“It’s been a short time since the game so I haven’t really had a lot of time to reflect on the year. But I will say that I’m very proud of this team. This team fought hard. Like I said after the game, a bunch of good guys in that locker room. Only one team in the NFL ends the season happy. So when you lose in the playoffs, it’s a terrible feeling. It’s a terrible feeling. It’s an empty feeling. Give a lot of credit to the Patriots, they executed better than we did. We can build on it. We can build on it. There were a lot of things that happened this year that were good, some things that weren’t so good. We feel like every year we’ve been here, we’ve made improvement as it relates to winning a playoff game and winning the division again, so there’s some things to really build on. I’m really not ready to give you a list of things that we’re going to work on. I don’t know where your questions are headed. I’m just telling you I don’t really have a lot of answers. We’ll evaluate the whole team. We evaluate everything. That’s what every team does in the offseason and that hasn’t even begun yet. Players are just checking out right now. We’ll begin all those evaluation processes throughout the week. So with that, I’ll open it up to questions.”
Would you consider drafting a quarterback this offseason if there’s one available that you like?
“We’re so far from – absolutely so far removed from even answering that question. Right now, what we do is we sit down and we evaluate our team. We evaluate everything we do. Then we get with the personnel people. We talk about all the things we need to do to improve – coaching, playing, everything. So that’s not even a question I can begin to answer.”
Is there an update on DE J.J. Watt?
“No idea about the time table for the offseason but I can tell you he’s doing well. He’s in there working very hard to get better. He’s been in there every day. You can see him out on the field running, you can see him doing different things in the weight room. So to no one’s surprise, I’m sure that he is ahead of schedule.”
Do you look forward to how good the defense can be next year?
“Next year is a totally different year. I mean, every year is just nothing like the previous year. So I don’t even begin to think about comparing this year to next year. I thought the defense played well this year. Looking forward to evaluating and trying to get better.”
Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel’s contract is up. Will he be back next season?
“Again, we evaluate everything. I think that Romeo has done a great job. I know that we would love to have him back. I know that. But I haven’t even sat down with any of the coaches yet or anything like that. But I can tell you Romeo is a great football coach and just means a lot to me personally. We would love to have Romeo back here.”
Obviously, you will have to evaluate things and make decisions, but right now do you plan to retain Offensive Coordinator George Godsey next season?
“We’re looking at everything. Look, George does a lot of good stuff for me - every coach does. I have even met with Bob (McNair) yet. I haven’t met with Rick (Smith) yet. We look at everything. Every coach is evaluated. I’m evaluated. I haven’t even heard about my evaluation from the owner. Look, I expect to be here next year, but we will begin the evaluation process here in a minute. Now, don’t take that and run with it either. I’m going to be the head coach here next year. Again, just trying to inject some humor into it, but again it will be a headline. Everything is evaluated and that’s the process that starts here this afternoon.”
When it comes to doing a self-evaluation, what would you like to do better as the head coach?
“Look, again, the questions are good and I know you guys have a job to do, but I’m not going to sit up here and list. There are so many things every day that I learn in this game. I learn something every day and I never have a feeling of entitlement. I hate that word and I can’t stand people that feel like they are entitled. So, I don’t want to ever feel entitled. There are thousands of things that I can get better at – work harder at this, work harder at that, try to do as good of a job as I can to end the season on a winning note at some point in time. That’s the goal. So far we haven’t been able to do that. We’ve made improvements, but it hasn’t been enough. In this league, it’s only about one thing. We’ve got to figure out how to get there and it does start with me, but I’m not going to get into the list of all the things I can improve. I try to improve every day.”
What’s the biggest lesson you learned after looking back at the 2016-2017 Texans as a head coach?
“I learn lessons every day, I really do. I learn lessons about everything from practice schedules to meeting schedules to how to deal with the staff, the medical people, personnel people. I don’t know. I’m not, like I said, I haven’t really had a chance to really reflect on the whole year. Like I said, I’m going to work hard to try to get better myself. It’s going to start with me getting better and then hopefully everybody else can get better.”
CB A.J. Bouye said he would like to be back next year. Just you’re thoughts on A.J. and how did this season.
“Free agency is tough and I can tell you that we want A.J. Bouye back. He’s one of us, you know what I mean? He’s a guy that was undrafted before we got here and when we came here, based on his own work ethic, the coaching from John Butler, the guy has done an excellent job. I mean, I would tell you that just in talking to people around the league that I really trust that I think he’s viewed as a top corner. We really want him back and hopefully we can get something done where he can be back, but it’s tough. These decisions are personal decisions, but all of them are tough on both sides, but we would love to have A.J. back.”
When it comes to the quarterback position, will there be a competition this offseason for the starting job?
“Again, like I was saying, I know you guys are doing your job and I respect that, but before I talk about those types of things, I have to evaluate it myself. I have to talk to our coaching staff and get their input. Our personnel people and get their input. I wouldn’t be a good head coach if I stood up here and told you, ‘Hey, this is what we are planning to do.’ The game was less than 48 hours ago. We are going to evaluate everything. We are going to do the best we can to field a good, competitive team, a better team, a more consistent team than we did this year.”
What are a couple things you guys did well that you were the happiest with?
“I think we play hard. I think we play very tough. I think when you line up against us, that’s the probably the thing that makes me the most proud to be with these guys. I know some people would say that should be the case in the NFL but I think when you line up against the Houston Texans you know you’re in for a 60-minute fight. I think that’s probably the thing that makes me the most proud to be associated with these guys in that locker room.”
You mentioned after the game you can’t give up a kickoff return for touchdown and expect to win a playoff game. How much better do you have to be in coverages?
“Again, we’re going to go back and evaluate everything, but as it relates to the overall kicking game, there are times this year when it looked really good. I mean, our return game looked good, our coverage units looked good. But then there were times like on Saturday night where that kickoff – that was terrible. So, I think we have to look at it from a coaching standpoint first. How are we coaching it? What are we doing? Do we have people in the right spot? Then I think the big thing for us next year is we have a lot of good core special teams players on our team. Hopefully most of those guys will be back next year. Hopefully. I don’t even know what their – I’m not into contracts. I don’t have anything to do with that. I just would like to see a lot of those core guys back. If we can, then we have to get those guys back, then we need to be more consistent. We just were too inconsistent on special teams and on offense. Obviously we were better consistent on defense. Consistency is the key. You can’t be up and down like that, and that’s where we have to improve.”
T Derek Newton had a gruesome injury this season.
“It was a tough injury. He just was in our squad meeting. He’s a great guy. I don’t think anybody has any idea as far as his timetable, but I know this: we’ll do a good job of taking care of him. We care about Derek. I think all of us at some point in time have been in touch with him and I know he’s working hard to get back. I’m not sure where he is right now. You know more about the medical part of it than I do. I just know that it was a tough injury and I know he’s working hard to get back.”
What are your thoughts on P Shane Lechler who could become an unrestricted free agent?
“He did a good job for us. I think everybody knows how I feel about Shane. He’s a great pro. He’s had a great career here. Again, he’s a guy that we would like to have back here. Hopefully we can work something out. He’s a leader in the locker room, he’s a captain. Means a lot to me personally. He had a heck of a year. Did the things that we asked him to do. It was good to see that.”
You spoke a little bit about NT Vince Wilfork after the game the other night but he said afterward that could very well have been his last game. What are your overall thoughts on him and what he’s meant to the team?
“I haven’t really sat down with Vince to talk about the future with him. I did hear a couple of the quotes that he had. Those are personal decisions between he and his wife and their family. I mean, look, I’ve said it thousands and thousands of times. To play that position in this league for as many years as he did – and then thinking back to earlier in his career where he was used as a defensive end, he was used as a nose guard, he was used as a three-technique. I mean, he’s kind of done it all in his career. It’s a testament to him. And then what he’s done off the field is incredible. He was a good leader in our locker room. But again, I haven’t sat down and talked to him about what he’s doing. I think those are more family decisions for him and he’ll probably let us know at some point.”
Did you pull NT Vince WIlfork out of the game with a play left so he could get some appreciation from the New England fans?
“Well I think that that’s something at that point in the game that was probably important to do and I know that the New England fans really appreciate him.”
Can you talk about how QB Tom Savage played this season and what you’re looking for him going towards next season?
