Head Coach Bill O’Brien
What do you like about QB Brock Osweiler?
“I think the first thing you look at is his film, how he plays the game. He’s a big, tall guy with a strong arm and he stands in the pocket. When the rush is bearing down on him, he delivers the ball. Look, it’s not always complete but there’s a lot that goes into that. I think the one thing that I like about this guy is that he’s got good leadership ability. Like I said, he’s tough, he’s got a good arm, he’s accurate. We spent a lot of time studying a lot of different guys, college guys, pro guys and we felt like Brock gave us the best chance to win.”
What does QB Brock Osweiler need to improve on?
“Everybody asks me that. We all need to improve. There are things that I’m sitting there in bed this morning thinking about what I’m going to do better this year. Every player from J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, all the way through, everybody’s got something that they need to improve upon. I would say with Brock, just continuing to develop his skillset as a passer and being as accurate as he can be. I think he’s a very accurate passer. You’re always striving for 100 percent. Learning our system, that’s going to be big. We can’t work with these guys until April 18. That’s one of my biggest things with the CBA is if we can just bring the quarterbacks in a little bit earlier, that would be a big help to just about everybody in here. We can’t get him until April 18 but once we get him, we’re going to have to really go to work and hopefully in nine weeks, we can get a lot done.”
Do you see QB Brock Osweiler as a particularly good fit for the Texans offense?
“Absolutely. Yeah, I thought he was a very good fit, obviously. We felt like he was a guy that everything that he brought to the table from his command at the line of scrimmage to his skillset as a passer. For a big guy – I’m sure you guys know his history, he played basketball – he’s a very, very good athlete. We think he’s a great fit for our offense.”
Were there any games from this past season that stood out to you when watching film of QB Brock Osweiler?
“There were some games. I would tell you, I thought the New England game was one particular game that stood out to me because they were really, in coaching lingo, they were getting after him. They were hitting him and he was delivering the football and getting right back up and calling the next play. One of the main requirements for a quarterback in this league is the ability to stand in there when everything’s flying at you, take a hit and deliver the ball. That’s one thing in that game that really stood out to me. There were other games, in the Raiders game, Khalil Mack must have hit him, I don’t know, eight to 10 times in that game, stood in there, delivered the ball. Maybe statistically it wasn’t his best game but to someone who’s been coaching that position for a while and has really studied it, that means a lot to us. Those are things that stood out to me, his ability to stand in there and deliver the ball.”
What was the pitch you gave to QB Brock Osweiler on why he should come to the Texans instead of staying in Denver?
“There was no pitch. (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Rick (Smith) deals with Jimmy Sexton, his agent. First time I met Brock was when he showed up on that day when we had a press conference. He’s a good guy. I know there’s a lot of people that have coached him throughout the years that I personally know, so I’m sure he spoke to those guys. We spoke to those guys. That was one thing that stood out to me about him was everyone we spoke to that was either a coach or a teammate couldn’t say enough good things about this guy. He was a good leader, a hard worker, a guy that really cared about his teammates, kind of everything we’re looking for in a quarterback. So now he’s just got to come in here and do it.”
What can QB Brock Osweiler do to enhance WR DeAndre Hopkins’ game?
“Well I think No. 1 would be the consistency, they can work together. DeAndre’s had to play with – and this is not DeAndre’s fault, it’s nobody’s fault, it’s the just the way it’s been – DeAndre’s had to play with nine different quarterbacks in two years, which is a testament to DeAndre that he’s been able to function at a high level with those guys. It’ll be the consistency. He’ll be able to work with this guy time and time again. I think I’ve heard that they’re already getting together out in Arizona, things like that. That, to me, is the biggest thing. He’s working with basically one guy.”
What kind of impact will the signings of QB Brock Osweiler and RB Lamar Miller have on the draft?
“You know, it’s interesting. What we do is a pretty good process where we look at our team at the end of the year and we determine what we think we really need to be a better football team in 2016. Then we approach free agency that way and then once we see how the, so to speak, cards fall in free agency, then we move to the next phase of it, which is the draft. I think our philosophy in the draft is basically we want the best player that’s available at the picks that we have. If there’s three or four guys that fit that term of best available, then you can fill a need. I think that’s the way we’ll approach it. (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Rick (Smith) and I, we’re really working separately right now on the draft and then we’re going to come together sometime before the draft and kind of see how we see all these players.”
How much better do you think the AFC South will be this year based on the moves you made in free agency?
“I think the AFC South sometimes gets a bad rap. We’ve got really good coaches. I know preparing for these teams every week, twice a year, it’s tough. You’ve got Indianapolis, Tennessee, Jacksonville, good coaches, good players, both sides of the ball, good schemes. I was talking with a couple guys at the head coach’s dinner a couple nights ago, some of the schemes that these guys run, offensively and defensively, that you have to prepare for. Look, I think every year is a different year and I think this year will be a very, very competitive year in the AFC South.”
What did you think about DE J.J. Watt flying in a bunch of teammates to Wisconsin to work out and bond?
“I think it’s great. I think J.J. Watt is going to, in his own way, try to do whatever he can to help us win. J.J.’s a great player, but like I’ve said a million times, he’s an even better person. Just have a lot of respect for the guy. I really cherish the relationship I have with our players and J.J. is a guy that I’ve formed a good relationship with. I think we’ve got a good bunch of core guys. We’ve got some good young guys that want to be good. I think J.J. should be commended for doing that.”
Do you think the players can get something out of spending time together in Wisconsin?
“Yeah, I think so. I don’t know how many days they’re up there. I don’t know if it’s two or three days, but I think even if it was just for a night, 20 guys get together and talk about things that concern the team and families and personal lives, I think it’s great. You know I’ve said this a million times, I think the chemistry on your football team is a big thing. I think J.J.’s trying to work towards that here in the offseason.”
What do you like about RB Lamar Miller? Was getting more carries in Houston part of your sales pitch?
“Again, there’s no sales pitch. We’re not allowed to talk to these guys. I think what they do is they talk to their agents. (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Rick (Smith) talks to their agent during that legal tampering period. Then the players talk to each other. They talk to other players and maybe coaches. I think that’s probably how they get their information. What I see with Lamar Miller is No. 1, he’s a good guy, he’s a good teammate. Every coach that I’ve spoken to that coached him whether it was at Miami Hurricanes or Dolphins, has spoken very highly of the guy. He’s a hard worker. He’s out at practice every day. Then from a skillset standpoint, all you got to do is turn on the tape from our game against them. Speed, quickness, I think he’s decent in the passing game so we’re going to be able to use him there. I think we’ve got a good player there.”
What can you do with a new quarterback before the offseason program starts and what would you do to fix that?
“Look, I’m only going into my third year as a head coach, but I feel very strong and I’ve said this to some of the league, I have a ton of respect for this league and the league officials and what they’re trying to do and how it works with the players’ union. I get all that. But I believe if you talk to the majority of players in this league, the majority, they want to come back to work earlier than April 18. Can they come back on March 18? Why is it April 18? Or could we revise it to where maybe the quarterback – when I first started whenever it was nine or 10 years ago, in the league we had quarterback school. I was quality control, I was working with Josh McDaniels at the Patriots. Here came (Tom) Brady and (Matt) Cassel, we had Vinny Testaverde, we had Matt Gutierrez. We had some good guys there and they would come back and we would have quarterback school. We don’t even do that anymore. Why not? Why can’t at least the quarterbacks come back a little bit early so we can start teaching them. That’s just my thing. I feel pretty strongly about that the players, I believe, the players of the Houston Texans, they would like to work with us a little bit more than what we’re doing right now.”
Beyond QB Brock Osweiler’s size and athleticism, what did you see that you like on film?
“You look for little things. The biggest thing to me was I felt like he had really good command at the line of scrimmage. You could tell on the coach’s tape when the play was called, he knew what he was being taught to do by (Broncos Head Coach) Gary (Kubiak), get to the line of scrimmage, get them into the right play. Then the other thing that really stood out to me was when he dropped back to pass, like I was saying in the New England game, they were bringing some pressure on him. Some of the guys were unblocked. He was having to deliver the football and take a hit. There wasn’t one time that I saw where he ducked. He stood in there and delivered the ball. That’s one thing that I know that a quarterback has to have, the ability to stand in there, keep his eyes down field, deliver the ball and take a hit. He did it time and time again in that game and other games. That was one thing in addition to all of his skillset that I like. That was one thing that stood out to me.”
When you talk to draft prospects, you can ask football questions. What kind of challenges does it present when you can’t talk football with free agents like QB Brock Osweiler?
“When he arrived the day that he came to Houston, that was basically when we sealed the deal with him when free agency began on that Wednesday. But even then, you have to be really careful about talking football with him. The answer to your question is all we did was hand him an iPad, which we’re allowed to do and then we’ll see him and start talking football with him on April 18. I’m sure knowing him just in that brief span of time that I’m sure he’s calling his teammates like (DeAndre) Hopkins, probably some of the other guys on offense that have been here and he’s probably asking them a million questions. I hope they know it well enough to be able to tell him. So we’ll really officially start teaching him the offense on April 18.”
So right now, QB Brock Osweiler can just learn based on film study?
“Yeah, so we have these iPads that have the playbook on there and film and things like that.”
Do you and your coaches feel comfortable enough about what the NFL wants in the catch rule to be able to teach your players what a catch is?
“Here’s how I coach it. The rule book is a large book. I think these officials, it’s tough on them. I believe and I’m telling you this and it may not always look like this on the sideline with me, but I think they do a great job. They’re not full-time officials. They have other jobs. They’re having to officiate these games that are played very fast. With all the things that they have to deal with, I think they do a really good job. They’re very informative to us during the game, which is good. The communication is good. But as it relates to the catch rule, I’ll just tell you what I coach the player, because a lot of these things happen on like jump ball type situations, like the Dez Bryant catch in Green Bay. DeAndre Hopkins has a million of these during the year. So I tell, talking to Hop especially, secure the catch before you think about being a runner. Make sure that you have the catch, secure it. Beyond that, I say to these guys, look, if it was a catch in my backyard when I was nine years old in Andover, Mass., then it’s a catch. If me and my buddies are there and we caught the ball and this guy said, ‘Well, what do you think?’ ‘Well yeah, he caught it. It didn’t hit the ground.’ That’s a catch, right? I think we make it too complicated. That’s just my opinion.”
Did the fact that QB Brock Osweiler lost his starting job at the end of the season give you any reason to pause?
“I think it would give me reason to pause if it was anybody other than Peyton Manning. I think if I had Peyton Manning and he was ready to go, he’s one of the best of all-time. I think I would probably put him back in there too. No, it didn’t give me any pause. I watched the tape. The other thing too is we were out there two years ago. We scrimmaged against them going into my first year at Houston. We were there for three days and were able to kind of see how he operated there. He got a lot of reps in those practices. We were able to observe there too. We watch a lot of tape with myself, (Offensive Coordinator) George Godsey, (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Rick (Smith), we watched a bunch of tape. We felt like this was the best guy for us and what we were trying to get done.”
What would be your response if someone asked you to give a snapshot of Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg?
“I mean Hack, No. 1, he’s a great kid. He was in a very unusual situation. When he went to Penn State, it was a time when he was one of the top-rated quarterbacks in high school football. He could have gone anywhere. He could have gone to South Carolina, Miami, I think Alabama was recruiting him at the time. He had a Pennsylvania connection with his family. His dad, mom, they were from Pennsylvania. He came to Penn State during a time when he knew he wasn’t going to be able to play for a championship. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to go to a bowl and he stuck with it. When he arrived on campus, he was viewed as like the savior of the program. He was only 17 years old. Then of course, I decide to come to Houston and then that didn’t really probably go over too well with him at that time. Then the new coaching staff comes in, great coaches, they’re trying to coach him up. I think the guy, look, he’ll be the first to tell you that he could have played better, but at the same time, I think he’s got a great future. I think he’s a really good player, he’s very smart. He’s a strong player and he’s still a young guy. He’s got a lot of great years of football ahead of him. I believe in the kid. I think he’s going to be really good.”
What do you tell your players when it looks like a catch and it gets ruled incomplete?
“I think the one thing, and I learned this a long time ago working in New England for (Patriots Head Coach) Bill (Belichick), one of the things that we always talked about was let’s make sure that we play the game the way the game’s being officiated. Then there are things that are out of your control. I think, look, here’s how we want to teach this, like I said, let’s not try to become a runner before we secure the catch. Then we go into the game and the guy rules it not a catch, let’s move to the next play. There’s nothing we can do about it. We can’t dwell on it. They’re going to interpret it the way they’re going to interpret it. It’s out of our control. Let’s just take care of the things we can control.”
Has that been a common question with coaches here? I know Dean Blandino has been showing videos.
“Not with us. You guys have asked me about it a few times but I think it’s an interesting deal. I know that they brought in some guys to talk about it with them, some former players. No. 1, Randy Moss, who I coached, who is an unbelievable player, unbelievable guy. I would probably tend to lean towards what he thinks is a catch because he had probably 1,000 some odd catches in his career.”
What do you think about the proposed rule of ejecting a player after two unsportsmanlike penalties?
“I think we’re talking about the integrity of the game and we’re trying to do a good job of making sure that the game is played cleanly and things like that, I would tell you that I still have to put some thought into that because before I got here, I wasn’t really paying attention to that new proposal. I think the one thing that’s going to be difficult is that let’s just say one of your best players gets an unsportsmanlike penalty early in the game, is he going to become a target, meaning like are they going to go after this guy to try to get him to do something where he gets kicked out of a game?”
Wouldn’t that be smart?
“I don’t know. This is where I have to put more thought into it. That would be my concern about it. But again, like I said, I’m going to do what they tell me to do.”
When you look at the AFC South, the Colts have QB Andrew Luck and consistency at the quarterback position and now the rest of the division is catching up. What’s the importance of that stability?
“I’m not sure there’s any more important thing in the organization than the stability of the coaching staff and the stability of that position is very, very important. When you have a guy like the Colts have Andrew (Luck) and he was injured, he had some tough injuries this year. It’s tough. That’s your guy. There are some inconsistencies. That’s just the way it is. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the way it is. You also have to be able to deal with those things. Like I said earlier, we’ve had nine quarterbacks play for us in two years. We have a winning record but we’re not where we want to be. I think consistency at the quarterback position is a big, big priority.”
Do you think you’ve solved that problem now?
“I believe so. I believe that this guy, Brock (Osweiler), is a good player with a good future. Look, you can never forecast injuries and things like that, but I think the guy is going to be a good player for us.”
One reason you’ve played so many quarterbacks is you’ve had so many injuries.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries and you have to deal with the injuries. You have to be able to prep the next guy and make sure that he’s ready to go. I think for the most part, we’ve done a decent job of that. We’ve had some guys that have had to go in there and play at a moment’s notice, T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden, last year, Case Keenum. Case Keenum, that was the best story. He was like deer hunting. We had released him during training camp and brought him back with two weeks to go in the season. He won two games, he was the quarterback for two wins, Baltimore and Jacksonville at the end of the year.”
What do you expect from QB Tom Savage and can he be the No. 2 guy?
“Tom Savage works very hard. He’s a really good passer of the football. He can really throw the ball. He’s an accurate guy. I think that it’s important – I want to be real clear about this – I think it takes a while to develop these young quarterbacks, which is kind of what I was saying before. You don’t have a lot of time to work with these guys. These guys that come from college to the pros, it takes a while. It takes a couple years and maybe it takes three years. I don’t know. But I know this, I’m glad we got him and yeah, I really think he can be the No. 2 guy. Right now, Brian (Hoyer) is the No. 2 guy but Tom will come in there and compete.”
You’ve had a lot of quarterbacks in your first two years. How does this help to have your starting quarterback set now?
“Well I think it’s the consistency and the players know this is the starting quarterback. What’s tough is you haven’t been around your players yet so they’re kind of reading about this in the media, which I don’t think is the greatest thing in the world. When they get back on April 18, we’ll talk about it. But I think the consistency of knowing that you have this guy who’s going to come in and be your starting quarterback because it’s such an important position on your team and in your organization, I think that’ll help our team. OK, this is our guy and he’s going to do his work and we’re going to do our work. We don’t have to be distracted by anything else. I think that’s the big thing is that it eliminates the distractions.”
What do you guys see in G Jeff Allen?
“I really like Jeff. To be honest with you, I think we were lucky to get him. I think he’s a tough, tough guy, very, very good football player, loves the game, good teammate. Everybody you talk to who played with him or who coached him, talks about great teammate, good in the locker room. Just like with any player, he’s got to stay healthy. He’s got to stay healthy. But I think that we got a guy there that’s going to really help our team.”
Did the NFL catch your attention with the tampering penalties placed on the Chiefs?
“I mean, they didn’t have to do that to get my attention. They send out memo after memo on the rules of tampering. You can’t do it and it’s tough. It’s tough because you want to try to talk to the guy but you have to follow the rules.”
What are the Eagles getting in G Brandon Brooks?
“They’re getting a big guy, athletic guy for his size. This guy is big all the way through. He is an enormous guard, 340-pound guy, good guy, really smart, played some really good football for us. That’s what I was saying over there is it’s good we were able to get Jeff Allen because Brooks, that’s free agency. You lose good players. Hopefully you can replace them with good players. We think we did that. Philly is getting a good guard.”
What does G Brandon Brooks do well?
“I think drive blocking is one of his best traits. I think he pulls pretty well for a guy of his size. I’m not sure what they’re going to be doing in Philly. I’m sure it’s similar to what they were doing in Kansas City. I think one of the hardest things to do is pass pro in three technique and he does a good job of that because he’s so big. I think the guy is a good player.”
With a new quarterback, how do you balance how much of the playbook you give to him?
“I believe that we have to throw a lot at him. We only have nine weeks in the offseason program to get him ready for training camp. Look, we’re not going to throw it all at him in one day. We get four days a week, sometimes three days a week where we can meet with him, starting on April 18. We’ll throw a lot at him. Just from everything that you hear about the guy, he’s a very bright guy. I think he’ll be able to handle it.”
What convinced you that QB Brock Osweiler was the right guy for your team?
“He’s a big, strong guy. He’s athletic for his size. One of the things that stood out to me was he stands in there and delivers the ball when the pressure is right in his face. He’s about to take a hit. He’s not concerned about taking a hit. He’s concerned about completing the pass. I think he did that in critical situations in games. That’s one of the things that really stood out to me about him, two minutes to go in the game. And they didn’t always win, they were 5-2 when he was the starter, but in critical situations, he was not concerned about getting hit. I think having coached the position for a while and coaching guys like Tom Brady, that’s one of the No. 1 traits is how tough they are. I’m not comparing this guy to Tom Brady. I’m just saying you’ve got to have that trait or you have no chance. I think he’s got it.”
How do you go about fostering continuity with QB Brock Osweiler?
“Reps. We just get this guy a million reps. We get him out there. I think he’s probably, I’ve heard that he’s talked to a bunch of his guys already. He’s having them out to Arizona, I think. I think he’s already trying to reach out to teammates, so there will be some knowledge of each other when they come in the building on April 18. I give him a lot of credit, our team a lot of credit for doing that. I think once he gets there, it’s all about getting him in the room and on the field with these guys over and over again. That’s going to be the key to having a new quarterback and getting the consistency as good as it can be leading into training camp.”
What specific things did Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick teach you on how to be a head coach?
“I mean, you have to break it down into offseason and in-season. Offseason, it was a lot of things he taught all of us about evaluations, how to evaluate a player. He would send you out. You might have been an offensive coach but you’d go out and evaluate a corner, evaluate a safety, evaluate a defensive lineman, in addition to the offensive positions. He taught you a lot about evaluations. He doesn’t stand over you and teach you that, it’s trial and error and there’s a lot of error in the beginning and then you get it right. Do it again, go do it again. Do it over. I think during the season, the one thing or many things that I learned is that every week was a different opponent so how are we playing this game? Every week would change. One week we’re playing a team that plays a bunch of man coverage and the next week we’re playing a team that plays a bunch of zone coverage, so it changes. Week to week, different opponents and how to prepare for those guys. Then I think just the way he approached the team was probably the biggest thing for me because during the season, what I learned from him was like never too high, never too low, always the same. You have to be your own guy. I try to be my own guy but you have to realize that that was one of his best traits was his consistency and his personality every single day.”
Coming from college, were you blown away by how much you learned about player evaluation from Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick?
“When I went there, I’d been a coordinator and all that, so when I went there, I figured I had a lot of answers. Then I was there for about a week working with Bill, and (Patriots Offensive Coordinator) Josh McDaniels taught me a lot too. I learned a lot from Josh about defensive football and how to take advantage of it offensively. I learned a ton from Josh, but I learned what I didn’t know. It was a great experience for me, it was one of the best coaching experiences as an assistant that I had, probably the best because of all the things that I learned. My dad used to say that I was getting a PhD in football when I went there, thought that was a pretty good way to put it. You go in there thinking, you know, I was 37 when I went there, a lot of those guys had been there their whole, they were brought up, I was a little bit different. I’d been at Georgia Tech, Duke, Maryland, Brown, and then I went there and it was a move that maybe a lot of guys wouldn’t make, but they have to have to have the right wife. My wife, she said, ‘OK, you can do it, it’s OK to do it,’ so I did it and it was just a great experience for me.”
Did Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick mentally challenge you every day you were there?
“Yeah, I think the one thing about him is, I say this to everybody, he lets you coach. He gives you the parameters but he’s not like standing over you every minute of the day. You have to figure it out, and I always appreciated that about him, and I think the big thing for me is he’s just a good friend. As long as you’re loyal as hell to him which that’s one of the big things about me is I think loyalty’s big, he’s a good friend and if you have questions, you can go in there and ask him. If you have an opinion, you better be able to back up your opinion, can’t just throw it out there. I mean obviously his record speaks for itself. He does a great job coaching but also mentoring younger coaches.”
