Gruden had extremely high praise for several Texans players.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden and perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks spoke with Houston media via conference call on Wednesday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden
(on QB Luke McCown's performance last week) "He did a really good job. Obviously, we had a week to get him ready which I think helped him a little bit, but you have to give him a lot of credit. He showed tremendous poise. He got off to a good start, I think he gained confidence. We had a couple of bad plays in there, but he was really poised and he made some excellent plays with his arm and certainly with his legs. He's a guy we're really proud of."
(on the difference in CB Phillip Buchanon) "We liked him coming out of Miami and there are a lot of guys in the league. We've had guys leave here that have maybe gone on and played maybe better at another place. He's a Florida guy and I think he's bought into our defense. He's really been outstanding for us. He's been a good tackler. There have been a couple games where he's actually led our defense in tackles. He's just a great kid and he fit here with what we want done. I just think its maybe new scenery, a new change for him maybe, that he's responded to."
(on if CB Phillip Buchanon changed his approach to tackling) "I think he understands that there are times that he is involved in primary run support. People say we play Tampa-Two, and when we play Tampa-Two, our corners are involved in primary run support. For us to play some of our coverages, he has to be a guy that can not only line up out there, but he has to tackle. We've been pleased. We tried to judge him for ourselves. We realize that we all have our backgrounds, our history that maybe some are critical of, but we gave him an opportunity and he took advantage of it. Clearly, he's doing a lot of things well for us."
(on if seeing Houston in the preseason give them a feel of the team they will face) "Not so much because the Texans and the Buccaneers, when we do play, it's normally that last preseason game. The only time I've really had a chance to see (DE) Mario Williams and some of these players is when they're over there in their street clothes not playing. They probably feel the same about us. We have a lot of respect for them. I think Coach Kubiak has done a great job. They're offense, to me, can hurt you a lot of different ways. It's very creative and they have some big play people. Defensively, their front four is tremendous. They have a great middle linebacker and they do a great job in mixing their scheme. They are a much better team then 5-7 and I think they know that."
(on the key to coming out strong after halftime) "By the time you get into the locker room and the guy gets a chance to get a drink and maybe use the rest room, you're ready to hit the two-minute drill and head back out on the field. I think the coaches have to do a good job making adjustments, things that happened in the first half maybe their planning on seeing in the second half. Maybe a preview of what you're going to call to start the third quarter. I think there's a lot to that. I don't think there are a lot of speeches and things of that nature that make a lot of difference, but you do try to get your team wired in on where you're going to start the third quarter and I think the teams that have really good players and make a couple adjustments here and there at half time generally start quick."
(on how difficult it is to make all the adjustments at halftime) "A lot of the adjustments occur between series. Coaches are talking on the headsets and things of that nature. Halftime is very organized, the guys come down, the overhead is working, and the acetates go up one after another, somebody's written on the board the openers to start the third quarter and everybody's trying to get themselves isolated in a part of the locker room where the offense can hear their offensive coaches and the defense can hear the defenses. It's not as quiet and calm and cool sometimes as maybe you would expect."
(on feeling more comfortable with QB Luke McCown if you have to go with him) "We have a number of injuries, much like Houston. It's hard. We had (QB) Jeff (Garcia) go down on the first play against Washington. We've used (QB) Bruce Gradkowski and obviously (QB) Luke (McCown) last week. We're eager to get Jeff back. We hope he can go. We desperately need him, but I we can't have him, then Luke will be the guy."
(on which players on the Texans team stand out) "(WR) Andre Johnson, you can't help but say he's a great player. Boy, he's a great player. I have a lot of respect for the quarterback, the young quarterback. I know he's hurt right now, his status is unknown, but I've really been impressed with what he's done there in his first year as the starter in a new system. He's really taken control and I think he has a chance to be a great one. Defensively, (DE) Mario (Williams) is the real deal. He is the real deal. I think (DT Amobi) Okoye is getting better. I just have a lot of respect for this middle linebacker. This guy makes all the plays all the time and his motor never stops. I just have a tremendous amount of respect for the scheme they run as well. It's a deceptive one, and you don't know what they're going to do on the next series, they mix it up quite well, and they all play hard."
(on how Monte Kiffin has rebuilt the defense) "We've worked on rebuilding the defense upstairs with personnel. We've added a lot of new players. Monte (Kiffin) deserves a lot of credit. We've had some continuity with (LB) Derrick (Brooks) and (CB) Ronde (Barber), but we've added (LB) Cato June, (DE) Kevin Carter, some veteran players have come in here. We got a guy, (DE) Greg White out of the arena league who played for my brother in Orlando whose come in here and has four or five sacks. We drafted (DE) Gaines Adams, (S) Tanard Jackson. Monte deserves a lot of credit, so do our assistant coaches and Bruce Allen and his staff have done a great job bringing us new players."
(on what LB Derrick Brooks and CB Ronde Barber have meant to rebuilding the defense) "I think they've obviously been here long enough to have experience good and bad times. They're not only still very good play makers, but they're tremendous leaders. There's a certain code, a certain etiquette in which we prepare and practice and that's to be upheld by everybody and to not have to do that all the time as a coach, having it come from players just is something special. (LB) Jeremiah Trotter is another veteran player who hasn't played much, that's come in here and really given us something in these doors, behind the scenes that's very special."
