HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
Yesterday, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert C. McNair said he would talk with you about an extension after this season. How do you feel about that?
“I’ll be honest, I really don’t think about my contract. I really don’t. I think about preparing for the offseason. We’ve put a lot of work in to the offseason relative to our playbook in all three phases. We’re working on the draft, and we start on April 17 with our players. In the past, if you look at Mr. McNair’s track record with those kind of things, that’s what he does. He did the same thing with Coach (Gary) Kubiak – extended him going into the last year of his contract. I think he did it twice. So, I don’t think about it. I know that when Mr. McNair wants to sit down and talk about those things, I know we’ll sit down and talk about it. I’m focused on coaching this team and doing as good a job as I can of helping our staff coach and helping our players get better.”
There are two quarterbacks on the roster and both are in the last year of their contract. Can you give us an update on the prospect of adding one in free agency or the draft?
“Look, first of all, on the two guys that are coming back, I said it the other day and I’ll say it again: we’re excited about those guys. It’s not easy to play quarterback in this league. Both of those guys have played for us. (Tom) Savage helped us win a couple of games last year. Brandon Weeden two years ago, two games. They both have live arms, they both know our system. Good guys. Really good guys. Good guys in the meeting room. So, we’re looking forward to that. Then, obviously, one thing I’ve learned in this league – and you learn something every day in this league – one thing is that you never really have your roster totally set until the end of training camp, and even at that time it’s not totally set. The roster is a constantly evolving deal in our league, and that’s just the way it is. Rick (Smith) and Brian (Gaine) and those guys, they turn the roster. So, whatever happens, happens. We’re going to do, always, what’s best for our football team. Whether it’s the draft or someone were to be available in free agency that we thought was a great fit for our team, those types of things, then yeah, we would do that. We know that we need at least three or four once the 90-man roster is set, and I’m sure we’ll have three or four quarterbacks in that quarterback room once that 90-man roster is set. Right now we have 65 guys that’ll be there on April 17, and then after the draft and like you said, possibly other ways of acquiring player on to your roster, whether it’s free agency or the draft, we’ll have a 90-man roster when that time comes soon after the draft.”
What do you think about the QB Brock Osweiler trade?
“Look, like I said 10 days ago, we’re on to 2017. We’re looking forward to 2017. We wish Brock the best. We wish John Simon the best. We wish Quintin Demps the best. We wish A.J. Bouye the best. Those guys all worked hard for us. We wish them all the best, but every year is different. This is a different year. This will be a different team. We’re really excited about the 65 players that are coming back here on April 17. Our coaching staff has worked very hard to get ready for that. We’re still getting ready for that. When we get back Thursday we’ll be right back into the playbook in preparation for the offseason program. We’re on to 2017.”
Can you talk about why you hired Offensive/Special Teams Assistant Wes Welker and what you expect him to bring to the team?
“I’ve had the fortune of coaching some great players along the way. He’s a guy, obviously, that I coached in New England. My first position job in the NFL was as the wide receivers coach in New England in 2008. That was Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney. We had a good room. I think (Donté) Stallworth was in there – another great player. Wes was a slot receiver. Very, very smart player. Very tough player. Then, when I became quarterbacks coach, (offensive) coordinator and those things, we became very close. You develop those types of relationships with those guys when you coach them. When I left and went to Penn State we kept in touch via text message and things like that. He kept playing. Then, there came a time when I was in Houston when he was basically deciding whether he wanted to play or coach. He knew he wanted to be involved in the game. I spent some time, a couple conversations over the last couple years, talking to him about coaching and how different that is from playing. He wanted to make a commitment to do it so we talked at the Senior Bowl, and he has come right in. We have a strong staff. We have a bunch of good guys on our staff that work really hard. I’m really proud of our staff. We’ve got good guys in there and he has fit right in. He’s helping us on offense, he’s going to help us on special teams, breaking film down. He’s going to coach the returners. He’ll work a lot with the returners – punt returners especially – and obviously help us on offense with the receiver position. So, he’s done a good job just kind of fitting right in.”
How tough is it to have a different starting quarterback four years in a row?
“Look, at the end of the day that’s what it is. You have to adapt. We heard a great talk the other day from General Ray Odierno, who talked to us about leadership and communication and adaptability. Just like players have to be able to adapt, coaches have to be able to adapt. We’ve done some good coaching there, we’ve made our share of mistakes. When we get there it was 2-14. We’ve had three winning seasons in a row. We’ve won two division titles in a row. I’m not saying that that’s the standard. I said that last year. We know that. We want to do better. Everybody in this room is trying to do one thing, and that’s win a championship. But we feel like we’ve done some good things there. Relative to every position, it kind of is what it is. Like I said, we’re excited about April 17 when our guys show up and working with all the positions.”
What can you say about any trade discussions you’ve had regarding Cowboys QB Tony Romo or what your reaction would be if he were released?
“First of all, I’m the coach. I don’t have any trade discussions with anybody. Like you said, he’s under contract with the Cowboys, and that’s really all I can say about that. I’m not going to get into speculation of whether he’s released. Like I said, and I really mean it, we’re really looking forward to working with the guys that we know are going to be there on April 17. At every position there’s a lot of guys in that room that will be in that room in that team meeting on April 17 that have been with us going on four years now, and they know how we coach, we know how they play. We’re excited about those guys and that’s who we’re focused on.”
Do you feel like you can be the team you want to be with your current quarterback situation?
“We feel good about our team as it sits right now. Again, it goes back to what I was saying, it’s an ever-evolving thing, the roster. I can think back all three years that I’ve been there, the 53-man roster that we had at the beginning of the season was not the same 53-man roster we had at the end of the season. In fact I would tell you a couple years we had between 18 to 20 guys on our 53-man roster at the end of the season that were undrafted, that at the beginning probably no one ever heard of, and they helped us win games late in the season. So, it’s an ever-evolving deal. We have a strong defense coming back but we have to fill some areas there too. We lost (A.J.) Bouye and (John) Simon and (Quintin) Demps. Those guys played a lot of good football for us. They really did. They helped us win games. We’ve got a lot of talent on offense. We’ve got talent on special teams. We’ve got to continue to add to it and we have to continue to coach it up, and that’s what we’re looking to do. But that’s the challenge of the NFL. We’re all looking forward to it. We don’t really care what the perception is on the outside. No disrespect meant by that at all. We just care about coaching our guys and making sure that they’re getting better every day. That’s what the offseason program is about.”
What’s the transition going to be like with Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel taking over the defense?
“I think Mike has done a great job coaching linebackers the last three years. He’s been in that room with Romeo (Crennel) and he has learned a lot from Romeo. Having played for Romeo and now having coached for Romeo, he’s learned a lot. Mike has his own style. He’s developed – I always use Whitney Mercilus as an example. Mike’s done a great job with Whitney Mercilus. He did a great job with John Simon, (Jadeveon) Clowney, Brian Cushing, Benardrick McKinney. Mike knows our defense inside and out. He’s ready for this. There will be challenges along the way (but) anybody that knows Mike knows that he’s up for the challenge, and Romeo’s still there. I think that’s important. Romeo has been a huge part of the success that we’ve had there. Romeo’s been a big part of it and he’s still there and he’s going to help. Romeo’s one of the best guys I’ve ever been around in coaching and he’s a great mentor. He’s a team guy and he’ll be there to help Mike when he has questions, but Mike’s ready for the challenge and he’s looking forward to it.”
Can you talk about the moves the rest of the AFC South has made this offseason in contrast to you being the only team in the league to not sign an outside free agent so far?
“Every team has their own way of doing things. Like you said, Tennessee, Jacksonville and (Indianapolis) to this point, they’ve added players. They’ve lost players (too). Everybody’s done some things to improve their team. We’ve doing things to improve our team. Maybe you don’t see it but we’re doing a lot of things on the inside to improve our team. There’s still a lot of time left. It’s kind of like I said, the one thing I’ve always said is it’s a fluid process. It takes a lot of time to put a team together. We have a lot of time here. We have the draft, we have training camp. We’re a long way from what that 53-man roster is going to look like. We know certain guys are going to be on our football team no doubt about it, but we’re a long way away from what that team is going to look like. So, we know what we need to do. Those teams know what they need to do. We’re working toward our goal.”
How do you tell if a player is going to become a good coach?
“That’s a great question. I think there’s a huge difference between playing and coaching. It’s just different. What you have to do to be ready to play is totally different than what you do to help coach and be a coach. That’s the first thing. They have to understand what the commitment is to coaching. The guys that we have on our staff that were former players like (Mike) Vrabel, (Larry) Izzo, (Wes) Welker, Mike Devlin, these guys work their tails off to help put together game plans, to help in the draft, to help with the playbook in the offseason. They really know what it means to be a coach. I wasn’t around Devlin when he played but I can imagine, being a coach’s son, what he was like as a player. Very bright guy. I was around Vrabel, I was around Welker, Izzo. Those guys were very, very bright players that loved the game, had a passion for the game. You have an instinct that if they want to coach that they’ll be able to come in and be good coaches. It’s just kind of an instinctive thing that you see with some guys (and) how they approach the game when they’re playing.”
How much tougher are the Patriots to defend after adding WR Brandin Cooks?
“They have done a good job of adding players they feel fit their system. I’m not there, so I’m not sure exactly how their process went about that and those players. But I know that the players that they added, whether it’s Cooks or (Stephon) Gilmore, just from having studied the league, those guys are good players and they are going to help them. They are going to help them. The Patriots do a great job. I think everybody understands that, and like I said at the combine – somebody interviewed me at the combine – the Pats aren’t going anywhere. We are chasing them. Everybody’s chasing them and they are on top right now for obvious reasons. They have a great coaching staff, great players. They are doing what they need to do and everybody else is doing what they need to do to try to get better.”
Do any of the rule change proposals stand out to you?
“I don’t see anything that stands out one way or the other. We’ve had some good decisions on different rules, whether it’s the leaping over the center on the field goal PAT or some of the cut blocking rules or the defenseless receiver rules or hits to the quarterback. I think they are all – most of the rules that we have talked about have been under the umbrella of player safety, which I think is really important, trying to take the head out of the game as much as we can. I think one of the biggest things that we can do as a league is to really, and I know all of the coaches do this in our own communities, is to really encourage participation in football. Football is an incredible sport. You learn a lot of life lessons in football about dealing with adversity, about teamwork, how to be a part of the team, play your role, do what the coach asks you to do to help the team win. That’s what I want to see. I want to see people understand in our communities how important football can be in a young guy’s life. That’s the big thing coming out of here is to go back and keep spreading the word about football because I don’t want to see the participation in football go down. I want to see it go up because it’s meant a lot obviously for me and people I know. It’s a great sport.”
What about cutting down overtime to 10 minutes? Do you think you or a lot of coaches would oppose that?
“I don’t think it’s really going to lead to more ties. I really don’t. I think the main thing is that the league, we don’t want to take away the sudden death element of it. I think in the end, that’s the big key and I think, under the umbrella of player safety, cutting it down to 10 minutes will probably help the players be able to recover for the next week. I think that’s the big thing. You are averaging 156 plays per game in a 60-minute game. Then when you go to overtime, if it’s 15 minutes and you play a full 15 minutes, now you are talking a lot more plays.”
Do you think it will lead to more ties simply because there’s less time to play?
“I think when you look at the stats on that, I would like to look at the stats on that. What is the time that most of these overtime games have ended? I don’t think from going from 15 to 10 is a huge difference, but it does cut down on plays.”
If you know it’s only 10 minutes you may try to score sooner.
“It might be a little different strategy knowing, hey, maybe some guys around here will try to onside kick it and gain a possession. Maybe you will score more things like strategically, but I think the big thing is to cut down on the number of plays so the guys can recover to play the next week.”
How do you feel about the handling of the Thursday game? Do you have any ideas on how that could be better?
“Thursday games are tough. That’s way above my pay grade when it comes to that. My opinion is that once you play the Thursday game, especially leading into the Thursday game, I think that these guys need some time off. It’s such a violent game when it comes to short time between games. They need time to recover, so I would hope that the schedule makers would take that into account. And I think they do. I think the league realizes that. When you are in these meetings and you hear the TV ratings on Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, you are talking about the top one or two shows on television are those nights. Thursday Night games aren’t going anywhere, but I think we all need to realize the toll that that does take on a player’s body, and I think the league understands that.”
How much tougher is it for the older group of players to recover from a Sunday to a Thursday?
“Good question. I think it probably is a little bit tougher. Once you get into that 28, 29, 30 years of age, naturally the length of recovery is a little bit different for these guys. I’ll tell you this, one thing that’s changed even in the – this will be my ninth or 10th year coaching in the NFL – is all the sports science that goes into helping these guys now, help them recover, these guys know so much more about their bodies now. They are very in tune, especially guys like that that have lasted that long in the NFL. Their understanding of how to take care of themselves is through the roof and I think that the combination of sports science, these guys understanding their bodies better, maybe their recovery time can be shortened a little bit and they can play because they understand that. Every team now has sports science people in their building, trainers, sports sciences, strength coaches. Everybody is trying to get these players to understand what they can do to be able to play at a high level all the time.”
Do you think Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey is an every down back?
“I think McCaffrey is an excellent player. I think he’s an every down back. I’m not sure I would even label him as a back. He does so many different things. He lines up in the backfield. He’s an offensive weapon. He’s a very bright guy. I was pretty impressed with a lot of these guys that I met at the combine. He was one of them. Obviously, coming from a football family, but he’s a very bright kid. Love his competitiveness. They move him around a lot, use him as a receiver. Stanford does a great job on offense. Coach (David) Shaw. They do a great job. We watch them a lot. So, you can see all the things they do, and then he’s a great punt returner. I think it will be interesting wherever he goes. I think you have to have a plan for how you are going to use him. I think he’s a good player and I think there’s a lot of, like you said – the thing with college football that you notice when you watch the tape on these draft prospects is because a lot of it is a spread game, they are using these backs in a lot of different ways. You will see a lot of these backs that they are being used in empty as receivers, they are throwing to them out of the backfield. You can see this guy has good hands. The biggest adjustment that any college running back has in the pros is protection, being able to block a blitzing linebacker because their coach in college is not asking them to do that. They are trying to get them the ball. But, other than that you see these guys being used in a lot of different ways. It’s pretty interesting.”
How deep is this running back class?
“Pretty deep, I think, the one’s that I’ve watched. I certainly haven’t watched them all but I’ve watched a lot of running backs and it seems like there is a good mixture of first and second down guys, three down guys, third-down guys, inside runners, guys that can run inside and outside, some guys that are really fast that can run to the perimeter of the defense, can catch passes like I was saying out of the backfield, can line up in empty and match them up on linebackers. There’s a lot of good running backs in this draft.”
Since you came from college and were involved with recruiting, did you have an idea this would be a good running back class?
“That’s a good question. I probably don’t have that feel as much. I’m not – I don’t really start working on the draft until after the season. But I do watch it during the season. I watch a Saturday night game and you definitely have a feel that – like I was saying earlier – that these college teams are using their backs in different ways. It’s the same thing with tight ends. There’s a lot of receiving tight ends now. These guys that are like 6-4, 250 that can run and catch and are smart. There’s a lot more of those now then there are the typical Y blocker, 6-8 yard route-runner. There’s more of these athletic, almost like power forwards, out there. So I see running backs. I see what I call F tight ends. I see different receivers that are being used in different ways. It’s pretty interesting how college football has evolved. But I really kind of hone in on that after the season.”
What do you mean by ‘F tight end’?
“Like a receiving tight end. So in our deal, we have three types of tight ends. We have a Y, which is basically like a blocking tight end who is good in the passing game but his main role is to block. Then we have a U tight end that can kind of do a little bit of both. Then you have an F tight end who is more of a receiving tight end and maybe not used as much as a blocker. Those are the types of guys that I see a lot in college the last couple years.”
What is your philosophy on drafting a running back early in the draft or does it depend on the player?
“That’s probably a better question for Rick (Smith). But I will tell you to take a back in the first round, the guy has got to be, in my opinion, an impact guy right away. Ezekiel Elliot. I mean, Ezekiel Elliot, I think they took him at (four). I mean, that guy rushed for 1,400 yards I think and they rushed for 150 yards a game. He was behind an excellent offensive line. You take a guy like that in the first round, you help your team. I think that if you think the guy is a three-down guy and is going to be on the field and maybe he can help you out on fourth down and on special teams, I probably would take somebody there.”
What do you think about the NFL’s proposal to shorten overtime?
“I think the big thing there is I don’t think it will make too much of a difference. I think it may change certain strategies for coaches. You may see a little bit more risk taking, maybe an onside kick to gain possession because you know you don’t have as much time. I think a lot of that depends on who you’re playing against too. I think that’s a big part of it too. I think the main gist is to take some plays off of these players so that they can recover and be able to play. I think it takes a toll when you play a long overtime and then you have to get ready to play the next week.”
Does it bother you that there may be more ties?
“I don’t think it will. I don’t want to see a bunch of ties, I can tell you that. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. That’s just my opinion. I think if you look at the stats on overtime, I would say that probably most of the overtimes are over before 10 minutes. So I don’t think it will result in too many ties.”
How would you evaluate RB Lamar Miller’s first year with you and what would you like to see moving forward?
“I was very, very happy with Lamar Miller. I think of so many things that he did for our team. First of all, he’s a pro. He shows up every day. He works hard. He’s out at practice. He plays hurt. Had a banged up shoulder, banged up ankle and played with it. Tough, tough guy. Doesn’t say a lot. Leads by example. For us in Houston, that’s what we’re looking for. For him, he understands kind of how we operate now – our offense, our offseason program. I’m sure he’s going to be a lot more comfortable when he comes in on April 17th. I’m sure he’s working hard to be in as good of shape as he can be in when he shows up for the offseason program. You can pretty much count on Lamar being there and doing his job day-in and day-out, that’s what I like about him.”
How do you feel like he handled the extra workload last season and do you need to scale it back?
“I think that’s kind of what I’m saying. You know at the end of the day, we leaned on him a lot. I think, I’ve said this before, we’ve looked hard at that. We know that he’s an important part of our offense but we also know we need him for 16 games. So we have to be smart about how we use him early in the season, how we use him in training camp, how we use him in the preseason to make sure that he’s available to us. Some things you can’t control but I think personally I need to do a better job of just making sure that he’s on track for 16 games.”
Do you have any players that can leap over the long snapper?
“We have a number of guys that can do that. We practiced it but we never did it in a game. Look, I think that’s probably headed down the road of being illegal from just the feel that I get. I understand that. I think it can be a dangerous play when the guy gets flipped in the air and you don’t want any of those guys landing on their head. But it is an exciting play so I know the fans probably like it. But we never really did it in a game.”
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said he expects the Texans to dominate the division. What do you think about that?
“All I know is that between Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin, I will tell you that the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to be a very, very good team, a very well-coached team, a tough team. Every year is different. I would say that who needs enemies when you have friends like Doug Marrone?”
What are your thoughts on shortening overtime?
“That seems like a topic this morning. Look, I think that the shortening of the overtime will be interesting strategically because maybe you’ll see teams take some more chances, potentially like an onside kick to gain a possession and get the ball right away - you know, things like that. I think the big thing for our league is we want to keep the sudden death element in overtime and we want to shorten the overtime primarily to take some plays off of these players so that they can recover for the next week. I think that’s the big thing. I think our league is doing a great job of understanding the safety of our players is the most important thing. When you have a 14-minute or 13-minute overtime, 15-minute overtime, I mean that’s a lot of plays. Right now, in a 60-minute game, it’s about 156 plays per game, add on to that a 15-minute overtime and that’s a lot of extra plays. So I think that’s the big gist there. Then it will be interesting to see how teams approach it depending on who you are playing and if you want the ball right away if you don’t win the toss. Those types of things. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. I don’t think 10 minutes will make a big difference as far as ties and things like that. I really don’t. I think if you look at the stats, I think most overtimes probably end before 10 minutes. So I don’t think it’ll be a big difference in ties.”
What are your thoughts on expanding replay to where you can review more plays?
“Well, I’m a big proponent of reviewing all plays. I don’t think that’s going to happen. That’s just my opinion. We’re trying to speed the game up so I don’t think they’re going to listen to my opinion. We want to get the game played in three hours or less and I understand that. I think for me, if a flag is thrown and I want to challenge that flag, I should be able to do that. But that’s just one man’s opinion. That’s not going to happen. Don’t get me going on the replay.”
Are you in favor of the NFL hiring full-time officials?
