Miami Dolphins' head coach Nick Saban and linebacker Zach Thomas spoke to the Houston media during a conference call Wednesday afternoon.
Head Coach Nick Saban
(on hiring Dom Capers) "Dom and I were friends for a long time. We were G.A.'s (graduate assistants) at Kent State way back in 1973 or whenever we started this. We've always kept in close contact through the years as coaches both as secondary and both as defensive coordinators. When he came available, I think his knowledge and experience and the fact that he had the number one defense in Pittsburgh and Jacksonville in both the times that he was a coordinator that his knowledge and experience would add significantly to our staff. I've certainly been pleased with the addition that he's made in terms of some of his experience."
(on Dolphins' defense still being a Saban defense) "Yeah, but we change it all the time. I'm one of those guys that always learn new stuff, new things, try to adjust and adapt and make it better and I still stand on that side of the ball. But I try to stay involved in all parts of our team, offense, special teams as well as the defense. The more I feel comfortable that those guys have a handle on it the more I'll do on other areas."
(on meaning of this game for Capers) "Well he's never said that. And Dom is really a class guy. I think he thinks a lot of the organization, the ownership in Houston , the opportunity that they gave him. And I don't think he has any regrets about the hard work and the body of work that he tried to do to make that franchise a success. It's always disappointing to anyone who doesn't succeed at whatever they work hard to try to do. I would feel no different than that. But I think he's got too much class to really hold any grudges or be negative about it. I think he's just positive about the opportunity he had."
(on Richard Smith as a coach) "Richard is an outstanding football coach. He's got a lot of knowledge and experience. He's got tremendous enthusiasm. He's an outstanding teacher. What I see is their difference playing hard and with a lot of personality. I think they've got a lot of new players and a lot of young guys playing. Most of the time when you have that circumstance, you know you get a few more mistakes than what you'd like. Sometimes that affects you ability to be successful, but I think if there's patience there that this group will turn into a really good unit. They're very capable of playing well and they've played well a lot this season, in my opinion."
(on using the Texans as a bounce back for their offense) "Absolutely not. All the respect in the world for the Texans and what they can do and what they're capable of and how well they've played. It's like anything else, we haven't executed consistently offensively. Have had too many bad plays, too many sacks, interceptions, missed scoring opportunities and they've given up a few big plays on some mistakes. Obviously, anybody who eliminates and executes can play winning football in this league. We have a tremendous amount of respect for that and our whole focus is: we need to get our part of it right, so that we have a chance to put ourselves in a position where we can be successful."
(on what needs to be done to protect QB Daunte Culpepper) "Well, first of all it's not all his fault. We haven't been solid enough in our protection up front. We have not done a good enough job in terms of giving him the time that he needs. He does not have 100% of his mobility back, but he has more mobility than some of the quarterbacks that are playing in this league. I think that if he's given an opportunity and when he's been given an opportunity he's made good decisions, and good judgment and good throws. Being sacked seven and five times the last two games are a lot of negative plays to overcome. And I think it's something that we need to get fixed if we're going to have the kind of success that we'd like to have or even that we're capable of having on offense because I think we have decent enough players, I just don't think we're executing like we need to now."
(on DT Keith Traylor disciplinary action) "Well I haven't heard anything from the league. Nothing's been done on that from this point in time that I know about. But Keith Traylor has been an outstanding player for two years. He was a player of the game last week. He's been a fantastic person for us, a good leader. He did make a mistake in this regard when he was home back in Oklahoma visiting and he feels terrible about it. It's not the kind of person he is. That's not how he represents himself and his family. That's not the kind of guy he's been around here for us. We're going to help him and support him in any way that we can and hopefully, I know he will be willing to pay whatever price he has to pay for any mistake that he made."
(on LSU ties) "I have great friends in Louisiana . I have some great friends in Texas , you know I lived there for two years and I coached over there and that was obviously a good recruiting area for us and I used to have a radio show over there, I think Thursday mornings for five minutes or whatever. But Louisiana has great people and the Houston area has great people. I love that part of the country and we have some wonderful relationships and great friends there and we certainly do miss them and we do get to talk to them from time to time."
(on his experience similar to Gary Kubiak) "I think you've got to evaluate somebody on a total body of work. And I think it's difficult to take over a situation, especially if it hasn't been as successful one. You know, you've got to have some patience and you've got to have time and you've got to allow things to develop. And when you put new systems in, which is what happened to us last year, you've got a new offense, you've got a new defense and players are learning and as they gain knowledge and experience they're going to have a better chance to execute that. It's going to help their confidence and playing together and all those types of things. So I think sometimes we evaluate the results more than, 'Is it a good process?' "Do we have a chance to get where we want to go by what we're trying to do? Focus on the technical things to make that progress and I think they've got a lot of great people there and I think that's a great organization and I think they'll certainly do it."
(on it being too soon to give up on DE Mario Williams) "Yeah, I think so. ( Pittsburgh S Troy ) Polamalu did not even play his first year and that guy has been on the Pro Bowl and he's the most prolific safety in the game right now. So, unfortunately, these guys that get drafted in the first round, there are such great expectations for them that if they don't have this tremendous success that goes with all the expectations that have been set for them they get frustrated, they lose their confidence and they have to be able to be able to play through that. We have some young guys that go through the same kind of thing. It's difficult for a rookie to be a standout player in this league and some guys can do it. I think it's a little bit easier at skilled positions, maybe running back or wide receiver or something. I'm sure he's learning a lot we certainly liked him in the draft and I think he'll be an outstanding player."
LB Zach Thomas
(on what Dom Capers has meant to the defense) "He's done a great job looking at what worked for us last year and what didn't, and even putting in some new wrinkles for our defense. He kind of just broke it down even more. Last year, probably because it was new to everybody, everybody wasn't used to a 3-4. Now that Dom comes in, he has had so many years with experience with a 3-4. He's really broke it down and simplified everything and done a great job with the learning process. You learn from him and what he's seen in the past, so he really brought a lot to this defense."
(on whether coach Capers is in a lot of defensive meetings) "Oh yeah, he spends all of the time with us. He does a great job of trying to simplify everything because it is a complicated defense. We're trying to make the other team think instead of us, but that is the big key. He does a great job of teaching it. Now I understand why he's had so many great defenses in the past."
(on what he thinks returning to Houston means to coach Capers) "I'm sure it means a little something for him, but I'm sure he's not going to make too much out of it either and just treat is as one game. I know he was there since the start. It's probably something that deep inside he wants to win it. But, trust me, he's in it for the long run. And he wants us to come together and gel. That's something that we've had some problems in the past three games with breakdowns and things like that. Hopefully it will come together this week and maybe for the rest of the year."
(on what he recalls of coach Richard Smith from his time there) "Richard (Smith), I'll tell you what, he was a great coach. He helped me a lot, definitely, with the run game because I have never been in a 3-4 system and he really helped me out a lot. He helped my game go to another level, mainly because I wasn't used to just going up and taking guards on and things like that. He told me tips about how to look at things. Man, he really simplified the defense for me. But with the run game, he took my run game to another level. That's why I feel my game has gone up. He definitely helped us out on defense because it was chaotic last year trying to learn a new defense for everybody who's been in a 4-3 for so long. But for me, myself it couldn't have been any better when it came to teaching me how to play in this defense. I love this defense now, because of mainly what I learned from Coach Smith."