Head Coach Bill O’Brien
Quarterbacks Coach Sean Ryan
QB T.J. Yates
Conference Call with Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
With QB Taylor Heinicke in the concussion protocol, will QB Josh Johnson be your backup?
“Basically not sure yet about the backup quarterback.”
Do you need to have another practice?
“Yeah, I mean, we had to make that move to make sure that we were obviously doing what’s best for the team from a depth standpoint at that position. No doubt about it.”
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano was very complimentary of you today. Could you talk about all the speculation about his job and talk about the job he’s done this season?
“Where do I start? First of all, the speculation about everything is like – it’s football. When you look at Chuck Pagano, really that’s what football’s all about. Chuck Pagano is really one of the best guys I’ve met in football, both on and off the field. His knowledge of football and what he’s done in his career – college, pros, what he’s done here in Indianapolis is outstanding. Obviously what he’s overcome in his life, he’s got a great family, got an awesome wife. I see them at the owners meeting, great people. So, Chuck and I will be friends for a long time.”
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano has been without Colts QB Andrew Luck this season. Can you imagine what it would have been like not to have QB Deshaun Watson like that?
“I’ll say this, Andrew Luck is a great player, but I’ll tell you, Jacoby’s (Brissett) gone in there and done a good job. Jacoby’s gotten better and better, picked up the offense. I know what the guys in New England thought of Jacoby, they thought very highly of him. But yeah, any time you lose your starting quarterback and you don’t have him for any time during the regular season, that’s a hard deal.”
Do you expect C Nick Martin to be able to do anything during the offseason?
“I’m not sure on that yet. I don’t know the timetable on that. Maybe in the postseason I’ll be able to give you a better answer on that.”
Can you talk about the year that P Shane Lechler has had and the fact that he’s been able to do this for so many years at such a high level?
“In this game it’s pretty interesting, you got Shane Lechler who’s 40-some-odd years of age and you got Adam Vinatieri who’s 40-some-odd years of age. Two of the best to ever do it at their position, in my opinion. So, it’s really pretty interesting game relative to the specialists in the game, those two guys. Shane’s done a good job for us this year. He always does a good job. He’s a leader, he loves pro football, cares about his teammates and he’s really, like I’ve said many times, in the latter stages of his career, he’s changed the way he punts. He’s been able to direct the punts a little bit more than he did earlier in his career. He’s done a good job for us.”
What can you say about how every week P Shane Lechler is one of your game captains?
“Well, it says a few things – No. 1, he’s the guy that can really tell the referees what we’re doing, not that the other guys couldn’t, but he does a good job of that. All kidding aside, seriously he’s a good leader in the locker room. Guys look up to him. He’s had a ton of experience – Oakland, here – in this league, he’s been in a Super Bowl, he’s played in big games. So, he’s a leader.”
What is it about WR DeAndre Hopkins that allows him to excel no matter who the quarterback is?
“He’s got a skillset that allows him to do that, meaning like, big guy, good route runner, big hands, great catch radius, ability to get his feet down inbounds. The ball doesn’t have to be pinpoint accuracy every time. He actually likes the ball away from his body. Yeah, he’s probably the perfect receiver to have to work with a lot of different quarterbacks.”
As a play caller, what’s the challenge of what he’s going to see defensively and helping him get open?
“I think we move him around a lot. I think people would tell you that that go against us. He’s on the single side sometimes, he’s at No. 3, he’s at No. 2 or he’s all the way outside on the three-man side as No. 1. We put him in all four different positions and I think that helps him, but most of the time, with his ability and what they’re doing with him, he gets open on his own.”
Can you talk about the season ILB Benardrick McKinney has had and what do other coaches say about him?
“People think very highly or Benardrick (McKinney). We think very highly of him. He’s become one of the leaders of our team, leaders of our defense. He’s more than just a run-defending linebacker. He’s gotten better in coverage. Very tough guy. Plays injured. He’s Pro Bowl whatever. I think you guys know kind of what I think about how the Pro Bowl goes, but he’s one of the top linebackers in this league.”
What do you still need to see out of special teams?
“We have to do a much better job of consistently covering kicks. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes we go down there and the gunner makes a big play, but other times we give up 30-yard return, 20-yard return. Then on our return units, got Braxton (Miller) back there, have (Will) Fuller (V) back there. We’ve had some guys back there that are dangerous guys but maybe it’s a penalty or miss a block or don’t hold a block long enough. It’s too inconsistent. It’s been that way all year and it’s something that has to be consistent on Sunday. We have to do a good job of fixing it in the offseason.”
