General Manager Brian Gaine
GENERAL MANAGER BRIAN GAINE
“Good afternoon. Welcome and thank you for being here. It’s an honor and privilege to be the next general manager of the Houston Texans. With great humility and respect, I want to thank the McNair family for entrusting me with this great opportunity to lead and work with Coach (Bill) O’Brien and the Texans organization in building a collaborative process to help bring a winner to the Houston Texans fan base and to the City of Houston. On a personal note, I’d like to thank the Buffalo Bills organization for taking me in last year and giving me an opportunity to be their vice president of player personnel, and a special thanks to the Pegula family and to Kim and to Mr. Pegula and to Brandon Beane for that opportunity and allowing me to grow and be a member of their organization last year. In regards to a personal situation, I’d like to thank my family, my mom and my dad, my four brothers, my wife and kids for their unwavering support. Anybody that’s in football knows that there’s a lot of people behind the scenes allowing you to do what you do every day and have a chance to be successful. To my coaches in the past who helped shape me and influence my football beliefs and philosophies, a special thanks to them. To the University of Maine for giving me a chance to follow my dream and play college football, and to my mentors current and past who were instrumental in starting my football journey, influencing my football beliefs, values and principles – men such as Kirk Ferentz and Jack Cosgrove from the University of Maine, Dick Haley, (a) longtime personnel man in the National Football League who gave me my first opportunity to scout, and Bill Parcells, Hall of Fame head coach. What I would like to express to the Houston fan base and to the Texans organization is, in a collaborative effort with Coach O’Brien, what are the types of players and the type of team that we’re going to build here at the Texans? We will be intent on building a smart, tough and disciplined football team with players who love the game of football. Equally, those who respond to competition, who love to be coached and are passionate about winning. We want competitors, team players, but equally we want good people and a good locker room. Team and chemistry will be critically important to how we build this team. We want men of character who are committed to the efforts of winning on and off the field. We will be intent on building a program as much of team in every aspect of how we build our football operation. We will earn the right to win. Every day when we come in this building, we will continue to look for players who embrace the process of winning, the preparation it takes to win on Sundays and to add to the foundation of good players and good leaders who are already here in the Texans organization. It is a privilege to be entrusted with such a leadership role here at the Texans, and this will be a partnership and collaborative process with the McNairs, Coach O’Brien and the rest of the Texans organization in our quest to build a winner that our city and fan base can be proud of.”
Hall of Fame head coach Bill Parcells said you are ready for this opportunity. What makes you the right man for this job?
“With great humility, that’s kind to hear, but I have to bank on my 20 years of scouting and personnel roles that I’ve had in this business. I started at the bottom and worked my way to the top at every level of every organization that I’ve been in. I do believe, with a great amount of humility, I’ve been in five different organizations so I have a unique perspective on what it’s taken to win and what it’s taken to achieve. I’ve had a chance to play a small part in going to the playoffs and winning division titles in each of those organizations. But most importantly, I think it requires good people – people that love football and are passionate about winning. Equally, a good process. I’ve seen varying processes in terms of how to build a roster and how to build a championship-caliber team, and I hope to implement some of those things here at the Texans.”
With limited draft picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, how important do you consider the upcoming free agency period to be?
“We will pursue every avenue to improve this roster, as it relates to the draft, to free agency, to waiver claims, to trades, to practice squad steals, to tryouts, workouts. Whatever we have to do to upgrade the roster in any aspect of the operation, we’ll continue to do that. If free agency presents the opportunity for us to add a championship piece to the roster, we certainly will pursue that.”
How would you evaluate this roster right now? There’s talk that a lack of depth contributed to the lack of success last year.
“Well just a year ago, this was a back-to-back playoff-caliber roster and environment. Unfortunately, last year injuries and circumstances played into the fact that they weren’t able to achieve that same success. But in terms of building depth, I think there’s a lot of ways that you can do that. I think you can build the roster from the back end forward continually throughout the year. Equally in the latter parts of the draft, mid-round picks, late-round picks, CFA process, the college undrafted free agent process, which we’ve had success building our roster here with players, those will be critically important as well. Waiver wire claims, practice squad upgrades. We will pursue every avenue to do that. I would say that although last year it didn’t finish the way that they wanted to, my hope is to, through those aspects that I spoke about, trying to find a way to continually build depth throughout the year, throughout the offseason, whenever those opportunities arise.”
How would you evaluate the offensive line and what you guys need to do to improve it around QB Deshaun Watson?
“When you have a quarterback in place that you believe in, that you think can help you win a lot of football games, you’ve got to start to put pieces around him and pieces in place to help him succeed on the field. That’s not just with the perimeter players and the skill players, that’ll be with the offensive line. So, it’s certainly an area that we’re going to evaluate heavily here. As I get my feet wet here in the operation, knowing what we have and then studying what’s going to be available to us in the free agent market first and obviously with the draft right around the corner.”
What about your relationship with Head Coach Bill O’Brien makes you think he’s the guy that you wanted to have that relationship with and build a football team with?
“Bill O’Brien’s a great person, first and foremost. From a character standpoint, Bill is a great individual, but philosophical alignment in terms of how to build a winning football operation, a winning roster and build a championship environment and culture as well. What you see on Sundays obviously is the result of player acquisition and coaching, but there’s a process that’s involved in terms of getting to Sunday. Bill and I are very philosophically aligned in terms of how to do that, how to build a right program, how to build a right culture, and it’s not just the football roster, but it’s also the football operation and that requires every aspect that touches the game and touches the locker room. All those aspects of the football operation, Bill and I are philosophically aligned in terms of how to run it and how to do it.”
How much was QB Deshaun Watson a factor in taking this position and what do you think his future is?
“He’s a talented young man, a talented young player but he’s a better person. I think it’s the best compliment that I can give Deshaun, just going through the scouting process last year, as it relates getting to know the player, getting to know the prospect. He’s certainly a foundational piece for us in terms of what we can build around and it certainly would be an advantage for any general manager coming into a team to have a quarterback in place that you believe in, that you know that can help you win football games.”
How much of a priority is it to sign OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney to a long-term extension?
“It’s certainly on the horizon. Right now, I’m in an evaluative period in terms of studying the roster and studying the team and learning the players in terms of how they performed. So, that requires 16-game film study, it requires a lot of other research and knowledge that I’m trying to gain right now, but certainly a player that’s valued by the Texans organization, and in time, as we go through that process, we’ll arrive to that conclusion.”
Since you were involved with the draft and free agency process for four seasons here, who are the players you’re most proud of that you recommended?
“Without getting into specifics, I would say that scouting truly is a collaborative process. What I mean by that is that there are a lot of aspects that go into the preparation before you arrive to make that decision. So, I would say the synergy that we’re going to have between the coaches and the player personnel department in terms of the types of players that we’re going to go look for, that will be a unified effort between the player personnel department and the coaching side, and it always has been in my experiences. So, I like to think that every pick that we made was a Texans organizational pick and maybe not a specific person. There are scouts who scout specific players, but at the end of the day, there’s a lot of aspects that go into the player acquisition process. Those are Texans picks, those aren’t Brian Gaine’s picks. Those are Texans signs, not Brian Gaine’s signs.”
Did you use your opinions on players as part of your job interview process?
“We did discuss players, as it relates to the interview process. We discussed players from the past of where I’ve been and the current roster and some of the thoughts that I had. Obviously I’d been gone for about eight-to-10 months, just getting brushed back up on how the guys exactly performed this year is the priority No. 1 for me, so that can impact decisions in free agency, in the draft. But that was part of the discussion, just my general familiarity with the roster already. In a way that creates an advantage to get me further down the road as we make our decisions.”
What have you prioritized since you’ve gotten the job?
“Evaluation. Player evaluation, knowing exactly what we have on the team so that we can make decisions as it relates to what’s available in free agency and then what’s available in the draft. No. 2, from a football operational standpoint, it’s all-encompassing. A lot of meetings, a lot of calendaring, a lot of scheduling, a lot of preparation. For example, the Senior Bowl is right around the corner. We’re obviously coaching in that, so that’s something that we’re getting involved with significantly in terms of our preparation. But obviously you have free agency around the road, you have the combine, we have our February meetings, we have our April meetings. All these things we’re putting together right now and mapping out a plan and calendar together in a unified effort.”
When you met with the search committee, was there any discussion of whether Executive Vice President Rick Smith would have any future role with the team and if so, if whether he would have any influence over the football operations?
“I think Mr. (Bob) McNair addressed those with his comments and right now, I think we’re all just hoping for the best and praying for the best as it relates to Tiffany, his wife, and a speedy recovery.”
You’ve been behind the scenes for a long time building to this moment. What’s it like to now be front and center and to be in this position?
“It’s certainly a humbling experience when I think about the journey from where I started as a scouting assistant 20 years ago to where I am right now. But there’s two things I’m going to rely on, and that’s just the experiences that I’ve had in the business in five different organizations. I’d like to think that I’ve touched many different aspects as it relates to being prepared for this moment. But there won’t be a decision that I would make without being in a collaborative partnership with Coach (Bill) O’Brien and the coaching staff. Every decision we make will be made on two things – what’s best for the franchise and does it help us win. They’ll be Texans decisions, they won’t be Brian Gaine’s decisions.”
How much work is to be done, especially after having gone to Buffalo and seeing how they operate as well as the other organizations you’ve been with, and where in this organization can it improve?
