Sean Pendergast

Dissecting the Delusion: Zapruder Breakdown of Lovie Smith's Postgame Press Conference Sunday

Lovie Smith gets testy when questioned about his positivity message.
Lovie Smith gets testy when questioned about his positivity message. Photo by Eric Sauseda
When Lovie Smith was named the fifth full time head coach of the Houston Texans back in early February of this year, it kind of came out of nowhere. The Texans had reportedly narrowed their search to former Texans QB Josh McCown (with no prior coaching experience) and former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores.

When Flores sued the league, though, for racial discrimination in its hiring practices, it made hiring Flores complicated, and made hiring McCown (again, a white man with no prior coaching experience) an impossibility. Thus, the team pivoted to Smith, who was already in the building as David Culley's defensive coordinator.

The hope was the Smith's "presidential" qualities would at least be an upgrade over Culley, who always seemed comedically overwhelmed by being an NFL head coach. The narrative was that Smith is respected, coached a team to a Super Bowl, and was already familiar with the organization and personnel. The reality is that, 12 weeks in, the wheels are coming off the Lovie Smith train in spectacular, "flame out" style fashion.

On Sunday, the Texans lost to the Dolphins, 30-15, a final score that was not even close to indicative of how lopsided the game was. The score was 30-0 at halftime, the Dolphins had outgunned the Texans 282 yards to 32 yards, making this the third game in five weeks where the Texans had 35 yards or less at halftime.

In his postgame press conference, not only did Smith try to steer every bit of conversation away from the horrific first half of the game, but he took great umbrage with any media member who chose not to climb aboard the Lovie Smith Positivity Train. In case you missed it, here was the press conference in its entirety:

If we are parsing out the most delusional parts of this episode 11 minute performance from Lovie Smith, here are the ones I would submit (my comments for each Smith excerpt are preceded by "SP"):
Q. How would you evaluate where this team is going under your leadership, and where does the confidence come for you that you’re the man going forward?
COACH SMITH: I think it's little bit early — I could talk to you about this game, how about that? This game, we didn't start well, as I said, but I liked the way we finished. Most of the times when you come into a new game there's a reason why there's a coaching change. And most times you don't come in when you're ready to win right away. You start building. And that's what we're doing. We're building, and eventually we're going to get it done. Right now it's kind of easy to take shots at us because we're not quite there. So we'll take that, but eventually we'll get over the hump.

Q. From today's game, what are the signs that you're building?
COACH SMITH: Well, when you're down 30-0 at the half and you come back and make a game of it at the end and we put ourselves in a position to win the game, that's what I saw today.
SP: Ok, a couple things. First, if the Texans are "building" right now, they are taking it in a strange trajectory. Whereas they were competitive, to some degree, to begin the season, that level of fight has fallen off a cliff, particularly on offense early in games. Over the last five games, in four of them — Titans, Giants, Commanders, and Dolphins — they've just under 40 total yards in the first half of those games against defenses that average a ranking of 18th in defensive DVOA. In short, they are getting worse. Much worse. As for putting themselves "in a position to win the game," um, dude, you lost by 15 and trailed by 30 at the half. THIS GAME WAS NEVER CLOSE. What the hell are you talking about?
Q. Talking about some things to build on, Maliek Collins and the way he played today?
COACH SMITH: Yes, it was. Maliek is capable of that. It's not just about the sacks. I'm thinking overall, defensively, that's a pretty good offense. For us to hold them without points in the second half, I think that's something that probably, I think that's a positive you can kind of talk on a little bit. But Maliek did some good things. Maliek, Jerry, some of those guys are going to play that way always. A game like that you just look defensively, they scored a touchdown. They set up another. When it's games like that, just the offense on their own, 16 points. But what their defense was able to do, that's what we need to be able to do, get a couple more of those flash plays to help the offense when we're struggling.
SP: "For us to hold them without points in the second half" makes me chuckle, because as you're about to read, the assembled media reminded Smith that the Dolphins were playing their third string quarterback, a rookie seventh round pick from Kansas State named Skylar Thompson. Continuing....
Q. The early portions of games the last couple of weeks leading to this game they sat Tua in the third quarter, where are you seeing how you guys are getting started in games?
COACH SMITH: As far as sitting Tua? Is that what you're asking me, on them?

Q. Where do you feel like you guys are progressing, whenever it’s times —
COACH SMITH: We play the Miami Dolphins, or whoever they have out there. In the second half, whoever they chose to play, I saw progress on our part. That's what I saw.

Based on what they did, I don't have any — I can't judge that. I saw progress at the end. And we moved the football and had a chance before that last interception. That's what I saw. Were you watching the same game? I guess not.
SP: Nothing like a little snippiness at the end there — "Were you watching the same game? I guess not." Well, Coach, if you thought you were watching an actual competitive NFL game, then we definitely were NOT watching the same game.
Q. How much of a grain of salt do you have to put on that they did have their back up quarterback out there, and that the defense did have—
COACH SMITH: Let me start back over. We're down 30-0. And we didn't play well enough early on. So I understand where we are. Second half we're down 30-0, I saw some positive life simple as that. We didn't win the football game and we're not patting ourselves on the back, but we're looking for positives as we go forward. We're not there yet. That's obvious to everyone.

But we have to talk about what happened during the game, not based on who they played or any of that. Just basing it on the how the game ended up. Simple as that.
SP: By my count, Lovie Smith said "simple as that" ten times in this press conference. Coach, if it's so simple, then why do you make things look so damn difficult?

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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 the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast