Last week, Texans coach Gary Kubiak went on the air for a lengthy interview with Barry Warner and Brad Davies of SportsRadio 610 AM. Now that we've put the interview up on HoustonTexans.com, I figured it'd be prudent to type out their conversation for those who'd rather read it than listen to it.
Without further ado:
SportsRadio 610: "Congratulations on your contract extension. How long had this been in the works?"
Gary Kubiak:"You know what, it just happened over the course of the last week. We started dealing with all our (assistant) coaches first, so we got all our guys settled down and we had a couple coaches to hire, and then Bob (McNair) and I basically did it last week. I just feel very fortunate. I appreciate his family giving me a chance to continue what we've started, and I'm just looking forward to getting to work and trying to make this football team a couple of steps better so that we can all enjoy some playoff games."
SR610: "You're 7-17 in three years in the division. I'm saying right now that when this football team goes to the playoffs next year, you've got to set your sights on going at least 4-2 in the AFC South."
GK: "Well, it's a tough division. The problem in the division, everybody's had trouble catching that one team (Indianapolis), so that's what's been so difficult because of their dominance and their quarterback and the way he's played. But you're exactly right: We didn't play well enough in our division last year. It wasn't like we played poorly – we were in every football game – but you've got to find a way to win those games. We had our chances in some very tight football games against every one those teams, and we've got to get tougher at the end of these football games and find a way to get out of there with a 'W.'"
SR610: "Playing in a division as tough as the AFC South, and we know it's not going to get any easier, how do you try to break that string? What do you look to do differently next season against divisional teams?"
GK:"First off, we know it's not going to change. Indy's not going to change. As long as number 18's (Peyton Manning) running that football team, they're not going anywhere. Tennessee's a young football team, Jacksonville's a young football team, we're a very young team. We had ourselves in position to be successful last year. I think the biggest thing we've got to do is just concentrate on finding a way to get a step better, and whatever that is. Is that running the ball better? Is that playing better defense? We've got to find a way, like I said earlier, to get out of those places, those road games, with wins, and take care of our business at home. We were 0-3 in our division at home, and that's not going to get you where you want to go."
SR610:"You brought up the running game. Tell us about Steve Slaton and that situation."
GK:"He's doing good, guys. They performed surgery on him. There was a time where they didn't think they'd have to, but they went ahead and did some work. I wish I could describe exactly what they did, but he will be in OTAs, he'll be in all the offseason work. He will not be able to be a part of any contact and should be cleared for training camp, so all systems are go. There shouldn't be anything holding him back as long as he recovers correctly."
SR610:"When you look at the upcoming season, how exciting is it for you to know you've got Brian Cushing, number one, but number two, with Connor Barwin having a year under his belt, what that's going to do to finally give you a pass rush?"
GK:"To me, the most encouraging thing right now about our football team is the progress that our defense made from Week 4 until the end of the season. They probably played about as well as anybody in football, they gave us a chance to win every week, and yet they're very, very young. Our youngest player was probably one of the leaders of that happening in Brian. So you put Connor with him going into his second year, and he's really only played defensive football for two years, so he should be much better. And now we've got a chance to go add to it, so it should only take a step forward. Frank's (Bush) going to be better. I really like our coaching staff. Our defense, to me, if they play the way they've played the last 12 weeks, we ought to be in every football game."
SR610:"You had to be thrilled to see what Matt Schaub was able to accomplish at the Pro Bowl. Granted, it was the Pro Bowl. Still, that had to be a thrill for you, right?"
GK:"Yeah, it really was. I didn't get to see the whole game – saw the first half – but first off, to get a chance to go, I think it really helps players because they go there and they feel like, 'Hey, I belong in this group of players. This is the type of player I am.' So we're getting back a more confident player, a guy who feels like a Pro Bowler, one of the best players in the league. And then you add what he did in the game to that and it can only make him more confident. So I'm really proud of all those guys. I wish Cushing would've been able to play in the game. But they represented us very well, and we should all be proud of that here in Houston."
SR610:"What did you see last year, and what do Greg Knapp and Rick Dennison look at right now, in Dan Orlovsky that made you feel he was the apple of your eye last year and why you're confident that he can do the job as a backup?"
