HOUSTON (SPORTSRADIO 610) — One day after announcing an extended leave of absence, Houston Texans executive vice president and GM Rick Smith said he plans to return, eventually.
When? What will his role be? Will there be a replacement general manager in the meantime? That’s all to be determined, Smith said.
“This is not a referendum on my tenure, because my tenure is not over,” he said. “This is a comma, not a period.”
Smith, who was hired by the Texans back in 2006 to replace Charley Casserly, said in a statement that he’ll be stepping aside to help support his wife, Tiffany, who’s battling breast cancer.
The news broke amid reports of a toxic relationship between Smith and head coach Bill O’Brien, who is entering the last year of his contract, and speculation that one or both would be fired.
“Bill and I have worked together for four years with a common goal: bring a championship to Houston. I don’t really speak to those rumors. Bill has stood up here and told you, we’ve got a great working relationship. We continue to do that. That’s another reason why this is a decision I can make. I can move away from here knowing the organization is in good hands.”
It’s unclear how things will operate during Smith’s absence. Smith called it a “fluid” situation, saying he’s not sure when he’ll be ready to return to the team or what the team will do in the meantime.
“There’s a lot of dynamics to this job,” Smith said. “There are a lot of responsibilities. So how we decide to fill all those roles — that’s not up to me, that’s up to Mr. McNair, and how he decides to do that.”
If the Texans chose to hire another GM, Brian Gaine and Nick Caserio would figure to be at the top of the list of candidates.
Gaine, who was hired last offseason to run the Buffalo Bills personnel department, was with the Texans from 2014 to 2016.
Caserio has spent his entire career with the New England Patriots, who gave him the role of director of player personnel back in 2008, and is considered one of the best candidates on the market.
Philosophically, O’Brien and Caserio would be a good fit.
Smith described what it’s been like for him and his family since Tiffany was diagnosed in September, traveling back and forth to Arizona, where she’s been receiving extensive treatments.
“Over the last three months, the logistics of how we’ve decided to do this — her parents have been here, they’ve been here for two weeks,” Smith said. “We wanted to make sure that home base was set. Our neighbors, our friends, our support system, people have been taking the kids. We wanted to make sure that the kids schedules, they weren’t altered, so they knew that they were fine and so she could focus on her healing.”
He also spoke glowingly about his wife’s strength during this time.
“Inspirational,” Smith said. “It’s been inspirational. She’s strong. I mean, look at her. She’s strong, she’s faithful, she’s disciplined. It’s just been inspirational.”