Head Coach Bill O’Brien
Quarterbacks Coach Sean Ryan
QB Tom Savage
Conference Call with Titans Head Coach Mike Mularkey
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
Can you talk about T Chris Clark going on the Reserve/Injured list and what your plans are?
“It was a tough decision there. We just felt like it was projected to be a four- or five-week injury so we decided to put Chris on Injured Reserve. We’ll look at it. We’ve got a number of different ways we can go. Obviously Kendall Lamm’s played there. We promoted Chad Slade. We can move Breno (Giacomini) over there. Jeff Allen’s played tackle in the past, so we’re going to kind of look at all the different options that we have.”
Is T Julién Davenport going to be able to play this week?
“He’s touch and go.”
What does the inconsistency at left tackle do to you?
“I think a lot of guys have gotten reps there. It comes down to communication. It is what it is. Just have to get them going.”
Is it to the point at the season where it’s about player development and seeing what younger players can do?
“No, it’s about winning. It’s about winning. I feel like those guys have done a good job down on the practice squad, giving us a good look. It’s always about development. I think you could put our staff up against any staff as far as developing players. Let’s go down the list of players, we’d be here all day. I think we’ve done a decent job of developing players, but it’s about winning. It’s always about developing, but it’s always about, number one is winning.”
How has QB Deshaun Watson’s rehab been going?
“Good. He’s in there every day. Good spirits. Certainly I’m not a doctor, but everything looks good. It’s trending upwards.”
Did you start extra linemen in Cincinnati to help QB Deshaun Watson in his first start?
“We didn’t have any tight ends.”
Would you ever consider starting extra linemen to help the team again?
“Oh yeah, definitely. In that particular game (Cincinnati) though, we had no tight ends available to us because they all had concussions. We’ve never had all three tight ends healthy for one game this year. Talking about C.J. (Fiedorowicz), Ryan (Griffin) and Stephen (Anderson) have not been healthy together for one game this year – other than the beginning of the Jacksonville game. So, in that Cincinnati game, we didn’t have any tight ends so we felt like that was the best way to go in that game.”
Are you surprised that you’ve played the third-most players in the league?
“I mean, no, it’s kind of the way it’s worked out this year. No, nothing surprises me.”
What have you seen from ILB Zach Cunningham as the season has progressed?
“He’s definitely had a good year. I mean, he is a very productive player. He’s played very physical. He’s really helped us on special teams in addition to what he’s done on defense. He really has learned the position really well to the point where last week we could do some different things with him. We used him on the edge, rushing off the edge, and used him up inside rushing the quarterback. We’ve been very pleased with Zach and I always hesitate with rookies that way, but he’s not a rookie anymore. I think that he’s really earned the right to be out there and be playing.”
How do you think QB Tom Savage has handled adversity this year?
“I think he’s handled adversity pretty well. I think it’s more about, maybe it goes hand-in-hand, I don’t know, but I think it’s more about just playing more consistently. Can’t turn the ball over, like I said yesterday. When you go through the film of all the plays that he’s had, the guy’s made some really good plays, but then there’s the turnovers. Not all the turnovers have been his fault. He and I have talked about it extensively and we’ve got to stop doing that. I think if he can clean that up, he’s really going to take off, but he’s got to clean that up.”
You’ve changed quarterbacks quickly in the past. What about QB Tom Savage now makes you want to see more from him as you continue to give him reps?
“I think that he has a very good grasp of what we’re doing. I think it’s a great question. I have – maybe 10, 15, 20 years from now, if anybody’s interested, I will tell them exactly, because I think everybody thinks I’ve benched this many quarterbacks. Some of them have been injuries, some of them have been what was in the best interest of the team. It’s always about what’s in the best interest of the team. What gives the team the best chance to win? And I believe that right now, Tom gives the team the best chance to win. But – there’s a but – we’ve got to stop handing the ball to the other team. When does that stop? When do you make that (change)? Well, let’s see how this thing goes against Tennessee and we go from there. It’s football, you know what I mean? It’s not anything that we’re like looking at all these technical reasons. I think he has a good grasp of our offense, he’s made some big plays for us this year, he really has, but then we’ve had some issues, obviously. And not that all of them have been his fault, but we have to play more consistently. So, let’s keep going down this road right here and let’s see where it takes us.”
What can you take from the win over Tennessee in the beginning of the year and apply this week?
“Not much. I mean, that’s all I can tell you about that. They’re different, we’re different, obviously. I can tell you that it will be a much tougher football game, no doubt about it.”
Have you had a chance to meet with ILB Brian Cushing yet?
