Can The Defense Save Richard Smith's Job?

A couple of days ago, I wrote this in the PGB:

11. I'm going to flesh this out in a separate post, but I'll tease it here: Should we be worried that the defense may be looking too good and thus enables Richard Smith to remain as DC in 2009?

Fact is that the defense has looked markedly better the last two (2) weeks. Granted, those performances haven't been against offensive juggernauts (no offense to fans of the Browns or Jags). What if your Houston Texans head up to Lambeau on Sunday and hold Aaron Rodgers & Co. to two (2) TDs or less? Unlikely, I know. But what if? What if the Texans defense follows up that hypothetical success by showing well against the remaining teams on the schedule, including but not limited to consistently blitzing and forcing turnovers? Would that be enough to call the dogs off Richard Smith?

We should all hope not. As Steph noted in a great post here (complete with damning statistics), your Houston Texans have fielded the worst defense in the NFL for the past four (4) years. The first year of that ongoing four-year drought was the final season of the notorious Capers-Casserly Era; Richard Smith wasn't here for that. The last three (3) seasons, however, have been under his purview. Even if you want to give Smith the benefit of the doubt for his first season (switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3, talent level on a 2-14 team leaves much to be desired, there's only so much that can be fixed in a single offseason, etc.), how can the 2007 and 2008 results be explained?

He's got Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans, for crying out loud. Those two (2) guys could start for any team in the league, and they arguably play the two (2) most important positions on the defense. Of the three (3) years he's been running the show, Richard Smith's also had about two (2) seasons worth of Dunta Robinson; prior to his injury, Dunta was playing CB as well as anyone in the league, and his productivity has improved exponentially since his return against Detroit. Throw in what we've seen from Fred Bennett (last year), Xavier Adibi, and Zac Diles (pre-injury), and there's no reason the defense should be as bad as it's been.

I'm not saying that there's enough talent on the Houston defense for it to be a top-ten defense. There isn't. There are still real deficiencies, be it from misjudging talent (Travis Johnson, Petey Faggins, Anthony Weaver, and likely Jacques Reeves) or simply not having sufficient talent (e.g., free safety and strong safety). That doesn't excuse Richard Smith's complete and total failure to put something resembling a statistically average defense on the field every Sunday. A late season surge should not exculpate Richard Smith for the last three (3) years. I hope Gary Kubiak feels the same way.

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