big deal, obviously. " — Texans GM Rick Smith, Thursday afternoon

Not since 2011 have the Houston Texans been as active in free agency as they've been over the past 24 hours, and not since 2007 have they made such a franchise direction-setting decision as they did when they bestowed a four-year, $72 million contract on quarterback Brock Osweiler.

Time will tell whether the move for Osweiler, along with moves for RB Lamar Miller and a couple of offensive linemen, were the right ones.  They were certainly expensive moves, but despite the salary cap equity shelled out on Thursday, the prevailing feeling is that the Texans won the day. Now, they need to win the season. 

For some perspective, let's go back and look at the best and worst single moves or decisions made by the Texans in each offseason on Rick Smith's watch. Most of these decisions are either directly or partially attributable to Smith himself. There may be a couple, such as the worst moves in 2009 and 2013, that were Gary Kubiak or Bob McNair. But for our frame of reference, we will use the footprint of the general manager, who, remarkably, is entering his second decade as the team's GM. (For the record, that would mean a ratio of one playoff victory for each decade. Now, drink.)

Let's relive the magic (good AND evil) of the Rick Smith Era... 

BEST MOVE: Traded two second-round picks for QB Matt Schaub

People will laugh, considering how the Schaub era ended, but overall, the Texans got their money and draft equity's worth from Schaub. His first two seasons were marked by durability issues, but after that, he started 16 games three of the next four seasons, and led the NFL in passing yards in 2009. Ironically, the one season in those four when he was injured (2011), it was a season ender that might have cost the Texans a shot at a Super Bowl.

WORST MOVE: Signing RB Ahman Green to a four-year, $23 million deal
The last time the Texans made a move for a quarterback and running back in the same offseason, the QB worked out fine. The RB? Not so much. The Texans, with former Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman as their OC, settled on Sherman's former workhorse as their primary back, and it was a disaster. Green started six games and rushed for 554 yards in two seasons for his guaranteed $6.5 million. 

BEST MOVE: Traded a sixth-round pick for C Chris Myers
In trying to put together the optimal offensive line to run Alex Gibbs's zone blocking scheme, Gary Kubiak and Rick Smith settled on a familiar face, trading for Myers, whom both knew from Denver. Myers would go on to start every game for the Texans over the next seven seasons before retiring after the 2014 season, having made two Pro Bowls and becoming, easily, the best center in Texans history. 

WORST MOVE: Signing free agent CB Jacques Reeves to a five-year contract
With cornerback Dunta Robinson coming off of a debilitating leg injury the season before, the Texans need some depth at cornerback and gave a five-year, $20 million contract to Reeves, who had one career interception in four seasons with the Cowboys prior to that deal. Reeves lasted two injury-filled (and Jacques Reeves joke-filled) seasons as a Texan. 

BEST MOVE: Signing an undrafted free agent RB named Arian Foster
The best overall season under Smith's direction might be 2009, with a draft that included Brian Cushing, Connor Barwin, Glover Quin and James Casey. However, the best move was the signing of undrafted Arian Foster, who would go on to become the third-greatest player in franchise history and rush for more than 6,000 yards in six seasons, including a rushing title in 2010. 

WORST MOVE: Promoting Frank Bush to defensive coordinator
This was the nadir of the glorified "buddy system" that infested the Texans offices under Kubiak and Smith, where it seemed like the Texans became a landing spot for everyone with a Broncos logo on his résumé. Bush was promoted to defensive coordinator with no coordinator experience, and the Texans, in two seasons, went from average to one of the worst defenses in recent league history. Bush was fired after the 2010 season and replaced by Wade Phillips. 

BEST MOVE: Signing G Wade Smith in free agency
After Chester Pitts's 2009 season (and Texans career) ended with a serious knee injury, the Texans needed someone to man the left guard spot vacated by Pitts. In came Smith, who held down that spot in some of the Texans' most productive offenses in team history. Smith would make one Pro Bowl in a four-year run with the team. 

WORST MOVE: Trotting out starting CBs with one combined year of experience
Many Texans fans have tried to block this out, but there was a time when Kareem Jackson wasn't the capable cornerback that he's become in his six seasons in the league. His rookie year was rough. Real rough. It wasn't much better for second-year CB Glover Quin, who spent his pre-safety years getting peppered with downfield bombs as the Texans mustered nearly zero pass rush. How bad did things get in 2010? The Texans signed former first round washout Jason Allen halfway through the season, and it felt like a godsend...and make no mistake, Allen was also terrible. 

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast