Concerned that he'll be the second consecutive one-and-done Texans head coach, Lovie Smith has been meeting with owner Cal McNair to state his case for a second season in Houston, per sources.
People familiar with the dynamics in Houston believe Smith, like David Culley a year ago, could be out after just one season -- one in which the Texans enter Week 18 with the NFL's worst record. No decision has been communicated to any of the parties, however.
The Texans plan to evaluate Smith's future at the end of the season, with the entire body of work being considered. After a win over a depleted Titans team two weeks ago, the Texans were blown out 31-3 at home by the Jaguars to drop to 2-13-1. Another loss Sunday at Indianapolis, or a Bears win or tie against the Vikings, would secure the league's worst record and give the Texans the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Smith opened each team meeting in camp with a slide proclaiming the Texans would be 2022 World Champs. But their performance, even for a young team searching for a franchise quarterback, has been a disappointment. The roster is young and there is little high-end talent. But the hope had been to build the right way.
Sources say frustration has mounted in the locker room and elsewhere in the building over many aspects of Smith's program, including overall operational struggles. It has spilled to their best players, such as receiver Brandin Cooks being stripped of the captaincy after trying and failing to get himself traded before November’s deadline.
General manager Nick Caserio hired both Culley and Smith while undertaking a major rebuilding operation -- one that now has the Texans set up well in virtually every area except for instability at head coach.
The Texans have a bounty of draft picks (two more first-rounders, in addition to a 2023 third and a 2024 fourth) from the Deshaun Watson trade. They can target their franchise QB with what is guaranteed to be a top-2 pick. They have ample cap space. And they have some impressive young talent to build around, including running back Dameon Pierce, safety Jalen Pitre and cornerback Derek Stingley Jr..
If the Texans job does open, the team could revisit candidates they interviewed a year ago, such as Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. Former Texans great and now 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans should also get a long look. And Houston figures to also look hard at offensive-minded coaches to groom its future at QB.