What was the connection and how did you get on the Patriots staff?
“You know I was at Georgia Tech and there was a scout down there for the Patriots by the name of Jason Licht, who’s now the general manager of the Buccaneers, as you know, and he and I kind of lived near each other and he came to Georgia Tech to scout players every now and then, so we got to know each other. I don’t know, maybe that’s how they heard my name, but then it kind of went from there how I met Bill (Belichick).”
What is the evaluation process like for young quarterbacks?
“Yeah, it takes forever, it takes forever. You have to study, in my opinion, any quarterback but especially as it relates to your question about young quarterbacks. You have to study every game that they’ve played on film. You have to really study it, and then you have to study it again. You have to go over it and over again to try to get a feel for what they’re being coached to do and then how they perform in games, in critical situations in games, at the beginning of games, after halftime, all the different things that come up. How do they perform versus the blitz, how do they perform when it’s just a four-man rush, how do they handle the running game, like whatever type of runs they’re running, how do they handle that? Are they directing it or is it getting the call from the sideline, or how is that working? So it takes a lot of studying. Then you have to research the player. You have to do a great job of calling guys that have coached him, maybe there’s guys on your team that’ve played with the guy, so you say, ‘Hey, how was this guy in the locker room?’ You have to do a great job of trying to figure out what this guy’s all about, because you have some opportunities to meet the guy, but you know that that guy’s going to be on his best behavior when he’s the meeting the pro team that’s looking at him. You have to really spend a lot of time evaluating these guys at that position, really at any position, but especially at that position to know what you’re getting.”
Do you go back and look at high school tape as well?
“I think it depends on maybe like how much the guy has played in college. Maybe he’s like a one-year guy in college so you want to go back and see what he did in high school, but I don’t go back too often to high school unless the guy had a short window of playing in college, I wouldn’t go all the way back to high school, just look at the college tape.”
You coached Jaguars WR Allen Robinson at Penn State. How do you tell your players to try to defend him?
“Yeah, it’s tough, I mean he’s a very strong player. He’s a big guy, he’s a good route runner, he’s very competitive, very competitive guy. Yeah, it’s tough. I mean, look, he’s going to get his share of catches plus he’s playing with a really good quarterback. You have to be, and the way the rules are now for the DBs, it’s very tough. I mean you can’t touch the guy after five yards. You have to try to mix up how you get him, how you cover him, mix up the looks on him. He’s a great player, made the Pro Bowl this year. I know him, I coached him, he had like in two years at Penn State, I want to say he had about 150, 160 catches. This guy was unbelievable. I would tell (Christian) Hackenberg and (Matt) McGloin at Penn State, I would say, ‘Look, if you drop back and you’re confused, just throw it up to No. 8. He’s going to come down with it.’ Some great coaching there, but I mean, that’s what I did. I would just tell them, ‘Throw it to this guy. He’s going to make a play.’ That’s how we beat Michigan. We beat Michigan in four overtimes because Hackenberg just threw up jump balls. It was a great job by Hackenberg, so no he’s a great player.”
Do you do that with WR DeAndre Hopkins now?
“It’s a little different in the pros, but sometimes we do.”
What do you think about the tattoo Jaguars WR Allen Robinson got of his famous catch at Penn State against Michigan?
“Is that real? Is that a real tattoo? I don’t know anything about posting it and all that. I think it’s great, good for him. It was a hell of a game.”
Were you at Wisconsin’s pro day when you found out about the Texans signing QB Brock Osweiler and RB Lamar Miller?
What were your initial thoughts about how that changes your team going forward?
“It was good, I felt really good when I got the call from (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Rick (Smith) that we were getting those guys. I think the way that our process goes, to me, it showed that our process worked. We looked at our own team, we felt like these were the things that we need to improve our own team and we targeted some guys in free agency and we were able to get those guys, specifically Lamar (Miller) and Brock (Osweiler), I think it just showed me that the process, it wasn’t a fly by the seat of your pants process, it was a very methodical, strategic process and I give Rick Smith a lot of credit because he obviously is a big part of that and getting those guys on board was huge.”
On and off the field, what is important to you in a quarterback? What ways does Brock Osweiler fit that?
“Somebody was asking me that before, I talk to a lot of people that have coached him at Arizona State and in Denver early on there and he’s a very hard-working guy. He’s in the building early. He spends a lot of time studying the game, working on his own skill set, he works in the weight room, he asks great questions, he’s prepared the next day, you know what I mean? So he learns whatever the meeting was about the previous day, he comes in the next day and he knows the answers. I think this is a guy that’s a really bright guy that is really going to help us. I feel very strongly about the guy from everything I’ve heard. We really can’t start working with this guy until April 18, but we’ve given him an iPad, he wants to ask us a bunch of questions, but we’re not really allowed to talk football with him, so we’re trying to follow the rules to a T. We are, we’re not trying.”
During your time in New England, what did you see Lions General Manager Bob Quinn doing that could help the team?
“Bob Quinn is a good friend, really bright guy, very hard-working guy. I think he’s going to do a great job in Detroit. He’s got a great family, great wife, very smart guy. A lot of those guys that were trained under (Patriots Head Coach) Bill (Belichick) and then (Patriots Director of Player Personnel) Nick Caserio, those guys, you have to be smart in order to move up the ladder in New England and he’s a very smart guy.”
What personality traits have you seen from Lions General Manager Bob Quinn aside from being smart?
