Rick Smith: A Possible Next Chicago Bears GM Deep Dive

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Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans manager Rick Smith speaks after accepting a humanitarian award during the Leigh Steinberg party at Hughes Manor. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Whenever people mention guys in the NFL who get the same job with a second team, they’re called “retreads.” That isn’t entirely fair since there are so many examples in league history of retreads having great success. In fact, people forget the most successful GM in Chicago Bears history was a retread. Jim Finks had been running the show in Minnesota for years when George Halas came calling in 1974. So why can’t his grandson George McCaskey do the same? If he is thinking about anybody who can replace Ryan Pace, his search should start with Rick Smith.



The story behind this man is a mixture of triumph, tragedy, and heartbreak. He actually began his NFL career as a defensive backs coach in Denver. It didn’t take the Broncos long to recognize he had a keen scouting eye. They soon moved him to that department in 2000 where he swiftly became their director of pro personnel. During his tenure in that job, they successfully secured some of their best moves in franchise history. This includes the historic trade for Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey in 2004. Not to mention signing big hits like John Lynch and Jake Plummer as free agents.

This success led him to become the new Houston Texans GM in 2006.

Up to that point, the organization was one of the worst in the NFL. A young franchise that had just come into existence four years prior. Smith had a tall task ahead of him. However, he also had a plan. He hired Gary Kubiak as head coach and set about reshaping the roster. What followed was some truly impressive work on both the draft and veteran sides. Within three years, Houston had their first-ever winning record.

Rick Smith draft highlights:
  • Duane Brown
  • Connor Barwin
  • Glover Quin
  • Kareem Jackson
  • J.J. Watt
  • Whitney Mercilus
  • Brandon Brooks
  • DeAndre Hopkins
  • Jadeveon Clowney
  • Benardrick McKinney
  • Deshaun Watson
Free agency highlights:
  • Johnathan Joseph
  • Wade Smith
  • Antonio Gibson
  • Vonta Leach
  • Arian Foster
  • A.J. Bouye
  • Lamar Miller

The biggest thing that stands out about Rick Smith?

His consistent ability to identify offensive talent. That is something a lot of people will put stock in with the Bears considering the state of things right now. Justin Fields desperately needs help if he is ever going to be a success in Chicago. Smith proved in Houston that he could find Pro Bowl-caliber blockers and superstar wide receivers. Not to mention head coaches who understand how to win consistently.

It is crazy to think the man was pushed out of Houston right at the peak of his powers in 2017. Despite drafting future franchise QB Watson, Smith was pushed out of town as he struggled to deal with the worsening condition of his late wife, who had cancer at the time. The Texans’ power structure was in turmoil as owner Bob McNair too was losing a battle with cancer. Then-head coach Bill O’Brien seized control.

Smith was fired due to a power struggle. Not incompetence. Many believe he got a raw deal in Houston after all he’d done for that organization. He’s also still just 51-years old. The man is fresh and ready for his next shot. He also has a sizable chip on his shoulder and has experience building a depleted roster up from almost nothing.

SOURCE© John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Educated to be a writer at the prestigious Columbia College in Chicago, Erik has spent the past 10 years covering the Bears.