Meet Detroit Lions general manager candidate: Ex-Houston Texans GM Rick Smith pros, cons

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Lions are expected to interview a wide range of candidates for both their head coach and general manager jobs. They began GM interviews in early December and are expected to continue talking to candidates for both positions into early 2021. As part of an ongoing series, here is a look at one known candidate on the Lions’ list:

Rick Smith

Current role: None.

Background: Smith spent 12 seasons as Houston Texans GM, where he built the roster of four division championship teams, including the winningest team in franchise history (the 2012 team that went 12-4). He resigned at the end of the 2017 season to help care for his sick wife, and has spent the past three seasons out of football. Before Houston, where he doubled as the team’s executive vice president of football operations, Smith spent six seasons as director of pro personnel for the Denver Broncos. He won two Super Bowls in Denver as an assistant coach.

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When interviewed: Monday, Dec. 21.

Why he makes sense: Smith checks off many of the boxes the Lions are looking for in their next GM. He’s experienced when it comes to roster building and salary cap management. He has had success in the draft – his last first-round pick was Deshaun Watson. And he has deep connections across the league that would, in theory, make it easy to assemble scouting and coaching staffs. Along with Watson, Smith hit on first-round picks such as J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins and Duane Brown, none of whom was a top-10 selection.

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Why he doesn’t: Things grew tumultuous towards the end of Smith’s time in Houston, when he reportedly clashed with since-fired head coach Bill O’Brien before he took his leave of absence. The Lions will need a clear accounting of what went wrong there, and also clarity on whether Smith pushed to keep Watson on the bench as a rookie, as has been reported. Any experienced GM will have his misses in the draft and free agency, and Smith whiffed on quarterback Brock Osweiler as a free agent. He also is a candidate for the Atlanta Falcons’ vacant GM job, so his timeline in finding a new home might not mesh with the Lions, who are expected to take their search into January.

More candidate profiles:

Kyle O’Brien

Lance Newmark

Rob Lohman

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.


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