Mandatory Credit: Photo by Trask Smith/CSM/Shutterstock (13631730ai) Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith during a game between the Washington Commanders and the Houston Texans in Houston, TX NFL Commanders vs Texans, USA – 20 Nov 2022
A day later, could head coach Lovie Smith be having a change of heart?
Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith seemed to backtrack Monday on his position for the past week that he was not considering changes to specific positions.
Throughout the week leading up to their Week 11 contest with Washington and in the immediate aftermath of their defeat at the hands of the Commanders, Smith had been steadfast that he would not be entertaining changes at the quarterback position.
He alluded to including the left guard position in his postgame comments as well.
On Monday, Smith softened that stance.
Repeatedly questioned about making highly similar statements following each loss regarding decision-making, mistakes, and turnovers, Smith has maintained that QB Davis Mills gives the team its best chance to win.
However, his opening remarks on Monday when he met the media opened the door to a potential change:
“As I said yesterday, it was a tough day for us. I’ve been in here a few times where we’ve been coming off of a loss, but a few times it’s been a loss where we feel like we didn’t really have a chance. We had a chance, but they were definitely the better team that day. That was definitely the case yesterday. Offensively, it’s tough when you can’t get anything going. Third downs, we want to run the football, and you can’t run the football. When you can’t run the football, of course, that’s tough. The passing game, all the different things that happened that led to that. We didn’t play well up front, as I said yesterday, and nothing really got going. Defensively, I know it doesn’t probably look that way, but we did a few good things. Third downs. We didn’t take the ball away, and in a game like that, takeaways would have helped a lot. I thought we played the run better. Guys played hard. You know, did some things to at least keep us in the game against a Washington team that, at the time, beat the only undefeated team in football. I realize where we are. Like we normally do, we have been watching the video since then. The players aren’t in today, so they’ll come in tomorrow. We’ll let them know what we’re going to do moving forward.”
That comment at the end about letting players know what the coaches will do going forward was the key in all of that, as it backed off the previously stated stances of there being no considerations for change.
Smith made clear that when the coaches watched the video today, that decisions were made about how to more forward:
“As I said, the players come in tomorrow. Have I watched the video a few different times? Yeah, and made some decisions on how we’re going to go forward. But you can probably understand, with all changes and anything that we do from week to week, we talk to the players first before we talk to you. We’re not pleased with where we are. Do we need to do some things differently? Yes, and we will.”
The fact that Lovie wants to discuss the matter with his players before the media is understood and is the proper way to handle things. No player should find out they’ve been demoted through the media. However, the complete 180-degree turn from the past week is extremely telling.
Smith also seemed a bit more resigned to what the learning curves of his team may be and that what they are showing at this point in the season is likely who and what they are. As far as a change to try to get a spark, Smith did not deny that it could help:
“Yeah, I think a team does (need a spark). When you’ve lost as many games as we have, you’re searching for ways and things that may get the best out of that person or the team in general. I think there’s a place for that. Whether it’s a spark or not. What we look at is if the effort is not what you want it to be, we look to see if there’s a better option. Sometimes we look to that better option a little bit earlier than others. Position-wise we look to that option maybe a little bit quicker than others. That’s a part of the process that you go through, and where we are in our process, we’re in the second half on the season now; it’s a little bit different now. We should know about – I mean, what’s been put on video is probably who we are now. I acknowledge that.”
The defiant tenor of the coach defending QB Davis Mills notably softened on Monday, though he still defended the second-year quarterback’s struggles as part of a greater issue including protection problems:
“I have watched that video a few times for sure. The players haven’t come in, but I’m sure they have too. What I said yesterday, I’m saying right now. It’s tough. Any quarterback, it would have been tough for them to perform with some of the pressure that we got, not always, though. As I look to what happened yesterday, first off, the players aren’t in, but we, as coaches, we’re evaluating what we’re doing, plays we’re calling, all of that. For the quarterback, for us to have success passing the football, it does start up front with protection, feeling that comfort, to be able to go through your progression of your reads. Most of the day yesterday, that wasn’t the case. I’m going to say that that’s been the case for a few weeks. A little of that is you have to give the credit where it’s due, too; that’s with the teams that we’re playing. They’ve been very strong inside. Hopefully, that won’t continue throughout the rest of the year.”
