Texans coach Gary Kubiak spoke to the media on Monday after meeting with players who were cleaning out their lockers and heading home at the conclusion of their 2008 season.
Head coach Gary Kubiak(on what he's been doing today) "Been checking out players since 6:00. So I'm taking a break from that, visit with you guys and then visit with (owner) Bob (McNair) here this evening."
(on if he's made any decisions regarding changing the coaching staff) "No. Like you said, I'm following the same procedure I follow after every season. I deal with the players first. We'll evaluate some players here over the course of the next 24 hours, meet with (owner) Bob (McNair), talk about our season, have a good meeting here with him and (vice chairman) Cal (McNair) and go from there."
(on if he has a timeline for the evaluation process of coaches) "No. We'll take care of it, take our time here with our evaluation process and make sure we do it the right way. Like I said, first things first, getting these guys out of here today."
(on the improved health of the team this year from last and if strength & conditioning coach Dan Riley and head athletic trainer Kevin Bastin will be evaluated) "We evaluate everybody. (General manager) Rick (Smith) and I and (owner) Bob (McNair), like I said, we evaluate everybody in the organization and move forward."
(on his meeting with CB Dunta Robinson) "I told him I want him back on our football team. I think the world of him as a player, and I understand the business. I understand the world he's in as far as free agency goes and those type of things. That's (general manager) Rick's (Smith) side of the business, so to speak, but I think the world of Dunta and I know we're a better football team when he's played for us. But I also understand there's a lot of work to be done to get that done. So I had a good visit with him; I had a good visit with every player, and so we'll see what happens."
(on the attitude of the players today versus the end of last season) "Well, it was very good to end on a good note, which we did last year also, but they're very upbeat today and very positive. What I try to do is to talk to each one about what I think – how their season went, where they were, ask their opinion, what they thought, try to talk to them about the future and what I expect from them as we move forward and just leave them on that note. And then I usually get back with them here in the next month and revisit with each and every one of them. But it was good. It was good to visit with all of them, and like I said, we finished up about an hour ago so, it was all very positive."
(on if he knows his priorities going into the offseason) "I don't think so yet. Like I said, we'll sit down at the end of tomorrow, and I've got coaches doing evaluations on players right now. What I'm doing right now is going back and looking at our season from the standpoint of offensively, defensively, special teams, how do we compare with what we've done in the past? How did we progress through the last three years? Where are we at right now as compared to where we were last year at this time, or two years ago at this time? So those are things I look at, but I've got coaches individually looking at players right now, swapping both sides of the ball."
(on if the run game improved as much as he'd hoped this time last year) "We've obviously made a great deal of improvement. I think to be a champion, it's got to get better. There's no doubt about that, but we ran the ball much better this year than we have in the past. We were simpler this year. We were better at what we were doing. I think we were probably more committed to exactly what we were doing, and then we found a great young kid (RB Steve Slaton) and we had five linemen that played every snap. So we were very consistent from that standpoint, and that's how we got better. And I think there's another step we can take."
(on if assistant head coach/offense Alex Gibbs will return next year) "Well, that's another guy I've got to deal with here. His contact I think is up the middle of February. He needs a break, needs to go home and get some sleep, so we'll let him do that and we'll deal with him here in the next month."
(on if he hopes defensive coordinator Alex Gibbs comes back next year) "Oh, no doubt. I mean, what he meant to our coaching staff, to me personally, to all of us, to (offensive coordinator) Kyle (Shanahan) as a first year coordinator. It was exceptional, not only the offensive line but the whole football team. It brings a lot of energy to what you're doing and you know at this stage in Alex's career, it really is about him enjoying what he's doing, enjoying where he's doing it, and I think he did have a good time. I hate to speak for him but I think he enjoyed the season; the passion was there, but he like everybody else just needs to regroup right now and we'll see."
(on if he thinks assistant defensive backs coach Ray Rhodes will be back next season) "I'm expecting Ray to come back and help our football team in some capacity. I think he definitely helped us. I know he helped me. As we moved forward throughout the season, there were many things I bounced off of him on a week-to-week basis. I think a lot of Ray Rhodes, and like I said, I expect him to be here helping us again."
(on if anyone has asked for permission to speak to any of the other coaches) "No. No, I have not been down that road yet."
(on if he is worried about people talking to the other coaches) "Well, every year, those things happen. I don't worry about stuff like that. If there are guys that are getting opportunities that they think are better than the ones they have here, I'm all for those guys getting chances to move up in the business. I got my opportunities. (Broncos head coach) Mike (Shanahan) helped me. I'll help any coach we've got if he thinks it's a better opportunity for him than the one he's got here."
(on how hard is it to evaluate people's jobs after being an assistant coach himself for years in Denver) "Well, it's part of the job. It's a different phase for me being a head coach having to evaluate everybody. Normally, I'm a coordinator evaluating the guys on the offensive side of the ball and the coaches that I work with, and here I am having to evaluate both sides of the ball, special teams and everything. So it is different for me from that standpoint, but it's part of our job, part of our business. There's tough decisions to make, and like I said, I've got to get through this period and do a good job on my evaluations and do what's best for our football team as we move forward."
(on playing well defensively the last six games but finishing 22nd overall) "Well, I don't worry about numbers as much, where you finish offensively, defensively. What were, we third in offense, I think? Like you said, we're 22nd in defense. I haven't even seen the final stats come through my desk yet today, but sometimes, you can make improvement and those numbers may not improve. You can not improve and those numbers may improve as far as where you ranked last year. It all depends on how the league is going that year in certain categories and certain things that are going on. So, I try to look at each situation, see how we did this year. I try to compare it to how we were doing last year as a football team throughout the season and how we function in those areas of the game, whether it's against the run, the pass or running the ball or throwing the ball. It's an ongoing process. I do it every four weeks throughout the season. It's not like I wait until the end of the season to do it. It's something that I keep up with on a monthly basis. So, I've just got to compile all of that information and see where we go from here."
(on how he categorizes how they played better football at the end of the season) "Well, I thought we got more consistent on the defensive side of the ball. We quit turning the ball over. That was a big key for our football team. We won turnover battles and we got a few breaks along the way, but I just think overall, we're just more consistent as a football team."
(on defensive coordinator Richard Smith's future) "Like I said, I'm in an evaluation period right now. We'll see. I'm dealing with players today. (Texans owner) Mr. McNair and I will have a nice visit here this evening, and then we'll get into the coaching phase sometime tomorrow."
(on the questions with the secondary early on this season and then the group coming together) "Well, we had a lot of changes. If you look at our season overall, one thing you'll see on offense is you're going to see a group of guys who stayed on the field the whole time. Our offensive line, as I just said, played the whole season. Our two tight ends played the whole season. Our backs, (RB Steve) Slaton (played) 15 weeks, (FB) Vonta (Leach) every game. Our two receivers (played) every game. That doesn't happen very much. We stayed on the field. Defensively, we did have a lot of changes. We did not have (CB) Dunta (Robinson) for half of the season. We changed at safety midway through the season. We had issues up front. We lost (DT) Amobi (Okoye). At linebacker, we lose (LB) Zac Diles for half of the season. So, there are many things that went on on defense that we lacked some continuity in what we were doing. So that made it more difficult from that standpoint."
(on LB DeMeco Ryans saying that he was injured for most of the season) "Yeah, I had a good visit with him today. He and I probably talked longer than anybody as far as my time with each player. You're right. He was beat up early in the season. I thought he got much better. He played extremely well the last half of the season. But that kid's played a lot of football, and he's not the only one. I could sit here (all day): O.D. (TE Owen Daniels) and (DE) Mario (Williams). You look at those guys since they've walked in the door here, they've been on the field every snap. And that's a great deal of football, and that's also to me why we're making progress, because those guys have to become great players for us to become a great football team. So, he's a real pro. He never says a word. He just kept working, but obviously, he was himself the back half of the season."
(on when he begins working on 2009 and what's the first step of that process) "Well, the first thing we do, after I give these guys a break, we'll come back and do cut ups and that just goes back into another evaluation period, but that's more scheme oriented: This is what we're doing offensively, what can we do to get better; this is what we did defensively, what can we do to get better. So we get more scheme oriented before we move on to the next step, which is usually in Indianapolis when we go to the combine."
