Rick Smith: Will The Real Texans' GM Please Stand Up?

Rick Smith: Working hard or hardly working?

Last week, two separate appearances by former Texans players on AM radio's 1560 The Game netted criticism of Texans general manager, Rick Smith. First, former NFL running back, Ahman Green, joined Sean Pendergast on his radio show to tell his side of the story about his tenure in Houston in 2007. I know Green's name conjures immense feelings of disappointment for most Texans fans, but his story is worth a listen, especially if, like me, you sometimes forget these guys are human beings just like the rest of us. (Besides, as a Texans fan you should be hardened to the paltry effects of immense disappointment by now.) Green openly discussed his father dying from cancer, his injuries and family struggles. Like Rivers said in his post that pointed me to the interview, Green's stories show a side of an NFL player that the league doesn't usually promote: vulnerable.

But of all the stories Green related, none got him more angry and indignant than the one he told about Rick Smith. Apparently sometime before or after the Oakland game in 2007, Rick Smith called Green into his office and asked him if he was faking injury. To ask an athlete that is to question their integrity. As Green said around the 10:05 mark:

So when he asked me that... it took everything in my power not to do something that I would've regretted. So, I removed myself from his office and immediately called my agent and was like, "Man, get me outta here before I do something I don't wanna do".

Besides angering the player, what was Smith hoping to accomplish? Did he expect the accused to "come clean" when confronted? I'm torn between calling Smith a jerk and calling him stupid after hearing this story. Take the jump and help me decide.

Green went on to say that former Texans players had warned him about Rick Smith before he came to Houston. He seemed to suggest that the warnings were to not trust the GM and now he knows why. Was it just sour grapes from an ex-player? Perhaps, but it's not like he's the only one criticizing Smith. And he didn't sound too sour when he talked about being on the Texans bandwagon last year. Yeah, like a few of us, he thought the Texans were headed to the playoffs too. It was nice to hear he was pulling for his friends on the Texans roster last year when they played the Ravens and like everyone else, he couldn't shut up about Arian Foster and the offense. But I couldn't help but think he was suggesting that the Texans' front office is what's holding the team back. I know that's not a news flash around here, but it is poignant coming from a former player in such a candid interview. Towards the end of the interview, Green described the locker room atmosphere of the Green Bay Packers in 2009 and how it carried over to a Super Bowl Championship in 2010. I couldn't help but try to imagine the contrasts between the two teams' locker rooms that Green saw at the end of his NFL career.

As I said, Green isn't the only one criticizing Smith. The next day on 1560 The Game, former Texans defensive back, Marcus Coleman called in to Sean Pendergast's show to add his two-cents to what Green had said. Coleman most recently played for the Texans in 2005 (so he never played under Smith or Kubiak), but he apparently has lots of former and current connections within the organization.

While the Coleman interview isn't as soul-searching as Green's, it does focus on one former player's very frank assessment of Rick Smith and the Texans organization. Take it or leave it, but I think it's worth a listen if you're as curious as I am about the mysterious Mr. Smith and his puzzling employment with the Texans. As Coleman points out to a caller at the end of the segment, he has been on the anti-Smith bandwagon for a long time and always questioned Smith's GM knowledge and skills. Pendergast defended Coleman by saying it hasn't been a crusade of his or anything, it's just an opinion he's never been shy about sharing. Apparently, Coleman was even less shy after he heard Green's story about Smith. About 1:35 into the clip, Coleman talks about Smith asking Green if he was faking his injuries:

I think it's sobering(?) that someone that has that little validity, especially of personnel knowledge or how to run a team, could ask a player like an Ahman Green if he's faking an injury. I just think that's ridiculous.

As Pendergast pointed out during the interview, forget about Smith's lack of personnel and management skills: What do you do with a GM that is so willing to alienate players? When a team is desperate to add key players in free agency, how can they afford to have any extra liabilities that might drive a player to sign with another team? Speaking of alienating players, Coleman claims that Smith worked his way up the ladder in Denver by being a mole in the locker room. Great, that should help sell Asomugha on the idea of coming to Houston. Does it help if that liability GM doesn't do much? About 10 minutes into the clip, Coleman describes his take on Smith's job duties:

From some of the things I've heard from guys on the inside, Rick doesn't do a whole lot... there's not a lot of decision making by Rick Smith. So who's really the GM? Is it Kubiak? Is it, ya know, Mr. McNair's son? I mean, is it the head trainer? Like, who's really the GM?

Now, that is another good question. Who is really running the Texans show? I'm beginning to think Smith is just a fall guy. Don't get me wrong. If Smith has managed to become the Peter from Office Space at the Texans organization and doesn't have to do anything besides show up occasionally, who am I to advocate for increasing his responsibilities or the number of TPS reports he must submit? Maybe once everyone accepts Smith as the front office slacker and locker room stool pigeon, we can start to figure out who is really running the show and likewise, whom we can blame for all those undrafted safeties and nose tackles.

Coleman's suggestions were very compelling (or I should say com-polling, because you know that's where this is headed). The first and most obvious suggestion was Kubiak. If Smith was half the yes-man Coleman paints him to be in Denver, it would be easy to see why Kubiak would draft him as his patsy GM when McNair first hired him. This would also explain the lopsided build of the team in favor of the offense. I'm not saying Kubiak meant to do that, I just don't think he appraises defensive talent as well as he does offensive. On the bright side, if Kubiak is the real GM, he should have more time to focus on those responsibilities now that Matt Schaub is running OTAs and seems ready to take over as OC. Kubiak will probably be spending less time defending his buddy's failing defensive scheme as well.

Coleman's next suggestion for "real GM" was "Mr. McNair's son". Honestly, I don't know much about him except who his dad is and that he lives in Austin. I'm guessing he knows even less about building or running a successful NFL team than the Mole from Denver, so let's hope he's not the puppet master. I'm pretty sure Coleman was being facetious when he suggested the Head Trainer was the real GM. Besides, we wouldn't be able to blame him for much since the Texans just hired Geoff Kaplan away from the Titans earlier this month. Cue hillbilly training jokes...

However, Coleman omitted a very important and obvious suggestion from his list of possible, real Texans GMs: Andre Johnson. He's been called The Beast and The Haymaker for his abilities as a wide receiver and for straightening out a wayward DB, but during the lockout he's made headlines for his GM-like statements to the press. Whether he's advocating that the Texans go after Nnamdi Asomugha and re-sign Vonta Leach or recruiting potential new players on Twitter, the 'Dre has shown a willingness to spend Bob's money and to make those decisions Smith doesn't. Maybe Andre could handle the GM's ambassador role while Kubiak handles the other stuff, like picking a third string QB in the 5th round of the draft.

So what do you think? Should the Texans continue to allow Smith to phone it in while someone else builds and runs the team? Who do you think is really running the team (poll) and who should be (comments)?    

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