Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith
G David Quessenberry
NT/DE D.J. Reader
DE J.J. Watt
EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF FOOTBALL OPERATIONS AND GENERAL MANAGER RICK SMITH
“First of all, I want to start off by saying this is not a referendum on my tenure because my tenure is not over. This is a comma, not a period. But I did want to come down and at least provide a little bit of detail about the decision, and obviously the statement yesterday. I just have made a very difficult decision with my wife, my beautiful wife, who I thought was important to have her here so you can see how good she’s looking and how healthy she is and I think it’s just important that she’s here. We made this decision because family’s the most important thing. So, as we talked yesterday, we had, at the end of September – and I will kind of give you a little bit of detail, but this is her story, I’m going to let her tell her story when she’s ready to tell her story with detail about whatever specificity she wants to do later on – but what happened, what we’ve been through over the last couple months is at the end of September she was diagnosed and as we started to learn about cancer, and it’s a nasty disease, but there are all kinds of ways to deal with cancer and to beat cancer, and so as we started to learn about it and we research the various options that were available to us to battle this and to work through this back to her healing and her Wholeness, we found a clinic, a place in Arizona and decided to go there. And so over the course of the last several months, she has been in Arizona receiving her treatments, so it’s been very difficult on our family and difficult on me. This is a big job and there are a lot of things that I’m responsible for in this job and so to try and be there for her in Arizona, we have three kids in three different schools – I’ve got a freshman, 14-year old freshman at Strake Jesuit, my daughter’s in the fourth grade at Awty, at the Awty International School and then our youngest, Christian, is a second grader at The Regis School. So, three kids in three different schools, Arizona, the job, going back and forth – it just, the logistics of it just, it’s just been very difficult. And I’m very grateful, as I said in the statement yesterday, we are to the McNair family for the support they have given us and continue to give us and the freedom that I had to move back and forth and to speak to all the things that were necessary for me to speak to as we kind of progressed through the season. Again, I’m not here to talk about the season itself. It was a very disappointing season, obviously. 4-12 is not good enough for anybody. There’s a lot of work to be done and however we as an organization decide to move forward with that, I am confident that we can get – we have a good football team. Our record didn’t indicate that this year. We had a lot of issues that we worked through injury-wise. There were a lot of things that happened to us this year and we’re all disappointed and I know Bill (O’Brien) will visit with you and talk with you at some point this week about that and I’ll let him and leave that to him to do, but I will tell you that I am confident that we can right the ship and we will. But, as it relates to me personally and to us personally, this is an opportunity for us to really focus on Tiffany and focus on our family and make sure that we get her back to health and to Wholeness. I’ll take any questions that anybody has.”
What is the plan in place for while you are away?
“The plan, first of all, is that there’s a lot of dynamics to this job. There are a lot of responsibilities and so how we decide to fill all those roles, that’s not up to me, that’s up to Mr. McNair and how he decides to do that. What I will tell you is I don’t think it’s – I said an extended leave of absence yesterday because however we decide to man these various roles, whether it’s the draft, free agency or picking the hotels and busses that we use, all these things that encompass my job, whoever is responsible and whoever takes over those roles, I don’t think it would be fair for me to insert myself, reinsert myself at any point during that process halfway through. And so it makes sense to just have a complete year that we just take off so that whoever is fulfilling all of those roles and responsibilities has the freedom to do that. So, those things are still being discussed and talked about and worked through and I’ll let Mr. McNair and I’ll let Bill (O’Brien) and everyone else who’s responsible for those things speak to those matters.”
Is there a plan in place for how and when you will return?
“No, it’s not. It’s fluid. It is. And part of the reason for doing this is because our lives right now are fluid and I think I would be remised if I didn’t – over the last three months, the logistics of how we’ve decided to do this, her parents have been here, they’ve been here for two weeks, so we wanted to make sure that home base was set. So, her parents came for two weeks and our neighbors, our friends, our support system, people have been taking the kids. We wanted to make sure that home base was solid and that the kids’ schedules did not, they weren’t altered, so that they knew that and we knew that they were fine and OK so she could focus on her healing and her protocols and the things that she’s doing. And so we’ve had my parents, her parents coming in and out of town. We’ve had neighbors helping us take the kids to school in the morning. And so all of those things that we’ve had to deal with while she’s in Arizona and then when she comes home after her treatments are complete and she’s healthy, there’s a different rhythm to how our lives will look. And so that’s a fluid process. So how all of that looks is undetermined at this point, but we’ll work through all of that stuff, first of all, over the next year personally, and then when it’s time to start to think about how I come back, we’ll look at that. We’ll look at that and we’ll determine it at that point.”
You mentioned the outlook and how this could be a good football team and that it is a good football team. What are your thoughts on QB Deshaun Watson, his development and what he can do moving forward?
“Well, I mean, I think the sky’s the limit for the young man, but again, I don’t want to get into too many details about the football piece at this point. I don’t think he’s the only one on this team that potential is there. I think there are a lot of good young players if you went down the roster and you looked at some of the other younger players on the team and the experience they got, Zach Cunningham comes to mind. There’s a bunch of guys on this football team that have improved and that is going to be something that has to continue, and if it does, and if they do, I think we have a chance to be pretty good moving forward.”
Do you fully expect to come back to this team as general manager?
“In whatever role that is, I am going to maintain Executive Vice President title. If we hire a GM and have a guy to run the personnel, then we’ll do that. So, again, it’s a fluid process, but I am absolutely intend on coming back, I will maintain that at least the Executive Vice President title and if Mr. McNair feels like he wants to hire a general manager, then he will hire a general manager and that will be just fine.”
How much did Vice President of Player Personnel/Assistant General Manager Jimmy Raye III help during this process?
“It was just good for me to have a guy like Jimmy (Raye III) in the building, because I was able to know that at least from – there’s a lot that goes into these decisions, the personnel decisions, and having the ready list available for the guys that are available by position, and there’s a lot of work and a lot of film study that has to be done in preparation so that when you have an injury on Sunday, you can react and respond with some efficiency and some expediency. So to have him in the building and to have the confidence in his organization, No. 1, and having the scouts organized and have all the work done, and then to have his counsel and his advice on who he thinks are the best available guys for us to then go and organize a workout, have those workouts on Tuesday, make those roster moves and changes, whether it was free agents or guys on other practice squads, it was really freeing for me to be able to focus when I needed to focus knowing that at least that piece of it, the work was done, so that we could go and make a good decisions. So that was invaluable as was the balance of the personnel group. We have a good group of personnel scouts here and all those guys worked extremely hard. I guess I need to also applaud the entire football operations staff, because when we got the diagnosis, we had a meeting and I said ‘Listen, I am going to be distracted and I know that that’s the case and that’s just human nature. So, I’m going to need you to step up your game in whatever your roles are so that we can continue to operate.’ And they did that whether it was Doug West in the operations or Jimmy as you mentioned, Chris Olsen in the contracts, everything, everybody stepped up to help and I think that will continue.”
There has been a lot of talk locally and nationally about your relationship with Head Coach Bill O’Brien. Can you address that?
“There’s been a lot of conversation about that. What I will tell you is Bill (O’Brien) and I have worked together for four years with a common goal to bring a championship to Houston. I don’t really speak to those rumors and I think Bill has stood up here and told you we’ve got a great working relationship, we continue to do that. And that’s another reason why this is a decision that I can make. I can move away from here knowing that the organization’s in good hands, in good shape and knowing that this group of players in this locker room and this group of coaches, if they continue to work the way that I know that they will, we’ve got a chance to have the success that we’re looking for.”
What are your thoughts on the job that Head Coach Bill O’Brien has done this year, despite all the injuries?
“Listen, I think Bill (O’Brien) – there’s so much that is involved as a head coach in the National Football League. A lot of things when you talk about the role of general manager, there are a lot of things that head coaches have to do and there’s a lot of management involved and a lot of strategy involved and all the things that are involved in that role. I think he has grown over the four years since he’s been a head coach in this league and I think he will continue to grow and I think it’s no different than anybody else in any other position, you’ve got to always stay focused on improvement and stay honest in your assessments of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it and that’s what happens at this time of year, especially after a year like now. You’ve got to look at the processes and look at the people who are doing the things that you’re asking them to do and how are you doing those things and if there are ways to improve and how do you do that and you’ve got to be honest in those assessments. So those kind of conversations will start. Unfortunately, I won’t be a part of those, because I am going to leave, but I know that they will happen because they happen this time of year all the time and I’m sure that they will be honest assessments, good plans put in place and then you have to go execute. This league’s about execution. You can have all the plans and all the good people, but if you don’t execute, which is part of the problem that we had this year, you have to execute. And so that’s important and that’s where we’ve got to find a way to go execute in a way that we get more W’s than L’s.”
How does it feel that so many players are saying nice things about you and what you’ve done for their careers?
“It’s a glamorous job, but it’s a job of service, and I really take that part of it to heart. Whether it is service to the organization, service and dedication and time away from my family to the NFL as a member of the Competition Committee, these are all things that I’ve done over my career, service these players to do everything – and I talked to all these players. I think one of the reasons why they may say this is because every player that we’ve signed I’ve sat down and said ‘Listen, of all the things I do as a general manager, every decision that we make is predicated around one thing and that’s giving you and the coaches and your teammates every opportunity to be successful on gameday. That drives every decision that we make and that’s about winning.’ And so, I think they see that, I think they appreciate that, I think they know that that’s the truth. And so, I’m not privy to what anybody said, but I would imagine that if they said positive things, I think it’s, I would hope that it’s because they know that there is genuine concern and care about these players and about our success and their individual success and our collective success as a whole.”
Will you have to step aside from the Competition Committee?
“Yes, obviously I can’t participate in that. So, yes, I’ve talked to the Commissioner about that. So, yeah, that’s the case.”
What has it been like for you to watch your wife fight this fight?
“Inspirational. You shouldn’t have done that. It’s been inspirational. She’s strong. I mean, look at her. Look at her. She’s strong, she’s faithful, she is disciplined. Our lifestyle, it has to change a little bit. So there are things that we need to do to make sure that we maintain our health, our health together as a family. But as she is going through this, it’s just been inspirational. I’m proud of her. I’m proud of you, honey. I really am. I’m thankful that we are on this journey together and that you are teaching me what you’re teaching me and we are learning what we’re learning as we walk through this. And we talk about the other side, getting to the other side of this and God has a pull on our lives and however that looks, we are open to his guidance and we are walking through this together and we are asking God for his guidance and direction, so that wherever we get and whenever we get to the other side, we can be what it is that he’s called us to be. But, man, I’m just – I’m awed sometimes about how strong and faithful she is and beautiful and smart and all those other things that she is, but this has been something. And to watch her work through this and all the different things that she’s doing to work on her healing and Wholeness has just been impressive and very inspirational.”
When did your wife get the diagnosis?
“End of September. And I will say this, listen, we’re healthy folks, we’ve got a healthy lifestyle. We found out – and again, I’m not going to go into too much detail – but she found out on an annual mammogram. So, any women, I would encourage you if you haven’t gotten an annual mammogram, go get it. The men in the room, if you haven’t gotten your prostate examined or – we don’t like to go into that office and have to cough or hear him go get that glove, but do it. It’s important because as nasty a disease as cancer is, it’s a disease that we can overcome. But, you have to get on it. So, thankfully, she just had her annual physical and that’s how we found out about it in September and we’ve been moving ever since. So, I would encourage everyone to make sure that you are getting your annual exams and to make sure that you stay up on your health.”
G DAVID QUESSENBERRY
Texans Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith is taking a leave of absence from the team while his wife battles cancer. What kind of thoughts do you have on what he’s going through?
“I know he’s going through a really tough situation that’s really hard on the person going through it but also really hard on their family. I can just imagine the stress that puts on him along with the stress of being a GM in the most competitive business in the world. I wish him so well. I’m praying for him, praying for his family, praying for his wife and look forward to when he comes back.”
Reports say that Head Coach Bill O’Brien will be back next year. What does that mean to you?
“I’m excited. I’m excited for next year. I’m excited for getting back here and getting 2018 going, rolling and getting this taste out of our mouth.”
What do you hope to accomplish this offseason now that you’re healthy?
“I’m just excited to go through an offseason without taking chemo. That’ll be nice.”
Now that the season is over, do you take a step back and appreciate the fact you returned to the field and what this year has been like for you personally?
“Yeah, absolutely. I’m really proud of what I was able to do this year, the way we were working at the end of the season. I feel great and I’m excited for what’s next.”
NT/DE D.J. READER
What do you think next season will be like when everybody is healthy?
“I think we can be great. I think we can be real good, be the best and I think it’s a big road to look forward too.”
What were your thoughts on the news about Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith?
“He’s in my prayers, his wife and his family. I want to wish them the best with this upcoming process and I know they’re going to fight and fight hard and (they’re) just in my prayers. I’m praying for them.”
What do you think about reports of Head Coach Bill O’Brien returning?
“I love Billy O. I love him. I love him as a coach, I love him as a person. He’s a great guy. I’m excited.”
Are you excited that to continue your rehab process?
“I’m really excited. Just rehab and get back healthy. Should be back pretty soon.”
What do you think you established in your first year as a starter?
“I think I just enjoy playing the game of football and having fun playing. I think I just really love playing with my teammates and I’m excited and to come back and play with them again next year.”
Do you think this defense can be special next year?
“Yeah, I think when everybody’s healthy we can be really special. It’s not an excuse when everybody’s not healthy but it’s going to be fun to see what we can do when everybody is healthy.”
What is it that players love about Head Coach Bill O’Brien?
“It’s the way he is, a players’ coach and his character. He gives you a hard time but he respects the process and the preparation it takes to be a great player. He does a good job of showing you that and having fun with you out there.”
Was Head Coach Bill O’Brien any different this year compared to more successful years?
“No, he wasn’t any different. It’s frustrating this year, it is. But last year he was the same guy, same coaching guy. He’s going to coach the same (and) you can see that. He’s never going to give up on coaching. That’s what you respect about him, you respect the fun he has, the mentality he has when it comes to the game of football.”
What do you think of the way some younger guys stepped in for you?
“I think they did a great job. They did a really good job and really embodied that next man up mentality and went in there and did it. I was happy to see them go out there and play well.”
DE J.J. WATT
What do you think about 2018 with all the people you have coming back?
“I’m excited. I’m very excited. It’s a new year, obviously. 2017 was a very unfortunate year – a lot of injuries, a lot of things going wrong. Very excited, very excited about the future ahead, obviously. It’s a good to have a quarterback and looking forward to moving forward and having a great year.”
Where are you with your rehab?
“I’m great. I’m doing really well. Very pleased with the progress. I look at it one of two ways; you can either sulk, you can whine, you can complain or you can move forward and you can have optimism and you can move forward with excitement. And, that’s what I’m doing. I’m very excited about the future. Obviously, have been injured the last two years. Disappointed by it, but not going to let it define who I am or what I’m about. Very, very excited coming out and looking forward to getting back to being even better than I was before.”
When you heard the news about Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith and his wife, what were your thoughts?
“Thoughts are with him, obviously. It’s very difficult for somebody to have to go through that. I think a lot of us probably know in some way, shape or form someone that has been affected by something like that, so everyone understands and wishes him and her absolutely nothing but the best.”
What are your thoughts on Head Coach Bill O’Brien’s return?
“I don’t know anything about any of that…”
What do you think about playing for Head Coach Bill O’Brien again?
“I think, obviously, it’s a tough year. Went through a whole lot of tough stuff. Wanted a chance to go out there and compete and win. Looking forward to that in the future.”
What do you think this team is capable of doing with everyone healthy next year?
“I think that we are capable of doing great things. We all have to stay healthy. We all have to do our job and play well, obviously. There are so many ifs in that statement, it’s hard to make it a definitive statement. But, I think we have the pieces that you have to … I’ve always sat here and thought, especially during this season, because this season obviously was very difficult with all the injuries and everything we went through – what if this, what if that. Then you look to the future and people say what if this, you have been hurt the last two years. What if you get hurt again? You can always look at life in a negative mindset like that. That’s the worst possible way to look at life. You have to look at it in a positive mindset. I look forward to what can happen. What is possible and what we can accomplish if we all go out there and do our jobs. That’s what gets me excited. That’s what gets me out of bed every day. That’s what gets me to work my hardest every single day is what this team is capable of and what we can do with these guys and it’s really exciting.”
We know you have always been driven, but does sitting out two seasons make your drive even higher?
“I think I’ve gone through a whole lot of phases over the last two years. I’ve gone through disappointment and depression of missing a year. I’ve gone through the excitement of working to come back and then I’ve gone through the hurt and heartbreak of missing another year. But, I think the thing that I have learned through it all is that no matter what your mindset is the No. 1 thing that gets you through everything. For me it’s my mindset moving forward, it’s the excitement, it’s the ambition, it’s the drive, it’s the fire. Every day I come in here I’m excited and I can feel my leg getting stronger. I can feel myself getting stronger. I can see the guys around me getting stronger. I watch Deshaun (Watson) work. I watch all these guys work, Whitney (Mercilus). It gives you that motivation that little climb day-by-day. You’re not going to get to the top of the mountain in one swoop. You have to climb step-by-step to get up there. All I’m doing is trying to take one step at a time.”
What is this team capable of?
“We are capable of great things. We are capable of doing what everybody wants us to do, but we have to do it one day at time. It’s not going to happen today. It’s not going to happen tomorrow. It’s going to happen over the course of this whole offseason, next season. But like I said, it’s not going to happen unless we have the right mindset. It’s not going to happen if we are sulking or if you whining or complaining or wondering what if this, what if that. All it’s going to take is day-to-day work. There are going to be a lot of days where it doesn’t look exciting, it doesn’t look fun, it doesn’t look like we are making a lot of progress, but it’s just one day stacking on top of another.”
What do you think about Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel receiving requests to be interviewed for head coaching positions?
“I think he’s obviously a worthy candidate to get interviews and things like that. He’s played in the league, he’s coached in the league. He’s done a good job. I think it’s expected.”
You have spent a lot more time than you normally would with your quarterback this year for obviously reasons in the rehab room. How much better do you feel like you know him and have confidence in the guy that he is and the player that he is?
“It’s been good. We are in there every day. It’s just the day-to-day, like I said. There are a lot of days that we have fun, we’re dancing around, learning a lot of new lyrics that I didn’t know before. It’s good. I think the thing that you can see is there’s a confidence there. When you have more and more and more guys with that confidence, with that idea that success is on the horizon that the best is yet to come, that’s when it starts to permeate throughout the whole team. You can’t just have one guy. You can’t just have two or three. You have to have that start to permeate throughout the whole team. When that starts to happen, that’s when you really have success. I think we have seen that with guys like Deshaun (Watson), Hop (DeAndre Hopkins), J.D. (Jadeveon Clowney), B-Mack (Benardrick McKinney). We have guys that expect success. I think that once we all get out there and start to really get those vibes throughout the whole squad, we are going to have a really, really good team.”
Do you think you can win a Super Bowl with QB Deshaun Watson?
“That’s my plan, yeah. Why would I be showing up every single day if it wasn’t for that? Just to see you?”
Does seeing how QB Deshaun Watson played during the early part of the season, does that give you more confidence because that was the position the team had been lacking?
“Yeah, we have won a few division titles with like 15 different quarterbacks, so if we have one quarterback who is back there who can play the way that he plays, who has the potential and has the abilities he has, of course. I think he has great potential. We are really excited to see what he can do with a full season. I’m definitely excited to have a franchise quarterback.”
What would it mean to you if you were the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award?
“I’ve said it before. That would be such an honor for the whole city, for all that people who donated, to everyone that helped out. I don’t deserve any of the awards that are given to me for that type of thing. I think that’s all to the people who donated, all the people that helped, the firefighters, the policemen, everybody who went out in boats to help, all the people that are still struggling in Houston. Those are the people that deserve the credit and the recognition. If I can just be the mouth piece for that and accept on their behalf I will do that gladly, but I want everyone to know that that credit goes out to them.”
Are there one or two guys that really impressed you that stepped up to the next level this season?
“I love my d-line guys to death. I love D.J. Reader, I love Brandon Dunn, I love those guys. I’m just excited to get back out on the field with those guys and play with them. I think Zach Cunningham is really coming into his own and been a good player this year. So, I think we have a lot of good things to build off.”
What did you think of rookie ILB Dylan Cole?
“He did good. He did good. He came out here and he played. I was busting his chops before, he came from like Northwestern Missouri City College, but he played really well on the biggest stage. I mean, he’s done a good job and I think he’s going to be a good player for us moving forward.”
ILB Dylan Cole went to Missouri State.
“I mean, I came from Central Michigan. I’m not trying to – I’m a small college guy myself.”
How is your leg and do you know when you’ll come back?
“It’s doing really, really well. We’re really pleased with the progress. Very excited about where it’s going. It’s getting stronger every single day. They let me do a little bit more and more. It’s going to be – I get to run again in a little while. I’m on track for training camp. But, my assumption is that it shouldn’t be any problem, but if it needs a couple extra weeks, whatever, we’ll take it. From my understanding and from everybody here’s understanding, the way it’s looking, everything’s going really well. There shouldn’t be any issues.”
Could you be back for OTAs?
“I’m not 100 percent sure. I honestly don’t know the answer to that. I’d like to, but I also know that I’m not going to push it. If I can, I can. If I can’t, I can’t. My goal is to come back for training camp and be ready to go. Hopefully. We’ll see.”