What notes would you take from this coming game and build on next year?
“I think it’s a big game. Look, people talk about pride, it’s kind of interesting to me – every time you go out on the field, every time you go out on the field you have pride in what you’re doing. I think they’re paying us to go out there and play hard and to coach well and you’re getting handed a paycheck to go coach and play, so it’s your job. It’s your duty to the National Football League, it’s your duty to your teammates, it’s your duty to the Houston Texans to go out there and play very hard. Our guys will do that. Our guys know that. Our guys – I think if you asked any coach in the league, they would tell you those guys play hard. They know that and they’ll continue to do that.”
Can you tell us two or three players that have played well besides the main guys?
“I think, if you start with special teams, I think Chris Thompson’s been a disruptive guy for us on special teams. I think he’s done a good job. I think if you go to defense, I think there’s guys that are getting better on defense. I think Carlos Watkins is an improved player on defense. I think that offensively, like I said, I thought the young linemen went in there and did some good things the other day. I thought (Julién) Davenport played pretty good. I hate really mentioning names like that, but those guys are doing a decent job and are improving players.”
Where have you seen WR Braxton Miller improve this season?
“He’s gotten a lot better in knowledge of our offense, route running. He’s gotten a lot better at what we’ve asked him to do on special teams, whether it’s punt returner or some of the other things we’ve asked him to do. He’s really just taken it to heart this year and I think he’s improved.”
When you evaluate players in the offseason and look at players who have gotten hurt a lot, how does that affect what you do in the offseason?
“Look, I think you take everything into account. Right now we’re focused on the game on Sunday, but I think when the game’s over and we look back at our season, we evaluate each player independently and we look at every factor with the player, whether it’s the evaluation of how he played or where he is with his injury, what his injury history is, just the same thing we do in the draft. It’s the same thing. You always have to look at everything and that’s what we do.”
Can you talk about CB Johnathan Joseph as a leader?
“He’s another guy in the category of Shane (Lechler), he’s one of the leaders of the locker room, been that way since we got here. He’s asked to do a lot on our defense relative to covering top guys. He’s been doing that since we arrived here, but he’s a team guy. He’s a team guy. He cares about the team, he cares about the teammates, his coaching staff. That’s the best way to describe J-Jo is he’s a team guy.”
With CB Kevin Johnson out, does CB Treston Decoud get to play now?
“(Treston) Decoud – Kevin Johnson may or may not be out, first of all – but yeah, he may play. Decoud, we’ll see how the week goes. But, yes, there’s a chance of that.”
How has CB Treston Decoud been when he’s covering?
“He’s been decent. He’s another guy for a young player that’s gotten better every week. I think he needs to do a better job on special teams. I think he needs to improve there but I thought on defense he made some plays and I think he’s just a guy that needs to keep working at it. It’s very important to him. He’s got some good traits with his length. He’s an intelligent player. I just think he needs to keep improving. He has improved, (but) he needs to keep going that way.”
How much have injuries depleted your depth on special teams?
“At the end of the day we’ve got guys out there that are capable of making the plays. I think it really is more about consistency. I think it’s more about just doing it down after down on special teams. It’s really understanding your role and just being a very consistent player. That’s more what it is. It has really nothing to do with injuries, I don’t think.”
How has your defense continued to play so well against the run despite so many injured guys in the front seven?
“That’s what we do. That’s basically the key to every game for us. The first key to every game is stopping the run. We emphasize it, we have the type of players that can do it, we have a good scheme for it, and that’s what we do. That’s the number one deal. You look at this game right here with Frank Gore and then they sprinkle (Marlon) Mack in there. We have to stop the run. Frank Gore’s a Hall of Fame running back and we have to stop the run so that they’re not sitting there in second-and-3 and third-and-2. Then you’re in trouble. That’s just something we emphasize here.”
QUARTERBACKS COACH SEAN RYAN
What can the offense do to get QB T.J. Yates off to a better start?