GK:"Well, what we saw is we saw basically the same characteristics that we saw in Matt. Size-wise, the type of athlete that he is, smart, the arm. He's obviously behind Matt from the standpoint that he hasn't played a lot of football. He obviously hasn't played at the level of football that Matt has played, so I think it's about experience with him. He's got to get a lot better. I'm trying to really improve his standard as a player and how he practices and how he goes about his business, because I think that's what great players do. They're all talented, but some of them just have a standard that sets them apart in how they go about doing their work. So that's mine and Greg's and Rick's challenge with him, but if we can get that done, we've got a fine, fine player."
SR610:"The running game obviously struggled and suffered this season for various reasons. If things stayed the same and Steve Slaton was your featured back going into next year, would you feel comfortable with that?"
GK: "Well, you always have to look at going back to work with the players you've got. It's easy to sit here in free agency and say, 'Well, we can go land a couple of players or we can go get this in the draft,' but you never know what's going to happen. So the most important thing that we do is get better with the people we've got. Steve played fine football two years ago. Obviously, he struggled this year. (Arian) Foster came on and did some good things for us. The bottom line, we've got to get better running the ball, however we do it. We've got to get better up front, better in the backfield, better as coaches. I really think if you look at all these close games that we lost, a lot of that was due to the fact that we couldn't close games on the field running the ball. So that is a high priority to me in this offseason, and for us as a team."
SR610:"How good can Jacoby Jones be if he puts it all together?"
GK:"I think he can be as good as he wants to. Let's give him some credit here. He came from a very small program, a small school (Lane College). The step he's taken in the National Football League is huge. He's had his days of immaturity and those types of things, but the one thing about him he's a good kid. He's trying to do it the right way. We just need more consistency from a standpoint of on the field, off the field. I've probably had more meetings with this young man than I've had with my three boys, but that's OK, because I really think in the long haul this guy's going to do some great things for this city. He should be a 1 or 2 in this league. If he takes care of his business, that's the type of player he can be."
SR610:"Is there a sense of relief for you at all knowing that you're not going to have to answer questions about your job security next season, and how much if any pressure you feel to live up to that new contract?"
GK:"Well, I think as a coach, you're going to have to always answer those questions. In this business, 16 teams win on Sunday, 16 teams get beat. It's the greatest league in the world and the most competitive, and if you don't understand that going in, it's going to drive you crazy. I think I understand that. Do I feel pressure because of a contract? No, I don't feel pressure because of the contract. I feel pressure I grew up in the Heights and I'm a Houston kid and I want to see this team win and I want to see this team get into the playoffs and everybody get to experience the thing that we just saw New Orleans experience. So there's no more pressure put on me than I put on myself, but you know what, I'm going to enjoy what I'm doing. I'm going to enjoy each day of work, I'm going to give it everything I've got. We'll do that as a staff, and if we do that, everything'll be just fine."
SR610:"After the game, our phone lines were flooded and people were saying, 'Well, Sean Payton was hired four years ago, just like Kubiak, and he's been to two championships and now one Super Bowl.' What do you have to say when you hear that?"
GK:"Well, he's done a hell of a job. He's a good football coach. They've done a great job revamping that roster. They made up a lot of ground really quick. They went out and took a chance on a quarterback. Just like we did in my second year here, they did right off the bat, and both of our quarterbacks have panned out. And if you've got a good quarterback in this league, you should be able to make some headway. Heck, I'm proud of Sean. He's a good friend of mine. I'm happy for the city of New Orleans. I've got to worry about the Texans, so I've got to do a better job and I'm looking forward to doing that."
SR610:"Is it playoffs or bust next year? Is that the mentality? Is that a realistic expectation for every Texans fan listening right now?"
GK:"Oh, it's very realistic. I've been thinking that way for a couple of years. I think we had a lot more work to do a couple of years ago, but with our football team right now and what we're capable of doing, if we go and improve ourselves throughout this offseason, there's no reason why we shouldn't feel that way. But you know what, I stay focused on the work. It's easy to sit here and talk to you guys and talk to John McClain or whoever I talk to and start talking about what we're going to do, but I'm just going to stay focused on doing the work because if we get the work done, then that'll give us the best chance."