Head Coach Bill O’Brien
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
What did you think of Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert C. McNair’s comments?
“I’ve said many, many times over the last year that I respect everybody’s opinion. My personal opinion is, and I know it’s the opinion of the organization, I really believe this, players have a right to express themselves. We have very smart players that feel strongly about social issues. I believe in that. I believe in our players’ right to express themselves and I respect everybody’s opinion in the matter, and that’s really all I have to say about it. That’s what I’ve said all along. It is what it is.”
Is this ever frustrating that the message of what the players are trying to do sometimes gets lost in the discussion?
“I definitely agree with the premise of your question. I believe that we can all, all of us, come together – owners, coaches, players – all of us can come together to put out a better message. This thing is something that’s running down the tracks right now and we’re all having a hard time getting a handle on it. Our players do a tremendous amount in the community. I mean, I can list probably six things off the top of my head – start with the food bank, YMCA, schools, the flag football program, afterschool programs, probably should have started with Hurricane Harvey and everything that obviously J.J. (Watt) did and all the team did for Hurricane Harvey. I mean, we do so many things in the community – and that’s the one thing I do want to make clear, too, is I think we need to talk more about what the McNairs have done for the City of Houston, what their family has done for the city, even before they bought the team. The philanthropy that they’ve shown the City of Houston is incredible. And so, I just think that, I think your premise of your question is a really good one. I think if we could all just get together – I’ve always said that here at the owners’ meeting – I don’t understand why owners, coaches, players don’t get together and talk about these issues. We don’t seem like we ever really get anything resolved at the owners’ meeting. Once in a while we get a few things resolved on a rule basis or whatever it is. So, I think it’s a good question, but that’s kind of my opinion on it.”
If it was your owners’ meeting and you could get players here, what would you want to discuss?
“One of the things that I’ve learned in this league is that it’s very important to listen to everybody’s opinion. Everybody has an opinion. You have a lot of really intelligent people in this league, starting with the owners. All these owners are so successful because of their work ethic and all the things that they’ve done in their life to get to this point. And then you have the coaches, all of us, that’s one of the things that’s always stood out to me is the intelligence of the coaches and all the different ideas that the coaches have when I sit in on the meetings and listen to what they say. And then the players. My time in the league, when you reach this level as a player, with the exception of a very few, all of these players are very, very bright guys that have well-educated opinions. So, I think if you got, you couldn’t get every player, but if you had a select group of players in the room with coaches and you talked about everything – I’m talking about social issues, rules on the field, what is a catch? Well, let’s bring the players in. I know that the league did that, but we all have our interpretation of what a catch is. I don’t think anybody knows what a catch is anymore. And so, I think if you had a group like that, I think you’d get a lot of things solved. It would take a while. It would probably be a longer meeting, it would probably be a week rather than three days or two-and-a-half days, but I’ve always advocated for something like that.”
What is the update on QB Deshaun Watson?
“Deshaun (Watson), I would say, is ahead of schedule, but there’s still a lot of work to put in. So, he’s unfortunately but fortunately, he hurt the other knee in college, so he understands the rehab process. So, he has a great idea of how he feels, how his knee feels because he’s been through it before. He knows the stages that he needs to get to to be able to get back on the field. I’m not going to give away exactly where he is right now, but I think he’s definitely ahead of schedule and hopefully he can – everybody’s asking me, ‘What can he do during the spring?’ Well, we don’t know yet. We don’t know that yet because the spring’s a nine-week program. The first two weeks of the nine-week program it’s strength and conditioning and meetings. Then the next three weeks is a little bit of field work, but not much more than the first two weeks and then the last four weeks is basically practice without pads. So, we’ll see where he’s at at that point. But, I feel like he’s doing well.”
What’s it going to take for you and QB Deshaun Watson to pick up where you left off when he got hurt?
