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Front Office

Rick Smith
Executive Vice President/General Manager

Rick Smith oversees all football-related operations and the player acquisition process as Houston Texans Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager. Smith is in his 12th season as General Manager and seventh as Executive Vice President of Football Operations.

Rick Smith oversees all football-related operations and the player acquisition process as Houston Texans Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager. Smith is in his 12th season as General Manager and seventh as Executive Vice President of Football Operations.

Named general manager by owner Bob McNair on June 5, 2006, Smith’s appointment made him the youngest general manager in the NFL at 36. Since then, Smith has assembled and led a football operations staff that prides itself on providing players and coaches with the tools needed for success on and off the field.

Smith’s leadership, vision and success have garnered recognition by the league. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appointed Smith to the NFL’s prestigious Competition Committee on Dec. 5, 2008. His peers honored him with the Tank Younger Award in 2008, presented annually by the Fritz Pollard Alliance for outstanding work in an NFL front office. Smith was an original member of the General Managers Advisory Committee, which provides advice and other feedback to the NFL Football Operations department on the integrity of the game, expansion of technology and other ways to improve the league.

The Texans are coming off three straight winning seasons for the first time in franchise history and have won back-to-back AFC South Division championships for the second time under Smith. The Texans’ four division titles over the last six seasons are the fourth most in the NFL during that span and their 14 division wins since 2014 are tied with Kansas City for the most in the league. Houston posted a 5-1 record against AFC South opponents in 2016, which tied the best single-season winning percentage against the division in team history.

Houston advanced to the AFC Divisional Round for the first time since 2012 and finished last season with the NFL’s top-ranked defense for the first time in franchise history, surrendering an average of only 301.3 total net yards per game. Of the 20 players who started at least one game on defense for the Texans last season, 15 were either drafted by the Texans or signed as a college free agent. The team also posted a 7-1 record at home during the regular season, which set a single-season franchise record and tied for the best home record in the NFL.

Former No.1 overall pick DE Jadeveon Clowney earned Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his career after posting personal bests in tackles (52), sacks (6.0), tackles for loss (16), quarterback hits (17) and games played/started (14). Second-year ILB Benardrick McKinney led the Texans and finished 11th in the NFL (sixth in the AFC) with a single-season career-high 129 tackles, making him the only player in the NFL in 2016 and the second in Texans history with at least 100 tackles and 5.0 sacks in a season.

On offense, the Texans finished with the eighth-most rushing yards in the NFL in 2016, averaging 116.2 per game. RB Lamar Miller, who was signed as a free agent in the 2016 offseason, became the fourth player in franchise history with a 1,000 yards rushing in a season. As a team over the last three seasons, Houston ranks third in the AFC and sixth in the NFL in rushing yards.

In 2015, Houston clinched its third AFC South Division title in franchise history and first since 2012. The Texans also became the only NFL team since 1950 to make the playoffs with four different starting quarterbacks winning a game during the regular season and had a defense that finished third in the NFL in total yards (310.2) and passing yards (210.4) allowed per game, while setting the franchise single-season records for sacks (45.0) and third down percentage (28.5). That percentage led the NFL in 2015 and was the lowest single-season mark by any NFL team since the 2003 Tennessee Titans (27.7).

From day one, Smith and his staff rolled up their sleeves and scoured the free agent, draft and trade markets for players who would thrive with the Texans, solely focused on transforming their 2-14 team in 2005 into a perennial contender. The transformation culminated in back-to-back AFC South crowns and the franchise’s first two playoff berths in 2011 and 2012.

Smith and his staff have been able to adapt and find the right personnel to fit changing schemes and coaching staffs throughout his tenure. He was faced with both heading into the 2014 season following a disappointing 2013 season. However, the Texans posted the greatest single-season turnaround in franchise history and became the sixth team in the last 36 years to post a winning record of 9-7 after having two wins or less the previous season.

Houston also forced a franchise-record 34 turnovers in 2014 and became the third team in the last 20 years to lead the NFL in takeaways after finishing last the year before. On offense, the Texans’ 135.1 rushing yards per game ranked fifth in the NFL and was the second-highest mark in franchise history.

This past spring, in his 11th draft with the Texans and fourth with Head Coach Bill O’Brien, Smith selected seven players who fit the credo he established when he arrived in Houston, “We’re looking for tough, smart, physical players with high character who are competitive and passionate about football.”

The Texans traded up 13 spots in the first round to select QB Deshaun Watson (12th overall) from Clemson. Houston drafted ILB Zach Cunningham (57th overall) from Vanderbilt in the second round and RB D’Onta Foreman from Texas with the 89th overall pick in the third round. Houston took Bucknell T Julién Davenport with their first selection in the fourth round (130th overall) and Clemson DE Carlos Watkins with their second fourth round pick (142nd overall). Oregon State CB Treston Decoud was the Texans fifth-round pick (169th overall) then Houston closed their draft by taking Baylor C Kyle Fuller in the seventh round (243rd overall).

The Texans have been particularly successful drafting in the first round of the NFL Draft under Smith. Houston is the only team in the NFL with every first round pick since 2008 still on their roster and all but one of Smith’s first rounder’s played in 14-or-more games as a rookie.
Eight of Smith’s 10 first-round selections have started 10-or-more games as a rookie with the franchise. Five have started every game as a rookie: LT Duane Brown (2008), ILB Brian Cushing (2009), CB Kareem Jackson (2010), DE J.J. Watt (2011) and WR DeAndre Hopkins (2013).
Collectively, the Texans’ current roster, all acquired by Smith, has earned 20 Pro Bowl selections, 21 first- or second-team Associated Press All-Pro distinctions, three Defensive Player of the Year awards and one Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Watt, the 11th overall pick in 2011, has already tied an NFL record with three Defensive Player of the Year awards (2012, 2014 and 2015) and became the first player in NFL history to have 20.0-or-more sacks in separate seasons. Hopkins, who was taken 27th in 2013, has the second most catches (317) and third most receiving yards (4,487) in NFL history for a player age 24 or younger. Hopkins also has the most receptions and receiving yards by a Texans player in the first four years of his career. Cushing was selected 15th overall in 2009 and went on to be named the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year and earn second-team All-Pro honors in 2011. Brown (26th overall in 2009) has been widely considered one of the best left tackles in the NFL and is the first lineman in franchise history to earn All-Pro recognition, doing so in 2011 and 2012.

