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Texans fire Lovie Smith after one season as coach

Lovie Smith was fired by the Texans on Sunday night. (Eric Christian Smith/AP)
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The Houston Texans fired Lovie Smith as their coach Sunday night, hours after he orchestrated a late comeback in Indianapolis that gave the team its third victory of the season but kept the franchise from having the top pick in the NFL draft.

The Texans will join the three teams that dismissed their coaches during the regular season — the Carolina Panthers, the Colts and the Denver Broncos — in searching for new head coaches in the coming weeks. Smith was ousted after only one season in which the Texans had a record of 3-13-1.

“I’m constantly evaluating our football operation and believe this is the best decision for us at this time,” Texans General Manager Nick Caserio said in a statement. “It is my responsibility to build a comprehensive and competitive program that can sustain success over a long period of time. We aren’t there right now, however, with the support of the McNair family and the resources available to us, I’m confident in the direction of our football program moving forward.”

Smith became the second straight Texans coach fired after only one season. He was promoted from defensive coordinator last offseason after Houston dismissed David Culley.

“While we understand the results have not been what we had hoped for, we are committed to building a program that produces long-term, sustainable success,” Texans owner Cal McNair said in a statement. “Our fans and city deserve a team that they can be proud of. I will work alongside Nick Caserio throughout this process and I’m confident we will find the right leader for our football team.”

Smith was one of three Black head coaches in the NFL this season, along with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Todd Bowles. A fourth Black coach, Steve Wilks, served as interim coach of the Panthers after they fired Matt Rhule in October. Smith and Bowles were the only Black head coaches hired leaguewide last offseason, among the 10 teams that hired new coaches. The Miami Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel, who is biracial.

“What are the Texans doing[?]” former Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy, now an NFL analyst for NBC, wrote on Twitter. “What kind of operation is this where you don’t have any convictions about supporting the coaches you hire[?] Who is going to want to coach there if you might only get one year to implement your plans[?] Two years in a row is ridiculous.”

NFL leaders have said they hope for better results from their diversity efforts in the hiring cycle this offseason. The cycle occurs as the league and teams face a racial discrimination lawsuit filed last year by former Dolphins coach Brian Flores, now an assistant coach for the Steelers. Two other Black coaches, Wilks and Ray Horton, later joined the lawsuit.

The Texans beat the Colts, 32-31, earlier Sunday on a successful two-point conversion in the game’s final minute as Smith made an aggressive coaching move to secure the victory in regulation rather than play for overtime. That came after a 28-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Davis Mills on a fourth-and-20 play.

The Texans’ triumph meant the Chicago Bears will have the first selection in the draft. The Texans will have the second choice as they attempt to find a franchise quarterback to replace Deshaun Watson, who was traded to the Cleveland Browns last offseason amid allegations of sexual misconduct that led to him serving an 11-game suspension this season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

“We understand what our win total is,” Smith said during his postgame news conference. “That’s not enough. That wasn’t part of the plan. But that’s how it goes sometimes. Now we came down to this game, one game left to go. We wanted to leave the season with a good taste in our mouth.”

He said that he’d met with McNair last Monday, just as he met with McNair on Mondays throughout the season. He said he expected to be retained, despite speculation to the contrary.

“Do I expect to be back? Yeah, I expect to be back,” Smith said. “Absolutely.”