HOUSTON (AP) – The Houston Texans are expected to hire current assistant Lovie Smith as their head coach, a person familiar with the process told The Associated Press.
The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity Monday because the team had not announced that Smith would be hired. The same source said an official announcement was expected later Monday or Tuesday morning.
Smith, who is Black, will be the second minority candidate to be hired this offseason after the Miami Dolphins hired San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, who is biracial, on Sunday.
Smith spent last season as Houston’s associate head coach and defensive coordinator. He will take over for David Culley, who is also Black, and was fired after just one season.
The 63-year-old Smith joined the Texans last offseason after spending 2016-2020 as the coach at Illinois.
This will be the third NFL head coaching job for Smith, who coached the Chicago Bears for nine seasons and coached Tampa Bay for two seasons ending in 2015.
Now he takes over a team in the process of a complete rebuild after trading or releasing almost all of its top players in the past couple of years. The Texans went 4-13 last season in a year where star quarterback Deshaun Watson did not play after a trade request and amid 22 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment or assault.
After the hiring of Smith is complete, the Texans will continue an offseason where they are expected to finally trade Watson. They have the third overall pick in the draft after not having a first-round pick since 2019, and could acquire more high draft picks if they’re able to trade Watson.
Smith will become the fifth head coach in franchise history, following Dom Capers, Gary Kubiak, Bill O’Brien and Culley.
Houston interviewed multiple candidates over the past few weeks, including Brian Flores, Hines Ward, Josh McCown and Joe Lombardi. Flores, who is Black, was fired despite posting winning records in the final two of his three seasons in Miami.
Flores sued the NFL, the Dolphins and two other teams last week over alleged racist hiring practices for coaches and general managers.
The Texans had been criticized by some in the media this week for even considering McCown for the position since the 42-year-old former NFL quarterback has never coached at any level aside from volunteer coaching on his son’s high school team. McCown spent part of the 2020 season on Houston’s practice squad before retiring following a 17-year career.
Smith was 144-81 with the Bears, leading them to the Super Bowl in the 2006 season where they lost to the Colts. He struggled in his stint with Tampa Bay, going 2-14 in his first season and 6-10 the following year before being let go.
Smith went 17-39 at Illinois before being fired with one regular-season game left in his fifth season. The Texas native began his coaching career at his alma mater as the defensive coordinator for the high school team at tiny Big Sandy, Texas, in 1980 before moving on to college coaching in 1983.
His first NFL job came in 1996 when he was hired to coach linebackers for the Buccaneers.