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’Tis the Season for Firing NFL Coaches

Sports

Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith | Image by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The annual NFL coaching carousel is well underway, less than 24 hours after the last 2022 regular season game came to a close.

The Houston Texans became one of the first teams in the NFL to announce they were moving on from head coach Lovie Smith after just one season in which the team went 3–13–1.

Chairman and CEO Cal McNair said, “We are grateful for [Smith’s] leadership and character, and we wish him the best moving forward.”

“While we understand the results have not been what we had hoped for, we are committed to building a program that produces long-term, sustainable success,” McNair continued. “Our fans and city deserve a team that they can be proud of.”

Smith took over in Houston in the wake of the Deshaun Watson scandal after serving as the Texans’ defensive coordinator in 2021. Before joining the Texans, Smith was the head coach at the University of Illinois, where he posted a 17–39 record.

He had previously served as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he was also unable to put up successful numbers and was fired after two seasons and an 8–24 record.

The Houston team will begin the search for the team’s fourth head coach in four years, a task most recently equaled by the San Francisco 49ers, who also cycled through four coaches in as many seasons between 2014 and 2017.

The Texans’ struggles this season went beyond personnel problems. In the season’s opening game, Smith played for a tie against the Indianapolis Colts to avoid a loss, and the decision seemed to create a sense of malaise that stuck with the team throughout the season.

Houston is not the only team quickly deciding to move on from underperforming coaches.

Arizona announced the termination of head coach Kliff Kingsbury just 10 months after he signed a six-year extension that would have kept him in the desert through the 2027 season.

A former head coach of Texas Tech, Kingsbury led the Cardinals to the 2021 playoffs. The Los Angeles Rams defeated Arizona in the first round, then went on to win the Super Bowl.

His firing comes a day after the Cardinals lost their season finale 38-13 to the 49ers, completing a 4-13 season. Kingsbury finishes his Cardinals career with a record of 28-37-1.

In addition to parting ways with Kingsbury, the Cardinals also announced that general manager Steve Keim would be stepping down from his position since 2013. On medical leave since mid-December, Keim stepped down to focus on his health.

The Cardinals and Texans’ jobs are just the latest head coaching positions to open in the NFL.

Before the season’s end, the Indianapolis Colts fired head coach Frank Reich and installed interim coach and former Colts starting center Jeff Saturday. The Colts will undergo a full coaching search in accordance with the Rooney Rule now that the season has concluded.

Similarly, the Carolina Panthers fired Matt Rhule midseason and replaced him with interim coach Steve Wilks. The Panthers will also undergo a full coaching search, with Wilks considered a serious candidate to have his interim title removed and remain coach.

Denver will also search for a new head coach after firing Nathaniel Hackett just after Christmas. The Broncos have requested an interview with former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, who is still under contract with the Saints despite retiring last season.

Denver has also sought an interview with Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and has shown an interest in interviewing Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn once the Cowboys’ season ends.

Quinn was a leading candidate for the Denver job last year when prior Broncos management elected to hire Hackett instead.

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