Texans CEO Cal McNair says he understands that criticism.
But it wasn’t just the team's record that led McNair and general manager Nick Caserio to fire Smith, McNair said in an exclusive interview with the Houston Chronicle on Monday night.
“We weren’t happy with what was happening,” McNair said. “That’s what led to the decision. I don’t know that you can say we were expecting if we got four wins he would have stayed. I don’t think it was that simple.”
When asked whether Smith’s decision to go for the two-point conversion bothered him, McNair said it didn’t.
“I couldn’t believe we got it,” he said. “I thought we were going to overtime. That’s why (the players) are playing. They have a lot of pride. And they want to play next year. To play next year, you need to put good things on film.
“(It's) just not in my nature or any of our nature to ask a team to go out there and not win.”
“When you look at the statistics, when you look at the wins, you look at how many home games did we win,” McNair said. “And I know these national guys, they don’t study the team like y’all do. Y’all have watched every game. I doubt they have watched every game. During the middle part of the year, it was hard to watch some of those games. Jacksonville was a hard game to watch.”
“But you look at the whole body of work and not just one thing in particular,” McNair said. “Are you convinced that you are seeing the progress you want to see? Are you seeing the players develop? Are you seeing all these different things? Adaptability? Can you play one way one week and another way in another week? Change things at halftime?”
Before Smith was fired, some wondered whether Caserio’s job was in jeopardy. By keeping him and allowing Caserio to be part of the decision to fire Smith and hire a new coach, McNair is giving his general manager a little more leeway — at least for now.
“He has done a good job with personnel,” McNair said. “When I look at these young guys, they are the ones making plays we see on Sunday. And they really are in a bright spot. The draft picks … to work through what we worked through these last few years, as far as trading a certain player and somehow getting the value that we got in trading that player and how that will give us a boost into this space that we’re heading into, puts us in a really good spot.
“His efforts to clean up the cap, work on the roster and do all these things has gotten us to (where) I’m really excited about the future and our opportunities. I give him a lot of credit for doing that.”
But one of the biggest questions will be whether those coaches, who are all highly sought after, or any top coach will want to come to Houston given the recent history of firings. McNair said the only thing he and Caserio can do is be honest with the candidates and explain their position when asked.
McNair said he’s committed to putting a winning team on the field and hopes the coaching candidates see that.
“We’re going to be fearless and make hard decisions,” McNair said. “The easy thing would be to not make hard decisions. But that’s not my belief. …We need to challenge ourselves and try to push ourselves to be the best we can be. And if that means making a hard decision and being more involved somewhere to get us a great team on the field and get these fans, which are great fans, something to be in the building cheering for and having more home playoff games, that’s what we want.”