“Yeah. We talked for a while yesterday. It’s good to have him back. We’re going to really condition this week to look at where he’s at in that respect. Like we said, he’s been working out obviously but football conditioning, see where he’s at, and then kind of take it from there. But it’s great to have him back in the building and he’s happy to be back and kind of take it from there.”
Are you proud of your team for participating in the NFL’s ‘My Cause, My Cleat’ campaign?
“I mean, it’s incredible. To look around at all the different causes that they represent, that they really have a passion for – our guys, it’s been a tough year. Obviously record-wise it’s not where we want to be, but like I told you guys earlier in the week or last week, whatever, I just really have a lot of respect for this locker room, these guys, the type of guys they are. We just went out there today, wasn’t a physical practice, but they were very focused. It was a very mental practice. They’re doing things like this in the community. It’s just really a fun group to coach and that’s why you really want to try to get on the winning side of things because that’s obviously the bottom line here. But I think our guys just do a great job for the City of Houston and all the things they believe in.”
What do you think of Giants QB Eli Manning and his career body of work?
“I think he’s a Hall of Fame player. I think he’s a two-time Super Bowl champion. I know Peyton (Manning) a little bit better than I know Eli. I don’t know Eli, but you talk about, like they always say, it’s football royalty with Archie Manning and Peyton and Eli and all the things they’ve done in their career. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Manning family.”
How much is the lack of a pass rush leading to a lack of turnovers?
“I think that’s some of it. I think some of it is that, but I think it’s also little technical things, like learning how to maybe have a chance to bat a ball, if that makes sense. In the pass rush, if you’re not going to get home, can you disrupt the ball in a different way? Obviously JD (Jadeveon Clowney) can do it in a lot of different ways. Some other guys have to do it maybe one or two ways. I think the other thing is we’ve gotten our hands on some footballs in the secondary. We’ve got to finish those interceptions because a couple of those could have been pick-sixes. Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve, but that’s where we have to disrupt the ball, too. I think we need to disrupt the ball in our coverage units on special teams. We’ve gone up against some really good returners and we’ve had a chance to really knock the ball out and I think that’s another big area where we need to try to take advantage of it. So, look, I think there’s a lot of different ways to do it but we have to do a much better job of taking care of the ball offensively and then we have to try to create some takeaways on defense.”
QUARTERBACKS COACH SEAN RYAN
You’ve had to start multiple players at left tackle this season and now T Chris Clark is on the Reserve/Injured list. What does that instability do to the offense?
“I mean, I think you just have to – we’re always aware of helping our tackles, as most teams are in the NFL, with chips and slams and things like that, helping on the edge. That doesn’t change. That’s a weekly thing. Honestly, we really do have the mentality that those guys can step in and do their work. We’re aware of it in some ways of having a couple ways to get the ball out quicker, but that’s a weekly thing. That doesn’t change much with who’s in there. For the quarterback, it can’t be a thought. You have to trust your teammates to go in and do their job, step up, and you can’t let it affect your play or how you approach the game. You’ve got the trust and faith in those guys and that’s how you approach it.”
What can you work on with QB Tom Savage to help him reduce the turnovers?
“I think there’s a couple things and we do talk a lot in our room in general about as the week goes on, you expect certain things, certain coverages, certain looks from different teams and their schemes. When things get changed a little bit, when the play goes on, you just have to get off your first progression and get to your second, get off your second and get to your third. Whatever is necessary. You can’t get stuck and hung up on one side of the field or one part of the route combination. So, we talk about that a lot, about reading through all of our plays and understanding the difference between pre-snap and post-snap reads and being really disciplined in that way. The only things you can do – and there are ways to kind of use it in practice and get through the reads, whether it’s your footwork and redirecting your eyes with your feet, all those things – so we do that in terms of our drill work but also it’s about tape, watching tape and just reacting and having them react in the room and meetings as they would as close as you can get it to game-type situations.”
How concerned are you about the number of fumbles and interceptions with QB Tom Savage?
“You cannot turn the ball over. You can’t turn the ball over, we all know that. Tom knows that. It is what it is. The ball can’t get turned over and you expect to win. I think he realizes that. Going into the game, we have to reduce that. We have to do our best in terms of prep, whether it be in the film, whether it be on the practice field, in terms of our prep. Make great decisions with the football, have to do it, and we can’t turn the ball over. That’s that.”
Were you surprised and what are your thoughts on the New York Giants’ decision to bench QB Eli Manning?
“Yes, it was surprising to me. I said to you guys before, and I think having worked with him for nine years, but worked specifically with him for a couple years in the room, I would just tell you the guy’s the ultimate professional – shows up for work every day. The streak speaks to that. The streak talks about the games, I’m talking about the daily grind and the way this guy works and his professionalism. A guy who just showed up every day, worked through whatever situation was thrown at him, never complained about it, never said anything about it, just really worked to get his teammates and the guys around him better and to get them to perform. You can’t speak enough to how the guys does his business. I have the utmost respect for him and it was a great experience to be around him for that time.”
How do you work with QB Tom Savage to not make bad decisions that lead to turnovers or is that instinct?
“I think it’s both. I think some of it’s instinct but some of it’s doing a very good job of explaining to him exactly what that look was and why we want him to get off the first progression on to the second, maybe the second isn’t there, maybe it’s on to the third. Interceptions are always – every interception is unique to itself, it really is. Some have other people involved, some are just on the quarterback. I did think those were two bad decisions that he made. He knows that, he would tell you the same thing. And I think you just show him the tape and you got to do a great job of explaining exactly what we’re seeing, so if that comes up again, that certain picture comes up again, that coverage shows up again, we don’t repeat the mistake. And that’s to me the biggest key to it.”
It seems like with some young quarterbacks that turnovers are just part of the learning process, and then it seems like there are some guys that it’s just their nature. Is there a way for you guys on the staff to know which it is, whether it’s the learning curve or if it’s just who the guy is?
“I think again, I think there’s always a combination. I think there’s certain guys that you know they’re chance takers. You know what I mean? They have complete faith in their arm ability and they’re going to try to squeeze things into tight holes, maybe that makes them a little bit more susceptible. There’s guys who are just young and you know that adds to it. So, there’s all kinds of factors that go into it, and I think as you work with these guys, you get more familiar with them and I think you can figure out how to help them get out of that pattern of turning the ball over.”
QB TOM SAVAGE
How much confidence does it give you that Head Coach Bill O’Brien is sticking by you?
“It means a lot but I know I have to go out there and perform. It means a lot, though.”
How can you improve on your decision making other than not making the same mistake twice?
“I think it’s just experience. You just have to go out there and keep doing it – well, not keep throwing interceptions, but keep playing – and see the looks. I think it just comes with experience.”
Does it help the more times you see it so you know not to do it again?
“Yeah, obviously the first one the guy got me, acting like he was going with the under route and then the route got undercut and that happens. The second one, it was second-and-1 so you just have to know the situation and know that there’s someone in your face and you have to be able to make the throw.”
So it’s more of a case-by-case basis?
“Yeah, every interception is like that. Every interception is different. They have a story of their own but at the same time you have to be able to it and you don’t want to throw interceptions. That’s the name of the game.”
How do you turn frustration into something positive?
“Well, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and go out there and keep playing. I can promise you that I’ll be out there and I’ll be competing and give it my all. I’m not out there trying to fail. I’m out there trying to do what I need to do to help this team win. I felt I did some good things out there on Monday night. That’s just it. You just have to keep going out there – I mean, (if) you don’t turn the ball over, we win the game and it’s a whole different dialogue right now. You know what I mean?”
Can you talk about losing T Chris Clark and having four different starters at left tackle this season?
“We’re confident in the guys that we have. I think they’re all great guys and great players so I’m super confident in them.”
What does it mean to lose T Chris Clark?
“I mean, just the leadership aspect, he’s always been such a phenomenal person in the locker room. I know he’ll be there for us and he’ll be supporting us still, but he was just such a leader out there. It’s a shame to see him go down.”
Do you feel like you’re still trending in the right direction if you’re able to put together a good performance this week?
“Yeah, I do. Like I said – I really mean this when I say it – I’m not losing any confidence. I know the whole outside world is but I can promise you I’m not. I know I can go out there and I made a lot of great throws out there Monday night. It comes down to two or three plays, and that’s what this league’s about, is you have to make those plays or not throw those passes. I think it just comes down to that and if you don’t turn it over, like Coach (O’Brien) always says, we’ll win that game.”
Can you talk about the key to helping WR DeAndre Hopkins have such good games the past two weeks?
“I think you just give him a shot. I felt a lot of times you even saw it was – you just give him a shot. He’s a tough player and he’ll come down with the ball so you just have to throw it to him. I think we’ve been doing that all year.”
Is it easier said than done for you to block out the outside noise and just focus on what you’re doing?
“No, I think it’s easy. I go home to a gorgeous wife and a gorgeous baby every day. I’m going to go out there and play for my guys in the locker room and I really don’t care what anyone says.”
What did you see from WR Braxton Miller on Monday? He had one of the best games of his career.
“He’s an awesome player, he really is. He’s a smart player and he’s doing a lot of good things. Just trying to feed him the rock.”
Can you talk a little bit about the design of your ‘My Cause, My Cleats’ shoes and your cause?
“My little cousin, she’s Sydney Nihill. She’s battling leukemia and the shoes are bright orange, obviously for the ribbon of children’s leukemia and children’s cancer. It’s got little surfboards on it, that’s kind of her logo, and it says, ‘No one fights alone.’ She’s just my biggest idol in this world. She really is. If you met her, she’d come in here with a full smile on her face. She really puts everything in perspective. She’s a really tough girl and I couldn’t even imagine going through what she’s going through at that age. To be able to keep doing what she’s doing like that, it’s such an inspiration to me and it really gets me through a lot of things, to be honest with you. I text her all the time and FaceTime and Snapchat, and she really is just the most positive person in the world. She’ll be in the hospital until Christmas and then when she beats it she’ll be out of it.”
How long has you niece been dealing with her condition?
“Three years now. Going on three years. Two-and-a-half years. She beat it and then it came back and her older sister, Hannah, she’s going to Drexel for a full-ride in basketball and she actually going to – I believe she’s redshirting this year because she was her donor for a bone marrow transplant. I mean, the whole family’s just tremendous people and she’s just such an inspiration to me.”
What’s her name?
How old is Sydney Nihill?
“Thirteen years old.”
How much do you value the toughness of WR DeAndre Hopkins?
“Absolutely. It just puts so much confidence in the quarterback to know that there’s a guy out there that’s going to fight for it. I know if I throw it to him, he’s not going to let anyone pick that ball off and he’ll go up and get it. I mean, I’ll keep saying it week-in and week-out, he’s the best receiver in the league and yeah, it’s a blessing to have a guy like that out there.”
What does it mean to continue to have an opportunity to go out there and compete?
“I think it all just comes down to winning. It really doesn’t matter what happens. We’ve got to win, and we’ve got to find a way to win. Listen, I understand what Bill’s (O’Brien) saying, it’s an opportunity and sticking with me and stuff, but I’ve got to go out there and I’ve got to earn it. That’s just the name of the game. If you don’t go out there and you don’t perform, you don’t play.”
Even if it’s for yourself, do you really value getting an extended look?
“Yeah. I mean, I’m not going to put any extra pressure on myself. I think I’ve had an awesome opportunity here with Houston and I’m going to keep going and I’m going to keep fighting and like I said, I’m going to block it all out and just go out there and have fun with my guys and just keep slinging it down the field.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH TITANS HEAD COACH MIKE MULARKEY
Are you guys running the ball as well as you want to and as well as you did last year?
“I wouldn’t say we are. We were more effective last year. Teams are countering it, trying to stop it knowing it’s a pretty important part of our offense. No, we’d like to run it better and I probably wished for the same thing last year.”
How much are the running struggles attributed to injuries?
“Not very much. Not at all.”
Do you find teams playing you differently this year based on the rushing success of last season?
“I think a little bit is part of that. I think we’re playing, just based on our schedule, we’ve played a number of top-10 defenses that are pretty stout up front. That had a little bit to do with it in the early part of the year and then once you get to this part of the year where you’re looking where you’re ranked and all that, it’s kind of hard to move up or down about this time of year. We haven’t changed our mindset.”
What differences do you see in the Texans offense now compared to when they had QB Deshaun Watson?
“I think they were a little more balanced. I know they do a good job of trying to keep the offense balanced right now, (but) it’s a little more throwing than running, again, for a variety of reasons based on their personnel. But that’s really the only difference I see.”
Could you talk about Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins and OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney and how well they’re playing?
“They’re playing great, there’s no question about it. Hopkins (is) very difficult to defend. They do a very good job of trying to find the matchups and moving them around and he’s just a tough guy to defend. Very physical receiver that makes a lot of – you can cover him and he’s going to catch it. Clowney, again, another good job by (Mike) Vrabel and that defensive staff in moving him around, getting matchups and making literally everybody on the field at some point have to block him, which is a difficult task.”
What does it mean to be back in first place knowing you have a chance to win the division?
“Really not worried about what Jacksonville did. It’s really what we’re trying to accomplish here, and that’s win the next game and see how everything unfolds when it’s all said and done. There’s nothing we can control (with) what happens anywhere else. Our control is in this building and we’re not looking at what place or anything right now. We have a lot of football to play and we’ve got to play better at this time of the year if we want to win this division.”
What does it mean to be in control of your own destiny?
“We’ve got to play better. We haven’t really put a complete game together. We have in spurts, and I think our guys understand that, especially this time of year, when you’re getting into December playing football.”
Is the defense better than last year and has it improved as the season’s gone on?
“I think we’ve gotten better. Since we’ve last played the Texans, our guys have really done a good job of just playing their role, doing their job, not making a lot of mistakes, being in the right place, not trying to do more than what we’re asking them to do and it’s paid off in a lot of ways.”