The Detroit Lions search for their next general manager continues. Last week, the Lions finished a round of interviews with three internal candidates, and now it appears they will start interviewing some general managers that are currently not employed by an NFL team. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, one of those candidates will be former Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith.
“Smith is expected to interview with the Lions before Christmas, likely next week, a person familiar with the Lions’ plans told the Free Press on Monday,” Birkett reported.
Smith will be an intriguing option for anyone looking to fill a general manager vacancy. He began his NFL career as an assistant defensive backs coach in 1996. Four year later, he moved to the front office part of the organization, quickly snatching up Denver’s director of pro personnel job.
After six years at that position—in which the Broncos recorded a 61-35 record—Smith earned himself a general manager job with the Houston Texans in 2006, making himself the youngest GM in football at age 36. He took a franchise in its infancy (they hadn’t won more than seven games in a season) and slowly built a contender that had its first winning season in 2009, then won division titles in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016. He stepped down from his position after the 2017 season, choosing to spend time with his wife, who was suffering from breast cancer. (Note: There’s a fantastic story about this time in Smith’s life from The Athletic’s Dan Pompei here.)
Smith is a rare candidate who has never been fired from an NFL job, has general manager experience, and clearly helped the two teams he has been under. His draft record isn’t perfect, but he rarely missed on a first-round pick (only Amobi Okoye in 2007 sticks out). He has some truly impressive grabs in the draft, including: Glover Quin in the fourth round, J.J. Watt 11th overall, guard Brandon Brooks in the third round, DeAndre Hopkins 27th overall, Will Fuller and Deshaun Watson, as well.
That all being said, his Texans teams managed to win just three playoff games in 12 years, and never made a conference championship. Still, Smith has to be considered one of the best, experienced options out there.