There were plenty of interesting nuggets in Texans coach Gary Kubiak's speech on Tuesday during the TEAM Luncheon presented by Amegy Bank at the Westin Galleria.
First and foremost among them was Kubiak's one-liner about the pecking order in the AFC South.
That was far from being the only noteworthy tidbit from the event, though. Here are some other key quotes from Kubiak and other members of the organization:
- Kubiak called the upcoming round of cuts, in which he and general manager Rick Smith will have to trim the roster from 75 players to 53, "the most difficult part of training camp."
- When Kubiak mentioned that the Texans will have "new faces" contribute to the team this season, the two players that he specifically named were cornerback Kareem Jackson and left guard Wade Smith. Both will be starters in their first seasons in Houston.
- Kubiak emphasized that the key to the Texans' success is the core of the team. He listed off players like Eric Winston, Owen Daniels and DeMeco Ryans who were drafted four years ago and have been starters ever since. "Where we're at right now is all these guys have grown up together," Kubiak said. "And I'm part of that road too, and these coaches are part of that road. They're all starting to get in the stage of their career, to me, which should be the best part of their career. They're all three-year players, four-, five-year players, in that area right there."
- "I think Frank Bush will be a head coach in this league," Kubiak said of his second-year defensive coordinator, who presided over the Texans defense's dramatic turnaround last season. "He's doing an excellent job with our players… He's a no-nonsense guy. He has a great rapport with players. He has a great relationship with them, but yet he can push them. And if they play for him, they better play hard, and they better commit to what they're doing and play physical."
- Kubiak discussed his familiarity with new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, with whom he spent 19 seasons as a coach and player in Denver. "We share a belief in offensive football that you play fast," Kubiak said. "Offensive football starts with being good up front. If your front five are not respected in the National Football League, you're not going to be very good. And our front five will be respected. We will be physical, and we will play good."
- Kubiak, on veteran special teams coordinator Joe Marciano: "When you're a special teams coach in this league, in a lot of ways you've got your own little team, and Joe's a head coach in his own right. What Joe has to do is take all our young players, some of our backup players, and he's got to mold his football team, and he does a great job with that."
- Kubiak said he was "really excited" about the Texans' return game this year, beginning with Jacoby Jones on punt returns. "I think Jacoby is going to be excellent, and I think Steve Slaton is going to return some kicks for us also, so I think we've got a chance to make some big plays," he said.
- Kubiak also said that the Texans' young players will get a chance to prove themselves in the preseason finale on Thursday. "I'll bet you that four or five guys come out of this game and make this team from this game," Kubiak said. "It happens all the time. There's always some diamond in the rough that steps up and does something."
- With the Texans posting a 4-4 record at home in 2009 after going 6-2 in 2007 and 2008, Kubiak expounded on the need to be a dominant team at Reliant Stadium. "The key to that happening is not only our play but it's your support and your noise," he said, directing his words to the fans. "And we need it. We need it from the start… It means the world to those players when they come out to warm-ups and they see you there. It means a great deal to them."
- Marciano later answered a few questions from emcee Marc Vandermeer. The first, naturally, was about kickers Kris Brown and Neil Rackers. "It's been competitive amongst Kris and Rack," he said. "They've also developed a good rapport. By the same token, man, the competition has brought out the best out of each kicker, and both of them are striking the ball in midseason form right now."
- Marciano spoke briefly about Slaton's abilities as a returner. "Well, when Steve first got here (in 2008), he returned some kicks as a rookie, and I told Coach, 'Man, this guy could be a dynamite return man,'" Marciano said. "He ended up toting the rock for us, so we kind of relieved his duties there. I'm excited to have Steve and Jacoby and J.J. (Jeremiah Johnson) and some other guys to work with."
- Marciano also threw out a creative suggestion for how to get fans in their seats early at Texans home games. "If we can get our return men started and take some opening kickoffs for touchdowns, maybe it'd get some people in the stands for the opening kickoff," he said, drawing a loud mixture of laughter and applause from the crowd.
- Vandermeer asked linebacker Zac Diles about the Pro Bowl expectations set out for him by Kubiak this offseason. "That's huge that your head coach has that confidence in you, but at the same time, I have to go out and show it on the field," Diles said. "It's good to talk about it, but now I have to go be about it."
- Winston, who grew up in Midland, Texas, was asked how it felt to him to beat the Cowboys on Saturday night. "I actually hated the Cowboys growing up, so it was perfect," he said. "Loved the 49ers!" Winston later explained via Twitter.