“I think with every player – this is exactly what I just said to the team. I think I have it here with me. I can read it to you. I said, ‘I would not take too much time off. The more time that you waste on the couch doing nothing, the more time someone else is getting ahead of you.’ So I think for every single player, they have to figure out, ‘OK I’m going to take a little time to reconnect with my family, get better, you know heal up, but then I’m going to get back to work and figure out what I need to do to be better. How can I improve my skill set, which then improves the team.’ So whether it’s a quarterback or a defensive lineman or a center or whoever, wide receiver. Every position on the team – a kicker – they’re all going to be working hard. We have a very hard working group of guys. They’re away from us. The offseason rules basically are that we won’t have these guys back here till I think, I think it’s April 17, April 18. Don’t quote me on that because I don’t know the exact date, but it’s around that time when the offseason program starts. So between whatever it is today – what is it January 16 to April 17, they don’t have to be here. So every guy has to have a plan for how they’re going to get better, what they need to get better, what did the coaches give them for advice as far as hey these are things you need to improve upon. It doesn’t matter what position it is. Every guy’s got to approach it that way.”
What do you make of DE Jadeveon Clowney and his role as a leader going into next season?
“His personality came through with the success that he was having on the field, his health, you know he was banged up, but I mean overall pretty healthy. So he was out there and he was such an active player that that’s what happens. When you have success on the field, you’re able to instill more of your personality in the locker room. I think you guys got a chance to see that this year. The guy’s a great guy. Loves football, loves his teammates, loves playing, plays hard. I think Whitney Mercilus is the same way. Different personality obviously, but similar. Whitney had a hell of a game the other night too. So those guys in addition to the obvious leaders on our team, those guys definitely have some form of leadership in our locker room. No doubt about it.”
How do you feel about the development of NT D.J. Reader and if NT Vince Wilfork is gone do you feel comfortable with Reader stepping up between DE Jadeveon Clowney and DE J.J. Watt?
“Absolutely. D.J. Reader is one of the better young defensive lineman I’ve been around in the NFL. He’s tough. He’s built low to the ground. He’s hard to move. He’s got good pass rush skills and there’s a lot to improve on. That’s what we all have spoken to him about over the last part of the season is ‘hey look this is good, but think about how much better it could be.’ So he’s a really good young player that has a really good future as long as he continues to understand this is what it’s going to take for me to get to the level I want to get to as a player and help us get to that level as a team.”
CB A.J. BOUYE
What are your thoughts on how all your teammates want you to be back with the Texans next season?
“Oh, that means a lot. I’ve been through a lot here with the organization, a lot of ups and downs. But they never gave up on me. I’m appreciative of that. Me and the DBs especially were very close. Like I said the day before, I just would like to be back. We’ll see what happens, though.”
Can you talk about that comradery with you and the rest of the secondary?
“We’re all like brothers, really. We joke around, we argue and stuff. But at the end of the day, we’re teammates, we’re friends even outside of here. We’re always in communication with each other. We always try to see each other in the offseason. So, it’s a good bond going on between us.”
What is going into an offseason as a free agent like for you?
“I really don’t focus on what’s about to happen or anything like that. After this, I’m going to go pick up my daughter. I’m probably going to get away this weekend with my cousin then take my daughter to Atlanta next week. I’m just not focused on that right now. I just want to spend as much time with my family as I can and my daughter now that I have time to and just relax.”
What would it mean to you to return to the Texans?
“It would mean a lot because it shows that they really wanted me and they saw what I did this year and that there’s better things that are going to happen in the future from an individual standpoint and a team standpoint.”
What does it mean to be so highly thought of around the league heading into free agency?
“It means a lot but even once it happens, you know, the main goal is to win a Super Bowl. And just to be able to get as close as we were and play the No. 1 seed and have a fighting chance, there’s positive things you can take out of that. We’re looking forward to it. I know I am. Like I said, just going to have to keep working harder because nothing is guaranteed.”
What do you think you proved this year?
“That I could play. That’s the main thing. That I’m also a team player, that I’m a hard worker. Main thing was just to play as many games this season as I can even though I missed like one. Just like I said, just wanted to prove to everybody that I could play. That was the main thing.”
You started the season as the fourth cornerback on the depth chart. What does it say about the ‘next man up’ mentality that you had the season you had?
