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Red Zone Play: Is Rick Smith Returning To The NFL?

The former Houston Texans General Manager is reportedly ready to return from his hiatus.

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texan Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

It hasn’t been very long since Houston Texans (former) General Manager Rick Smith took a leave of absence from the team to care for his ailing wife, who was suffering from cancer. Sadly, Mrs. Smith lost her battle with the disease and left this life on February 1st of this year.

Fast forward nine months and it seems Rick is ready to work again. NFL pundit Jason LaCanfora broke the news yesterday.

On the surface, it might seem that since Smith was a Texan (and by many people’s assertions a de facto member of the McNair family) and took a leave of absence from the team, Smith will simply resume his duties as Houston’s general manager. Seems like a nice, tidy way to straighten up the Texans’ current GM mess.

According to LaCanfora, that assumption is dead wrong:

Smith would not be returning to the Texans in any capacity, but his affable personality and strong evaluating record should have him under consideration for several openings.

Houston presumably still has New England Patriots front office guru Nick Caserio targeted to fill the GM vacancy. With Smith’s history of hitting first round home runs and not much else, coming back to a team that recently traded away every first round draft pick they have for the rest of the millennium, odds are Smith wouldn’t have much to work with here. Not to mention, the smoke of “Bill O’Brien and Rick Smith don’t get along” certainly came from a fire somewhere. That’s a fire O’Brien is not likely to want rekindled.

For a refresher, Smith drafted Duane Brown, Benardrick McKinney, Kareem Jackson, Will Fuller V, Jadeveon Clowney, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Whitney Mercilus, DeAndre Hopkins, Brian Cushing, Glover Qiuin, Conner Barwin, James Casey, Zach Cunningham, and some guys named J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson.

Although Smith homered with a lot of those picks, Smith also struck out a lot as well: Brandon Harris, D.J. Swearinger, DeVier Posey, Xavier Su’a-Filo, Braxton MIller, Jaelen Strong, Kevin Johnson, Antwaun Molden, and many more in the non-first rounds of the NFL Draft.

For curiosity’s sake, wondering what the Texans would look like right now with Smith still at the helm is an interesting exercise. A few easy assumptions:

  • Houston would have drafted a home run player in the first round this year, but probably not an offensive lineman.
  • Jadeveon Clowney would still be in Battle Red.
  • Laremy Tunsil wouldn’t be a Texan, as Rick would never have given up two first round picks and a second for one player (or two, considering Kenny Stills was also part of the trade). Instead, Smith might have landed some of the choice free agents from last offseason instead of standing pat like Brian Gaine did. But who knows?

In fact, Smith’s strength in pulling off solid trades might have helped a lot in the trade frenzy this past offseason. He is the guy who got another team to pay for Brock Osweiler after all (don’t forget he’s also the guy who okayed paying Osweiler a king’s ransom to get laser-pointered in the eye while throwing fumbles).

Smith’s the guy who routinely got something for players about to get dumped onto the waiver wire. He’s the guy who would have fleeced a team for their former #1 draft pick by sending them two second string defenders and a third round pick next season instead of the guy who was on the other end of that deal.

But the past is the past. With several teams in desperate need of new direction, Rick Smith should certainly find a job quickly, even if it’s at a lower level role with the Denver Broncos, where he maintains a healthy relationship with John Elway. Either way, it’s been long enough to evaluate life without Smith in Houston. What do you think? Wish he’d never left? Glad he’s gone? Hope he returns?