“This is something where we all have to get beyond last year. Last year’s over for all of us. 2017 is over and he has to, when we start again on April 16, he has to start from scratch. He’s got to go right back to the basics of the offense, his own fundamentals, as much as he can work on that. We have to build it up again because it was six games. Obviously a 16-game season, that’s not even half the season, which is a good thing in some ways, but in some ways it’s also where ‘OK, look, that was great, but all these teams, especially in our division, have watched all those plays. They’re studying those things and we have to start from scratch and start building a new offense.’ Our offense is totally different now than what it was and we’ve really worked hard this offseason and we’re still working on it, it’s not really done yet. So, we all have to start from scratch.”
Are you confident that QB Deshaun Watson can pick up where he left off last year based on what you know about him mentally?
“I have great confidence in Deshaun Watson. I have great confidence in the type of person that he is, the type of work ethic he has. I’ve said it time and time again, I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to coach him. I love the kid. On and off the field, he’s just done a great job so far coming into this league. But, there’s a long way to go. There’s a long way to go and he knows that and on top of that you have an injury he’s got to rehab from. He’s doing a great job of rehabbing, but we have to kind of start it from the bottom up again.”
This offense is built to QB Deshaun Watson’s strengths, but do you do things differently than you’ve always done it and learn with him to use his strengths?
“There’s no doubt that we have to think about how we’re teaching this offense. We have. This is what I’m saying when we’ve put in a lot of work because the way that we teach the offense now and the progression in which we put the running game in, in which we put all the facets of the passing game in is different than what we’ve done before because we have a quarterback in Deshaun that can do so many different things. It’s hard to label – he’s an excellent passer, obviously he’s got great athletic ability, he’s got a very unique way of playing the game and so we have to design it around his strengths. But also these other guys – DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller (V), Lamar Miller, D’Onta Foreman, we’ve got new linemen, the chemistry of those linemen is going to be big. We’re going to have at the very least probably have four new starters. (Julién) Davenport may start off at left tackle. We’ll give him that opportunity, see what type of shape he comes back in. You’ve got (Zach) Fulton, Seantrel Henderson, (Senio) Kelemete, Nick Martin – we’ve got a lot of work to do with the offensive line, that takes a long time. And so the way we’re teaching it, the way we’re installing the offense is good for all of us because it’s a little bit new for all of us and I think it’s going to be a very unique spring because of that. It’s like a new beginning.”
Can T Derek Newton play?
“Derek is rehabbing. I would say he’s on schedule, but he probably, I wouldn’t say that he’d be able to do a ton of things this spring, but he’s definitely – nobody’s worked harder than Derek Newton to try to get back to where he’s at. He’s a very – I’m glad you brought him up – he’s a hardworking guy that, I mean, that guy’s been in there every single day at 6 a.m. five days a week. He probably comes in on the weekends on his own. I would say he’s probably not able to do a bunch of field work – he can rehab-wise, but not in team periods and things like that.”
Can you talk about giving T Julién Davenport a chance at left tackle and why you like him at that position and what you saw at the end of last year?
“I thought when he went in there, for a rookie coming from a small school, he’s got a great attitude, very business-like, very serious guy. And I thought when he played, he played some tight end, he played some tackle, tackle at the end of the year, I thought he held his own. I thought he held his own. He’s a big guy. He’s got excellent length, athletic ability. Look, none of these positions are nailed down, but he’ll be given the opportunity to play left tackle.”
Isn’t center nailed down?
“We have to have guys up front that are versatile.”
Are a lot of the players versatile from what we’ve seen?
How’s RB D’Onta Foreman doing in his recovery and what do you see his role being?
“He’s another guy that I think is progressing well. He’s been in there every day working hard. It’s a tough injury for a young running back, but he’s been working very hard. So, I think he’ll be on schedule to – I don’t think he’ll be able to do much on the field in the spring, but I think he’ll be ready for training camp.”
Would you like to see RB D’Onta Foreman take on more work?
“I think just like everybody else he’s got to earn that, but he showed a lot of promise last year before he got hurt. I mean, he got hurt on a 50-yard touchdown run. I really like the way he plays the game. I like the physical aspect he brings to the game. I like a lot of what he does. But, like I said about Deshaun (Watson), last year’s over. We’ve got to move on. This is a new year, everybody’s got to start fresh and earn their stripes, earn their opportunity to go out there and do it.”
