In February, Lovie Smith took over an N.F.L. team that had won just four games in each of the previous two seasons. This season, it won three, and he was fired on Sunday.
The Houston Texans fired Smith after the team limped to a 3-13-1 record, ending with a 32-31 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Smith was the second successive Texans head coach to be fired after just one season at the helm. The team fired David Culley a year ago, after a 4-13 season. Bill O’Brien, who coached the Texans from 2014 to 2020, was fired after leading the team to four playoff appearances.
“I’m confident we will find the right leader for our football team,” Cal McNair, the team’s owner, said Sunday.
Before his stint with the Texans, Smith coached the Chicago Bears from 2004 to 2014, leading them to a Super Bowl appearance in the 2006 season. He led Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015 and 2016, then coached the University of Illinois before returning to the N.F.L. as the Texans’ associate head coach and defensive coordinator under Culley.
Smith was one of five Black head coaches in the N.F.L. this season. The others were Todd Bowles of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Mike McDaniels of the Miami Dolphins (who is biracial) and Steve Wilks, who was named interim head coach of the Carolina Panthers in October.
In 2022, Wilks joined the lawsuit brought by Brian Flores, the former Dolphins coach, which accused the N.F.L. of discriminating against African American candidates in its hiring practices.
The day after the regular season finale is known as Black Monday, a day traditionally laden with head coach firings. The fate of the coaches of the N.F.L.’s worst performing teams was still undecided at midday Monday.
Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals was thought to be among the most vulnerable after a 4-13 season.
Although the Chicago Bears had the worst record in the league at 3-14, first-year head coach Matt Eberflus appeared set to return next season, armed with the No. 1 pick in the N.F.L. draft.
The Los Angeles Rams fell to 5-12, with Coach Sean McVay reportedly considering retirement a year after winning the Super Bowl.
Another first-year coach potentially on thin ice was Josh McDaniels after a 6-11 season with the Las Vegas Raiders. The team was 10-7 and made the playoffs a year before under interim coach Rich Bisaccia, and invested heavily in personnel coming into this season. It acquired the services of receiver Davante Adams and pass rusher Chandler Jones, but the disappointing finish led the Raiders to bench quarterback Derek Carr in late December, a move that pointed to his departure this off-season.
Arthur Smith of the Atlanta Falcons (7-10) probably did not sleep entirely easily Sunday night, either.
Other head coaching openings include the Denver Broncos (5-12), who fired Nathaniel Hackett in December; the Carolina Panthers, who fired Matt Rhule in October; and the Indianapolis Colts, who fired Frank Reich in November. Colts owner Jim Irsay hired Jeff Saturday as interim coach of the team, which went 1-7 the rest of the way.
The Broncos were said to have lined up interviews with Sean Payton, former coach of the New Orleans Saints, and Jim Harbaugh, of the University of Michigan.