HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith provided more details on his future with the team on Monday, a day after announcing that he was taking an extended leave of absence to be with his wife as she battles breast cancer.
Smith said that he will return to the team, but that he expects to be away for at least a year.
“This is not a referendum on my tenure, because my tenure is not over,” Smith said. “This is a comma, not a period.”
It’s unclear if he’ll step back into his role as general manager when he does return.
“I am going to maintain the executive vice president title,” Smith said. “If we hire a GM and have a guy to run the personnel then we’ll do that. It’s a fluid process.
“But again, I am absolutely intent on coming back. I will maintain at least that executive vice president title and if (owner) Mr. (Bob) McNair feels like he wants to hire a general manager then he will hire a general manager and that will be just fine.”
Smith’s wife Tiffany was diagnosed in September and has been undergoing treatment in Arizona. Smith said he’s stepping away to spend more time with his wife and be with his three children during this difficult time.
His leave comes as the Texans wrapped up a disappointing 4-12 season that was marred by injuries to dynamic rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson and star defenders J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.
There had been some speculation that coach Bill O’Brien’s job could be in jeopardy, but the Texans appear to be sticking with him as they deal with this shakeup.
There have also been widespread rumors over the years that Smith and O’Brien don’t get along, and Smith was asked to address that on Monday.
“There’s been a lot of conversation about that,” he said. “What I will tell you is Bill and I have worked together for four years with a common goal to bring a championship to Houston. I don’t really speak to those rumors ... but I think as Bill has sat up here and told you we have a great working relationship.”
“We continue to do that and that’s another reason why this is a decision that I can make,” he said. “I can move away from here knowing that the organization is in good hands, in good shape.”
Smith has been Houston’s general manager for 12 seasons after taking over in 2006. He has served on the NFL’s competition committee since 2008, but will not be able to serve on it during his leave.
The Texans have reached the playoffs four times in Smith’s tenure, including winning the AFC South in each of the previous two seasons before this season’s nosedive.