Illinois's head coach Lovie Smith on the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jim Young)

After emerging out of nowhere as the top candidate for the Texans head coaching job, veteran NFL head coach Lovie Smith was officially named to the post late Monday night.

Smith, who has also been the head coach of the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, becomes just the second African American coach hired this offseason, bringing the number to the three African American head coaches in the NFL with Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin serving as the longest tenured. Smith replaces David Culley, who was fired by second-year general manager Nick Caserio after just one season. 

Smith’s hire comes at a time when the NFL is being heavily scrutinized for its lack of diversity in its head coaching ranks. 

“I want to first thank Nick Caserio and the McNair family for giving me this opportunity,” said Smith, who is from Big Sandy. “I’m humbled to be the next head coach of the Houston Texans and incredibly excited to continue to work with Nick. I have so many friends, family, teammates and coaches to thank for supporting me and helping me continue to do what I love, which is teaching and developing players. I understand the responsibility I have to this organization and this city to develop a championship-level program. I’m ready to get to work and build it together.”

Smith served as the Texans defensive coordinator last season and was retained even after Culley was fired last month. But Smith’s name never came up as a candidate for the head coaching job until this weekend.

As of early last week, the finalists for the Texans job were said to be former NFL quarterback Josh McCown, Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and recently fired Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores. All three men had been granted second interviews, while Smith did not interview for the job until Sunday.

But the Texans coaching search had been clouded in controversy in recent days. Most questioned how McCown could be a serious candidate without any NFL coaching experience and Flores, who was thought to be Caserio’s top target from the start, filed a class-action lawsuit against the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Dolphins and NFL last week claiming racial discrimination.

Hiring Flores would have been problematic for Caserio and the McNair family because of the lawsuit that was ignited when Patriots coach Bill Belichick mistakenly sent a text of congratulations for landing the Giants job to Flores days before he was to interview for the job. The text was meant for Brian Daboll, who was eventually hired for the Giants job.

Flores has also leveled claims that he was offered $100,000 per loss by the Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to not win games.

But in the meantime, it seems that the Texans have made the best hire they could make as their search had lasted longer than a month. Smith, who has 20 seasons of NFL coaching experience including 11 as a head coach, is a solid hire. 

The defensive guru brings a stellar resume which includes three NFC North title and a Super Bowl appearance in 2006. Smith spent five seasons coaching at the University of Illinois before being fired after the 2019 season. 

Smith will be formally introduced as the new Texans coach Tuesday morning. 

“I am excited to introduce Lovie Smith as our next head coach,” Caserio said. “He is one of the most respected coaches in the NFL and an established leader. A proven winner, Lovie has shown the ability to develop players both on and off the field for years.”

In addition to Smith’s hire, the team also announced that Pep Hamilton has been promoted to offensive coordinator and Frank Ross has been retained as special teams coordinator.