Houston Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith made a name for himself on Tony Dungy’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff, where he helped develop the Tampa 2 defense. Now, Smith has brought that defense to the Houston Texans, and his son, Miles Smith, is along for the ride.While many may not remember, the Texans interviewed the elder Smith for their open head coaching role prior to Bill O’Brien’s hiring. Eight years later, Smith is in Houston, assisting new head coach David Culley.
The task ahead of this father and son duo is a mighty one. Last season the Texans’ defense gave up 390 first downs, 96 3rd down conversions, 11 4th down conversions, 6,668 yards (that’s an average of 416.9 yards per game) and 464 total points. All this ranked the unit in the NFL’s sub-basement in every meaningful category. Yep, these men have their work cut out for them.
However, the players are embracing the change.
It means a lot to play with Lovie Smith. I know a lot about him and heard a lot about him just growing up in the football world. I’m excited to play in his defense.
Few teams can say they’ve had the defensive coaching firepower Houston has enjoyed over the last decade, from Wade Phillips to Romeo Crennel to Lovie Smith. However, Phillips and Crennel inherited a roster with some great players. Smith’s cupboard is not so loaded. Great coaches can turn average into amazing. Can these men do that? Only time will tell.
Lovie Smith recently told the press he didn’t originally expect his son to follow him into coaching. Rather, he thought his son would become a lawyer.
#Texans LBs coach Miles Smith says dad Lovie never pushed him to pursue coaching. Lovie initially thought Miles would pursue law. When Miles did want to explore coaching, first person he talked to was Lovie, who mentored him.— Deepi Sidhu (@DeepSlant) June 8, 2021
But Miles couldn’t escape the allure of following his father.
I was exposed to football at an early age. And, quite frankly I just gravitated to it. I love football. Every single Fall of my life it’s been all about the football season. I do think [my dad] did not push the football profession on me, it was me coming to him saying ‘Hey, I want to do this, how do I take these next steps?’
Texans linebackers coach Miles Smith on his dad, Lovie Smith: 'One of the traits respect the most going to be one of the hardest working guys in the building always, definitely something I'm trying to mirror what he's done'— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) June 8, 2021
Lovie began his NFL coaching career as the linebackers coach for the Buccaneers before ascending to defensive coordinator. He then left for the St. Louis Rams, where he took one of the league’s worst defenses and improved them dramatically. Prior to Smith’s arrival, the Rams’ D gave up 29.4 points per game. The first year he was there, they improved to 17.1. Whether or not the senior Smith can do that with Houston remains to be seen.
But his son does have some of the team’s best talent, and the largest position group, to work with.
Lovie Smith on expectations for Whitney Mercilus: "Whitney can run, he can rush off the edge, we start with that with our front guys ... in good shape right now, he's going to play lighter than he played last year ... I'm excited about him too, he's gonna have a good year for us" pic.twitter.com/JGsjShkXTF— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) June 8, 2021
Players like Zach Cunningham and Whitney Mercilus have been big names in Houston for some time. The additions of Shaq Lawson and Christian Kirksey to a group featuring Jacob Martin and rookie Garret Wallow certainly means Miles Smith has some committed players to coach up.
In a Tampa 2 scheme, the linebackers play a huge role in both run and pass defense. Having players that are smart, quick thinking, and athletically capable is key. All the linebackers in the world won’t matter if Miles can’t coach them up.
Texans' Miles Smith said that Zach Cunningham has as much talent as the great linebackers who have played for his dad, Lovie Smith, in the past, which includes Derrick Brooks, Brian Urlacher, Lavonte David, etc.— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) June 8, 2021
Texans LBs coach Miles Smith on Garret Wallow: @gwallow_12 'Garret had a very good college career. What stood out the most with him was his intelligence. Somebody who can think on the fly. He has grown exponentially since he's been here so far. Very excited about his future'— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) June 8, 2021
The last Texans linebackers coach with this much expectation was Mike VRabel, who is now the head coach of the Tennessee Titans, and he did a great job elevating and maturing Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney, and Jadeveon Clowney.
Can Miles Smith do the same with the 2021 unit? If he truly follows his father’s path, yes he can, and yes he will.