Offseason is his season
Rick Smith has been in the background as Texans GM, but that will soon change
By JOHN McCLAIN
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
For the first time since their inception, the Texans have entered an offseason without Charley Casserly as their general manager.
Rick Smith, hired in early June to replace Casserly, has moved front and center after taking a low profile during the season.
It's Smith's job to oversee the draft and free agency and, along with coach Gary Kubiak, to make decisions that will help the Texans improve on their 6-10 record.
"I'm excited about us improving as an organization," Smith said. "We showed improvement in a lot of areas, but obviously, we've got a lot of work to do.
"We had a terrific draft class that's a strong foundation for where we're going. I think we can improve on that strong foundation in free agency and our next draft. We're going to make good decisions and keep getting better."
Smith, who was Denver's pro personnel director and assistant general manager, distinguished himself by bringing in free agents who helped the Texans improve by four games in Kubiak's first season.
Players Smith signed before and during training camp and during the regular season contributed on both sides of the ball and on special teams.
Draft draws closer
Now Smith is in charge of college scouting as well. He hired Chris Olsen, the manager of labor relations for the NFL Management Council, as the director of administration. Olsen, who also worked in personnel for the Management Council, is a salary-cap expert.
"From a pro scouting perspective, we were able to put a process in place, and I feel good about it," Smith said. "That allowed us to find good players that fit what the coaches wanted.
"It wasn't me sitting in the back of a dark room with this great eye for talent or a magic potion. It's guys like Bobby Grier (associate director of pro scouting), Miller McCalmon (associate director of pro scouting) and Rob Kisiel (pro scout).
"Now we're moving forward with the college process. We've worked extremely hard with (director of college scouting) Dale Strahm and his staff. The process will allow us to make good decisions more often than bad ones."
Part of Smith's job is to see an evaluation of just about everyone and everything in the organization, including quarterback David Carr. Whether to keep Carr or trade him is the Texans' biggest decision this offseason.
"Our evaluation process doesn't start and end with David Carr," Smith said. "We're looking at every facet of the organization players, coaches, personnel, staff, schemes, injuries, rehabilitation. Everything.
"We have to take a critical look at every part of our organization."
Boss is on his side
Texans owner Bob McNair has been happy with what Smith has done since he was hired June 5.
"Rick's a team player," McNair said. "He has his ego under control. He's very organized. He has a plan, and he's going to implement that plan."
One reason McNair hired Smith is because he works so well with Kubiak. They spent 10 years together with the Broncos.
"Rick knows what Gary wants," McNair said. "Gary knows how Rick operates. They work very well together.
"They're very honest and open. If they change their mind on something, they admit it. We need to be open-minded and not so set in our ways."
Kubiak worked well with Casserly, one reason the Texans' draft was recognized as one of the league's best, according to NFL people.
A comfort zone
"Rick knows exactly what I'm looking for when it comes to players and schemes," Kubiak said. "That helps so much because Rick doesn't have to wait for me to come off the practice field to talk to me about a player.
"Rick would sign the player and say, 'I signed this guy, and he'll be here tomorrow. I think he can help us.' Then he'd explain why he thought the player would help us. That's a very positive thing for a coach.
"Rick and the scouting department busted their tails this season. When we had all those injuries, they found some diamonds in the rough for us."
Now the pressure is on for Smith and Kubiak to sign the right free agents and draft the right players.
"You have to trust the people who work for you, and we've got good people here," Smith said. "During the season, I worked a lot closer with our pro scouts because we had to manage the roster as the season progressed.
"While I was doing that, Dale Strahm and his college scouts were busy working and evaluating college prospects.
"Now that the season's over, I have to balance my attention. This is an exciting time of the year because of free agency and the draft, and we want to take every precaution to ensure that we make the right decisions for this organization."