(on if he thinks they are a better football team than last year even though they finished 8-8 again) "Well, yeah, I said that yesterday. No doubt in my mind, we're a better football team this year than we were last year, but we have the same record, and it is about your record. It's about finding a way to win 10, 11 games in this league so you get to play some more. So from that standpoint, we're the same, but we did make improvement in a lot of areas. I think we got better with some players on our football team. Without mentioning each spot, I think we definitely improved our roster from that standpoint. But the final result is still the key, so that's something that we have to get better at."
(on if he thinks he is a better coach than he was last year) "I feel better. I don't know if that means I'm telling you I'm a better coach. I feel a lot more comfortable in year three than I did in two, so hopefully, I feel even better next year. It's a process. I don't know if you ever get it figured out, but I'm much more comfortable now with what I'm doing on a day-to-day basis than I was in the past."
(on how much he blames the turnovers on the coaches, players, etc.) "I think it's a combination of everything, but I'm going to start with the quarterbacks. I'm not pointing the finger there or putting all the blame there, but that's how hard I coach those guys. My meeting today with (QB) Matt (Schaub) kind of revolved around that a great deal. I think he's turning into a fine, fine player. What did he end up ranked in the AFC, third or fourth? His numbers, had he played the whole season, I think he would have been right in the mix of being a Pro Bowl player. I think that's what he's capable of. But for him to take that next step and for our team to take that next step, that turnover margin at that position for this team has got to go down."
(on why they were so much better in the red zone against Chicago) "(Offensive coordinator) Kyle (Shanahan) called some good plays. He called very good plays down there. He called a great game yesterday. You didn't know that, did you?"
(on offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan calling the game) "Kyle called the game yesterday. He did a hell of a job. He called his first NFL game and he called a great game."
(on why offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan called the game) "I thought it was time. I thought it was time. I walked in the office Friday and I told him he was calling the game, and he did a hell of a job."
(on if he expects QB Sage Rosenfels back next season) "Yeah, Sage has, I think, a year left on his contract. You know, I told him today, I said, 'You and I have got a lot to talk about.' And usually when he and I get together, we spend a lot of time in the office. The line was long, so I told him to take a break. He's going to take a break with his family. When he comes back, we'll visit more. But there's a place on this football team for Sage, and he can do a great job for us. Like I said, I expect him to come back and do that."
(on if he plans to have offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan call more games) "Yeah, you know, I think it's about me getting comfortable. I think it's a process. I know I went through it with his dad (Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan). I just got more and more comfortable throughout the season. As I told you, he called a lot of plays throughout the season. I was very comfortable with him doing those types of things. But I just really thought about it this Friday and I said, 'I want him to do this. I want him to know he's fixing to do it,' and I let him know Friday. I know I felt very good about the job he did; the way he went about his business. And it's a comforting feeling for me as we move forward."
(on if he was looking for a different approach by letting offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan call the plays) "No, I think it's great when you have a lot of input, when you have a lot of guys working toward putting something together. I think when you've got a good staff, which I think we definitely do. When these guys are all putting their heads together on how we should go about attacking somebody offensively or defensively and then we all settle on something and we're all involved in it, I think that's very, very important. And when we put together game plans, (offensive coordinator) Kyle (Shanahan) and I, and Kyle learning how to understand what (assistant head coach) Alex (Gibbs) wants out of a run game plan. I mean, how Alex wants you to call the game running the ball, how I'd like you to call the game throwing the ball, how we're going to approach these situations. That was a development for him throughout this season, and I saw a very quick development. And like I said, yesterday let me know where he's at and it's pretty impressive."
(on why he chose this week to let offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan call the game) "I don't know why. It's just a guy feeling I had as we prepared. And understand this, he called a great deal of plays throughout the season. Don't think that he didn't. He called a great many plays, and I felt comfortable with him in many games where I would say, 'Go ahead. Take it.' Why I did yesterday, I don't know. It's just my gut. I wanted him to do it. We struggled early in the game and he kept battling and he got them going and played extremely well before the day was over."
(on what he needs to improve the defense this offseason) "Well, I've got to look at the big picture. To sit here right now and say it's about bringing in another (defensive) end or a linebacker, I don't think that would be fair. I've got to look at the big picture and come up with a conclusion here over the course of the next couple of months."