“I think that’s an interesting question. First of all, I think our officials in our league, they do a really good job of communicating with us. I think the question of full-time officials is above my pay grade. I think these guys – every crew that I deal with is very professional, very good at communicating before the game, during the game. I think Dean Blandino does an excellent job. I have a lot of respect for Dean and what his job is. I think that’s a very tough job. I like the fact that potentially the replay deal can be centralized in New York where him and Al Riveron are in charge of that. I think that’s a good move because they are very, very – they are outstanding at what they do. As far as full-time, I think it’s going to be hard. These guys have great jobs so anytime you talk about full-time officials, you are going to have to pay them. So I don’t think that’s happening in the near future, but that’s probably a question for somebody way above the coach of the Texans.”
What are your thoughts on the Patriots adding WR Brandin Cooks?
“He’s a good player. I remember evaluating him coming out of Oregon State - fast, strong, good hands, good route runner, explosive player. I think he can do a lot. I think he can return punts. I think he can line up in the slot, line up on the outside. They’ve added a very quality player to their team.”
What do you think about the Patriots offseason and the additions they’ve made after winning the Super Bowl?
“I think everybody has their own way of doing things. They’re the best team in the league. They’ve been there. They’ve been there for a while. We’re all chasing them, I’ve said that before. They set the tone right now. We all know who we need to beat. They’re an excellent organization, great coaching staff, great players. I got a lot of great friends there. But that’s the challenge of the league. You have that team at the top and they do a really good job.”
You coached Saints OLB Michael Mauti at Penn State. He had surgery for ulcerative colitis. Have you talked to him recently?
“I haven’t talked to him in a while. I text with him. I sent him after surgery and all that. I texted him. I think (Matt) McGloin is getting married this summer so I think there will be a big reunion at the McGloin wedding. Anyway, I can’t say enough about what Mike meant to us at Penn State. When we first got there, he was one of many leaders but he was a great leader for us. So going through that I know is a tough thing but if anybody’s going to overcome something like that, that guy is going to overcome it. He’s got a great work ethic, awesome family and parents. He meant a lot to my career. I think the world of Mike Mauti.”
In what ways did Saints OLB Michael Mauti affect your career?
“When we went to Penn State, he was the captain of my first time team there. You just knew right away. I remember the first team meeting with the guy. You knew he was one of the team leaders of that team. The way that he carried himself from offseason workouts to spring practice to training camp to the season, this guy was an excellent player for us there. I was happy to see him get a chance to play pro football in Minnesota and New Orleans. I know that he’ll rebound from this and he’ll be back trying to play.”
Saints OLB Michael Mauti lost a lot of weight.
“I’m sure he’ll figure out a way to put it back on.”
What are your thoughts on expanding replay to where you can review more plays?
“I start with every call. So if a flag is thrown, I do believe that we should be able to challenge the flag thrown. I don’t think we’re going that way because rightfully so we’re trying to shorten the game a little bit. I think the average game was three hours and seven minutes or something like that. I think we’re trying to get it under three (hours). I’m not sure that the replay rules are going to change that much. I do like the fact that it’s being centralized in New York with Dean Blandino and Al Riveron. I think that’s good. I think my theme on that is we just want to get the call right. I think the officials do a great job. I think they have a very hard job. I think it’s a fast moving game. They do a really good job of communicating with us before the game, during the game. I think if a flag is thrown and a coach wants to challenge it, he should be able to challenge that. Just under the umbrella of ‘let’s get the call right.’ But overall, I want to make it clear that I think the officials do a good job. I’m for the officials.”
What about if you see a penalty on the field that doesn’t get called. Would you like to be able to challenge that?
“Certainly, yes. But I think we have to build from where we are right now. I think once you start going down the road of challenging non-calls, it’s a very slippery slope. I do think that would probably lead to lengthening the game. I’m not for that. I don’t want to lengthen the game and increase the time of the game. But I do think that if a flag is thrown, you should be able to challenge it. But again, I don’t think it’s going that way. I think it’s going to pretty much stay the way it is.”
When it comes to the information you guys get from the in-game tracker, did you look at that much or is it just kind of there?
“I think it’s still a work in progress, but we do use certain information, certain analytically information for different types of stats whether it’s playtime for a player or third down or red zone, but I do think it’s still, for me personally, it’s still a work in progress. I am interested in those things. I do think that it can help us in some ways. Again, to me, at the end of the day it comes down to coaching, having the feel for the game, how the game is being played, how you are dealing with injuries on your team, what’s going with their team. In the end, it’s still an instinctive game.”
I wonder if it’s helpful to know how fast a guy runs a route or how much separation there is on a throw.
“I love information, so I think any information would help us coach, but again, I think you just have to be careful where you still have to have a feel. That guy running that nine route, however fast he is running it, I just know he just ran by that guy, so we are going to try and get him that ball. I do think there’s some validity to that helping us.”
Do you think the AFC South has an unfair reputation?
“Yeah. I was with (Mike) Mularkey, Coach Mularkey last night and we were talking about this. First of all, it’s very, very difficult to win one game in the NFL. I don’t care who you play. It’s a very, very challenging thing. You’ve got 32 coaches in here, excellent coaches, coaching staffs, players, great players on every team. Every play in the NFL is important. I just said to somebody, there are 156 plays per game. Every play is vital. You can’t have bad plays. It’s just a tough thing. So now when you look at our division, our division is very tough. We have great coaches, great players in our division. So yeah, I think the AFC South is a very tough division.”
