When the Texans hired Lovie Smith as their head coach and the replacement for David Culley, it didn't come as a surprise to one of his biggest advocates and proteges.
Miles Smith, the Texans linebackers coach, and Lovie Smith's son, always remained optimistic that this opportunity would happen again for Smith, a former NFL Coach of the Year who went to a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears and has an 89-87 all-time record in the NFL, including his stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I mean ultimately I’ve been taught if you do a good job at your current job, then other jobs will come up," Miles Smith said. "I always held out hope that he was going to get another opportunity. I think he has shown that he’s a good coach and if you’re a good coach, then you’re going to continue to rise in the profession. And that’s what he’s done.”
Hired last season as the Texans' defensive coordinator and associate head coach after being fired as the University of Illinois coach after five seasons, Smith upgraded the pass rush last season with his traditional 4-3 scheme and had a more opportunistic defense with 25 takeaways.
Smith, 63, hasn't lost any enthusiasm or energy over the years, as his son can attest to.
“I’d say he’s ecstatic," Miles Smith said. "You would not expect that he is a 63-year-old man. He wakes up at 4-something every day and he’ll call me and wake me up a lot of times. ‘Hey, why don’t we do this, this, and this?’
"His mind is constantly going, and it kind of goes back to the question you brought up about what I refer to him as. He’s ‘Coach’ all the time because he’s always talking football. Every single day pretty much my life has been about this. So, you know, he’s ecstatic. He’s ready to win a Super Bowl.”
Yes, Lovie Smith is Coach Smith to his son at work.
"Absolutely, up here he is only Coach Smith," Miles Smith said. "Obviously Thanksgiving might be a little bit different, but in this context, he’s only Coach Smith.”
The Texans made progress last year installing Smith's scheme and teaching how he wants them to attack offenses. It remains a work in progress.
“We made a lot of tweaks," Miles Smith said. "I think sometimes people confuse, 'Hey, you can be another Cover 2 type team and you think we’re real close,' and we always like to say, 'Yeah, we may be close, but we’re more cousins than we are brothers.'
"So, at this point, our defense has kind of turned into something unique, and it helped out being in college. We were able to see elements that were going to come to pro football a little bit sooner where we were able to adjust things a little bit. Going into my seventh year in the system, I’ll say we’re a very different defense than we were in 2015, our first year.”
A few major pending decisions will dramatically impact the linebacker position.
Kamu Grugier-Hill had a breakthrough season with 108 tackles, 13 for losses, three sacks and one interception he returned 82 yards. He is a pending unrestricted free agent and the Texans would ideally like to retain him. Whether that happens, or if Christian Kirksey, another starter and unrestricted free agent who had 93 tackles, six for losses and a fumble recovery, remains undetermined. Like most free agency decisions, it comes down to financial matters. Both players are interested in returning, and the Texans have interest in both players.
“We’ll see if they come back," Miles Smith said. "That’s a little bit above my pay grade on those type of things. I’ll say they had some good years They’re good players. They know how to attack it. Every single day they did it the exact same way and showed the consistency that only a vet could really show. We’ll see if they come back. Obviously would enjoy it if they did, but the NFL is a business and I understand how it goes.”