“Yeah, I mean he’s got a very consistent personality, he’s a very level-headed guy. He thinks before he speaks. His opinions on players, they come after a lot of hard work. He doesn’t just tell you what he thinks right away after watching one game. He’s going to really grind on a player until he figures out what that player is and what he can do for the team. I don’t know if you guys want him to do hand stands and lead chants and things like that, he’s not going to do that. He’s just going to work and improve their team.”
What’s unique about the responsibility you put on your quarterback on game day?
“A lot of people ask me that. We just have a system where we believe that because defenses are so multiple nowadays, if you were to just give the guy a play, and sometimes we do. Sometimes we give him what’s called a call-and-run play, like look, we’re running this play, no matter what. Most of the time, we give him plays where we’re not sure what we’re getting. It’s a 50-50 split, we may get man, we may get zone, so we’ve got to give this guy, he may get blitzed, we’ve got to give this guy a choice of what play to run. That’s kind of what we do. In essence, the guy has to be a coach on the field, and he’s got to do it very quickly and it takes a lot of training, a lot of meeting but that’s kind of what we do. We let the guy make decisions at the line of scrimmage for a lot of our plays.”
Will it be a big transition for QB Brock Osweiler to go into this type of offense?
“Well he was trained, (Broncos Head Coach) Gary (Kubiak) does some of that and then early on with (Bears Head Coach) John Fox, then he was in the meeting room with Peyton Manning for four years and Peyton’s been doing that his whole career. We’re going to have to teach him our language. That’ll be the biggest thing, learning our language, but I think he’ll be able to pick up the philosophy of what we’re trying to do.”
One of your former Penn State players, Buccaneers T Donovan Smith, was a rookie last year. I know you played against him. Did you get a chance to take a look at how he played?
“Yeah, I watched him a lot and he did. He had a good year. He’s a big guy, athletic guy, loves football, great teammate. When I was at Penn State, he started I think just about every game. My first year he was like a redshirt freshman, next year a redshirt sophomore so he was a young player and he had a great personality, big, big guy that’s funny, good sense of humor, good teammate. I’m not surprised, he’s a good player.”
What kind of traits does Jaguars WR Allen Robinson possess?
“Yeah, big strong guy, very good route runner, good hands, very competitive guy, very competitive guy, fun guy to coach. Practiced every day, never missed practice, loves football. He was a great basketball player in high school. In fact (Penn State Head Men’s Basketball Coach) Pat Chambers at Penn State wanted him to play basketball. I was like, ‘No, he’s not going to play basketball.’ Pat’s a good friend so that was tough, but nothing that he’s doing in the NFL is surprising me. He’s a great player.”
What kind of player are the Eagles getting in G Brandon Brooks?
“They’re getting a big, big guy, a guy that has some versatility, can play different positions. He’s a right guard but he can play tackle in a pinch. He can play center. He can do some different things. He’s, in my opinion, a prototypical guard. He can drive block, he can pass protect three-techniques that are athletic guys. He can pull, he’s smart, smart guy, so they’re getting a good player.”
What went into the decision to not bring G Brandon Brooks back?
“Well I think we tried to, no, we wanted him back. They won the bidding war. We wanted him back.”
When you’re evaluating a quarterback, how can you tell if he will be able to do what you need him to do?
“You’ve got to watch the tape, you know you’ve watched enough film to kind of have an idea what he’s doing on tape. Maybe he’s signaling or you can tell how he’s motioning guys or how he’s getting guys lined up. You can tell a lot by watching tape. Then you have to kind of research it. Who coached him, what do they think about him, what were the things that you guys did at Arizona State that was, I know who coached him. (Former Arizona State Offensive Coordinator) Noel Mazzone was one of his coaches, really good football coach that teaches similar concepts to what we teach, loves the guy. There’s a lot of different things you can do, but I think you’ve got to watch the tape and really study like what this guy’s doing on tape and try to get a feel for it.”
How did you factor in that QB Brock Osweiler only had a limited amount of starts before signing him?
“Look, I think when you’re trying to make a move and you want to solidify that position, you may have a guy that started four years, all you can do is watch what he did in those times that he played and what were the type of games that he was playing in, like they were in the playoff hunt. They eventually won the Super Bowl, and he had a lot to do with that. When Peyton (Manning) was injured, he went in there and he played in some very meaningful games, the New England game is the one that comes to mind. He played well. He played well against New England against a very difficult team to play against defensively. It wasn’t just that one game but just giving you an example about OK, this is what it is, this is his window that he played and I thought the guy did a good job. Again, talking to other guys like (Former Arizona State Offensive Coordinator) Noel Mazzone that coached him, everybody feels very strongly about the guy as a teammate and as a worker. We’re excited to have him.”
Were you able to talk to Peyton Manning about him?
“You know, when I was out there two years ago when we scrimmaged against them, I saddled up next to Peyton about him a little bit and he was very impressed and that was a couple years ago, but no, not in this process.”
Did you do that because you thought you’d sign QB Brock Osweiler down the road?
“No, no I just love that position. I love that position. Anytime you’re around these guys you just, I just think that position is so cool. I love studying it, coaching it, every part of it. Anytime I’m around those guys, even in warm ups before a game, I’m watching the other guy warm up, see what he does. Watching Drew Brees warm up before a game, have you ever watched that? It’s unbelievable, watching (Tom) Brady warm up before a game, and they have Peyton Manning. All of the things that go into playing that position I think is cool. It wasn’t like I had this thought in mind, two years from now we’re going to sign Brock Osweiler. I just like watching the position.”
NT Vince Wilfork played well for you this year.