Would you be comfortable with RB D’Onta Foreman as a starter?
“Oh, yeah. It’ll be a battle. And you know, I think at that position, we’ve always kind of had a little bit of a committee. So, Lamar (Miller) will play, D’Onta will play, just like we did last year when they were both in.”
So you think RB D’Onta Foreman will be ready for the start of training camp?
“I think so.”
When you knew that S Tyrann Mathieu was coming in, a guy that has that versatility, were you immediately thinking about how you could use him?
“When we started talking to him, what stood out to me was his football intelligence and all the different ways that he was used in Arizona. He was obviously a safety, he was a nickel, he played a little bit of corner. I mean, he’s very versatile. He’s a really good blitzer. Good ball skills. I think he has 11 or 12 interceptions. Ball-hawk, tries to punch the ball out. That’s what I like about him. He makes plays on the football. That’s what I like about him. But the big thing that stood out to me was his passion and love for the game. All he wanted to do was talk about football, how he was used in Arizona, how he sees our defense. So, I was just very impressed with him, having not really known him, I’ve just seen him on film, but getting to know him and then when he came here, sitting down, having some meetings with him, this guy’s going to be a real good guy in our locker room. Some of our players know him real well and they’re looking forward to playing with him.”
Does S Tyrann Mathieu’s football IQ make it easier for the guys around him?
“I think so. I mean, I think he’s a guy that definitely, he talked to us a little bit about how he was trained in Arizona, how early he would come in during the week to meet with his position coach (and) coordinator, go over the game plan because he was used in so many different spots. And you can tell that from how he speaks about football and how he recognizes personnel and formations and how much he studies film. So, I think that’s going to be something that really helps us. Big thing to me though, he was a good guy. I really enjoyed getting to know him when he was in for his signing and all that. I think he’s really going to help in a lot of different ways.”
Did you talk to former Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians before the Texans signed S Tyrann Mathieu?
What did former Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians tell you about S Tyrann Mathieu?
“Coach Arians – you guys know I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, I miss him this year at these meetings – but he said to me, ‘I’ll stand on that table 10 times for Tyrann Mathieu.’ So, that meant a lot to me and after meeting him, I can see why.”
Can you give us an injury update on DE J.J. Watt?
“J.J.’s doing really well. J.J. has a great attitude. He’s a very, very positive guy. He’s been in a great mood the whole offseason about where he’s at. Obviously working very hard. Just like I’ve always said about J.J., I would just tell you that watching him and seeing him in the building every day, I would never bet against J.J. Watt. J.J. Watt is a generational player in this league and he’ll be back. He’s going to be back and he’ll be back to full strength and I just watch the way he is, that’s why I feel so good about him. He’s very positive about where he’s at. He knows exactly what he needs to do to get back. I think it’s a little bit different than another injury maybe that he had. He just has a real good idea of where he’s at and what he needs to do to get back. He’s working very, very hard.”
What can you do to help the wide receivers stay healthy?
“Some of it was – what are you going to do to protect against a guy that jumps up, lands on the ground and breaks his ribs? What are you going to do for a concussion? So the injury deal, you have to really dig down, for every position, on what exactly the injury was. Now, soft tissue injuries and shoulder injuries and Achilles and things like that, that’s where Luke Richesson and his crew is really going to come into play. I mean, they have a very unique way of how they approach each player. I’ll just give you an example, they give the player basically a mobility test and they can look at the player during this test and figure out, ‘You’re deficient over here, you have a problem over here, we’ve got to work on this.’ I think that with every position, having Luke and his crew will really help decrease injuries. But my point is, last year – I’m going to try my best not to refer to last year as much as I can, but when it comes to injuries last year, there were a lot. We lost three tight ends in the first game of the year to concussions. There’s not much Luke’s going to be able to do about that other than strengthening the neck muscles and things like that. But then we had soft tissue injuries, that’s where Luke (comes in). We’ve studied that and we feel like Luke’s going to make a big difference when it comes to those things.”
Where is QB Deshaun Watson in his rehab?
“I know he’s ahead of schedule. He’s been in there every day, working hard. I was telling John, unfortunately, but also fortunately, he hurt the other knee in college, so he has a real good idea of how to go about the rehab and he knows the different stages, the different goals he has to meet along the way. I believe that he feels real good about where he is right now and then we’ll just take it one day at a time during the offseason program because again, like I was telling John, it’s a nine-week program. The first two weeks, you’re not really doing anything on the field. The next three weeks, you can do a little bit on the field and then the last four weeks is where you’ve really got to see because that’s when you’re practicing, which is OTAs with no pads on. Maybe he would be able to do some things there. But we’re not in a rush on that, but I do think there’s going to be some things he can do throwing-wise, probably not in team drills, but maybe he can do some seven-on-seven, some of our passing drills to continue to work on the timing with the receivers, especially.”
Did getting to see CB Aaron Colvin on the Jacksonville Jaguars the last couple of years help in your evaluation of him?
“Yeah, definitely. Obviously going against him for a while now, two games a year, I mean, tough guy, smart player, quickness. He’s able to play man-to-man, he’s smart in the zone. So, we were excited about having an opportunity to get him.”
How interesting is this division with former defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel now serving as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans and your good friend Doug Marrone serving as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars? Are there not a lot of secrets going around?
“The thing about Doug and I, it’s very rare that we talk about football. When we were working together, obviously we talked a lot about football. But now it’s more about the family and our wives are real close. There’s just not a lot of football talk there and then with Mike, look, I tell everybody when you get into this profession and you’re in the NFL and you have really good assistants that start moving up the ladder, eventually you’re going to end up coaching against them. Now, you know, it’s in the division and all that. That’s just the way it went. There’s not much we can do about it. Both those guys and now with Frank Reich in Indianapolis, it’s a tough division. It’s always been tough, that’s my opinion, but now I just think with the quarterbacks in the division and the players and the coaches, I think it’s very, very, very tough. It’s going to be a very competitive division. We’re all chasing Jacksonville, make sure you put that in your article. Bold. We’re all chasing them.”
Are you happy with how free agency played out before the NFL Draft?
“Yes. I felt like we had to improve certain areas of the team and we felt like we did that. Now, if you have basically a checklist of areas that you have to improve and you get most of those areas covered in free agency, now you can move and concentrate on other things in the draft. So, we felt like with the offensive line, the secondary, special teams, we felt like we really added some good players, good guys, tough guys. We’re excited about it.”
What is the health status on the injured players from last year?
“They’re doing well. Deshaun (Watson) is ahead of schedule, working very, very hard, in there every single day. I said this to somebody else, unfortunately he hurt the other knee in college but fortunately, because of that, he knows where he needs to be at every stage of the process. I think he’s ahead of schedule. We’re not going to rush him back on the field, but I think he’s where he needs to be right now. J.J. Watt’s doing great. He’s very positive, very upbeat about where he’s at. He’s obviously working very hard and like I tell everybody, I mean, he’s a great player that will be back at full strength.”
Are you excited going forward?
“Very excited. I love coaching this team. I really like our staff and these players, with our coaching staff, I think we’ve developed a bond over the years with the guys that we’ve had. Now we’ve added some new players that we really feel good about – Tyrann Mathieu.”
What’s S Tyrann Mathieu going to do?
“He’s going to start off at safety and then we’ll move from there. But he’ll start off at safety but his versatility is something that really appealed to us, so we’ll probably use him in other spots. But he’ll start off at safety.”
What do you remember of former Texans and current Patriots WR Riley McCarron, who wound up in New England? You once described him as similar to Offensive/Special Teams Assistant Wes Welker.
“He’s a slot receiver, very quick, very smart, strong player. That was a tough one when he lost him. We felt like he had a future with us, but it’s just kind of the way it went. I think very highly of Riley.”
Is former Texans and current Patriots WR Riley McCarron also a returner?
“Yeah, punt returner.”
Did you envision former Texans and current Patriots WR Riley McCarron in the NFL?
“Yes. I felt like he could definitely play. I mean, he played in the preseason against good competition and he was productive, so yeah, I don’t think there’s any doubt that he can play in the league.”
The Patriots lost WR Danny Amendola to the Miami Dolphins. Can you see former Texans and current Patriots WR Riley McCarron settling into that role for them?
“I mean, again, I wouldn’t want to comment on – I’ve got enough problems figuring out my own team. I feel like he can play. I know that he was somebody that was doing a great job for us. So, I feel that he can play.”
Was former Texans and current Patriots WR Riley McCarron a tough loss for you?
“Yeah, he was good. He practiced hard, he was a versatile guy that played on the inside offensively and then returned punts. He did a lot of different things.”
How big is it to have General Manager Brian Gaine back in the building to build this Texans roster?
“It was a very important decision and I thank the McNairs, Bob and Cal, for choosing Brian. We interviewed some great candidates, but Brian was head and shoulders above everybody and he brings an intelligence. You talked about his evaluation skills, but also, he’s a well-rounded guy because he’s seen it all in this league. So, everything from the medical to the weight room to the travel to all of those things that come underneath that roof of the general manager, he has a good grasp of that. And the biggest thing for me, just personally, is he’s a real close friend of mine and we’re very much aligned football-wise. We don’t agree on everything, but man, it’s so comfortable to go into each other’s office, throw the film on, let’s try to see this player through the same set of eyes and talk football. It’s been a really, really good hire for us.”
Texans General Manager Brian Gaine went to Buffalo for a year and viewed the Texans roster from a different perspective. Did he come back with new ideas?
“Yeah, I would say that. I would say the big thing about, just speaking on my own from listening to him, Buffalo was a really good move for him. He was able to go up there and work for the Pegulas and work for Brandon Beane and see Sean McDermott in his first year there do a great job. I think that he gained a new perspective not only on our players, but also on everything from how the cafeteria was set up there and what type of food they were serving their players and then obviously when he came back, he was able to bring a different perspective on our players, which I think was the first thing that we tried to do, was evaluate our own team and then figure out where we had to go from there relative to contracts and all the things that go into evaluating your own roster. That’s something that I think really helped us early on.”
Why are left tackles so hard to find in today’s NFL?
“That’s a great question. I think it goes in cycles. I don’t know. I think that last year, when you look at Cam Robinson and the guy that was drafted in New Orleans, Ryan Ramczyk, we felt really good about those guys. This year, I’m not going to comment too much on the draft but look, I think that to me, the big thing that I want to answer your question (with) is left and right, it’s becoming no different. Now, even though the left side is protecting the right-handed quarterbacks’ blind side, I think the right side is just as important as the left side. That’s my opinion, that’s not the way they’re paid, I get all that. But to me, with the rushers that you see from these guys and Jacksonville and Tennessee, Indianapolis coming off the edge, both tackles better be pretty good and that’s been one of the most difficult things to evaluate, is can this guy who plays on the right, could he swing over and play on the left? Is he left-handed, is he right-handed, does he feel comfortable in this type of stance, that type of (stance)? There’s a lot that goes into that evaluation and I think you have a point, but I think that the level of talent goes in cycles and that’s just the way it is year-to-year.”
What is the state of your offensive line?
“I feel good with where we’re at. We added three guys in free agency. Seantrel Henderson, feel really good about him, coming off of last year, played at the end of last year, had a real good Miami game, played real well in that game. We feel good about where he’s at. We feel like he can play right or left. We’ll start him off on the right side but we think he can swing over to left. Zach Fulton, we feel real good about. We’ll start him off at guard but he can play center if we want to move Nick Martin to guard. There’s some versatility there. Then, Senio Kelemete from New Orleans – nobody asks me about him because Fulton and Seantrel, a lot of the questions come about those guys – but the Kelemete guy, I was very, very impressed with him on tape. Tough guy, can pull, athletic. So, we feel like we really added some talent there and we’re looking forward to getting to work with him.”
With S Tyrann Mathieu, was that situation one that you were monitoring or did Arizona cutting him come as a surprise?
