What can the Texans do this offseason to improve for next year especially at quarterback?
“I’ve said it since the end of the season, I think there’s a lot of areas of improvement that have to take place. I think, like I’ve said to various people here, the first place you look is at the coaching. You look in the mirror, so we’re working hard to improve the coaching. I know that the players are out there working hard to improve themselves. I’m not going to get into each position on the team, but when you look at our offense, there’s a lot of areas that need to improve. It’s not just one position. It’s protection, it’s run blocking, it’s route-running, throwing the ball, all those things. It all goes together. It’s not just one thing. So we’re working hard to get it better. That’s what the offseason is all about.”
Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert C. McNair said the team will look to draft a quarterback. What do you think about that?
“Look obviously – I’ve said this time and time again – Mr. McNair is the boss. We’re going to do what he wants us to do. We’re early in the draft process, especially as it relates to me. I’ve just really started looking at these guys. We interview 60 guys here at the Combine. Those are the first guys that I’ve really spent time studying. I really can’t comment on any position or what we’re thinking as it relates to that. I don’t think any of us really know that until right before the Draft starts and how the board is stacked and what we think is best for our team. So it’s really early right now.”
How important is it to keep a guy like CB A.J. Bouye?
“A.J. is a very important part of our team. I’ve said that all along. He’s a guy that has really worked hard to improve his own skillset. He played very well for us this year. He played well for us last year. John Butler, our secondary coach, has done an excellent job with him. So we really want him back. We realize that free agency and things like that – we understand the process of how it all works. Hopefully we can get him back before free agency starts but if it doesn’t, we’ll continue I know to work hard to try to get him back on our team. But we’d like to have him back.”
What do you think happened to WR DeAndre Hopkins last season that didn’t allow him to put up big numbers?
“He still had like 80-something catches. So he dropped off in catches and he dropped off in yards, but he did make some big plays for us during the season. We were 9-7, we won the AFC South. He made some important plays in those games. Third down plays, red area plays. As far as production and things like that, yeah the production dropped off a little bit but it wasn’t anything that he did. I think he’s a great player. I love coaching the guy and I’m looking forward to coaching him next year.”
Will you have an open competition at quarterback?
“Competition is open with every position on our team – obviously with the exception of a few. I mean I’m not going to stand up here and tell you that every single position is open. Obviously, there’s positions that we know certain players are going to start. But the majority of positions on our team – that’s what we’ve based our program on from the day we walked in here. We’ve based our program on competition and competing in practice. That’s kind of what we – probably like 31 other teams – that’s really what we believe in. The depth chart changes with us. I think you guys have seen that whether it’s quarterback or any other position. So that’s what our team is based on. That’s what our coaching staff believes in. Competition will always be a part of our program here.”
Can you talk about the decision to move training camp to West Virginia this year?
“I think it wasn’t just me. I think it was an organizational decision that we felt was best for our team, just from the fact of being able to go to a place that might be a little bit cooler at that time of the year, being able to go to a place where the team – you know, my first three years here we’ve gone away to scrimmage teams and they’ve been really good bonding experiences for our team, good chemistry-type experiences for our team, whether we went to Denver our first year or Washington our second year. So I think that was part of it. I want to be clear too that we are going to be back in Houston, so we will have some public practices for our fans because our fans are so important to us. There will be – maybe not as many as there have been in the past, but there still will be public practices for our team. But we felt like a bunch of different factors, between myself and Rick (Smith) and Mr. (Robert C.) McNair and Cal (McNair), we felt like it was in the best interest of our team to go away for a few weeks and then come back.”
The Texans did a nice job competing with the Patriots in the Divisional Round, especially on defense. What did that tell you about your team?
“Every year is different. Our 2016 team was in some ways similar but different than the other two teams that I’ve been associated with here. But our 2016 team in all three phases played very hard, competed very hard. On defense, as you’re asking specifically about defense, we do a lot on defense. They compete very hard, very smart players. We lost J.J. (Watt) and that was a tough loss. I thought our players really stepped up. Our coaches did a great job. Not going to review every single game but that’s kind of what we’ve been built on defense - multiple defense, play very hard, play 60 minutes, play every snap very, very competitively and that’s what we try to do. Now the issue for us is we’ve got to get better on offense. We’ve got to be more consistent on special teams if we want to get beyond that game.”
What do you hear about DE J.J. Watt and how he’s doing?