“Yeah, he did. He’s a good leader in the locker room. He played really well for us, especially down the stretch. He played some really good football for us down the stretch the last half of the season. He’s out there every day at practice. That’s one thing that really stood out to me about this guy. This is a guy that’s going into his 12th year playing nose guard and he’s out there every day at practice. I think he’s 35, 36 years old. The guy’s a tough guy and a good guy. He was texting me the other night because I think he likes to come here when he comes down to Florida to this place here, so he was giving me some good restaurants and things like that.”
Would you like to bring DE Jared Crick back?
“I like Jared, yeah. Free agency is tough. You’re trying to, you have your own salary cap you have to determine. I’m not involved with that, that’s (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Rick (Smith) and (Vice President, Football Administration) Chris Olsen. I try to talk to Rick all the time about, ‘Hey look, we’d like to have these guys back,’ but if we can’t, we’ve got to move to the next option. I know that we’d like to have Jared back.”
How does DE J.J. Watt get better?
“He’s always trying to get better. The big thing this offseason is he’s coming off an injury. He’s working really hard to get better from that standpoint. I think, give him a lot of credit and this would be a great question for him, but I think he’s changed some of the ways that he trains as he gets older. I think he turned 27. Not that he’s an old man but he’s not 22. I think that he really studies the game. He’s such a great instinctive player that one of the ways that he’ll try to get better is he’ll try to study each opponent during the offseason and figure out, ‘OK, I’ve kind of got an idea what these guys are doing.’ He’s always going to try to get better in some little way. He’s just, he’s a great player. He’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen.”
How is T Duane Brown’s rehab going?
“Good, yeah, I think it’s going well. I think he had a checkup the other day with (Team Orthopedist) Dr. (Walter) Lowe. I don’t know what the results of that were but I didn’t hear any bad news, and I saw him the other day. I see him every day, he’s in the building every day and he feels like it’s on the right track. I don’t know the time table or anything like that.”
What level of improvement are you looking for from CB Kevin Johnson?
“Yeah, he was impressive as a rookie. He’s a mature kid. I was impressed with the way he threw his body around. He’s skinny, so I think one of the things I’ve got to see him, he’s in the training room a lot because he’s had a couple of offseason surgeries, he’s got to put a little weight on, and maybe that’s one of the biggest things he can do to improve. Other than that, he’s a very instinctive player. He’s a smart kid, he studies tape, he was well-coached in college, he’s in a great room. We have a really good DB room with Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson, Dempsy was in there last year, Quintin Demps. I give all these guys nicknames, but we have a real strong DB room and I think that really helped him a lot.”
Can you talk about the way the QB Brock Osweiler signing went down?
“I think our process really proved to be a good process. We went into the offseason right away, took a little time off, but then we studied our own team. We felt like these were some things that we really needed to get better. Generally speaking, but then specifically by position and then we began to study the free agency and (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Rick (Smith) and his crew, (Director of Player Personnel) Brian Gaine, our player personnel guy, and the coaches did their studies and the scouts had done a lot of their studies, and we targeted two guys and we were able to go out and get those guys. I give Rick a lot of credit for that, he was able to go out there and seal the deal on Brock and Lamar (Miller) and we got a couple linemen, Jeff (Adams) and Tony (Bergstrom). I think it just proves that our process was a good one.”
Normally you’d think a quarterback on a Super Bowl team would be staying.
“You know, nothing surprises me in this league anymore. I think that’s probably, when you guys get a chance to talk to Brock (Osweiler), you can probably ask him what led to his decision, but we’re glad he made the decision. Some of it is money obviously, but I think the guy really felt good about what we’re trying to build in Houston. We’re not really able to talk to him as coaches that much during the process until he actually got to Houston, but we really believe in the guy that we’re getting a good, smart, tough, young quarterback that’s got a good future.”
How will QB Brock Osweiler’s skills help your team?
“I think we all would probably say the same thing, we need an accurate guy. He’s a very accurate passer. He’s a big, tall guy so he’s got the height to be able to see over the rush. He’s athletic, he can run a little bit. We do some things with some boots and things like that, so we like his athletic ability for a guy his size. I think the No. 1 thing for me was, I think the guy’s tough. I think he stands in there and takes a hit and he delivers the ball. I keep bringing up the New England game because that’s one game where he was like, they were bearing down on him in a big game, and he was having to stand in there and deliver the ball, take some pretty big hits, and he wasn’t always complete, but he was able to stand in there and deliver it and get up and call the next play. I think that shows some toughness and like I said, we’re really looking forward to start working with him.”
What did you like about RB Lamar Miller?
“Well first of all, the game that he played against us, I think he had 180 yards rushing, so that stood out right away getting ready to play him. He’s fast, he’s quick, and probably the best thing I’ve heard about him is that he’s a great guy. He practices every day, he loves football, he’s a good teammate. I think we can use him in the passing game. We’re very excited to get him.”
We saw OLB Jadeveon Clowney have flashes of greatness towards the end of the season. What do you see as the next step for him?
“Clowney’s got a great future. His big thing, and I’ve said this all along is that he has to stay healthy, and we have to help him with that, then he’s got to do his part on that. He arrived in the league, he’s had several injuries, some of them not in his control. When he’s healthy, he’s able to get out there and practice and play, I mean he’s really played well for us. If you really study the tape, when he’s played for us, he’s had a big impact on games. The big thing’s going to be the consistency to be healthy, to be able to play a 16-game season. That’s a big thing for JD, but JD is a heck of a football player.”
What do you think about OLB Jadeveon Clowney being at DE J.J. Watt’s cabin in Wisconsin?