(on what they done better on their four game winning streak) "You know what, we played pretty good in the first half of the season. We lost a couple games where we played pretty well and we had some terrible turnovers and it hurt us. We're just playing all three phases of our football pretty solid right now and we're making some plays when they're there to be made and our guys are playing hard. We're a better team then we were last year. We have a lot of new faces that have clearly stepped up, some young guys, some unknows, (RB) Earnest Graham, (QB) Luke McCown, (T) Donald Penn have really stepped up and played well enough for us to compete and win."
Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Derrick Brooks
(on how they rebuilt their defense this season) "(Laughs) I don't think it was more of us rebuilding, I think it was basically getting back to the fundamentals of how we got to where we were and that was just emphasizing details, accountability and tackling. And I think that's really been as we looked at the '06 season, those three things stood out where we weren't on the details, we were missing a lot of assignments and then we weren't tackling well. That led to a lot of big plays."
(on helping young players avoid complacency in the last four games) "I think we continue to stress week by week the emphasis of what we've been doing all along. We've never looked ahead, at our opponents' record, we've never looked beyond the week or beyond really the practice itself. And we made a real big emphasis about that this morning, about being here today, Wednesday, trying to get better than we did last Wednesday. And coach does a good job, man, of making us realize the mistakes that we made. If the other team makes these plays, then the result may not be the same, so it's the – I hate to use the words reverse psychology, but it's really a self-motivation right now, especially with such a young team. I feel we've got a good mix of veterans versus young players, but at times he really understands how he's setting the foundation for these younger players and we as veterans, it's just re-emphasizing the foundation that coach is trying to set."
(on what CB Phillip Buchanon means to defense) "I think when he came here, again, the personalities and everything were kind of already established, and I don't know what the expectations were, but he just came in and just kind of defined his role. And I think once he saw we didn't expect him to be the man, be a shutdown guy, but what we did expect him to do was buy into how we did things, and he quickly did that. And the more he bought into this defense and our way of doing things, those things allowed his playmaking ability to come to attrition, and that's really the turnaround from when he got to us last year even coming into this season, just buying into what we do and how we do it."
(on to what he attributes the success in the last four games) "The turnover ratio, in my opinion – protecting the football and getting turnovers. Any time you do that, I know last week we end up breaking even – they didn't want to give us the one for a score – but normally in our case here in Tampa when we win the turnover battle, we normally win eight out of 10 games."
(on when he realized how good this team is) "You know, I hate to say that, one particular moment. I just think we kind of continue to do the things that we knew we had to get better at from '06 to '07 and the chemistry obviously of the football team became a part of that, just getting a lot of consistent play in all positions across the board. And then I do credit the coaching staff for developing the quality depth. That's something that we didn't do in '06 when a lot of guys got hurt. We didn't play a lot of people, and I think they started really way back in the spring playing a lot of players early and playing a lot of players now to develop quality depth."
(on how familiar he is with the Texans after seeing them every year in the preseason) "Yes, I mean, just looking at tape the past couple days of the Texans, I'm very impressed at their team as a whole. I put emphasis on their offense but studying their whole team as a whole, I know coach (special teams coordinator) Joe (Marciano), I know (quarterbacks coach) Kyle (Shanahan), and it's real impressive what they're doing. And we as a defense, going against this explosive offense, it's going to be a good test for us. Two big backs again that's running the ball downhill, and we want to play the run a lot better than we did against New Orleans. And we've got a test; trust me, we're by no stretch of the imagination looking at records. We know what we're seeing on film, that this is a good football team, and for us defensively, going against this offense is a real big test."
(on injuries to the Texans' offensive line) "No, they're going to run the same plays, man (laughs). The plays are not going to change. We don't really get caught up in studying personnel. You study a system. And if they couldn't run the system, they wouldn't be there, so we study the system. We don't necessarily get into studying individual matchups."
(on if he is going to make the Hall of Fame) "I don't know, you tell me (laughs)."
(on what he thinks) "Is that Mr. (John) McClain? (Laughs) I thought it was."
(on John McClain having a vote for the Hall of Fame) "I know. I'm going to take – you need to go out to dinner there, Mr. McClain? (laughs)"
(on how important making the Hall of Fame would be to him) "Well, you know, like I've always told you, if that's the Lord's plan then it's going to happen. And, you know, it's one of those things, the more you play and obviously really this '07 season, me just bouncing back having probably one of the better years of my career, to be honest with you, that's what motivates me. I really want to win another Super Bowl and always like I always say, just looking at my linebacker position, I really just feel if we can get another championship, those things will take care of themselves. But I do play the game, man, to set the standard at my position, and hopefully when it's all said and done, year 25 I'll be able to get in."
(on playing for Bucs head coach Jon Gruden) "You know, it's funny for the defensive players because he doesn't actually deal with us directly hands on. But as a veteran player and a leader, he deals with me (laughs). And like I always say, he's challenging, man. He comes out every single day in practice he has something to say to me to challenge me about something (laughs) in terms of getting better and how the defense is playing reflects my leadership. He constantly tells me that. How's the team pulse is a reflection of leadership, so he's fun to play for, again, and like I say, it takes a lot of patience (laughs)."
(on if Bucs head coach Jon Gruden always demands more from players) "Oh, yeah, he's always there trying to push the gas pedal to the floor, then he's trying to push it through the floor (laughs)."