“I think that we try to keep tabs on all of those things with every team, you know, cap casualties, all those different things that could possibly come down the line. Brian (Gaine) and his crew do a great job of that. We study the film on those guys in case they are released. So, a guy like Tyrann, we had already studied him a lot because we played them last year. We felt really good about his versatility, his ball skills, his tackling ability, he’s a good blitzer, he’s a guy that we’ll start him off at safety but he can play nickel, he played some corner in some games at times. But the big thing about him is when he came to Houston and we sat down and we talked, man, what a great guy. Really, really loves football. I think he’s going to be a great addition in our locker room and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Do you anticipate QB Deshaun Watson being on the field at all during the offseason program and how excited are you to get all these players back from injury?
“Yeah, we’ve suffered some injuries. We’re glad 2017 is over. We’re kicking 2017 to the curb. I think Deshaun’s ahead of schedule. I would tell you that we’re not going to rush him into anything but I do see him being able to do some things on the field in spring. I know he’s champing at the bit to do it. I mean, he wants to be out there. He’s out there doing things with our trainers right now on the field, obviously with no pass rush or anything. So, I feel good about where he’s at and I do see him being able to – it’s a nine-week program, so toward the end of the program I think he’d be able to do some things on the field.”
How do you see CB Johnson Bademosi fitting in with your team, both on special teams and defense?
“We were excited to get him from a lot of different viewpoints. Obviously on special teams, he was a really good gunner on the punt team, good kickoff coverage guy, good blocker on the return units, punt return and those things. So, I think he’s going to really add something that we’ve lacked at times on special teams from a leadership standpoint and playmaking standpoint. Then, I believe that he will help us on defense. I think that every team is constructed a little bit differently. With the Patriots, obviously with Malcolm (Butler) and Stephon (Gilmore) there, he played a bit. But I think he’ll be in a good competition here to see playing time as a corner. The big thing was when he came to see us, I was just very impressed with him as a guy. He’s going to add a lot to our locker room. Just a real smart guy and good leadership skills, so I think he’s going to help us in a lot of ways.”
What do you think about the recent comments made by Founder, Chairman and CEO Robert C. McNair?
“I’ve said this many times before, that we all have our own opinion on things. When it comes to the players’ right to express themselves, I’m always for that. I think the players in this league, players on our team, they have educated, intelligent opinions on what’s going on socially in the world. Not to get too deep, but it’s a very divided country right now. The more we can listen to each other, the more we can talk about these things, I think we can come and find some common ground. I think the problem is we don’t talk enough about it. Now, on the subject of the McNairs, I just want to be real clear that I think it’s very important for all of us to take a step back and think about what the McNairs have done for the City of Houston. I mean, it’s incredible. Even before they bought the team but especially after they bought the team, the things that they’ve done relative to all the different programs that they’ve helped in Houston, the YMCA, the food bank, Hurricane Harvey, what they did for Hurricane Harvey. I mean, there’s just so many different things (that) it’s hard to sit here and list them all but I think Bob McNair and Janice McNair are great people. They’ve meant a lot to that city. Like I said, I just want to make clear that’s the way I feel about the McNairs.”
Do you have an update on QB Deshaun Watson?
“I think he’s ahead of schedule. I think he’s done a good job of being there every day and putting the time in to rehab and get better. I’m excited about where he’s at. How much will he do this spring, I’m not sure. We’re not going to rush him. I said this to somebody: he hurt the other knee in college so he has a good idea of where he’s supposed to be during the different stages of rehab and I think he’s on track to be there when the season starts.”
What was your evaluation of S Tyrann Mathieu?
“When we watched him on tape – we prepared for him when we played Arizona – the first thing that stood out to me was his versatility, his ball skills. He played safety, he played nickel, he played some corner. He’s got interceptions in his career. He has a knack for knocking the ball out, getting the ball out. So, we were excited about that. Then, the big thing for me is when we met him, when he came to Houston, I was just really impressed with him as a guy, how he spoke about football and being on a team and his role on the team. He just was somebody that I thought would add a lot to our football team. So, we’re excited to have the opportunity to work with him.”
Are you impressed with how Jaguars QB Blake Bortles has been able to block out criticism over the course of his career?