“I don’t know, I’m sure he’s there. JD is a good teammate, he’s a good guy, he wants to be a heck of a player. I’m glad that they’re all up there. It’s good that they’re all up there.”
You always stress the importance of being a good teammate. How do you figure out if a player will be a good teammate?
“I just try to do the best I can personally, just speaking for myself, to get around the guy, to meet the guy, to talk to maybe some people that have coached him and played with him and then the places that I’ve been, the reason that I say that a lot is when we’ve won in places that I’ve been, it’s because one of the main reasons is because we have really good players, great quarterback but we had good guys. Guys that love to practice, that cared about each other, there was a common, they couldn’t wait to get to the building to be in the locker room, to learn the game plan, to go out and practice, compete, and then go win the game. I think that has a lot to do with winning in pro football, that locker room.”
You haven’t played Titans QB Marcus Mariota yet but what have you seen from him?
“I really liked him when he was coming out. He did a great job, we interviewed him at the Combine when he was coming out and he was excellent. Really bright guy, really sharp guy. Then when you watch him play, I think he’s got a lot of tools. Obviously he can run, so he’s a really big threat to take off and run, but I think the big thing about him is over the years, from college to this past year, his passing has really improved. He’s an accurate passer. I think there’s a lot of things you can do with him. Plus he’s got a really good disposition for that position. He’s a leader, he’s calm, he’s a winner, he’s won a lot of games. Yeah, we didn’t play against him.”
It seems like the whole AFC South division has improved.
“Everybody’s improved. Every year is different, that’s what makes it such an exciting league, it’s just a great challenge and everybody’s getting better, everybody’s trying to get better. Everybody in this room is a winner. That means we’re all trying to get better.”
What kind of guy did the Titans get in C Ben Jones?
“Great guy, he’s tough, played every snap this year for us except one and that one in the Buffalo game, he got kneed in the back on a pile, not a cheap shot or anything, just took a knee to the back and came out for one play, I mean can barely walk, went back in the game. You’re getting a tough guy, great teammate, smart, smart player and a leader in the locker room.”
Is C Ben Jones a little bit of a character too?
“Oh yeah, very funny guy. He grew up in Alabama, he was given towels as birthday presents growing up. I mean the guy is awesome. He was Fuddruckers, they built billboards around Houston with our center eating a cheeseburger on the billboard driving down, but no, he’s a character. Great sense of humor.”
What are your thoughts on QB Brian Hoyer’s future with the Texans?
“Brian and I go back a ways, so I really think very highly of Brian. I have a ton of respect for him. We’ve spoken and we’ll talk more when April 18 rolls around, but I don’t know. He’s a competitor. He wants to be a starter in this league but I know this, he’s another guy that’s a really good teammate. He wants to be on a winning team, and he’s a mature guy, got a great family, great wife, great parents. He’s a guy that I have a lot of respect for and we’ll just continue to talk when he gets back in April.”
How much did you tell QB Brian Hoyer about your plans in free agency?
“I don’t think we get too much into the details of the plan because we’re not really, we don’t get a chance to really talk to him at length. I’ve seen him in the building, had some brief, couple brief conversations with him, two to be honest with you. That’s just basically they have to be brief, so we’ll get a chance to talk more when he comes back in April.”
What will the learning curve be like for QB Christian Hackenberg?
“He’s a very bright guy. My second year at Penn State, he came in as a freshman, so when he got to Penn State, we threw a lot at him and he was able to learn it. It wasn’t everything that we’re doing in Houston or that we did in New England, but what we did throw at him, he learned it. Then he was able to execute it on the field and he was only 17 or 18 years old at that time. I think he’s really a guy that’s going to work hard at it and he’s got a good ability to learn. He asks good questions, he watches a lot of film, he’s got a good future.”
What have you identified at QB Christian Hackenberg’s core that makes you believe he will be successful at the next level?
“I mean, when he entered Penn State, he had a lot to deal with. He would go to class, he’d walk into class and there’d be say 100 kids in the class, people would be taking his picture and asking for his autograph and he was like 17, 18 years old. He was viewed as this savior, I mean he had a lot of stuff to deal with. He was able to go out there, and we had a lot of seniors, guys that were up in their eligibility his freshman year, and he became the leader pretty quickly. We had (John) Urschel in that huddle, John Urschel who plays for the Ravens. We had Allen Robinson in that huddle, Jesse James who plays for the Steelers, we had some good, strong football players and he was able to go in there and lead that team to a winning record. I think at the end of the year when we beat Wisconsin, we only had 45 kids on scholarship. I think that one year for him, then look, when you study, I studied his two years after I left. Everybody’s like, ‘He played terrible.’ I don’t see that. I think he played pretty decently. Sometimes he threw an incomplete pass, sometimes he held the ball too long, nobody’s perfect. I thought the guy played pretty well to be honest with you, so I think he’s going to be a good player in our league.”
Was signing QB Brock Osweiler an indictment on QB Christian Hackenberg?
“No, we felt like we had a process and we stuck to our guns on the process, meaning we targeted some guys in free agency. It had nothing to do with the draft during that. It’s not an indictment on him at all.”
How much of a relief is it for you as a coach to have a strong scouting department who does well in the draft?
“We have a good process, a good scouting department, a good coaching staff. We all work together, then (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Rick (Smith) and I get together at the end and we make the decision. I just like the way we do things. We communicate a lot, we have a lot of guys that love football and know what they’re looking for at different positions. There’s some good communication in our organization and we’ve had some good drafts the last couple of years and a lot of these guys are playing for us.”