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GM Smith receives four-year extension


General manager Rick Smith has helped steer the Texans in the right direction thanks to his personnel moves since 2006.

The Texans have signed general manager Rick Smith to a four-year contract extension through the 2012 season, the team announced Tuesday.

Smith, the youngest general manager in the NFL at age 38, is entering his third season in his current role. Over the last two seasons, he has re-shaped the Texans roster, helping the team improve from a 2-14 season in 2005 to a franchise-best eight wins in 2007.

"I'm appreciative for the opportunity that Bob and Janice McNair gave me," Smith said. "I'm especially grateful for the support that he and Cal continue to provide us in building our organization. I look forward to many years of working together and continued success."

During the 2007 offseason, Smith acquired several high-profile players, including quarterback Matt Schaub and running back Ahman Green. Schaub, who came via a trade with the Falcons, led the Texans with 2,241 passing yards despite missing five games due to injury. The fifth-year pro also set the Texans record with an 87.2 quarterback rating in his first season.

"Rick has done a fine job for us," Texans founder and chairman Bob McNair said. "I'm real pleased with what he has done and I'm happy with the direction that we are heading in."

This past offseason, Smith re-signed wide receiver André Davis, who had a breakout year in 2007. Davis tied an NFL record with two kickoff returns for touchdowns in Week 17 against Jacksonville and posted a 30.3-yard kickoff return average last season.

"We feel confident that these players are working extremely hard to reach our goals and we feel like this organization is at a point now where we're poised to do some good things," Smith said. "Everybody understands that the only way we're going to do it is by extremely hard work.

"We're committed to doing that, and I feel good about the fact that I can relax, knowing that we're going to be here and we can go about the job of building this franchise."

{QUOTE}Smith has used the draft to build the future of the organization. In 2007, he selected defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, the youngest player taken in the modern draft, with the 10th overall pick. Okoye notched four sacks in September and set the Texans rookie record for sacks in a season with 5.5. In April, Smith chose Virginia Tech left tackle Duane Brown in the first round. Brown quickly moved into the starting lineup during mini-camp.

Coach Gary Kubiak, who spent 10 years with Smith in Denver, said his trusted relationship with the general manager means a great deal to the success of the team.

"It's so nice as a coach because he knows what we are looking for in players," Kubiak said. "He knows our system because we've been around each other for so long, so that's just extremely important that you are on the same page. It makes life a lot easier."

Smith has helped Kubiak navigate through injury troubles over the last two seasons. Houston registered six wins in 2006 despite having a league-high 17 players on injured reserve. In 2007, the team once again placed 17 players on injured reserve and lost Schaub and Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson for a combined 12 games. Despite the injuries, the Texans need only five wins this year to eclipse their win total from the four seasons prior to Smith's arrival.

Kubiak shared with the media just how far Smith has come since Smith first entered the NFL ranks as an assistant defensive backs coach with the Broncos in 1996.

"We were in Denver, we were going to camp, we were looking for a defensive assistant to come in and help the defensive staff," Kubiak said. "We didn't have a guy and we were sitting in the staff meeting and our running backs coach raises his hand, he said, 'I've got a great kid that's on his way to TCU right now. He's going there to work there as a GA (graduate assistant).'

"And Mike (Shanahan) said, 'Can you catch him halfway and tell him to come to Colorado? We'll hire him.' So that's how Rick got started. So he's come a long way, and he's doing a heck of a job."

Schaub, entering his second season as starting quarterback, said increased continuity in the front office will have a unifying effect on the players, who now know that the team Smith has built will remain intact for the foreseeable future.

"With our team and our chemistry, we're gelling and we're bonding," Schaub said. "You keep adding to that, and everyone's on the same page and we're heading in the right direction."

Click **here** to listen to more from Kubiak, Smith and Bob McNair.

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