“J.J.’s doing well. I’m not a doctor. I’m not going to stand up here and give you exactly everything that’s going on with him medically because, to be honest with you, I don’t really know. I just know that in my conversations with him – I know I’m not allowed to talk about football with him and things like that. I don’t want to like get in trouble with the CBA, but I can tell you that he is doing very well. He’s in great shape. He can’t wait to be back. He’ll probably participate, to a certain extent, in OTAs. But OTAs for the linemen is a little bit different than OTAs for the receivers and the DBs. It’s more of a passing camp, a teaching camp. So, the true test for him will be training camp, and I know that he’s really looking forward to training camp and coming back and playing as good as ever in 2017.”
Are you comfortable with the workload RB Lamar Miller had in 2016?
“That’s a good question. I think he probably carried it a little bit too much early on. We were very, very dependent on him because he’s that type of player. He’s a guy that shows up every day, he’s in excellent condition, plays through pain. Had an ankle, shoulder, ribs – played through all of it, practiced through all of it. He’s what you’re looking for when you talk about a teammate and a guy in your locker room. But I think, you know, 30 carries in a couple games, things like that, that’s probably a little bit too much. We feel like we have a pretty diverse group of running backs so I think in order to get him at his best in January, we probably need to cut down on that early in the year.”
Are you looking to add a quarterback in free agency?
“I think every day in our organization, I think every single day we’re looking to do something to improve. Those ideas sometimes change based on the landscape. So to say ‘am I looking to add or are we looking to add a quarterback in free agency?’ – my experience in this league is we don’t even know who’s out there in free agency yet because some of these guys sign back with their teams. That’s been my experience as a head coach in this league. I think it’s more about, every day, monitoring the league, focusing on ourselves and making sure that we communicate as an organization. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what we’re doing. Right now we’re in the combine stage. We’re focused on the draft here at the combine and free agency is a little bit on the backburner.”
What do QB Brock Osweiler and QB Tom Savage need to do to play better?
“I think, look, again, I hate to do this to you but I’m not going to evaluate players. I don’t think that’s what these forums are all about for me. I’m not going to get into evaluation of players. I’m going to tell you exactly what I told our team at the end of the year. Every person in that room, including me, all the coaches, need to think about what we can all do better. What can I do better? What can this coach do better? What can that player do better? And try to improve in those areas. I know that’s what everybody’s doing. As it relate to Brock and Tom and Weed (Brandon Weeden), I know those guys are working hard to get better at the things that we’ve talked to them about, but that’s not for public consumption.”
Did you take any satisfaction in Penn State’s Rose Bowl berth?
“Yes. Absolutely. Yeah, I take a lot of pride in Penn State. I don’t have anything to do with that right now. I’m just saying I take a lot of pride in following them. That place meant a lot to me and my family. A lot of those kids that were playing on that team this year, we knew a lot of those kids. So, it was really cool to watch what Coach (James) Franklin and that coaching staff did with those group of players and where they were able to go. I think that’s a testament to Penn State, the strength of that university. It’s a fantastic place and I think they’re on the up and up.”
What are the most important parts of this process for you to learn about the quarterbacks?
“Well, let me just give you a general answer and then I’ll give you a more specific answer on that. For me personally, the most important parts of the combine are the interviews at night and the medical reports. The on-field stuff I think is good, but they’re not wearing pads, the quarterbacks aren’t facing a rush. There’s some things you can take from the on-field stuff. I’m not saying it’s bad. I don’t want to go down that road. I’m just saying it’s more about the other two things for me. As it relates to quarterbacks, again, when you’re able to talk to these guys in the room, you’re able to really get – you have 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes is actually kind of longer than you think. You can get a lot of information out of them. You can talk to them about their offense. You know, ‘Hey, what was going on in this game protection-wise? Are you directing the run game? Are you in charge of this? How did you handle this two-minute situation?’ I’m really looking forward to talking to these guys that we’re bringing into our room about all the different games that I’ve watched on them and see what their thoughts are on them. To me, it’s the interview process with the quarterbacks, just like every other player.”
How is DE Jadeveon Clowney doing in terms of health?
“I think he’s doing well. Again, we’re not really allowed to talk to these guys too much during the offseason. We can’t pick up the phone and talk to them about football. A lot of that is done through our training room, but the reports I get from our medical staff is that he’s doing very well. He’s training. I think he’s back and forth between South Carolina and Houston. He’s getting ready to go.”