After the Houston Texans lost to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, General Manager Rick Smith announced that he would be relinquishing his duties as GM and taking an “extended leave of absence.”
Smith explained in a press conference on Monday that this decision was made so he could focus his efforts on taking care of his wife, Tiffany, who is currently battling breast cancer and has been undergoing treatment in Arizona for the past three months. “We made this decision because family’s the most important thing. This is an opportunity for us to really focus on Tiffany and our family and to make sure she gets her health back.”
Smith made it very clear that after 12 seasons with the Texans franchise, this is not goodbye. As of now Smith will retain his position (in title) of executive vice president and hopes to return in a year’s time. Smith, who began his tenure as General Manager in June of 2006, has three years remaining on his contract and his leave will be paid. “This is not a referendum on my tenure because my tenure is not over,” Smith said. “This is a comma, not a period. I absolutely intend on coming back.”
Tiffany, Smith’s wife was in attendance at his press conference.
Smith said of her presence, “I think it’s important that she’s here so you can see how good she’s looking and how healthy she is.”
The process of interviewing candidates for the General Manager position will begin this week and it is estimated that someone will be hired by the end of next week. Smith made it clear that he would not be involved in the process. “Whoever takes over those roles, I don’t think it would be fair for me to reinsert myself at any point during that process, so it makes sense to have a complete year that we just take off so that whoever is filling those responsibilities will be able to do that.” That process will be left up to Team Owner Bob McNair along with his son, Cal McNair who is the team’s Vice Chairman.
Smith’s last season hire, Texans’ Vice President of Football Operations/Assistant General Manager Jimmy Raye, could find himself at the top of the list of candidates as he has played a critical role in aiding Smith to this point.
Members of the team came forward to support Smith, and his decision to be with his family at this difficult time, as they cleaned out their lockers on Monday.
Cornerback Jonathan Jospeh said, “When you’re dealing with something like that, it’s tough.You want to give your all to football, but you have a commitment to your family, and family always comes first…I have a family, and I can certainly understand that.”
He went on to say, “He’s like a father figure to me. Before I made the decision to come here, we had several conversations. I remember the initial call, where we had a 30-minute conversation about life…Rick knew that was going to be a big decision for me and my family, and I kind of leaned on him and trusted him. Since I got here, he’s been a guy I can talk to about anything.”
Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus shared, “He’s an amazing guy. When he brought me here, it was awesome. He’s a great person to talk to. He cares about the guys. It’s so unfortunate. I’m praying for them.”
Defensive end J.J. Watt said, “Thoughts are with him, obviously. It’s very difficult for somebody to have to go through that. I think a lot of us probably know someone that has been affected by something like that, so everyone understands and wishes him and her nothing but the best.”
Offensive lineman David Quessenberry is a cancer survivor who battled non-Hodgkins Lymphoma for three years before his return to football says he understands what Smith is experiencing. “I know he’s going through a really tough situation that’s also really hard on their family. I can just imagine the stress that puts on him along with the stress of being a GM in the most competitive business in the world…I’m praying for him, praying for his family, praying for his wife and look forward to when he comes back.”
Smith fought tears as he talked about his wife’s battle with cancer saying, “It’s been inspirational. She’s strong and disciplined. I’m awed sometimes about how strong she is. As she is going through this, I’m so proud of her.
“God has a pull on our lives. We are open to his guidance and direction. I’m so thankful we’re on this journey together.”