“I’ve known Blake for a while now. I coached against Blake at Penn State. He beat us there. Prepared a lot for him in the draft when he was coming out, met with him at Central Florida, spent a lot of time with him there. I know a lot of guys that have coached him at Central Florida, obviously at Jacksonville. I’ve always been impressed with Blake Bortles. I think he’s one of the top quarterbacks. I think he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the league. I mean, he’s risen up through a lot of work and gone through a lot and took his team to the AFC Championship game. I mean, I think that he’s a guy that has improved a great deal. I think he’s really good. He beat us twice last year. Good player.”
What impressed you about CB Aaron Colvin as you evaluated free agent options?
“We had played against him, coached against him for a couple of years. Very impressed with his ability. Obviously played over the slot a lot when we played them. Quickness, playing strength, he’s a good blitzer, smart guy, smart in the zones, can play man-to-man coverage. He’ll be in a competition, not just on the inside, but we’ll use him on the outside, too. Every team is different. They have, obviously, A.J. (Bouye) and Jalen (Ramsey), two lockdown corners, so they used him differently than we will use him. But we were very impressed with him when we studied the tape in going against him and now we’re excited to have the opportunity to work with him.”
How intense is the friendly or unfriendly rivalry with Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone?
“Somebody else asked me a little bit earlier, I’ll tell you when we worked together at Georgia Tech we talked about football all the time. When he was at the Jets and I was somewhere else, we talked about football all the time. When I was at Penn State and he was at Syracuse, at that time when he was there, we weren’t playing each other so we talked, those types of things. But now, here, it’s more about, really it is, it’s his kids, my kids, the wives. I would say that it’s very, very rare that football even comes up in the conversation. When we’re on the field, we try to put a good game plan together. They have a great team. We’re all chasing them, so make sure you’re putting that clear in your article, that everybody in the AFC South is chasing the Jacksonville Jaguars. They have one of the best teams in football. So, it’s like the players on the field determine the game. We try to do the best we can and I don’t think we let our friendship or anything like that get in the way of all that stuff.”
What did you like about QB Deshaun Watson before you drafted him?
“The first time I met Deshaun was probably at the combine, and right away I was very impressed with just how he carried himself, his poise, just the calm way that he has of communicating with people. I thought he was just a real good guy. I think that’s a big deal. People say, ‘What skillset are you looking for in these quarterbacks?’ Well, clearly they have to have the ability to do certain things but to me one of the big things is, can you sit with this guy for hours on end and watch tape and talk about football? Is it going to be a good working relationship? Is the guy a good guy? Is he going to take the coaching? That was one of the things that stood out to me. His memory stood out to me a lot. I would say to him – in this combine meeting – I would say to him, ‘Hey, the 10th play of the Alabama game, it was 3rd-and-5, and the ball was on the…’ – he would finish my sentence. He would say ‘Yeah, yeah I remember that play. We were in empty and this is what happened. I directed the protection this way.’ I was like, ‘Whoa.’ That was one of the first things that stood out to me. Then, when we brought him to Houston, the thing that stood out to me there was we brought him into our cafeteria and our players happened to be there. Everybody kind of just congregated around him. A lot of guys knew him. (DeAndre) Hopkins knew him. (Jadeveon) Clowney knew him. Obviously the Clemson – D.J. Reader knew him and so they gathered around him. I thought that was something that stood out to me, this team likes this guy. That was a big deal, no doubt.”
How important is memory for a quarterback?
“I’ve found that with a lot of the – I talk about (Tom) Brady’s memory all the time. I mean, Brady had an incredible memory. He had a bank of knowledge. I think that’s one of the things that makes him great. I’ve said that a lot about Brady and I see with Deshaun (Watson), he has a really good ability to remember. So, that’s big in a game. ‘Hey, I remember it was a 12-play drive and on the fourth play of that drive in between series this is what they did. I remember that. I have a picture of it in my mind.’ That’s something that I think is really important for a quarterback, I really do.”
QB Josh Rosen has talked about how tennis has helped him with his footwork and movement. Have you seen how tennis could help someone play quarterback?