What do you think has to happen for the division to shed that reputation?
“I don’t really listen to that. I don’t have any thoughts on - I just know that when we have to coach against Jacksonville, Tennessee and Indianapolis, I know for us that is a very, very challenging game, very challenging games to prepare for and very challenging games to play.”
What’s been the key to the Texans dominating the division since you got to Houston?
“First of all, the word ‘dominating’, I’m not sure about ‘dominating.’ We’ve done a decent job. I think one of the things that is key for us is our home crowd, our home field. We are pretty good at home. We need to continue to do that. We need to be even better at home. We have great fans. We have a home-field advantage, I think, and that’s a key. I think if you win your home games, that’s a huge key to having a successful season. If you aren’t winning at home, that’s tough because it’s very difficult to win on the road. We have to continue to win at home.”
Everyone talks about the Texans needing a quarterback but they beat a lot of teams with good quarterbacks last year, so obviously you need more than just a quarterback, right?
“I’m a big believer in, like I think we all are, but just the team aspect of things. What we do is, we just try to coach our players based on who we have, where we think they fit, what are our strengths, how are we trying to playing this game against this opponent, how are we developing our players? I said to somebody earlier, we are pretty proud as a coaching staff. We have done a good job, I think, developing players. We haven’t been perfect, don’t get me wrong. We have made our share of mistakes, but I think two years ago we had between 18 to 20 guys on our final 53 were undrafted. We do a pretty good job of developing players, putting them in the right spots and trying to help us win games. To me, the key is for us is we have to get better and better at eliminating mistakes. I know this is a phrase you guys hear a lot, but we have to do an even better job than we have of playing complementary football where all three phases complement each other. We have to get better on offense. We have to get better on special teams, more consistent on special teams and continue to grow on defense. I think we’ve played pretty good defense, but we have to get better in the other two phases.”
Can you talk about S Quintin Demps’ skillset?
“Quintin is kind of how I described Lamar Miller. He’s a pro’s pro. He showed up every day with a great attitude. He was always out at practice. He’s not a rookie anymore. I mean, I think he’s 29 – 30 years old, you know, so I know his body didn’t always feel good but he was out there. Taking his reps at practice, showing up early, watching extra tape. Had a very productive year for us this year especially as it related to takeaways. I think he had six interceptions. Good tackler. If we asked him to help us on special teams, he would help us on special teams. Really good team guy. I think that he’s a good pro and hopefully a lot of our young players learned a lot from him – from watching him operate on a day-to-day basis.”
What allowed S Quintin Demps to be around the football so much?
“He has good ball skills. I think he’s a very instinctive player. He studies a lot of tape. He has a really good feel for what the offense is doing. He’s very prepared going into games. I think he was coached well. You know, John Butler our secondary coach does an excellent job. I think our rush up front helps our secondary because the ball comes out a little bit quicker and our secondary knows that. Quintin did a nice job.”
Are you happy to see S Quintin Demps get some long-term stability as it relates to his contract?
“Yeah. I’m always happy for the players. You know, look, at the end of the day you’d love to have your team together because those guys made a lot of plays for you, but that’s the NFL. That’s the way it’s set up. That’s the way free agency is set up. Everybody has to be disciplined with their salary cap and things like that and Chicago went and acquired him and he has some stability now. I think it was a three-year contract. So, I’m happy for the players when that happens.”
What type pf player are the Seahawks getting in G Oday Aboushi?
“Tough guy. Another guy that’s a good team guy. He played a lot of different roles for us. Played guard. Played tackle for us sometimes in practice. I think we even tried him at one point at being an extra tight end for blocking purposes. The thing about Oday is he’s tough. He’ll practice every day. He’ll show up every day. He’s kind of a lunch pail type of guy and I have a lot of respect for Oday.”
Do you consider G Oday Aboushi a guard or a tackle?
“Played mostly guard for us, but I think he can do both. I think he can do both.”
How can former Texans Offensive Coordinator George Godsey help on the defensive side of the ball with the Detroit Lions?
“George is a very, very bright coach. Really worked hard for us and I’m happy to see that he is in Detroit. I know that Jim Caldwell thinks very highly of George. Bob Quinn thinks very highly of George. I think very highly of George. He’ll do a great job in whatever role they ask him to do. He’ll do a great job. He’s a hardworking guy. Very smart guy. He has a lot of experience, so he’ll do a good job for them.”
Why didn’t things work out for former Offensive Coordinator George Godsey when he was with the Texans?
“You know, look, I think that’s between George and I. Sometimes it’s kind of a mutual parting of the ways. You know, sometimes at the end of the day you need a little change of scenery, things like that. I think the world of George Godsey and I know he’ll do a great job in Detroit.”
What do you enjoy about joint practices?
“I love joint practices. I wish we could joint practice all the time. I think that it really changes the excitement, the intensity of training camp. It allows you to see how other teams operate. It allows your scouts to look at other teams and their rosters for when that time comes that the cuts have to be made. They have an on-field evaluation. You get a lot of situational work. In the years that I’ve been in Houston, we’ve done it a lot. We did it a lot in New England. It’s just awesome to work with different coaches. You know, I’ve worked with Sean Payton, John Fox, Mike Smith when he was in Atlanta. I just love it. I love it.”