“First and foremost, there’s two aspects I think about. I think about the roster right now. How are we going to improve the roster to create a championship-caliber performance on Sundays? No. 2, from a football operational standpoint, I’m in a leadership role now where I have to be a consensus builder and provide a unified vision for the whole operation. But if we’re going to ask the coaches and the players to reach levels of a first-class performance, then that’s going to be asked of the rest of the operation as well. So, that’s my task as well, to make sure that we’re a first-class operation, football operation. Not just on the team and not with the types of players that we bring in, but also within the football operation.”
Are you going to have the assistant coaches out there with you scouting players like they’ve done in the past to help build the vision like you’ve spoken about?
“We’ve got a great personnel staff and scouts that are out on the road right now as we speak that are covering the NFLPA game, the East West game, the Senior Bowl’s on the horizon. Obviously, the scouts are all out through the fall. Where you get the coaches involved now is really through the winter and then the early spring. As we come through the all-star games, we’ll begin to assign our coaches player evaluation responsibilities as well. And then as we move through our meetings in February and April, it’ll be my job and Coach (Bill) O’Brien’s job to consensus build that information and the evaluation process so that when we put a grade on a guy, we put a ranking on a player, that’s a Texans grade, that’s not a coaching grade, that’s not a personnel department grade, that’s a Texans grade.”
What do you think about Senior Vice President of Football Administration Chris Olsen and how important is he to what you want to get done, especially with the salary cap and free agency?
“I have high respect and regard for Chris (Olsen), both as a professional and as a person. I’m looking forward to reestablishing my relationship with Chris. Equally, Chris is – the best compliment I could pay Chris is that he’s a better person. The good news about coming back in this place is just working with Coach (Bill) O’Brien directly and people like Chris Olsen, is there are a lot of good people here. That part is very important because we spend a lot of time together, we’re fully committed, we’re spending hours to try to build a winner here. I enjoy coming to work every day because of the people that are in the building.”
With your scouting experience, how much do you want to see people in person that you’re going to invest in? Obviously, you can’t see everybody, but how much do you want to see people in person and where does your evaluation of a prospect start?
“Luckily, this past fall, my responsibilities when I was with the Bills was heavily involved with the pre-draft process. So, I’ve seen a very good amount of prospects right now as it relates to our draft board. So, I feel like I’m ahead of the game in that regard. Physically seeing the players, I think, is critically important, too, because ultimately the draft is a projection business. So, you’re looking at young men that might be 21, 22, 23 years old and you’re trying to project what they can be down the road for you at age 24, 25, 26. So, seeing players physically certainly is impactful as it relates to the evaluation. This week, especially these three weeks where we can physically see these players in competitive environments at the NFLPA, the East West game, at the Senior Bowl next week, we’re going to have a very unique circumstance for ourselves because we’re coaching in it. So, in terms of accessibility and getting to know the players and scouting these guys, physically is one thing, but equally the interview process is critically important. Facing up with these guys to know exactly what their football character is, what their personalities are like, what their personal character’s like and to get to know these guys in a different way rather than just doing a school visit.”
Houston Texans Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mr. Robert C. McNair said you could bring a couple people in now if you wanted to. Can you do that or is everybody under contract and will you wait to make changes until after the draft when contracts expire?
“The best thing about this, professionally speaking, I’ve been through these changes in the past similarly to this and what I would say is I am deep in an evaluative phase of that process right now. I’m looking forward to meeting the scouts and seeing them. I know a lot of them. There’s maybe a few new faces, and building a working relationship with them. As it relates to that, I haven’t been able to see the scouts just yet. No. 1, because they’re traveling, on the road, and No. 2, the weather. The weather’s been tough for some of the local guys to be here, but I’m looking forward to rebuilding that relationship. It’s critical to have the relationship with your scouts because communication is a premium and my job is to be the final filter and consensus builder in terms of how we rank the players and how we put the players on the board and how we feel about these guys and ultimately putting a vision on the players. That’s very important, so I need to listen to the scouts, I need to process that information, and the only way I’m going to be able to do that is to have a good, strong relationship with them.”
Why did you leave the Texans for the Bills last year and did you want to leave?
“It’s rare when you have the chance to combine personal and professional. I had an opportunity to do that last year when I went to Buffalo for a bigger title and a larger level of responsibility. Equally, it was a chance for me to get back closer to home and be closer to family as it related to that. Obviously, when this opportunity came up, it was a tremendous one. But the opportunity to go back east and get closer to my folks and my family and my brothers, and combining that with the professional responsibility, was a hard decision but ultimately one that I felt was best for me and my family.”
There are a few openings on the coaching staff already and Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel could land a heading coaching job. How confident are you in the ability to replace him?
“With respect to your question, I would have to defer to Coach (Bill) O’Brien because I’m so fresh right now in the role. I know Coach O’Brien is further down the road as it relates to where that process is at the moment.”