“I think that you kind of have to approach some things in the same manner, which is going through the openers with him, making sure he’s comfortable, which we basically do every week with whatever quarterback is starting the game. I think it’s important for me to definitely hit with him again, whether it’s the night before the game and then right prior to the game, the different looks or more difficult looks that could possibly come up that he may have to deal with. But I think that’s it, just continuously going through the openers and making sure that he’s comfortable with them. That’s really what you have to do for the guy. To be honest with you, he’s good pregame in terms of telling us what he likes the best and what he feels best about, so we all work together through OB (Bill O’Brien) and get it done. We’ve just go to continue to do that and be better with it.”
When you look back on the season and look at where the offense is, what do you think about what you all have been able to do this year?
“I think there’s been ups and downs with it. I think there’s been times where all of us would tell you that we need to do a better job and that we need to be more consistent on a weekly basis. There’s certainly been a lot of highs, and there’s been some times when we can improve. That’s really what the focus will always be in any offseason, is how do you improve. For me, it starts with my job. What do I need to do better in terms of the quarterback room? That’s where it starts for me, and then you move on from there.”
Does it give you a lot of hope for next season seeing what you did with QB Deshaun Watson?
“What we were able to accomplish with Deshaun, what he was able to accomplish, certainly gives you a lot of hope for the future and what we can do and what we can build on. You’ve got to realize that a young player, we’re going to have a ways to go and keep building and keep getting better, and that will be the key.”
How is QB Deshaun Watson rehabbing?
“Obviously, the real focus is him physically getting better, but he’s also watching film, breaking down film of opponents that we’re looking at, different defenses, trying to help him identify looks, defensive coverages by looking at the film and going through it that way. He has, at times, been in a couple of meetings, here and there, when he can, based on his rehab schedule. He’s still working hard, he’s still involved.”
How important is this last game for QB T.J. Yates?
“I think they’re all big. I think every time you get an opportunity to go out and see what you can do, prove what you can do, I think they are all important. And when you step away from it, you take the full body of work and we’ll sit down and will look at it and evaluate it and move on from there.”
What would mark an improvement in QB T.J. Yates from your perspective?
“We haven’t sat and talked about it’s this parameter or this number of things. I think obviously we want to see an improvement from the last two weeks, you know, see him play better. To do that, I’ve got to coach better, we’ve all got to work together on it and get it going in the right direction. But you want to see him finish on a positive note and do some good things and move the offense and score some points. Certainly in a perfect world, that’s where you want to see it go. You want to see improvement in the last game of the year.”
What did you think of WR DeAndre Hopkins’ catch once you were able to watch it on tape?
“I thought it was unbelievable. A, it was obviously the hand-eye coordination that goes into these difficult catches, but it was a tip with one hand, a catch with the other, and the ability to get that last foot down, that toe tap. The body control to be able to do that, to me, was amazing. It really was a phenomenal catch. It certainly is one of the best ones I’ve ever been around.”
WR DeAndre Hopkins said he was mad he didn’t catch it with one hand the first time.
“That does not surprise me at all. That’s the level and standard that guy sets for himself, and he sees himself as he should, as a bell-cow receiver who’s got to make those plays and that’s how he looks at it. And I’m glad he does, so no, it doesn’t surprise me at all that he was mad about that.”
How does that help you to have a guy with that mindset?
“It raises the bar for everyone. When you can get everybody on the team to hold themselves to that type of standard and to want to make those plays, not look at anybody else to make the plays, but looking at themselves to make the plays, it’s going to help the entire team.”
How do you see him helping the younger receivers?
“I think whenever he can and he sees something, and he sees something that a guy can improve on, I think he’s quick to point it out to a receiver. Like, ‘Hey, sometimes on this route you can use this technique to help yourself out. He’s done that since I’ve been around him, since I got here. I think it’s pretty clear that he’s invested in helping younger guys in the room.”
Do you guys not coach them to catch the ball with two hands anymore?
“You’re always going to stress fundamentals. That’s never going to change. There’s some guys out there that have this uncanny ability to catch it with one hand, but you’re always going to stress fundamentals. At the same time, when a guy goes above and beyond and makes a ridiculous play with a one-handed grab, it is what it is and you got to applaud the effort and the talent. But you’re always going to coach fundamentals. That will never change.”
Are one-handed catches more for show now?
“I don’t know about that. I think it probably started, to be honest with you, I think it probably began when someone needed to make one because they couldn’t either get to it with both hands (or) one hand was being held down by a DB. Whatever it was. They only hand one hand available to catch the ball and maybe didn’t bring it in. So, from then on, they said I’m going to work that skill, I’m going to work that skill with certain times, whether it be with someone throwing me the ball or if I can under the JUGS machine and I'm going to strengthen a hand so I can make a one-handed grab, I can make that great catch. I think that’s probably where it all started from and obviously when that stuff in this day and age, when it happens it certainly gets a bunch of attention, which makes other people work on it and it kind of grows from there.”
Is there a technique that if you’re going to catch it one-handed that you can get away with something else with your other hand?
“I think any type of hand combat that goes on with the receiver, you always want to keep it tight to your body and low so you’re not in the area of pushing off or anything that’s illegal. So, those are things that you talk about when you’re talking about hand combat. Doing it in a legal manner, tight to the body way. That kind of stays consistent.”
How do the hands of Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. and WR DeAndre Hopkins compare?
“They’re both really talented players. DeAndre’s catch radius is ridiculous. It really is. When you have that as a quarterback, that type of ability of when a receiver can go up and get it in a huge area around him, that really helps you as a receiver. So, in that way he really excels. In my opinion, he does a really great job of that. ”
And Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. does too?
“Odell does too. Well, I might run into these guys at some point, you know, both of them in the same room. ”
How lucky do you feel to have coached both of those guys?
“Very. Very lucky to be able to be around that type of talent and be able to work with that and have an opportunity to do it with both of them is pretty special. I don’t take it for granted at all. It’s been a really great experience for me.”
QB T.J. YATES
What can you guys do to improve in the next few days?
“Just kind of move on. Yeah, it was about as rough as it gets passing the ball but the sun came up the next day. We’re going to go back to work and take advantage of the opportunity in front of us and go out and work this week. We’re going to do better this week.”
Has it been tough to recapture the things you did well against the 49ers?
“Yeah, it has been tough to recapture. Obviously the caliber of defenses we’ve played the past two weeks are up there with the tops in the league. When I got in the game against San Fran, I just went in there and just played, just read and react and go out there and play football. That’s what I need to get back to, is just trusting my instincts, trusting my eyes, just go out there and let it rip.”
The last time you played in Indianapolis you were the starter and did some good things for the Texans in 2015. What is it going to be like to go back there?
“We were in the playoff hunt then and it was a good time for us and we were playing well. I know overall the team hasn’t done well up there in the past but the last couple years we have, so we’re trying to keep that going. It’s a new week, fresh start, last game of the year and this whole team’s going to attack this thing and try to go up there and get a win.”
Why do a lot of the players want Head Coach Bill O’Brien and the staff back?
“Just the respect that we have for all the coaches. Nobody likes to make excuses but everybody knows the situation that we’re in. We’re breaking records for guys on IR and number of people played in a game. Just the entire situation hasn’t been ideal but the way this coaching staff has handled it, he demands and he gains a lot of respect from players in the way he handles himself and the way he handles himself day-in and day-out through here. That’s a lot of the reason.”
What makes Head Coach Bill O’Brien a good coach?
“He’s very smart. Guys know that he knows football and he’s going to put us in good situations. The last couple of weeks we haven’t done a good job of helping him out. Every day, no matter what the situation is, he likes to keep it loose and keep us fresh and crack jokes. He does a good job of getting us moved on from the previous week and keeping us focused on what we have to do.”
Do players get consulted about front-office decisions?
“I’ve never been consulted for that, no.”
What comes to mind when you watch film of the previous game?
“Early on, I just really didn’t give us a shot. I was off, I was inaccurate. We were running the ball well, moving the ball downfield somewhat but the passing game was pretty bad, obviously. I’ve just got to go out there and just kind of let it loose. Don’t overthink things, don’t look into things too much and just go out there, like I said before, just read and react and play football.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH COLTS HEAD COACH CHUCK PAGANO
Texans G David Quessenberry got to play an NFL game for the first time in his career after overcoming cancer. Since you can understand what he went through, what did you think about him after his three-year ordeal with cancer and finally getting on the field?
“Oh, what a blessing and what a warrior DQ is. To battle what he’s battled, I think it’s a great lesson for all of us that got to witness what he’s been through, how long of a battle he’s has and the journey he’s been on and the support that he’s had and the people that he’s inspired. And then to get back out there, I know it had to be an emotional, unbelievable day for him, but what a great lesson for everybody else as far as perspective goes. It’s hard to win games in this league and sometimes you just have seasons that don’t go the way that you want them to go but to see a young man like David trot back out there and all that he’s been through and all that he’s overcome and the adversity that he’s faced, I was thrilled to death. He’s just inspiring and he’s inspired the masses and so many people that are going to battle and fight battles and lost battles, they’ve got a guy they can look to and say, ‘You know what, if he can do it I can do it, too.’”
Texans G David Quessenberry knows he will always be known as a cancer survivor who has inspired others. How do you feel about that as related to yourself?
“You always ask, ‘Why,’ in the very beginning when they tell you you have cancer. It’s always, ‘Why me,’ and then you don’t know why it happens but five, six years down the road, three years down the road, I think, like myself, he figured out exactly why. You want to be known as a coach, you want to be known as a football player but now you have another platform and you’ve overcome and you beat the odds and now you can impact so many people and give back and inspire so many people. It’s just something that I know him and I know how he’s embraced that role and what a phenomenal job he’s done, not only overcoming and battling it but again, how he’s inspired people with getting back out on the field and help encourage and impact so many lives.”
What’s it been like coaching you team without Colts QB Andrew Luck?
“It’s been a huge challenge, obviously, and you never want to be without your quarterback. I hate it for this organization, I hate it for our fans, I hate it for the city, I hate it for his teammates but mostly for him. He’s a great, great competitor and a great football player and I know this is killing him and has killed him not to be out there and to be able to battle and go to battle week-in and week-out with his teammates. I know one thing, that kid will be back and he’ll be back better than ever.”
What do you think it will be like for Colts QB Andrew Luck when he can finally return to the field injury-free?
“Again, going through circumstances and overcoming adversity and going through what he’s going through, he’s going to be that much stronger, that much tougher, that much more resilient for the next set of circumstances that come his way or comes his team’s way, this organization’s way. I know one thing, he’s going to be a better man, he’ll be a better player. He’s going to be better in all areas for having to had gone through this season and fight back and fight through this adversity and things like that. I know it’ll be awesome for him to get back on the field.”
What would it mean for the Colts to win this last game and not finish last in the AFC South?
“Everything. We’re going to work and compete and prepare just like we always do. I know Bill’s (O’Brien) going to do the same thing and coach his team the same way. He’s got great perspective, I’ve got great perspective. I’ve got the utmost respect for Coach O’Brien. He’s a great coach and a great man and a great person, a great father and husband, all that stuff. He gets it. He’s going to prepare his team accordingly, we’re going to do the same thing. Forget records and all that stuff, they’re fighting for the same thing that we’re fighting for and (there’s) no better way to finish a really, really tough and difficult season than going out winners.”
Do you think all of the injuries the Texans and Colts have suffered is just a streak of bad luck and is unlikely to happen again?
“Yeah, you pray to God because you don’t want to see anybody lose anything or anybody. I look at this team. Right before we were going to play them the first time and seeing a great, great, great young talent like Deshaun (Watson) go down and where that team was and where they were headed. I think they’ve had 18 put on IR, just doing the numbers. I think we’re close to that number. You never want to see it, but it’s the National Football League and you’ve got to deal with injuries but certainly you never want to deal with this number.”
How has Colts QB Jacoby Brissett played and made progress for you?
“He’s done a great job for us, obviously coming in here under some difficult circumstances and being thrust into that role. He’s done a great job. He’s gotten better every single week. He’s taken care of the football, which is huge. He’s making good decisions and he’s taking care of the football and we’re plus-four right now, I think, in the turnover margin and he’s doing a great job there. I’m just really proud of Jacoby and (I’ve) watched his maturation here and his progress and how he’s gotten better week-in and week-out. He’s a competitor, man. He’s a warrior and he loves to compete and he loves to play. He’s a fighter and he’s done a great job for us.”
What is it about Colts RB Frank Gore that allows him to still be playing at such a physical position?
“He doesn’t ever want to stop playing. He’s scared to death that this game’s going to be done. Nobody has more love and passion for football than Frank Gore. He’s a football player through and through. That’s what he’s always wanted to do, that’s always been his life’s passion and wanted to be his life’s work and he’s been told probably a bunch of times ever since he was probably young that he was too this or too that and would never get out of his own neighborhood or whatever but he proved everybody wrong. He’s overcome a ton of adversity, he’s overcome significant injuries and to do what he’s done – I’m glad I’ve had a front row seat to watch him work for the last three seasons here and watch him from afar for a long time. He loves football. He’s got great passion for this game.”