“In my past here I always looked at everything from an individual standpoint, I was always playing the victim. One of the things I had to do was take a step back and realize that it’s more than just me and I was doing more as far as from special teams – doing whatever the coaches asked me to – playing safety, dime backer. At the end of the day, I just wanted to win. I started to realize – and I was telling Corey Moore and them – the more you focus on yourself and the more you focus on the team, it makes you play that much harder. That’s the kind of mindset that me and him were having working after practice and everything. Just having that mentality and then like you said, ‘next man up’. Coach always told us that when you’re in the game, you have to act like a starter. That’s one thing I was doing. Just trying to do whatever I can to help the team. It’s unfortunate that Kevin was hurt and other injuries, but I just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t the reason that the team was losing.”
Some athletes don’t seize the moment when they get their opportunity. You seemed to do that this year.
“I was fortunate enough because I had plenty of opportunities in the past and I didn’t capitalize on that so I knew that this was going to be a year that it was all or nothing. Just being patient, just taking the coaching from the coaches and from people like J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph) and Kareem (Jackson). Just listening to them, they help me out a lot with everything. Just made the game easier for me the further we got into the season so I started to get more comfortable. But it was just trusting the process, taking it a day at a time.”
How good can this defense be next year when everyone is healthy?
“It’s amazing. We didn’t have J.J. (Watt) but just the turnovers he alone forced the past years he’s been here and healthy. I tell him every time I see him that I’m excited for him to come back. He’s looking amazing right now, like he’s working out. I can tell he’s motivated and ready to come back and help the team.”
DE CHRISTIAN COVINGTON
What was your biggest takeaway this season?
“This team’s ability to really just step up and do what’s asked of us when we go through adversity. I think the biggest story from a defensive standpoint is when you lose a guy like J.J. (Watt), I feel like the rest of the league really wrote us off. You see the resiliency of this team especially with the way our coaches really emphasized on the concept of a ‘next man up’ mentality. That was a big take away from us and the way that we really approached this season and going into the playoffs with everybody being able to step up and contribute and act. When you are in the game, you have to play like a starter.”
You guys were effective against Patriots QB Tom Brady. Was that a testament to the whole season?
“That was the game plan going in. We just wanted to do some different things against him and their offense. We just wanted to try and get up into the middle of the pocket. We wanted to try and create havoc and get some hits on them. That is truly a testament to what we were trying to accomplish the entire season. We wanted to be able to be a tenacious, fast, flying defense that really gave relentless effort. I just think that was the main emphasis going into the game.”
How much better can this defense be when DE J.J. Watt comes back next year?
“You tell me. Obviously, when you lose a guy like him it’s going to take a toll. To be able to see what we did without him, it was kind of a testament to everyone else on this team and to what they bring to the table. Obviously to be able to get a man of his caliber back on the team, that’s only going to - you see me smiling right now, that’s only going to make everything better.”
What are your thoughts on how you improved this year?
“Seeing some of the film, seeing some takeaways from it, I feel like I definitely improved in the run game and in the pass rushing game, so to speak. Obviously, the rookie jitters are out of the way, obviously. I knew what was expected of me coming into the season. Still, you have the mentality of a younger player. Obviously, with that been said and done, looking back at it, I saw a lot of improvements and at the same time a lot of things I really want to be able to fine tune this offseason that I’m really looking forward to doing.”
CB KEVIN JOHNSON
The defense was great this year, but how much better can it be with you and DE J.J. Watt coming back next season?
“It’s definitely exciting. I know I’m really determined and I’m really hungry just thinking about next season. Sitting out this past year was a big deal for me mentally as far as knowing how bad I want to be a great player and how bad I want to help this team, so I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
You were probably watching the defense and thinking how badly you wanted to be out there.
“Yeah, yeah. No doubt about it. They were doing a very good job out there. The whole season the defense was doing great, making big plays. They’re the No. 1 defense for a reason.”
As a young player, what is the feeling as you look at this team?
“I think we got some great young players on the team and some great veterans. I think it’s a great mix of just youth and experience and I think we have a lot of growth to keep growing as a defense and it’s exciting.”
How excited are you to see CB A.J. Bouye go out and get paid after the season that he has had with the Texans?
“I’m very excited. I’ve been seeing it since I first got here as a Texan. He’s always been a great player and I’m very excited for what’s going to come for him. I’m just hoping that – I talk to him every day about staying. I hope we can bring him back in the secondary because like I said I think we can have a real special defense.”
What are your plans now?
“Training. Working hard, just training all off-season. Getting ready for OTAs and all those type of things. Rehab. Getting stronger physically. Just basically trying to do anything I can to get better.”