Special teams has been an issue here for years. How much can you speak to your plans to get special teams back on track?
“Through the scouting process, that’s going to be a point of emphasis for us. I think there’s some factors and some business rules that you can put into your process in terms of how you evaluate and how you grade players and how you visualize those players fitting on your roster. As it relates to fourth down play, there’s really three phases in terms of how I look at a player: what do they do on first down, what do they do on third down and what do they do on fourth down. As it relates to fourth down, we’re going to be looking for players with dominant traits. Guys that have physical, standout traits. Those are the guys that usually resonate and can make impactful plays on special teams for us. Third-day players, the undrafted free agent process, those are the guys that are fighting for special teams jobs as it relates to spots on the 53-man roster. Equally, the height, weight and speed. As it relates to players in those areas of like the CFA process, the late-round players, (we’re) looking for guys with height, weight and speed who can impact special teams because of those dominant traits.”
How badly did you want this job knowing you had been with the organization previously and now you have the power to make the changes you had visualized in your head?
“It’s start with two places. No. 1, the McNair family. Great amount of support to help us do our jobs at the highest level that we possibly can, so I’m looking forward to that aspect. No. 2, Coach (Bill) O’Brien. Having the opportunity to be philosophically aligned with a partner who you can build a collaborative effort with in terms of building a winning process certainly enticed me. But equally, I built a life here as well in terms of being here for three years, family, friends. It’s a pretty seamless reacquisition for me and my family to come back here, but from a professional standpoint there are a whole lot of positives and two of them are the McNair family and coming back and working with Coach O’Brien.”
When you are making your decisions on personnel on offense, will it be what’s best for QB Deshaun Watson?
“We will make decisions in terms of impacting our roster not just for one position, but it’s clear that we have to put some players around him to help him succeed. My philosophy will be this: No. 1, you are going to pursue everything you can to try and get a quarterback. I feel like there’s one here that we can build a future with. No. 2, the offensive line and the defensive line are critical. We will always be looking for players to help us impact as it relates to winning performances in offensive and defensive linemen. The running game. The running game’s critical offensively speaking, both for the impact it has in the running game, controlling down and distance, but also because of its impact on the passing game. If you can run the ball, it’s only going to help the passing game. No. 4, we’re going to be looking for explosive athletes. Not just players that we can surround Deshaun with, but we’re going to be looking for explosive athletes, players that can make plays in space and equally deter plays that are made in space. No. 5, we’re going to be looking for pressure players. Guys that can get to the quarterback. Equally, players on offense that can stress the defense vertically and horizontally relating to speed. No. 5, coverage players. Looking for guys that can run and cover and stretch the perimeter. Obviously, vertically stretch the defense. Then, the last one, is fourth down and special teams players. We alluded to it earlier. That, to me, will be the formula and the guiding principles of how we’ll build the roster.”
What gives you the confidence that you and Head Coach Bill O’Brien can produce a collaborative effort moving forward and will have that kind of relationship?
“Well, having been here for three years and knowing what Coach O’Brien’s able to do, I certainly have an insightful feeling for what Coach O’Brien is able to accomplish. We’ll continue to get him good players. He’ll continue to coach the team at a high level. And between the two of us, hopefully we’ll be building a championship roster for years to come.”
How much will improving the secondary be a point of emphasis?
“That’s another area right now where I’m deep in evaluation to see what we currently have and what we don’t have so that we can address those issues as it relates to making any decisions in free agency or the draft. We do have some free agent decisions to make at that position and trying to mesh a blend and a vision as it relates to that acquisition process as it relates to free agency and or the draft or even both.”
Did you really have to bring Buffalo weather with you?
“I did. I was telling a story upstairs earlier, I was digging igloos with my kids the other day. That’s how deep the snow was. But, I do have a lot of gratitude and thanks for the Bills organization for giving me a chance to grow and learn this year.”
In Buffalo, you guys made some trades and at the time people questioned this in the new regime, and they all worked out. Seeing how those worked out, would that make you more likely to make deals seeing that could happen?
“When opportunities arise, whatever avenue that we will have to make the roster better, we will pursue it. When those opportunities arose in Buffalo to make those trades, it was done both with a short-term and long-term impact. Those decisions, I thought, proved fruitful for us for two reasons. One, when we made those trades we were able to get some players back in the short term. For the long term, we were able to collect draft capital as it relates to building the roster for the future. And they were early picks, not just late picks. The other part of that is when there’s changes in coaching staffs, sometimes there’s scheme change and sometimes there’s system change as it relates to those current players fitting into those schemes and new systems. Where those players went, it may have been a better fit for them, and in return we got the draft capital to help build for the future. So, my goal will be to pursue all avenues to improve our roster and turn over every stone to help us build a winner.”