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Reviewing Rick "Teflon" Smith: A Statistical Analysis Of Sorts

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Is the GM of the Houston Texans, Rick "Teflon" Smith, doing a great job as GM? Or is he a modern day Charley Casserly? Let's dive into the numbers and look.

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Rick Smith excels in the 1st Round.  After the 1st?  Not so much.
Rick Smith excels in the 1st Round. After the 1st? Not so much.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Count me among those shocked Charley Casserly Rick "Teflon" Smith still has a job with your Houston Texans.  With the way 2013 went, I thought Teflon was gone for sure, especially with the clear lack of talent at certain positions on the roster.  However, who was responsible for the disastrous roster at the end of 2013?  Teflon?  Gary Kubiak?  Wade Phillips?  Vanilla Ice?

Because a team that goes 2-14 has serious personnel issues.

Teflon was hired in June 2006, now over eight (8) years ago.  While he has two playoff appearances under his belt, roster talent is going the wrong direction.  Teflon was brought over by Kubiak from the Broncos, but this occurred a couple months after the 2006 NFL Draft.  Gary Kubiak clearly ran the 2006 draft, so he gets solo credit for his wonderful accomplishments there.  From then on, Teflon is the GM.  Even if he's just the head of scouting, even if he didn't run the drafts, even if he's only responsible for signing undrafted free agents (UDFAs), Rick Smith has a responsibility, from a personnel point of view, to the Texans.  He's a part of that team.

Happily, Pro Football Focus' ratings go back to 2007, so we can get a good idea of how things have shaken out under Teflon's reign.  The usual caveats apply when using PFF's data: there are a lot of judgments and unknowns, but it does give us a mostly bias-free set of rankings.  It's not perfect by any means, and Rivers still hates PFF.  I'm using the overall rating, including from special teams, in these calculations.  So, for example, Whitney Mercilus scored ratings of -10 in 2012, -18.1 in 2013, and -1 as a special teamer in 2012, garnering -29.1 overall.

That said, I've created a spreadsheet using PFF's data.  Verifying the origin of players using Pro Sports Transactions, I classified each player according to how they were acquired: draft round, UDFA, free agent, waiver claim, or trade.  To be clear, only players who have been acquired in any fashion since Rick Smith became GM are included; thus, a player like Andre Johnson has no impact on these rankings, as he was drafted in 2003.  Clear?  Cool.

The following reflects the total rating and total snap count for all players since 2007 according to how and when:

  • 1st Round: 214.3 total points and 20,997 snaps, or .0102 points/snap.
  • 2nd Round: -53.6 total points and 7,028 snaps, or -.0076 points/snap.
  • 3rd Round: -10.1 total points and 7,814 snaps, or -.0013 points/ snap.
  • 4th Round: -37.2 total points and 10,651 snaps, or -.0035 points/snap.
  • 5th Round: -2.4 total points and 3,040 snaps, or -.0008 points/snap.
  • 6th Round: -56.1 total points and 3,973 snaps, or -.0141 points/snap.
  • 7th Round: -65.4 total points and 4,267 snaps, or -.0153 points/snap.
  • UDFA: -41.8 total points and 5,538 snaps, or -.0075 points/snap.
  • Free Agency: 69.7 total points and 40,602 snaps, or .0017 points/snap.
  • Waiver Claim: -6.8 total points and 493 snaps, or -.0138 points/snap.
  • Trade: 199.9 total points and 12,769 snaps, or .0157 points/snap.

Overall, 60 of Teflon's acquisitions score positively, while 103 are negative.  Breaking it down further, let's start with the 1st Round.

J.J. Watt, truly, is a curve-breaker.  Without Watt, Teflon's 1st Round picks would actually be in the negative, thanks in large part to Amobi Okoye, Tim's all-time favorite Texan who, I think, finally becomes old enough to drink next week.  But Watt's amazing 215.8 rating lifts the 1st Round to a strong, solid level all by himself.  One takeaway from this analysis is Teflon is fairly solid in the 1st Round.  Aside from Okoye and to a lesser extent Whitney Mercilus, Smith doesn't make big mistakes in the 1st.  That's a positive.  Then we move to the 2nd Round.

Ben Tate, at 2.4 total rating, is Teflon's best 2nd Round pick.  Ever.  Seriously.  The rest, Brandon Harris, D.J. Swearinger, Brooks Reed, and Connor Barwin all are in the negative.

The 3rd Round isn't too bad, especially with the young Brandon Brooks leading the way and still moving up.  Jacoby Jones lends a hand, but it's all from special teams.  Earl Mitchell brings up the rear, mostly because he got far too many snaps.  As we head into the 4th Round, getting too many snaps starts to become a theme.

Glover Quin leads the way, even though he was wasted at CB for too many years before being moved into his more appropriate safety spot.  Garrett Graham also scores in the plus column, and it then begins a parade of sadness: Anthony Hill, Fred Bennett, Roc Carmichael, Ben Jones, Keshawn Martin, Jared Crick, Xavier Adibi, and Darryl Sharpton.

I know, this is the part when some of you start accusing me of not being fair, claim that it's hard to find talent late in the draft, and all those other excuses.  In the seven years of drafting since Teflon became GM, the entirety of the talent he drafted in the 2nd Round and later comes down to Brandon Brooks, James Casey, Jacoby Jones, Glover Quin, and Ben Tate.  Everybody else is either fungible or worse.  Five contributors over seven years.  Rick Smith (and whomever else) are so bad at drafting, they're not even good enough to be lucky.

