Head Coach Bill O’Brien
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
“I just want to start off with a couple things I just want to make clear. To try to tie all this in together, relative to the process on the sideline with the medical people, relative to concussion protocol, relative to coaching, relative to my care for our players here, and also relative to I’m not passing the buck. So, let’s make sure we all kind of get on the same page here. Basically, there was a third-down play where we were backed up, our offense was backed up, I’m on the 50-yard line calling the play. On the play, San Francisco brought blitz-0, they blitzed six guys, Tom got rid of it to the right, it was incomplete. I had no idea – I figured that he got hit, really didn’t know he got hit, there’s 12 bodies around him. Very, very difficult from the 50-yard line where I’m standing to see if he even got hit. With benefit of the video – which I do not have benefit of any video. There’s no video on the sideline. All there are are tablets. There’s no video, there’s nothing like that. With benefit of seeing the video, obviously from my standpoint, the care for the player, I would’ve never let that player back in the game, and I don’t believe that Geoff Kaplan would’ve allowed that player back in the game. I don’t have benefit of the video. I did not see anything. So, basically the process now goes where the medical people on the sideline, they come to me and they say, ‘We’re going to check Tom (Savage) for a concussion.’ They take him into the tent, they check him, maybe two, three minutes. Not very long period of time. I’m not sure what goes into that. You can ask the medical people, the NFL. I’m a coach, I don’t really know what goes into that. They come back to me, they say that Tom can play, he’s good to go, he can play in the game. So, I make the determination, talk to Tom, ‘Hey, here’s the plays we’re going to go with in the next series,’ and we put Tom back out there. After that next series, it was a three-and-out, they came back over to me, they said, ‘We’re going to check him again.’ I said, ‘Thanks, OK, great.’ I also said to Kap at that point, our trainer, I said, ‘Look, I think we need to check him again.’ This was all going on at the same time. It wasn’t anything that I particularly saw on the field, I just said, ‘Look, that was a quick check. It was a three-and-out on that series, let’s continue to check him and make sure that the player, Tom Savage, is OK.’ They went, they checked him, they came to me, they were not satisfied with his answers to the questions that they were asking him, and they pulled him from the game. Then I put T.J. Yates in the game. At no point in time in my coaching career, 25 years of coaching – I’ve been at Brown University, I’ve been at Georgia Tech, I’ve been at Duke, I’ve been at University of Maryland, I’ve been the head coach at Penn State and the head coach here. At no point in time is there anything more important to me than the safety of our players. I love our players and I care about them and I cannot stand when players get injured. Again, with benefit of seeing the video that people are seeing, I would’ve never put him back in the game. But I don’t see that. I’m not passing the buck. I don’t have any – anybody that’s been on the sideline of a football game knows that, from a coaching standpoint, you really can’t see things like that, especially when the ball’s in certain areas of the field. So, with that being said, what do you guys have to ask me about yesterday’s game?”
How is QB Tom Savage doing today?
“I don’t know yet. I haven’t talked to Kap (Geoff Kaplan) yet.”
When it comes to your quarterback situation against the Jaguars, will you have to wait and see how QB Tom Savage is this week or do you expect QB T.J. Yates to start?
“I believe Yates will be the starter but I’m going to sit down and talk with the staff. But right now I would tell you that probably T.J. will be the starter in that game.”
How was QB Tom Savage doing after the game?
“I didn’t really have a chance to see him after the game. Let me explain that. After the game, I break the team down in the locker room. I talk to the team about the game, about the upcoming week’s schedule, and then I go with Amy (Palcic) down to visit with you guys. By the time I get back to my locker room, the medical people are with Tom. I’m not privy to those meetings so I just try to do the best I can to catch up with them today.”
What do you think can be done to help streamline the process of getting coaches more information on the sideline?
“I think that’s a great question, but not for me. I’m the head coach of the Houston Texans. I’m just telling you my role in it. Again, I want to make it clear that at no time in my coaching career – you go back and look at me when I was an assistant football coach or when I was a head football coach at Penn State, or being the head coach here – have I ever passed the buck. I’ve stood up in front of you and I’ve told you when we don’t play well, it’s on me. In this case, I’m not passing the buck, I’m just telling you the process. That’s the question for the NFL. That’s not for me.”
Which direction will you go if QB T.J. Yates is the starter this week and QB Tom Savage is still in concussion protocol, as far as a backup?
“I’m not sure. We have to talk. It’s kind of early today but I’ll have a better answer for you on that on Wednesday.”
Is it worrisome to you that the concussion protocol that the NFL has right now allowed QB Tom Savage to have that quick check and get back into the game?
“Again, I think these are great questions, but I’m just here to tell you what my role is in it and I think those are questions for someone else. I really do.”
With the losing you guys have done lately, there’s speculation about your job. Do you want to coach here next year?
“Sure. I enjoy being the head coach of the Houston Texans. I have a great relationship with these players here. I’m going to continue to coach hard until they tell me I’m not coaching here anymore.”
Do you expect to be back next season?
“Yeah, I’m here – like you guys know, you know I signed I five-year contract. Again, I expect to be back here but those decisions are not made by me. My job is to make sure that I coach these players. I really care about these players. I really care about how hard they’re working and the effort that they’re putting in, and we’re not seeing the results on the field and so I really want to try to improve that over the next three weeks.”
Have you or anyone close to your agent had any discussions with Texans Founder, Chairman and CEO Mr. Robert McNair about a contract extension, or do you expect that to happen after the season?
“No. I have no idea.”
When you say you want to be back here next season, why do you want to be back?
“First of all, my family and I, we love living here. And I enjoy coaching these players and I enjoy coaching with this staff.”
When you see players like QB Tom Savage with concussions who are walking around the locker room, talking to his teammates after the game, what is it that is going on with the player that has a concussion that allows them to do all that?
“I can’t tell you that. Again, I think that – I will answer that this way because I think these questions are great. I really do. You guys know if I don’t agree with a question sometimes I let you know, but these questions are great questions. I’m not a doctor. I don’t know anything about that. I played the game in the Ivy League, so I don’t know anything about the collisions that these guys experience out here on the field. All I know is the process and all I know is the coaching, the visual from the sideline – if that had happened in front of me on the 50-yard line. I can remember a few years ago, we played Cincinnati, Brian Hoyer – who you know I have great respect for, I love Brian Hoyer – he was hit in the Monday night game. I saw it, it was right in front of me. I said, ‘This guy needs to be checked.’ I thought he was struggling at that point. That’s just from a layman, a coach who just sees something, has a gut feeling. In this instance yesterday, the ball was on our own four-yard line. I had no idea that he really was even hit like that, to be honest with you. So, again, that’s our role in it and we just do the best we can with the information that we have.”
The league asks players to self-report and be honest about concussions, but you know most of them won’t. QB Tom Savage said last week there’s no way he’s coming off the field on his own, so do you trust him to give an honest opinion about the way he feels physically?
“I think our guys are conscious of their own health. I’m not going to speak for them, but our guys are honest about it. I think that that’s something that they’ve always been honest about that with us and our medical staff. I don’t doubt that. I don’t have any doubt that our players would be honest about how they’re feeling.”
Is it worrisome to you that you guys have had six concussions in the past couple weeks?
“Any time a player has a concussion, it’s worrisome to me because – and I can’t explain why they’ve happened and the way that they’ve happened, meaning the amount of them that have happened in a short period of time. It’s happened with several guys. I just watched the tape. I just got done watching the tape. Kendall Lamm experienced a concussion on a PAT field goal protection where he was the tight end and he got knocked back and landed right on, his back of his head hit right on the ground. I mean, I feel terrible about those because I designed those plays. I design the offense, the defense and the special teams. I’m in charge of all that. So, when those things happen, I feel terrible about it, but I can’t explain exactly why they happen.”
How is TE C.J. Fiedorowicz doing and have you guys had any discussions about what is next for him?
“I have not. I saw that report yesterday and I have no knowledge of that, maybe somebody else in our organization does, but I don’t. I don’t have any knowledge of that report that was out yesterday.”
TE C.J. Fiedorowicz’s agent said he plans on coming back?
“Again, I expect it that way. We think very highly of C.J. (Fiedorowicz). He just signed a contract extension here, I believe last year. We think he’s a really good Y tight end for us. So, we’d love to see him back. But again, I don’t have any knowledge of that report that was out yesterday.”
Can you talk about what it’s like right now, losing so much having not experienced that since you’ve been in the NFL?
“It’s tough. It’s tough. These guys are putting in a lot of hours. They’re trying to prepare. Guys are banged up. But, our guys will show up. It’s not easy. But look, at the end of the day, you just have to keep battling. You have no other choice. Your choice is you don’t have any choice. You’re going to show up, go to work and try to improve. Players are going to try to improve. Coaches are going to try to improve. That’s the tact that we’re taking.”
You’ve been in football for a long time, whether you played, coaching at Brown, working your way up. Do you think this is always going to be difficult with the NFL? It’s an inherently a violent game based on collisions, and you can have all these protocols, but as you saw yesterday, when you’re in the middle of it, it’s easy for media to say it’s black and white and that a player shouldn’t go back in, but in the live moment it seems like it’s almost increasingly difficult to figure this out.
“The speed of the game has definitely changed in the last 20, 25 years. I mean, there’s no doubt about the strength of the players, the speed of the players, all those things. I will say this, and I’ve said this in the past, since I think it’s 2002, there’s been 50-plus rule changes made relative to the safety of the game. I do believe that the NFL is setting the tone for trying to really impress upon people how important it is, how important player safety is. I do believe as coaches we are always – when we go to the owners meeting, when I’m on conference calls with other coaches, I can tell you that player safety is all we talk about. Trying to remove the head from the game, all those things. I have great respect for the 31 other coaches in this league. Great guys, really care about the game and we are always trying to teach our players and think about ways where we can take the head out of the game. Very difficult to do that, 100 percent, but I know we’re always working towards doing that.”
During training camp, some players received helmets with advanced technology. Do you know the statistics or data of wearing those helmets?
“I don’t know the data. That’s a good question. I think that’s all postseason data that we collect and I’ll be able to get back to you maybe after the season on that, relative to the different helmets and things. I know we wear a lot of different brands of helmets relative to what the players need and things like that. Mike Parson, our equipment manager, does a great job of fitting those guys up with the right helmet. But I don’t know the data on what you’re asking about right now.”
Was this one of the best game of ILB Zach Cunningham’s career?
“Yeah, I thought he played well. He was very active. He’s been active all year. Played a physical game and I thought he did some good things. There’s some areas where he can improve but I definitely think it was one of his better games.”
What was it that allowed QB T.J. Yates to come off the bench and lead consecutive touchdown drives?
“He did a good job. He’s in a tough spot there. Any time you’ve got to come into a game like that and you haven’t gotten a lot of reps during the week – he’s done that before for us. He’s a pro. He’s great guy to coach, very bright guy. I just wish I had made some better calls for him there in the second half to be able to put us over the top. But he did a good job.”
Do you feel like these last few games could affect your future with the team or do you believe you’ve proven enough?
“I’m not the judge of that. Again, my main priority, really, I’m being honest with you, is – I mean, I wish you guys knew me better. I really could care less about all that. I want to figure out today and tomorrow, when the players come back on Wednesday, how we can get these guys to play better and how I can get this coaching staff to coach better. That’s really my priority. Those other things, like, I’ve coached at every level. There’s always bosses. The decisions are made by people above you. I’m not a boss, I’m a head coach and I don’t have any control over those things. All I can control is how I coach the team and how I work with the staff and the people around here, and that’s what I try to do.”
Are you concerned about the amount of yardage and touchdowns that you’re allowing in the secondary?
“You’re right, there were times where the rush and the coverage matched up and it was really good but then there’s other times where we’re cutting guys loose and we’re not believing our eyes, so to speak. I think that we’ve got to do a better job of that. I do believe we play the run really well, although I know we gave up some run yardage yesterday. Sometimes guys were trying to do too much, things like that, and when we just do our job, we really do a good job of stopping the run. There were some breakdowns that we’ve got to try to correct, obviously, before this next game. Jacksonville’s a really, really tough team when it comes to running the football and all the things that they do. So we’ve got to get these things corrected.”
The offensive line has come a long way since the last time you played Jacksonville but how big a challenge will this be?
“It’s going to be tough. I mean, I just watched a couple games on him. I watched Seattle and Indianapolis and it’s going to be a big challenge. They’re playing at a high level. Just like every year in this league, teams get hot. Jacksonville’s hot. Doug’s (Marrone) done a great job with that team. They’re playing hard, they’ve got a lot of talent. They’ve got a lot of talent. We’ve got a big, big time challenge on our hands. Like I said, I think our guys are going to show up here on Wednesday and be ready to go and put in a good week and we’ll go down there and show up.”
What do you think about the season Jaguars CB A.J. Bouye’s had and is there some pride in how he’s performed?
“I think he had two interceptions yesterday. When we got here, he hadn’t played a whole lot, played special teams our first year. I think he was the third or fourth corner. Really one of those guys who just really put in a lot of time with the coaches and on his own to get better. I remember he came back in 2015 and he had changed his whole body. He had worked out in a different way and he was in great condition and he became, really, a top corner for us. Look, that’s the way the NFL’s set up with free agency. You do the best you can to keep the guy and in the end, it’s up to the player to make that choice and he chose to go to Jacksonville. We have great respect for A.J. and to say that we’re proud of what he’s doing, I wouldn’t – we’re always proud of the guys that we coach. There’s no doubt about that. But he’s playing at a high level, no doubt about it.”
Can you talk about giving up points at the end of the first half?
“We go down there, we score the touchdown, which is a great job by T.J. (Yates) on that drive. Really good drive by T.J. I thought (Andre) Ellington had a couple good plays there and obviously Hop (DeAndre Hopkins). Then, they get the ball, I think there were 48 seconds to go in the half and we give up an edge on the first play. We give up an edge and they go, I think it was almost like a 45, 50-yard run. Once they’re down there, now they’re just outside of field goal range. It was just a little bit of a breakdown in the run defense there. They were close to field goal range. It’s hard to keep them out of that field goal range when you’re in that mode because you don’t want the ball to be thrown over your head for a touchdown. So, once that run broke, now you’re just saying, ‘Look, we’ve just got to hold these guys to a field goal. We cannot give up a touchdown here.’ That’s kind of what happened there.”