Earlier today, Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith took the helm of Peter King’s "Monday Morning Quarterback" over at SI.com. With King on vacation, Smith stepped up and provided a look into the NFL Lockout from the front office’s point of view. Given how reclusive Smith has been, I’m surprised he took the offer up to write the weekly article which you can read here. I’ll wait here if you’d like to read the entire thing. When you’re ready then hit the jump for my takeaways from the Smith-typed article.
Forget sleep. Forget rest. Fix the problem. Kickoff weekend was nine months away yet there was a real sense of urgency. There was urgency to get better for our owner, Bob McNair, and his wife, Janice, who deserve a winner; for our fans and the city of Houston, who have shown unwavering support selling out every home game in our franchise's history; and most importantly, for ourselves: the players, coaches, scouts and football and business operations folks who work countless hours before, during, and after the season with one goal in mind -- To Win!
It’s a good statement. It’s good rhetoric. To many fans, it’s probably needed to hear these words from Rick Smith. Normally, it would fire me up for some football, but it doesn’t. Maybe it’s the NFL Lockout harshing my mellow or my rediscovered love of the game of baseball (thanks in part to many, many trips to the beautiful Target Field) or the fact that I’m a bit jaded on hearing statements like this from Texans folks for the past nine years. I simply want some tangible results. Show me, don't tell me.
Thanks in large part to our vice president of football administration, Chris Olsen, we successfully negotiated extensions for our Pro Bowl tight end, Owen Daniels, defensive tackle Shaun Cody and valuable backup running back Derrick Ward before the lockout. We were able to put a check mark by a few of our ever-growing list of 'to-do' items.
So does Mr. Olsen handle contract negotiations? What did he do specifically? Additionally, it also would’ve been nice to hear a little information as to why these re-signings were important. If I, a Texan fan, do not understand a few of those moves then the millions of non-Houston fan readers won’t either. Seriously, what put re-signing Shaun Cody on the to-do list?
[During the one day lifting of the lockout on day two of the NFL Draft] We were able to connect Geoff Kaplan, our head athletic trainer, with our injured players and assess how rehab progressions were going. And then just like that, the lockout was back in place.
It’s a small throwaway line, but it’s a big one to me. I like hearing that the team took advantage of their small window of opportunity to check in on guys like inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans and outside linebacker Connor Barwin. It shows that the franchise was crossing their T’s and dotting their I’s during the draft. That's something that has been called into question from time to time (like not having a groomed cornerback to replace Dunta Robinson or drafting tight end after tight end after tight end). There seems to have been a much more focused draft plan than in previous years.
Thank you, Wade.
From an outside perspective, changing coordinators in this environment could be considered a detriment. In my opinion, that risk is mitigated by Wade's ability to install a system, teach it and get players up to speed quickly. His success in his first year as coordinator with teams is attributable to his ability to teach and free his players up to maximize their potential in his defense.
To illustrate my point, look at each of his last four stops as a defensive coordinator.
Denver(1989), Buffalo(1995), Atlanta(2002) and (2004) all improved dramatically on defense. More importantly, each went from having a .500 or losing record before his arrival to being a playoff team his first season at the helm. I don't think those are coincidences. Wade can teach his system quickly and get guys to play at a high level fast. San Diego
That’s the first time, which I can recall, that Smith’s talked directly to Houston Texans fans. Maybe it’s just Smith’s feelings or how I interpreted the article, but there’s a strong trust in people to do their job in Reliant. That is how Bob McNair runs his organization and it seems to have rubbed off on his people. It’s also providing reason for why there’s so much trust in Wade – he’s got a proven track record and earned that trust. However, if Wade’s going to continue to work his magic then Smith has a few more pieces to acquire for him.
I have a 'scout's creed' in my office that defines what we look for. It reads, "I am looking for tough, smart, physical players with discipline that are competitive and passionate about the game of football."
It’s a statement that certainly sums up the 2011 NFL Draft Class - J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed, Brandon Harris, Roc Carmichael, Shiloh Keo, Taylor Yates, Derek Newton, and Cheta Ozougwu. The one line focused statement reminds me of how movies are pitched. When a film is pitched, it's usually started by a one line synopsis. If you can't explain it in a sentence then you've overthought what is driving your film. It sounds as if Smith takes the same approach with a prospect. Granted, he's looking for other skills and attributes, but, at the end of the day, the Texans want people who love to play the game. Smith's draft record is spotty, but that's a whole other matter (bad coaching on the defensive side of the ball can't develop talent? the players didn't match the vanilla scheme?).
As chaotic as that sounds [free agency], discipline will be the rule of the day. Chaos theory states that behind the seeming madness there is order. Teams that maintain that order will put themselves in the best possible position to have a chance to sign the players they are interested in. There has to be a balance, however, between understanding the urgency to fill needs, recruiting players you are interested in, and writing and signing good deals. There will be the temptation to rush and do a bad deal or walk away from a deal prematurely, and that is going to happen in some cases. We have to remain conscious of that. We are going to be aggressive, but we are going to maintain the right approach.
That’s completely level-headed and fair. It will be a balance and should be obvious which teams are well-prepared and capable of taking on multiple tasks. Rick’s got the plans down, but it’s now about the execution of said plans…when that pesky lockout ends.
I think Mike Florio has carved himself a nice little place of relevance in the NFL. I remember when it was almost taboo to admit to reading a "blog." I would venture to guess that his site is one of the most commonly visited sites across the league. Good for him for seeing the future and capitalizing on his gifts and talents.
A nice bit of credibility there for Florio’s Pro Football Talk and some proof that even the reclusive GM takes time to read blogs.
All in all, it was a solid read from Rick Smith and actually left me wanting more. While he didn't reveal all his cards, Smith, at least in this writing, has the right ideas down. The 10 things Smith thinks he thinks provided a good glimpse into his personality. I know he tends to shy away from the spotlight, but it would be nice to get this from him here and there (like maybe a monthly season review on things he’s noticed while watching the games). Fans shouldn’t be mystified about the actions and personality of a fifth year general manager. There are a lot of questions about Smith, but he could do himself a lot of favors and answer them on his own.