Unrestricted free agents have also thrived in Houston on Smith’s watch. CB Johnathan Joseph, who helped turn the Texans’ defense around after signing from Cincinnati in 2011, has been to the Pro Bowl twice since joining the Texans. Former DE Antonio Smith signed with Houston in 2009 and set career highs in sacks in 2011 and 2012, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl following the 2011 season. Former G Wade Smith signed with the Texans in 2010 from Kansas City and made the first Pro Bowl of his career in 2012, his 10th season.

Smith also orchestrated the trades that brought quarterback Matt Schaub from Atlanta in 2007 and center Chris Myers from Denver in 2008. Both players earned multiple Pro Bowl berths with the franchise. Additionally, the Texans have executed 16 draft-day trades in the last 11 years under Smith.

Smith places a premium on college free agents. The most well-known college free agent success story in Texans history is former RB Arian Foster. Undrafted out of Tennessee in 2009, Foster signed with Houston and spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad. Foster started 2010 with a 231-yard effort against Indianapolis and went on to have the best season ever by an undrafted running back, winning the 2010 rushing title, All-Pro honors and the first of three consecutive Pro Bowl nods. He rose from practice squad player to one of the most complete backs in the NFL and the franchise’s all-time leading rusher with 6,472 yards (2009-15).

In 2012, the Texans won their second consecutive AFC South Division crown and set a franchise mark with a 12-4 record. Houston advanced to the Divisional round of the playoffs in 2011 and 2012, compiling a 22-10 regular season record that tied for the second-best mark in the AFC. Smith’s tenure in Houston began with a 6-10 record, followed by a pair of 8-8 records in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, the Texans posted the first winning season in franchise history, narrowly missing the playoffs at 9-7 and followed that season up by going 6-10 in 2010.
Smith has found a way to consistently strengthen Houston’s roster and is continuing to build upon a foundation of talent and depth with the cornerstones of scrupulous evaluation, opportunistic free agency signings, smart trades and a methodical draft strategy.

The 2011 campaign tested these principles unlike any other year. The Texans faced a drastically shortened 2011 offseason, a complete defensive scheme change, and a glut of injured starters, including season-ending injuries to Schaub, QB Matt Leinart and Pro Bowl DE Mario Williams. In addition, All-Pro WR Andre Johnson missed more than half the season due to injury.

Smith’s principles and commitment to the Texans’ player acquisition strategy withstood the storm. The Texans managed to go 10-6 in 2011, win the AFC South and secure a playoff berth for the first time in franchise history. Most notable was the play of former fifth-round draft pick QB T.J. Yates. Yates was pressed into action as a rookie following the losses of Schaub and Leinart and became the first rookie quarterback to orchestrate comeback wins in his first two starts since 1968, including Houston’s playoff-clinching victory at Cincinnati in Week 13.

The Texans finished 2011 with the NFL’s second-ranked defense, a dramatic improvement over the unit that ranked 30th in the NFL in 2010. Houston’s 912-yard improvement was the third-greatest leap for a defense from one year to the next since 1970. On offense, Houston set a franchise rushing record for the second straight season and ranked second in the NFL with 153.0 rushing yards per game.

In Smith’s former role leading the Denver Broncos pro personnel department, the franchise posted the league’s fifth-best regular-season record from 2000-05, going 61-35 (.635). The 61 wins were the most of any AFC West team during that span, 10 more than the next closest team, Kansas City. Denver was one of only four teams in the NFL to reach the playoffs each season from 2003-05.

Before moving into the front office, Smith spent four years as the Broncos’ assistant defensive backs coach and earned two Super Bowl rings while helping guide a unit that consistently ranked as one of the league’s best. The team won more games from 1996-98 (46) than any club during that three-year period.

Smith joined the Broncos on April 3, 1996, following a two-year stint as defensive backs coach at his alma mater, Purdue University. He spent a short time at TCU prior to joining the Broncos.

A 1992 graduate of Purdue, Smith began his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the Boilermakers, serving as the school’s assistant strength and conditioning coordinator. After serving as the team’s graduate assistant tight ends coach for one season, Smith was hired as the secondary coach, becoming the youngest full-time position coach in the Big Ten Conference at the time at the age of 24. In 2012, Smith was honored by his alma mater with the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Smith started at strong safety and was a defensive captain for Purdue as a senior in 1991. A native of Petersburg, Va., he attended Meadowdale High School in Dayton, Ohio. Smith is also a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Smith supports several schools in the community, including The Awty International School and The Regis School of the Sacred Heart, and serves on the Board of Directors for Pro-Vision Academy, a charter school that provides young people in the greater Houston area with academic, social and economic opportunities in hopes of inspiring purpose and optimism. He and his wife, Tiffany, co-chaired the charter school’s first Cornerstone Luncheon in May 2014, helping raise more than $300,000 at the event. The Smith Family also gives time and resources to many other local charities throughout Houston, including the Linda Lorelle Scholarship Fund, Susie Bean Gives, the United Way and the Children’s Museum of Houston.

Rick and Tiffany Smith live in Houston with their sons, Robert LaMar and Christian LaMar, and daughter, Avery Jordan.