Is the expectation that you will be back for OTAs?
ILB BENARDRICK MCKINNEY
What do you think about what you did this season?
“I helped lead the defense. Me and (Brian) Cushing did a lot of communicating. The defense came together as a whole. We worked together during the offseason. We are always going to try to do some great things, try to be the No. 1 team defense in the league and we did that.”
You did some things that no other NFL player did with the number of tackles and sacks. What do you think about what you have been able to accomplish?
“Just a great scheme. The coaches did a great job of scheming, putting me in the right spots to make plays. The D-linemen did an unbelievable job keeping the offensive line off of me. I just ran around, just played my game and had fun doing it.”
What are you focused on this offseason to get better?
“Just flexibility. Try to get flexible in my hips so I can cover running backs.”
How much better is the defense going to be next year with DE J.J. Watt back?
“We are going to wait until that happens, but I’m sure we are going to be a great defense. Just try to fly around. We have great guys on defense – (Brian) Cushing, J.J. (Watt), our D-linemen. We got Whitney (Mercilus), a lot of guys coming back. Just going to be in the workshop during the offseason, try to focus on next year.”
OLB WHITNEY MERCILUS
What do you think about what you guys have done this year on defense and what’s in store for the defense in the future?
“The future looks bright. Honestly, we’ve got a great group of guys who stepped up their game this year and did a great job for us to be in the position we were in. To have J.J. (Watt) back next year is going to be great. He’s going to add that much more. Looking forward to it.”
NT D.J. READER
How ready do you feel to be the nose tackle if NT Vince Wilfork retires?
“It’s going to be a job I’m going to have to step into. Play my hardest to be able to do it. Vince (Wilfork) taught me well, Coach Weav (Anthony Weaver) taught me well. I’m excited about it.”
What do you think makes you ready?
“Just trusting myself, trusting my keys, playing hard and physical every play. Good body for it, built for it. I’m just excited to be hard-nosed out there.”
How did NT Vince Wilfork help you get ready?
“Just teach me everything. I mean, he’s done it. The best in the league for 13 years. You watch that every day in practice, every day at work, every day in meetings, it become second nature and you get to pick up on little things that he does and things that he tells me. Still having him around – he lives out here, so still having him around will be good for me.”
As a young player on this defense, what’s the feeling as you see how much potential there is for this defense?
“It’s exciting but we have to go out there and put in that work every time. It’s earned. It’s exciting to see what we can do and hopefully we can build on that in the future.”
How exciting is it to get to work this offseason and not have to prepare for the NFL Draft?
“It’s crazy. I’m not out there running 40s now. I don’t have to worry about doing that or worry about any coaches coming up to me and just pressuring me. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be fun to be able to just get to straight football, get on your body and work on yourself better.”
What’s the plan from now until offseason conditioning starts?
“Take a little time off and then get right back to the grind. We’ll see how it goes.”
Are you going to be able to celebrate Clemson’s national championship?
“Oh, no. Those boys are gone. They got to go right to Draft training so I’ll probably go down there and I’ll see the young boys, hang out with them for a little bit. All those other guys, they’re gone. They go right into that long year, the rookie season.”
What’s your advice to those guys that are about to go into that process?
“Just try to stay off that wall. Then when you do hit that rookie wall, get close to it, get comfortable and just grind through it. Don’t let it break you. It’s going to be a long year but have fun with it. It’s a blessing. It’s a great opportunity you’re about to have.”
When did you hit the rookie wall?
“I don’t know, man. I don’t even know if I have a specific time. It just started getting rough and then I tried to grind it out. I don’t know when I hit it but I know I definitely hit it because I’m real tired right now. Real tired.”
OLB JOHN SIMON
When is your wife due with the baby?
Is this your first child?
Was it difficult watching the game from the sideline?
“Yeah it was tough. It was very tough. We did everything we could on a daily basis to try to get me back out there and unfortunately it just wasn’t healing too fast.”
What do you think about what the defense was able to do without DE J.J. Watt this year?
“Well obviously losing J.J. is a big loss for us, but we got a lot of guys who come in and play hard and we play well as a team. We’ve been together for a couple years now and we’ve got good chemistry between one another and I think it showed out there on the field.”
How far away do you think you are physically from being able to get back out on the field and do different stuff?