Do you know who you will be holding joint practices with this year?
“We’re still in the process of figuring that out, but I know we’ll do at least one team.”
You have a relationship with Lions GM Bob Quinn. How much does a relationship play into having a joint practice?
“You know, I haven’t talked to Bob about it. Maybe I’ll give him a call when we get out of here and see what he wants to do.”
Does a relationship with a team’s personnel play into having a joint practice with them?
“If you know somebody and kind of have an idea of how they practice, how their practices are set up, it’s a little bit less work as far as organizing how you’re going to practice. At the end of the day, I’ve done it with a lot of different coaches and it’s been great every time.”
When you think about the changes the Texans have made at the quarterback position, how would you describe that challenge?
“Everybody is striving for stability at that position. Obviously, we haven’t had stability there and that hasn’t been any one person’s fault. You know, I think that’s just kind of the way that it’s happened over the three years that I’ve been there and we’re always trying to do what’s best for the team. We try to think about what’s best for the team. Every guy that I’ve coached there at that position I have a ton of respect for. They’ve all worked hard. They’re all good guys. These things happen. I mean, you’re trying to figure out what it is that you need to do at every position to stabilize it and get it to where you have a guy there that you really think is going to be the guy for that season going into the future and just the way that it’s worked out it hasn’t totally worked out yet. But, like I said earlier, we’re looking forward to the guys that we have coming back. Tommy (Tom) Savage and Brandon Weeden. Both those guys have won games for us and we’re excited about that.”
What would you say if someone had told you a year ago that QB Brock Osweiler would not be with the Texans a year later?
“Look, again like I’ve said, we’ve moved on to 2017. We wish Brock the best. He worked hard for us. In the end, we try to look at our team and do what’s best for our team. We’ve got a lot of moving parts and that’s just kind of the way that it ended with our team headed into 2017. We’re doing what’s best for the team and all the guys that - whether we lost to free agency or in a trade or whatever - we wish them the best. We thank them for everything that they did for us, but we’ve moved on to 2017.”
What was the experience and process of letting a player go after only a year and how do you learn from that experience?
“I’ve learned a lot of lessons personally. I always look in the mirror and I try to evaluate right when the season ends what I have to do better. We’ve won every year that I’ve been there. We’ve had a winning record. We’ve done a lot of good things there, but we haven’t been perfect. Whether it’s the example that you’re using or maybe other examples that have to do with that or strategic examples or whatever it is, we’re always looking to improve. Kind of keep those things to myself to be honest with you, you know, the lessons that I’ve learned. But, again, it’s not one person’s fault. It’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just the fact that we’ve tried to stabilize a lot of positions on our team and a lot of them we have, some of them we haven’t and we just need to continue to try to do that.”
Considering the talent that this team has everywhere else, how would a rookie fit at quarterback?
“I think it’s tough to play quarterback as a rookie in our league. I think that’s a tough task. I think that there’s no substitute for experience. So, I think it’s hard to ask a guy to come in straight from college and day one he’s a starter on your team. But I know that there are some really good quarterbacks in this draft that we’re looking at and we’ve met with a lot of them. We’re excited about continuing to get to know them. But, I just think for me as a general rule, that’s tough to start them as a day one guy.”
Would you like to have a veteran quarterback on the roster?
“Like I said several times this morning, we’re excited about the two guys that are coming back. They’ve both won games for us. Tom Savage was our starter at the end of the year before he suffered a concussion against Tennessee. He helped us beat Jacksonville, helped us beat Cincinnati. He’s got a live arm. He knows our system. It’ll be his fourth year in the league. He has some experience and he knows how we do things. We’re excited about April 17th when we walk in there first time. Then Brandon Weeden two years ago helped us win two games, so we like the guys that we have.”
Have there been any conversations between the Texans and the Cowboys about a potential trade for QB Tony Romo or his availability as a free agent?
“I have had no conversations with the Cowboys. I’m a coach.”
Do you know of any conversations between the Texans and the Cowboys about a potential trade for QB Tony Romo or his availability as a free agent?
“Again, Tony Romo is under contract. He’s a heck of a quarterback. That’s all I can say about that. Like I said, I mean this when I say it, we’re excited about the guys that we have coming back. We’re really looking forward to our offseason program. We have a bunch of guys who are excited about coming back into the building and working with us and we’re looking forward to that.”
The Patriots have had unprecedented stability at quarterback. How proud are you of what you have been able to accomplish as far as Division titles with no stability at that position?
“Nobody is perfect. We’ve made our share of mistakes but we’ve also, you know, when we got there it was 2-14. We’ve had three winning seasons in a row. We’ve won two Division titles in a row. We have a very strong coaching staff. We have a bunch of good players. Guys that play really hard. I think our team plays with excellent effort. We have to improve in a lot of areas just like every other team is trying to improve. We’re trying to improve especially offensively, special teams. Keep our defense playing at a high level. So, we’re really looking forward to the start of this deal and we’re not resting on any laurels. There’s really not a lot of laurels to rest on. We just know that we’ve done some good things. We’re confident in our ability to coach. We’re confident in our players. We’re looking forward to the 17th.”
Based on the complexity of your offense, what kind of relationship do you want to have with your quarterback?
“The quarterback position in this league, regardless of what team they’re on, has demands put on them. You’re playing probably the hardest position in professional sports. You have to make decisions at a moment’s notice. You have to be ultra-prepared. You have to be an ultimate competitor. You have to be a great communicator. You have to have leadership skills. Look, our offense, we have a number of different ways that we try to move the football. One thing that we try to do this offseason is we’ve tried to simplify. Simplify things. Be able to play at a good pace. So, we’re not talking about rocket science with our offense. We just need to do a good job of coaching. The players that are in our offensive system. They’re excited about coming back here and working with us and we’re looking forward to working with them. We know we have to improve on offense and we’re looking forward to starting that on April 17 with our players.”
Mike Vrabel is now the defensive coordinator. What do you think he will add in his new position?
“He has done a great job coaching the linebackers for us for three years. He has developed guys. He’s very in tune with the players. He has a great relationship with our players. Very in tune to how we play defense, our scheme and how we coach it. He has learned a lot from Romeo (Crennel) having worked with Romeo for three years. Romeo is still there. So, I think it’s time for Mike to go in there and be the coordinator. He’ll do a good job. He’ll be up to the challenge. He’s a hardworking guy, a smart guy. He has a good staff around him. He has guys like John Butler and Anthony Weaver, Bobby King we just added as a linebacker coach. We’ve got guys around him who can really help. He has Romeo there too to help, so I think Mike is going to do a great job.”
Where is DE J.J. Watt in his recovery and what are your expectations for him?
“J.J. is doing great. He’s really looking forward to being back in Houston in a couple weeks. He’s definitely on track to be ready to go. I don’t know how much he’ll do in OTAs and things like that, but he’s on track to be ready to play and I will tell you that knowing J.J. the way I know him, he cannot wait to be back out on the field playing football.”
In terms of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and his talk of retirement, how do you handle a player coming to you about retiring?
“I’ve experienced that maybe a couple times. I think each case is a little bit different. It depends on how you see the player, how the player sees themselves. It’s tough to make a blanket statement there. I think every guy is a little bit different in where they’re thinking about and how their body feels, how they feel they can help the team. Things like that. I don’t have a ton of experience in that deal. I’ve only dealt with it a couple times. I wouldn’t be the expert on that.”
Talk about Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.
“He’s a great player. Super Bowl winner. Just, you know, enjoy the way he plays the game. He plays the game very calmly. He has control of the games. He’s an accurate passer. He has great command of their offense. He’s a fun guy to watch. Not a fun guy to coach against, but a fun guy to watch that’s for sure.”
Has college football made it tougher to evaluate quarterbacks?
“I think it depends on - you know, overall the answer would probably be yes. But I also think it depends on which kid you’re looking at and the system that he played in. It is different with a lot of teams in college than it is with pro football obviously. A lot of these kids are looking over to the sideline getting the play and you’re not doing that in the pros. These guys are making decisions out on the field just like they’re coaches on the field. Then you see teams like, you know, I was watching Louisville. I was watching some guys on Louisville. I love the way Coach (Bobby) Petrino coaches offense. That’s a pro offense. Those types of offenses do translate to pro football. I don’t think you can base your decision totally on that. I think you have to sit down with the young man and figure out his ability to learn, his ability to take a snap from under center. A lot of these guys are in the shotgun all of the time. You know, what’s his work ethic? What has his level of preparation been? How does he get ready for games? I think there’s a lot that goes into just evaluating it, so I don’t think you can base it on, he played in this system so we can’t. I think you have to sit down with the guy and say, ‘This is what we do. Can you learn it? How did you learn in college? How comfortable are you doing this?’ Basically interview him and see how that goes. So when you say difficult to evaluate, yeah, maybe on film, but in the end you have to have a good instinct and feel for the guy.”
When looking at quarterbacks, do you have to balance what you want right now with who will be available and what you will need in next year’s draft?
“That’s a great question. I’m in the coaching lane, so I know that with Rick (Smith) in the general manager lane, I think those guys definitely have a feel for, ‘OK, here’s the ’17 draft class, but here’s what’s coming down the pipe in ’18 and ’19.’ There has to be a vision of what’s out there. There may not be a ton of, you know, like this year I feel like there’s a lot of DBs in this draft. It seems like there’s a lot of DBs – corners and safeties. But maybe next year there’s not. So, maybe you want to think about corners and safeties if that’s what you are looking at for your team this year relative to flip it now. Well, there’s not a ton of inside pass rushers in this draft, but next year there’s 10 of them. I think you have to have a feel for that. That’s a better question probably for Rick Smith, but I think that’s a great question.”
Can you talk about rushing into a decision in the draft based on what you need at the time for your team?
“You can’t be in a rush as a coach. In the end, you have to think about kind of taking that thought process out of it and just saying, ‘OK, this is the best thing for our team in 2017. This is what we have with our team. We have a strong defense. We’ve got some players here and there. Let’s make sure we have the right guy at that position and not go reach for somebody that we’re not sure about.’ If there’s a doubt in your mind, don’t do it. Stick with what you have and coach them up and I think that’s the attitude we have in Houston. Whoever Rick (Smith) gives us, we try to do the best job we can at coaching those guys up. I think we’ve proven that we can do that. You can’t rush and go grab a guy just because you think you need that position.”