Most NFL fans can remember how horrible of a CEO / GM, that Matt Millen was. He basically made the Detroit Lions the NFL equivalent of what the Pittsburgh Pirates are today. In an era where everything in sports is so heavily scrutinized, it would seem that there wouldn’t be an opportunity for someone to come along and be as bad as Millen was. Well, leave it to an organization that has been compared to the Lions, when it comes to straight seasons without a playoff appearance, to hire a man that seems to have gone to the same school of football management as Mr. Millen.
To say Rick Smith, the General Manager of the Houston Texans has been less than spectacular in his front office role is an understatement. Smith is heading into his 6th season as the Texans GM and his 5th draft, without making the playoffs. Houston has finished 6-10, 8-8, 8-8, 9-7, and 6-10 under the direction of Smith. If one were realistic about things, there isn’t much reason to feel that Smith will turn it around this season either. He has failed in his the majority of his draft assessments and hasn’t made many moves in the free agency department. To compound the problem, Smith routinely overpays to resign his own players instead of spending that money to bring in better players at those positions. Last season, Smith decided to not resign the only solid cornerback that the Texans had in Dunta Robinson, and instead gave a new contract to the mediocre Kevin Walters.
That’s just a broad stroke of 1 or 2 player moves, to get a better feel for the GM abilities or lack their off, of Rick Smith, let’s look back at his draft classes. Smith was hired in 2006 after Charley Casserly held the last Houston Texans draft. From a draft standpoint, that means Smith has been presiding over the draft from 2007 to present. Let’s compare the last class of Casserly to the four of Rick Smith. I’ll even include some key players that were added or dropped during those seasons.
2006 Houston Texans Draft (Charley Casserly)
Round 1 – DE – Mario Williams (Pro Bowler) (Current Starter)
Round 2 – MLB – DeMeco Ryans (Pro Bowler) (Current Starter)
Round 3 – OT – Charles Spencer - Fail
Round 4 – OT – Eric Winston - (Current Starter)
Round 5 – TE – Owen Daniels – (Pro Bowler) (Current Starter)
Round 6 – RB – Wali Lundy – Fail
Round 7 – WR – David Anderson – (Slot Receiver)
UDFA - CB - Tramon Williams (Pro Bowler) (Current Starter for Packers) Casserly signed, Rick Smith Cut
Added - Kevin Walter (Current Starter) Ron Dayne, Ephraim Salaam
Lost - Jabar Gaffney, Moran Norris
2007 Houston Texans Draft (Rick Smith)
Round 1 – DE – Amobi Okoye – (Expected to be Released / Traded)
Round 3 – WR – Jacoby Jones – (Current Starter)
Round 4 – CB - Fred Bennett – Fail
Round 5 – SS – Brandon Harrison – Fail
Round 5 – OT – Brandon Frye – Fail
Round 6 – OG – Kasey Studdard – Fail
Round 7 – MLB – Zac Diles – (Former Starter)
Added - Matt Schaub (Franchise QB via trade of two, 2nd RD picks), Ahmad Green, Danny Clark, Andre Davis
Lost - Jason Babin (Pro Bowler), Domanick Williams, David Carr
2008 Houston Texans Draft (Rick Smith)
Round 1 – OT – Duane Brown – (Current Starter) 4 game suspension
Round 3 – CB – Antwaun Molden – FAIL
Round 3 – RB – Steve Slaton – (Great as Rookie, now 4th string)
Round 4 – OLB – Xavier Adibi – (Backup)
Round 5 – DT – Frank Okam – FAIL
Round 6 – SS – Dominique Barber – (Current Starter)
Round 7 – QB – Alex Brink – FAIL
UDFA – Jesse Nading
Added – Chris Myers (Current Starter), Jacques Reeves, Nick Ferguson
Lost – Jerome Mathis (Pro Bowler), Danny Clark, Steve McKinney
2009 Houston Texans Draft (Rick Smith)
Round 1 – ILB – Brian Cushing (Pro Bowler) (Current Starter) 4 game suspension
Round 2 – OLB – Connor Barwin – (Current Starter)
Round 3 – OG – Antoine Caldwell – (Backup)
Round 4 – CB - Glover Quin – (Current Starter)
Round 4 – TE - Anthony Hill - FAIL
Round 5 – TE - James Casey – (3rd String)
Round 6 - CB – Brice McCain – FAIL
Round 7 – FS - Troy Nolan – (Current Starter)
UDFA – Arian Foster (Pro Bowler)
Added -Bernard Pollard, Shaun Cody (Current Starter), Antonio Smith (Current Starter), Dan Orlovsky
Loses – Ephaim Salaam, CC Brown, Sage Rosenfels
2010 Houston Texans Draft (Rick Smith)
Round 1 – CB – Kareem Jackson – (Current Starter)
Round 2 – RB – Ben Tate - (IR as a Rookie)
Round 3 – DT – Earl Mitchell – (Eventual Starter)
Round 4 – ILB – Daryl Sharpton – (Backup)
Round 4 – TE – Garrett Graham – (4th String)
Round 5 – CB – Sherrick McManis – (Backup)
Round 6 – OG - Shelley Smith - (Backup)
Round 6 – KR - Trindon Holliday – (IR as a Rookie)
Round 7 – WR – Dorin DIckerson – (Backup)
Added – Matt Leinart, Wade Smith, Mark Anderson
Lost – Dunta Robinson, Rex Grossman, Ryan Moats
Looking at Smith’s body of work, Charley Casserly picked up six people via the draft or as an undrafted free agent that are starters on the Texans or would be starters on the Texans if Smith didn’t cut Tramon. Four of those six are Pro Bowlers and Casserly did that in one draft!
Rick Smith has had four drafts, and has only eight starters from his draft or as an undrafted free agent. Out of those eight, four play in the worse secondary in the NFL. Only two of those players have gone to the Pro Bowl (Foster, Cushing). Two of those starters have also tested positive for PEDs and have been suspended for four games each.
Smith did acquire Matt Schaub and he made a Pro Bowl, so that bring his Pro Bowl caliber acquisitions up to three. Unfortunately, Smith has given up four Pro Bowl caliber players (Dunta, Babin, Mathis, Tramon) in his time as the “New Matt Millen”. If none of this is enough to qualify him as the “New Matt Millen” in your eyes, Smith unquestionably solidified his label by trading solid backup QB, Sage Rosenfels and replaced him on the roster with Dan Orlovsky, who he gave a huge contract to btw. Yea that’s right, the guys who ran out of the back of the endzone while scrambling and one of the quarterbacks that helped make the Detroit Lions a 0-16 football team. Who gives a backup quarterback $9 million? Rick Smith, that’s who.
For Texans fans, I wouldn’t get my hopes up that things are going to turn around anytime soon as long as Rick Smith receives a check with a Houston Texans name on it. The only way the Texans will win and make the playoffs is, if head coach, Gary Kubiak drafts the offensive players, without input from Smith and defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips is allowed to select the defensive players.
When asked recently about the Texans game plan for acquiring 3-4 talent for Houston’s new scheme, Smith replied that they will have to rely heavily on Phillips because he isn’t accustomed to the 3-4. Really? A front office man, who doesn’t know what personnel to look for, for the 3-4 scheme! Is this who you want running your talent evaluation process? Mr. McNair? Kubiak and Phillips need to lock Rick Smith in a room on draft day and not let him out until they’ve made all of the selections. Actually, they should give him enough food and water to leave him there another week or so, that way Kubiak and team, may actually get some top notch undrafted players as well.
Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports790.com. You may email Jayson directly @ firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock