Head Coach Bill O’Brien
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
“I just want to open up with just a quick statement here. I just want to wish Rick Smith, and especially Tiffany Smith, all of our support and respect in the decision that Rick made. I think people that have been around us, we know the importance of family in our lives. Tiffany, as you guys heard yesterday, is going through a battle. She’s a very, very tough woman and has a great family. Just want to wish all of our support to Rick. I really respect his decision to step away from football and spend time with his family and help Tiffany with her battle. Like I said, we really wish them all the best. All the best. So, with that, I’ll open it up to questions.”
Where do things stand with you and the McNair family, and do you want to sign an extension?
“We’re having productive talks right now. We’ve had productive meetings. If you know anything about the McNairs, Mr. (Robert C.) McNair, Cal McNair, these are very, very thoughtful people, people that care about this organization, care about this city. They don’t rush into anything. They’re fantastic bosses, people of high character, high integrity. We’re having some very positive, productive talks right now.”
Are part of those talks about an extension?
“Look, I don’t really want to get into exactly what the talks are about. I would tell you this, I would say that the talks are all about doing what’s best for this organization. That’s really what it is. I really just don’t want to get into the details of everything that’s talked about because there’s a lot of things that are talked about. Like I said, they’ve been positive, very productive, a lot of ideas. I feel very positive about the direction of the discussions, but they’re ongoing.”
How important is it to you to figure out how the general manager position will be handled before deciding whether to sign an extension?
“I would say that’s part of what we’re talking about. That’s a great question. You guys always know when I think you ask great questions. I think that’s a very fair question. Again, I’m not trying to be gray with you. I can’t stand up here and tell you, like, ‘Hey, this is exactly what’s going to happen.’ I can tell you, though, that we’ve had some really good discussions. I really enjoy being the head coach here. I think we have the makings of a good football team with the core players that we have here. I really think there’s a bright future for this organization, no doubt about it. But these are all things that are being hashed out, discussed, on a daily basis.”
Will you for sure be here in 2018?
“Again, these are things that are being discussed. I feel like I will be here in 2018, but again, these are ongoing discussions that maybe we can clarify with you guys, maybe, at a later date. I’m sure we will, but this is where it’s at right now.”
You gave Quarterbacks Coach Sean Ryan permission to talk to the Browns regarding their vacant offensive coordinator position, right?
Can you talk about Quarterbacks Coach Sean Ryan and also the possibility of elevating him to offensive coordinator if you sign an extension to stay here?
“Let’s just start with the first question. I feel like Sean has a real bright future in this league. He works very hard, does a lot of different things for me. I really feel strongly about our offensive staff. Mike Devlin is a great offensive line coach. We’ve got other guys on that staff that do an excellent job. I think Sean’s goal is to call plays in the league, and that’s why I don’t personally want to stand in his way of having an opportunity to do that. Relative to moving forward and the other question that you asked, I would say there’s no way I would be able to answer that right now. Again, those are all things that are being discussed.”
Have you thought about possibly promoting Quarterbacks Coach Sean Ryan so you don’t lose him?
“Right now, look, we’ve granted permission for the Browns to talk to him. I think that’s a great opportunity for him to be able to do that if the Browns take that permission and want to bring him in for an interview. I think at least that opportunity to interview is a good opportunity for him.”
What do you think about Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel reportedly interviewing for head coaching vacancies?
“I think you guys know how I feel about Mike. We don’t want to lose Mike but these are things that happen every year. (When) you have a good staff, good core group of coaches, teams are going to come after them. Mike’s a great leader, got good knowledge of the National Football League, good knowledge of our scheme. I wish him the best with the teams that are going to interview him, but we’d love to have him back here.”
Do you want more responsibility in deciding the 53-man roster going forward?
“I think the big thing for me and I think the big thing for the McNairs, and I don’t want to speak for them, but I would just say is alignment, being aligned philosophically on what type of team we want. I am not looking for this, that or the other, I’m just looking for, moving forward with that situation, whatever Mr. McNair decides to do, just alignment is the best way for me to answer that.”
Do you feel like that wasn’t the case last year?
“Look, I think moving forward now with Rick’s decision, which I said at the beginning I have great respect for that decision, I think moving forward that’s a key part of it.”
What do you think of Bills Vice President of Player Personnel Brian Gaine and the job he did while he was with the Texans?
“Brian’s a very bright guy, works very hard, cares about this league, cares about football, has a great knowledge of both the pro and college side of things, great family guy. So, I hold Brian in high regard.”
How much are you looking forward to seeing what Texans QB Deshaun Watson can do in a full season?
“Absolutely. He’s an exciting player. He’s an even better person off the field. He’s just a very coachable guy, eager to learn, eager to get better. He’s got great poise on the field. We’re all excited about his future.”
Are you operating with the understanding that the Texans will hire a new general manager for 2018?
“It’s tough. The season ended a couple days ago. I know you guys want clarity and I’m trying to tell you like we’re having very positive discussions but I would be going down the wrong road if I started to tell you like, ‘Hey, this is exactly what’s going to happen because these are things that we’re talking about. And again, I’ll reiterate, if you know anything about Mr. (Robert C.) McNair, he’s an extremely thoughtful, caring guy. He’s a guy that really cares about this city, cares about this organization and really relative to this organization he wants two things: he wants this organization to continue to give back to the city of Houston and he wants a Super Bowl because this city deserves a Super Bowl. We have a lot of really positive discussions going on right now.”
Is the decision to hire a new general manager based on the available candidates and who would help align the organization philosophically?
“I think that all comes down to – again, it starts at the top. I think it all comes down to the direction that Mr. (Robert C.) McNair wants to head. I think he would say this, that everybody would have to agree on that direction and whichever road we wanted to travel relative to that position. I think it would have to be, and he would say this, there would have to be a collective agreement on that. That’s how I’ll answer that.”
You’ve talked about your relationship with Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio. What would you think about him as a general manager?
“Again, going back to even the Brian Gaine question, I should have said this in the beginning: these guys are under contract, so I want to make sure that you understand. I would just tell you personally how I feel about many, many people at the Patriots and many people around the league. Relative to Nick, he’s a great football guy and he’s an even better person off the field. But these guys are under contract so I don’t want to go down too much of a road here about Brian or Nick or whoever else you’re going to ask about.”
Is important the new general manager is somebody you have a relationship with so they can be in alignment with you?
“Look, I think in the end, again it goes back to my original answer. These are things that are being discussed. It’s not just about me. It’s about the whole organization. I think Rick (Smith) said it the best yesterday. One of the things that Rick talked about was putting the organization before you. It’s just like what we ask the players to do, put the team first. You have to put the organization first, and when you do that, you’re talking about Mr. (Robert C.) McNair and what direction he wants to go. These things that you’re asking me are all part of what we’re talking about.”
How important is it to continue to build the roster and the depth of the team this offseason so you can get back to where you were before this difficult season?
“I would tell you, I think every offseason is different and every offseason is critical. I think the time that you spend evaluating your own team, determining what your own team needs, evaluating your own coaching staff, evaluating every part of the organization every single year, you have to have kind of like that 360 degree review of the whole organization. I think that’s critical every single year. I really do. I can’t emphasize that enough, what is best moving forward relative to the roster, to the weight room, nutrition, the medical personnel. Everything that we do has to be reviewed and that’s basically what’s going on right now.”
Given reasonable health, how close do you think the roster is to where you want it to be?
“I would say that the big thing there is I would tell you that we do have some really good, frontline, core players. I don’t want to list them all. I think you guys can figure out what I’m saying there. We’ve got a really good, dynamic, young quarterback. I think everybody saw that in a six-game span for themselves. I definitely think that there are pieces in place for this team to be successful moving forward.”
Will Assistant Head Coach/Defense Romeo Crennel be back next year?
“Romeo – I haven’t really spoken to him at length. We’ve had a couple discussions but I fully expect him to be back next year.”
In your four years working with Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith, what did you learn about the dynamic between head coach and general manager and the give and take of it?
“I think you learn something about yourself, especially in this spot. People say until you get into that seat, you really have no idea what it’s like to be in that seat, and I think that’s the truth. I’ve been doing this for six years, two in the college level and four here, and there’s been some good things, but there’s been some things that I definitely need to improve upon. I think that I want to put that to rest that it’s out there that we didn’t communicate. I would tell you just from prepping for this press conference with you guys, I would tell you we spoke every day. I just spoke to him this morning. I didn’t really see him yesterday because we were both kind of dealing with some different things relative to the organization, obviously, but I saw him today, we had a good talk. We’ve always had good conversations, and moving forward I think it’s all about communication. It’s all about being able to grind it out together, whoever’s in that role or whatever Bob (McNair) decides to do. But I’ve always looked in the mirror and tried to think about ways that I can improve.”
What’s the one thing that stands out from this season?
“I mean, there’s a lot of things. I wouldn’t want to go down that road of ‘Hey, this one thing outweighs another thing.’ I think, obviously, like I said to you after the game, you are what your record says you are and we’ve got to really – which is what I’m saying to everybody – is we’ve really got to sit down and that’s what we’re doing and thinking about how we can be better. I can’t sit up here and say ‘There’s this thing over that thing.’ Everything’s important. I think the one thing that I’ll take from this year above all else is the professionalism of the players and the coaching staff, that they showed up every week and they work very hard and we just didn’t have a successful year. But I’ll always remember that, and that was something that I think we owe a debt of gratitude, I owe a debt of gratitude to the coaching staff and especially the players for showing up and practicing hard every week, preparing hard every week and trying to go out there and win games.”
How clear is your vision for what this team needs on the field to execute the plan you and the coaching staff have?
“Again, I think I’ll answer that this way, I believe that first thing you have to do is, like I said, look in the mirror. The vision for the things that I need to do to get better, I’m not going to go down that road with you guys because that’s still some of the things that we’re talking about, and then obviously the clear vision for where we’re headed. Those are the things that we’re talking about. But everybody in here wants what’s best for the organization. Everybody in this building. Everybody from Amy’s (Palcic) group to Kap’s (Geoff Kaplan) group to Fitzy’s (Craig Fitzgerald) group (and) on down the road. Everybody wants what’s best, and there’s a lot of great ideas that are being talked about right now and that’s kind of where we’re at.”
Can QB Deshaun Watson be back for OTAs or more like training camp?
“That’s an interesting deal. I would tell you that I think there’s a chance he could do some things in OTAs, but I would have to confirm that with you later. But he’s really doing a great job of – he’s been here every day working hard to get better and I believe he’s ahead of schedule. Relative to exactly what he could do in OTAs, I wouldn’t be able to tell you that now, but I do think that there’s a chance that he could be out there during OTAs doing something.”
Can you talk about the way that OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney stepped up this season with so many guys going down?
“I would say that we’re very proud of JD. He’s come a long way. He’s overcome injuries. He’s become, as you guys know, a top-level player in this league. I think he, just kind of talking to him at the end of the season here, I think he knows what he needs to do to try to get better in certain areas. But we really believe in him and the way that he plays the game and the type of leader that he’s become. He’s got a great personality in that locker room. He has a lot of fun playing the game. He played 16 games. He played 16 games, which I think is a huge accomplishment for him. I think, like I said, I think he’s got a bright future, a real bright future moving forward.”
Do you expect to have an active role in talking with Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mr. Robert McNair about what happens with the general manager position?
“I’m in most of these meetings, yeah. I mean, I wouldn’t say active role in whatever specifically you’re asking about, but I’m in there and we’re having really, like I said, positive, productive discussions.”
How pivotal is it that you guys look at the roster and don’t just say that we had injuries, but look at the things that need to examined, such as the offensive line and secondary?
“Very pivotal. You can’t – injuries happen, and that’s why you have to do a great job, going back to somebody asked earlier about the offseason, you have to do a great job of building the depth of your roster so that when you get down to the 53 you really feel good. Then you have to have a great practice squad because injuries happen, and if you stand up here and say that ‘Hey, the only reason why we lost is because we had guys hurt,’ then that’s really not, in my opinion, that’s not a very good statement. We’ve got a lot of things we have to look at. We did suffer a lot of injuries. We used, I think, 78 players this year. So, that’s part of it, but no, there’s a lot of things that we need to do to improve.”
How do you feel about C Nick Martin’s return and do you think this is an injury he will be able to come back from and be ready to go?
“No doubt. I know that he can come back, I just wouldn’t be able to tell you when. He’s in there right now. He’s very positive about where he’s at. Unfortunately he’s been through this type of deal before. He’s a very, very strong guy, very tough guy. He’ll do whatever he has to do to be back and he’ll be back.”
How much better can QB Deshaun Watson be now that he’ll have an offseason and a season under his belt?
“I think he would be the first to tell you that he has to be better. He’ll be better from the experience that he had, he’ll be better in his knowledge of our system, his knowledge of how the NFL works, just day-to-day schedule. Again, I go back to, I kind of said this about I think we were talking about Will Fuller (V) late in the season, but these rookies, they go from their college season, which his was as long as it could go, national championship game. Then they’re starting to get ready for a combine, which really isn’t football, it’s kind of like a tryout. And then they’re going right from the draft to rookie minicamp. There’s no time to take a breath, so now he’s got the injury to deal with, which he’s doing a great job of that, but now he can kind of, he can make his own daily schedule relative to his rehab, relative to watching tape, relative to understanding our offense better, looking at other tape from around the league. So, yeah, I think he would be the first – I don’t want to speak for him, but I would tell you that he’d be the first to tell you that he’s always looking to improve.”
How much will it help you to have had so much time with QB Deshaun Watson?
“There’s no doubt that he and I will have a very good working relationship because there’s always idiosyncrasies, whether it’s the play-caller or the quarterback, that you have to learn. How does he like this play called? How does he like the design of this play? What’s the best way to put him in a good position to make a play? I think just even down to the nitty-gritty of communication, coach-to-quarterback system. That’s the first time he’s ever had that. They don’t have that in college. Press the button, give him the play. How does that sound in his helmet? I mean, that sounds like a little thing but that’s a huge thing, especially when you’re on the road and crowd noise and how are you dealing with that? That goes even for me, like how am I speaking to him relative to communicating the play? So, I think there’s a lot of that that you can always look to improve upon.”
Do you think there will be philosophical changes throughout the organization with the absence of Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith?
“I think these are, again, I know you guys will probably get frustrated with me, but these are all things that are being discussed. I mean, everything is on the table when it comes to (changes) because that’s the way Bob (McNair) operates. He wants to hear ideas, he wants facts, he wants the truth. That’s what he wants. That’s important to him and that’s important to me and that’s important to everybody that’s involved in that discussion. That’s important to Cal (McNair). So, that’s kind of where we’re at right now.”
Will you get more time to talk to Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob McNair now since you don’t have the in-season coaching responsibilities?
“Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah, no doubt. I would tell you we’ve had several meetings.”
What would it mean to you to sign an extension and bring stability to you and the organization?
“Look, all those things are what we’re talking about right now. We all want what’s best for the Houston Texans. Really, I’m just telling you, we all want what’s best. This year was not a good year relative to what you saw on the field. We understand that. So, why is that? Well, we all share in the blame on that so moving forward, it’s not about me. It’s really not about extensions and this and that, it’s about what is best for the organization moving forward. What is best? What are the things that we need to do to get us back to the playoffs to get us to where we need to get to? That’s everything that we’re talking about right now.”
How do you approach improving the special teams unit?
“We’re talking about that right now. I mean, that’s obviously another very fair question. It was too inconsistent. We’re going to look at it. We have to look at it schematically, we have to look at it from a coaching standpoint. We’ve got to look at every facet of special teams because in order for us to get to where we get to, we have to improve that area. We’ve got to be better on special teams.”
Is there a timeframe on when you want all of this to be figured out?
“No, it’s all about just getting it right. It has nothing to do with a timeframe.”
How tough is it to deal with the uncertainty when it affects retaining and hiring coaches on the staff?
“I think when you get into this business, you realize a lot of it is year to year. That’s just the way it goes. You’ve seen coaches yesterday who were fired who had signed four-year extensions in February. So, I think everybody who is in this business realizes – I think the coaches that we have here ultimately, along with the McNairs and everybody involved here, ultimately, just wants, again, what’s best for the organization. What do we need to do to get this thing back on the winning track?”
What would it mean to you personally to know that you are going to be here for the next few years after bouncing around early in your career?
“When I met Colleen and we decided to get married and all those things, she knew what she was signing up for. Coaching is a business where you’re going to move. That’s just the way it is in most levels of coaching. But stability is always something you look for for your family. You want wants best for your family. Like I said at the beginning, that’s why I have a lot of respect for what Rick’s (Smith) doing. I mean, family’s No. 1 but relative to our job here, our job, No. 1 here, is to make sure that we’re pointing everything in the right direction to get the Texans back where they need to be.”
What would you like to see out of the next general manager relative to dealing with you and having the organization do what it takes to get back to the playoffs?
“I would tell you again, these are all things that we’re talking about right now.”
Is there any scenario at all where you are not the head coach of the Texans in 2018?
“I think, again, we’re having very positive, productive discussions. I think I told you guys a couple weeks ago how I feel about my job here, and my job right now is to sit down with the McNairs, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re having great discussions, very productive. They’re very easy to talk to. They really do a great job of working with us, with me, of listening, back and forth, a lot of great ideas. They are very thoughtful people and they run the show. These are really good discussions that we’re having and we’ll move from there.”
How tough is the offensive line situation and what do you think needs to be done there?
“Right now what our coaches are doing – I kind of want to just make sure you guys understand where we are right now – our coaches are evaluating the season, they’re watching the tape again, they’re evaluating how they did coaching-wise, they’re evaluating how their players, how their position played and from that, we’ll develop a plan for every position. So, I don’t want to just go down the road of this position. It really is every position. From who the backup quarterback’s going to be, how do we see that position all the way down to the offensive line to the secondary to special teams. Like I said, it’s like a 360-degree review of the whole thing.”
If you don’t feel that you’re aligned with who the next general manager would be, is there a scenario where you would not return?
“Again, I would tell you these are all things that we’re talking about. I think that I can’t make it clearer to you that we’re having very positive talks about the direction and where it’s headed and these are all things that are being discussed and worked out.”