When asked what about Davis Mills still makes the head coach think he provides the team its best chance to win, Smith really didn’t have an answer:
“That’s a question I’m asked quite a bit, and I don’t know how to answer it anymore expect for I think he’s grown too since the early part. It’s pretty hard to talk about how much somebody has grown after yesterday. What I’m going to say yesterday, if you look at the game from the quarterback play, we didn’t play as well as we needed to in the first half. Second half, I think we started, had a drive going down there, couldn’t cash in on it, and that’s been our season so far. There’s been some rough spots, but there have been some moments when we’ve shown a lot of promise, but we haven’t made it to the promise land yet.”
Smith also admitted it’s hard to have a read on a backup quarterback in practice when that quarterback doesn’t get very many reps:
“In practice, for most NFL teams, the guy that is in the backup role doesn’t get a lot of reps. But, what the backup does, is he goes against the No. 1 defense the majority of the time. Kyle (Allen) can make all the throws. He has a history of good play in the NFL. He’s a veteran that’s been in situations, gets rid of the ball quickly. There’s a lot of things to like about what Kyle has done. When he played in the preseason, with the limited amount of time he had, I thought he did a pretty good job.”
While Smith has maintained Mills is his quarterback, his comments on Monday suggest there is at least a discussion about the position.
Additionally, Smith addressed struggling rookie guard Kenyon Green. Green has been struggling mightily the past few weeks, causing a weak interior line to be a wreck. The team believes the experience is important for Green, and Smith discussed how the team balances his struggles with keeping his confidence up:
“I think all rookies, they go through it. They come into the league, and most of the times, they aren’t going to jump right into the league and be the most dominant player. That’s just a part of the progression of becoming a good NFL player. Kenyon (Green) realizes that. What we’re going to do is, the thing’s he’s doing wrong, we’re going to keep coaching him up, getting his technique better to give himself a chance to have more success. You start with that. We’re all disappointed, but it’s not like somebody is ready to pack their bags based on yesterday’s performance was really bad. It hadn’t been that way throughout. As I’ve said, there are two teams that I’ve felt have dominated us and were definitely better than us that day. The rest of the time that hadn’t been the case. We’ve had our moments, moments where we haven’t played well, but they all go together. There’s been more positive moments. The scoreboard hasn’t said that. If you’re just talking individually, that’s not the case.”
Green had a particularly tough game, allowing two sacks, two more QB hits, two tackles for loss, five quarterback pressures, and was flagged three times.
As far as how they handle the teachable moments with Green:
“It’s big boy business a little bit too. What we do, good or bad, we go through everything that has been done in the previous game. That’s what we’re going to do with Kenyon (Green). I believe there’s been a lot of learning moments that we’ve gone through with him. A part of taking that next step is to go through some of those days when the guy that’s playing against you may be better than you right now, but you learn, and you just hope you get better and better. What we’re going to do if that player, whoever it is, Kenyon, whoever is who we think is our best option, we have to let them get their nose bloodied a little bit. Keep going to try to get them better.”
Interestingly, Smith explained how the process of making personnel changes works. While he expressed coaches make the decisions, those decisions still have to be run up to higher management:
“Nick (Caserio) handles an awful lot for our group, but we, as coaches, kind of take care of those things. If there’s a change going on, player-wise, our process is we’re going to talk to the position coach, and we’ll talk to the coordinator. Normally, the three of us will. If there’s any major decisions that are being done, we’ll let everybody know; of course, Nick and everybody else will know. Of course, Cal (McNair) and everybody else will know exactly what we’re doing. We’re communicating constantly with what we’re doing with our football team.”