TEXANS CHANGE AT GM

John Granato: Rick Smith's personal life aside, we all still have a job to do

GM Rick Smith struggled at his job before his wife became ill. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Rick Smith’s revelation that his wife is battling breast cancer brought a wave of emotion and reaction Sunday evening. Everyone is rooting for her. Here’s to Tiffany Smith and her fight against that insidious disease.

Everyone was not as kind to Rick. One media member accused him of using his wife’s illness as a shield for being demoted and found that to be “gross,” “disgusting” and “abhorrent.” “The guy was getting demoted anyhow. The Texans and Rick are using his wife as a prop.”

This media member has also had a season-long feud with the Texans organization over having had his credential pulled. His feelings about Rick may not be tied to that fact but it’s certainly useful information.

The fact that Tiffany Smith has breast cancer is not new news. I and other media members have known about this for months. The family did not want it to be public knowledge so we kept it under wraps to honor their wishes. That was their prerogative. We, I am proud to say, acquiesced. I am not sure that would have been the case in other media markets. If it’s news you run with it in other places. The wishes of those who have been affected be damned.

After having tweeted that I and other media members  knew for a while about Tiffany’s illness, I was asked

“John, seriously, if everyone knew this behind the scenes and still added the stress of him and OB fighting... isn’t that kinda SHI__Y?”

“I would kick someone’s ass for that if I was Rick.”

First, I don’t know how many media members knew about Tiffany’s illness. Could be just a few. Could be more.

Second, I knew but I was still critical of Rick as a general manager. The two can be mutually exclusive. Rick Smith wasn’t bad at his job BECAUSE his wife was sick. Rick Smith was bad at his job AND his wife was sick. But it’s not like Rick has been working under these conditions for years.

It’s my understanding that Tiffany was diagnosed this year. His reign as GM dates back to 2006 and they’ve been a mediocre franchise over his tenure. The winning percentage bears that out. They’ve been a playoff team but they’ve also been one of the worst teams in the league a few times and a middling franchise most of all. His middle to late round picks have been putrid at times and even his famous first round picks have been less than stellar lately. His infamous tiff with O’Brien didn’t begin months ago. It’s been an ongoing topic on Kirby for some time.

Is all of this criticism harsh so soon after the revelation his wife is sick? I don’t think so.

You’ve seen Bob McNair. He’s been battling cancer for years now. Has anyone eased up on him? The onslaught after his “inmates running the prison” statement was nothing short of brutal.

O’Brien’s son turned 15 this summer. He’s battling a neurological disorder called lissencephally. Only those of you with a special needs child can understand what the O’Briens have to do day in and day out to make life as normal as possible. Have the media and fans relented because he’s got tough personal issues? No and we shouldn’t. He’s had to answer questions about his job almost daily for weeks now.

If you have personal issues at home your boss still expects you to perform. If you’re an insurance salesman and can’t sell insurance because your wife is sick, your boss will eventually find someone who can and it’ll probably be sooner rather than later.

If you can’t fix cars because you have a special needs child and it’s become a great distraction in your life, your boss will find someone who can fix cars.

My mom died of cancer last summer. I was back and forth to Chicago numerous times. I still had my show to do and commercials to sell (yep, commercials are part of the job). I got through it and I hope it wasn’t too intrusive for the listener. I’m hoping you didn’t even notice the difference.

That’s life and this is the life for Rick and Tiffany Smith now. The fact that the organization is calling it a “leave of absence” instead of his release is their business. If that’s the way the McNairs want to handle it, then so be it. They are, by all accounts, very close and fond of Rick and his family. If they want to keep paying him then they should. It’s their money. They can do what they want with it.

As for them using her illness as a “prop” I don’t believe that for one second. The media has been ripping Rick for months. He could have used the “cancer” card at any time. In fact I think it was admirable that he waited until the season was over. This team did not need more bad news. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a team with more injuries and off-field disaster and distractions than this Texans team. Rick kept it to himself for all this time but it wasn’t going to be a secret for long. If I knew about it a while ago someone was going to report it soon enough. He was able to reveal it how he wanted to and that’s a good thing.

Will he be back as Texans GM someday? Hopefully Tiffany will beat this and we can argue that point then. Godspeed Tiffany.