“No, not in a long time. I mean, not recently. I can tell you that – I’m not saying that I watch a ton of tennis but when you watch, let’s just say and I was thinking about this with Rosen, when you watch Wimbledon – everybody watches Wimbledon – and you see these tennis players, they’re ability to move side to side, like you said, attack the net, backpedal back to the baseline. It is a skillset, as far as footwork goes, that’s definitely transferable to football relative to a quarterback. The mentality that you’re talking about, like ‘Hey, I hit a bad shot’, you got to put that – if you dwell on that bad shot, your match is over. That’s a big deal for a quarterback. I made a bad throw, I threw that interception. I’ve got to be able to put that behind me because there’s a lot of football and a lot of game left here. So, I think there’s a lot of that that carries over to football.”
It also has to do with picking your spots and the work ethic you get from practicing.
“No doubt. Being able to put it in the right spot. I say that all the time about quarterback. Like, I just remember when I started coaching quarterbacks or when I was in New England and just thinking about how many throws, let’s just say, Tom Brady threw to Deion Branch during an offseason workout. I mean, you know, you’re talking about like a million throws to get this route right. The repetition, doing it over and over again, that’s really, really important and obviously you have to do that in tennis to be good at those shots.”
As a head coach with an offensive background, what went into the decision to call plays for you? How hard is it to balance that and what went into that thought process for you?
“I think every year you have to evaluate. You have to start with yourself. I think the more I’m into this now, this will be my seventh year as a head coach. I think that you have to say like what are your strengths? What is something you love to do? You’ve had a history of being decent at it. And then does that allow you to delegate some other things to other people because that’s why you hired this great staff, to take some of those things off your plate and allow you to do the things that you think you’re decent at. So, that’s what happened a couple years ago and why I tried to do that. I like where we’re at with our offensive staff and how we collaborate. I call the plays but there’s a lot of work done by (Mike) Devlin and Timmy Kelly and all these other guys that help.”
Where is the pinch in terms of the time crunch and trying to delegate yourself in a lot areas? Is on Sunday or during the week in the formulation of game plans?
“I’d say it’s more during the week. I think you have to get ahead the week before. So, like on the Friday before the Sunday game or Saturday before the Sunday game, you’re working on that next opponent a little bit. At least try and watch four games of maybe their offense in preparation to help Romeo (Crennel) with some thoughts on defense. You have to try to get a little head start. That’s one of the biggest adjustments in my opinion if you’re going to call plays and you’re the head coach, you have to try to get a jump on that next opponent the week in advance.”
When you have a mobile quarterback, how do you balance telling them to be aggressive running while also protecting them?
“That’s a great question. First of all, I think you have to teach that. I mean, I think there’s ways to teach that. You have to have what we call a silent alarm. When you drop back to pass, one thousand one, one thousand two, like, if you’re getting into that three second range in this league and you haven’t thrown the ball yet, I would say that you better start thinking about doing something because they’re coming. So, I think you have to teach the different – how the front’s aligned and where a gap may open up or maybe if something happens and you can’t get the throw off, you’re going to take off here. The big thing, though, is these guys have to have a knack for sliding and for ducking out of bounds before they take a hit. That’s one thing that I think Deshaun (Watson) is really good at. We practiced that. We talked to him about that. But he has a really good instinct for maybe gaining the five or six yards and then going down before he takes the shot. That’s a big thing that young quarterbacks usually have a problem with. He seems to have an instinct for being able to stay out of harm’s way.”
Some players never want to give up on a play. Is there a way to coach a guy out of that?
“It’s hard. I mean, I think when you look at all these guys are such great competitors. If you look at (Ben) Roethlisberger and (Carson) Wentz and Andrew Luck, they don’t think that the play is ever over. So, they’re going to try to keep the play alive. Same thing with (Deshaun) Watson. They’re going to try to keep the play alive and they don’t think it’s ever over. They’re the ultimate competitors. So, you just have to talk to them, in my opinion the guys that I’ve dealt with like that, ‘Hey look, here’s the deal.’ Again, going back to I have a clock in my head and when this clock reaches a certain point with the protection we’ve called, you better either think about taking off, sliding, throwing it away. You don’t need to take an unnecessary shot but I don’t think it’s easy to coach that with every single guy. I think it’s hard.”