Back to the 5th Round we go!  Randy Bullock leads all 5th Rounders, but with a caveat: PFF truly loves punters and kickers.  Even though he was 24th in kickers by PFF's own standards last year, Bullock somehow earned 20.3 points.  I don't understand that even a little.  James Casey is the real winner in the 5th Round with 14.2 points.  Shiloh Keo, because of course he does, brings up the rear...probably by needlessly diving over it.

Brice McCain brings the love in the 6th Round with a whopping -51.9 rating, making him the worst player Smith has acquired.  Unfortunately, McCain managed to garner 2,146 snaps, which really gave him an advantage on accumulating suck.

Four 7th Round picks have managed game-time for your Texans: Dorin Dickerson, Troy Nolan, and Zach Diles.  Oh, and Derek Newton.  I'm getting a little verklempt at this list.  Talk amongst yourselves about something happier, like the time you found out your significant other was cheating on you.

What instigated me to write this post was somebody mentioning that Smith was good at finding talented UDFAs, which I couldn't compute.  Sure, there's Arian Foster, but who else?  Aside from Foster, there's Brett Hartmann, but there's also PFF's tremendous pro punter/kicker bias, so he's mostly out.  But that leaves basically nobody.  Justin Tuggle contributed nicely on special teams last year, and DelJuan Robinson had moments.  Otherwise, guys like Eddie Pleasant and Jesse Nading are on the list, and they leave much to be desired.  Aside from Foster, only Tim Jamison (741) and Case Keenum (469) have garnered meaningful snaps.  Arian Foster is, unfortunately, the only true positive UDFA Teflon has added.

When I originally ran the numbers, the free agency results shocked me.  But once I reviewed the list, I better understood what was happening, and it's PFF's punter and kicker bias again messing with the numbers.  Once you remove Shane Lechler, Donnie Jones, Neil Rackers, Matt Turk, and Shayne Graham, the total becomes -46.7, not 69.7.

This leaves Joel Dreessen, Johnathan Joseph, Vonta Leach, and Andre Davis at the top of the FA list.  Bringing up the rear are Jeff Zgonina, Von Hutchins, and my former arch-enemy, Shaun Cody, who wasn't even as good as a speed bump.  The list also includes big money free agent busts such as Ahman Green, Chris Brown, Anthony Maddox, and, of course The Bamboozler, Ed Reed.  These guys may not have been able to take many snaps, but they sure made a lot of money.

Joel.  Dreessen.

With only 493 snaps, the Waiver Claims list is small and rather meaningless.  Rashad Butler, clocking in at -10, earned the majority of those snaps.

Ratings acquired through trades shouldn't surprise anybody who's been following the team for any length of time.  Chris Myers was acquired for a 6th Round pick in 2008, and the talented center has racked up 128.9 total ranking.  Matt Schaub was acquired by swapping 1st Round picks in 2007, a 2007 2nd Round pick, and a 2008 2nd Round pick.  The 79.1 total rating was almost definitely worth that cost, especially considering how Teflon would've likely blown those 2nd Round picks, anyway.  The other four trades (Tyler Clutts, Sam Gado, Michael Boulware, and Derrick Mason) were mostly meaningless.  The Myers trade, the last one that brought value to the team, happened six (6) years ago.

Overall, Rick Smith has added 216.4 PFF overall rating to the Houston Texans over his seven years as GM.  J.J. Watt accounts for 215.8 of those points.  Chris Myers and Matt Schaub, acquired via trade, are worth 208.

More than any other sport, football is a game of attrition. There are more players and more injuries. A team without enough functional depth to get through the season is going to get exposed, because, contrary to Bob McNair’s magical land where injuries are unexpected, injuries are a part of the league. If you come into the season only looking at the best-case scenario for a roster, you’re often going to be disappointed. Because it won’t hit often. - Rivers McCown

Ultimately, the above quote from former BRB writer Rivers is the problem over the past eight years.  The drop-off after J.J. Watt, Chris Myers, Matt Schaub, Brian Cushing, and Duane Brown is tremendous.  Texans' rosters over the years have been horribly shallow, and the results have been telling.  While Smith does well in the 1st Round, the lack of talent thereafter has been damning.

In my never humble opinion, Rick Smith is a slightly more competent Charley Casserly.  Teflon has his J.J. Watt while Charley Casserly had Andre Johnson.  Smith has had three more drafts than Casserly, but neither had much to show after the 2nd Round.  Looking at the Texans' draft history, Kubiak's amazing 2006 draft sticks out like the sorest of thumbs.  The only average to above-average contributors Smith has added to the team since 2009 are Watt, Joseph, Brandon Brooks, and if you squint hard enough, Kareem Jackson.  There's still hope for Hopkins, Swearinger and the 2014 draft class, of course, but 2010 through 2013 is pathetic.

If Kubiak and Phillips/Frank Bush have been drafting and Smith isn't to blame, then what is Smith's purpose?  If Smith is running the scouting department, the Texans have been awful at finding talent.  To me, the evidence clearly shows Teflon is part of the problem, not the solution.  Our tremendous talent acquisition problem is not going to suddenly improve because he's still around.

Bonus position breakdown:

  • QB: 64.8
  • HB: -15.7
  • FB: 23.0
  • TE: 47.6
  • WR: -45.5 (Remember that Andre Johnson is NOT included)
  • OL: 147.6
  • DL: 4.7 (even with Watt!)
  • LB: -30.2
  • DB: -101.5

Looking back at the criticisms this blog has voiced over certain positions, doesn't the listing above look about right, especially defensively?