Rick Smith talks with the press at the 2010 Combine in Indianapolis.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is part of HoustonTexans.com's 2010 Path to the Draft presented by FOX Sports Houston.
Texans general manager Rick Smith answered questions in Indianapolis at the 2010 Scouting Combine. The following is a transcript of his interview.
Texans general manager Rick Smith
(opening statement) "John McClain just asked me how we blew the coin toss, so I guess I'll address that first. We actually didn't blow it. The league actually produced a coin, John, this year, with each team's logo on either side. And I didn't even participate in the actual coin toss. I sent Chris Olsen, our director of football administration up there, figuring that he'd have better luck than me, and it just didn't work out for us. So we'll be picking 20th."
(on free agent RB LaDanian Tomlinson) "Well, we're evaluating it like we do every available player. Certainly, he has had a tremendous career and would offer veteran presence and a lot of qualities that a lot of teams would be looking for. We're entertaining the idea and the thought process and going through our decision-making process, whether we would attempt to try to add him to our football team, but he certainly has had a wonderful career and I think still has some productive play in his future."
(on Texans owner Bob McNair saying they only want to sign players who are on their way up) "That is our philosophy. I don't know if LT's at the end – I don't know how you define the end of a career, I don't know how many more years he has, but as a philosophy, that is our philosophy. We want young players that are ascending, and those are the type of players that we go after. But as you put a football team together, there are times and instances where a veteran player could add value. I'm not saying that that's the case here, but there are times when that is the case."
(on if good running backs are generally found only in the first couple of rounds) "Well, I don't know if that's the case. I know we had some success in Denver with later rounds, picking backs that were productive. So I think what you have to do as an organization, in my opinion, is you've got to have some real clarity with respect to what you look for in all positions across the board, and to the degree that you can identify those traits and characteristics and then go find those characteristics, I think you can find value all the way through the draft and in free agency."
(on if running backs can contribute earlier than other positions can) "Yeah, that's true. Running back, it is a position where you can get some early production from guys. But again, I think what's more important, if you're not consistent or if you're not successful in identifying what's going to work for you, it doesn't matter when you get them or how you get them. I think that's the key. The key is to understand what you're looking for and then go try to find those qualities in those players and where it fits for your football team."
(on how important it is to get another corner with CB Dunta Robinson leaving in free agency) "I think it's important. Any time you lose a player like Dunta, who plays at the level that he plays, you've got to think about how you replace that. I do think we've got some young players on our football team that perform well. I think Glover Quin did an excellent job for us last year. You've heard Gary (Kubiak) say that had it not been for Brian Cushing and his impact, that a lot of people would have been talking a lot more about his contribution and what Quin did for us, and then Brice McCain got some quality reps. We've still got Jacques Reeves on the roster, and Jacques started for us. So he's got experience. Fred Bennett has been a starter for us. And so we're not depleted at the position, but you still are looking for impact players whenever you lose a player of his caliber."
(on what went into the decision to let Robinson go) "A lot. When you make a decision like that, it's not one thing. It's a number of variables. It's level of play, it's level of compensation, it's how does that affect the rest of your team as you look to put a football team together and to improve, it's how you feel about the players on the team currently at the position. So it's any number of those things, and all those things went into the decision to not tag him and to let him go."
(on if he has spoken to WR Kevin Walter) "You know what, Kevin's a big part of our team and has been a big-time contributor to our football team. We would like to have Kevin back. We have articulated that to him. I met just as recently as last night with his agent, just kind of talking about what they expect and kind of where we are to see if there's a way to retain him, because he's an important part of our football team and we would like to – unfortunately, the thing about free agency, now, is you can't keep everybody. When you talk about putting a football team together and structuring a team and trying to improve and get better, you've got to make some tough decisions and sometimes you've got to let some players go that you otherwise wouldn't want to, and that's just a part of it."
(on if he anticipates there will be more movement with restricted free agents this year) "I don't know. My personal opinion is I don't know how much movement there is going to be. I think over the last four or five years, draft picks have – not that people didn't understand or realize it before, but draft picks are at a premium these days. And so when you're talking about the restricted free agent market, you're talking about giving up draft picks. A player that you're going to go and maybe attempt to sign is more often than not a high-producing player, so he's going to have a high tender attached to him, so I don't know if teams are going to be so forthcoming in giving up draft picks, because I think everybody understands how valuable there are."
(on if the Texans would have made the playoffs with a healthy TE Owen Daniels) "I'd like to think that we'd – you know, the ifs and buts, I don't deal in hypotheticals very often. We didn't make the playoffs, and that's just the reality of the situation. We didn't realize our goals of doing that. I do think we made progress, and I think we continue to make progress. Certainly, having a winning season for the first time was progress. Some of the individual accomplishments and Pro Bowls and those kinds of things, you can see our football team getting better. And so while we didn't realize our ultimate goal of making the tournament, we are continuing to improve and we've got to continue to do that. That's the focus of this offseason at this point is, 'How do we look at our football team and continue to improve and get better throughout the entire roster,' so that we do realize our goal and we don't have to talk in hypotheticals."
(On the status of TE Owen Daniels) "Owen is doing well in his rehab. He is obviously a restricted free agent again this year so we're talking. I'm going to meet with his agents tonight. We're talking to all of our restricted free agents, as well as our unrestricted free agents, and trying to get a sense of where we're going and what our approach is with them."
(On why the defensive tackle position is a tough one to evaluate) "When you talk about the defensive tackle position in general, and you talk about a high pick like that, what you're looking for, anytime, regardless of position, you want an impact player, when you're talking about the first or second pick in the draft. It takes special qualities for a player to come in in this league and impact the game at that position. So he's got to be obviously very gifted athletically, and he's got to be able to acclimate to our game and schemes, so it's a tough position to come in and impact the game right away. It takes time sometimes, and there are those occasions where you have players who are capable of doing it. They're rare occurrences and that's why those guys are talked about in the light they're talked about. Because they potentially could do that."
(On the different styles of running back) "I try not to zero in on any one particular player or position group. In general, I think you're exactly right as you assess the group. But I think that's pretty common. You've got the bigger, short yardage type of back. Or bruiser, inside runner, power runner, versus the speed guy, edge guy. This draft has elements of both. What I think is important is that whatever your need is, you identify that need. If you can find one of those guys that fits those needs, then you take those guys and hopefully they can come in and contribute to your team."
(On what he would like as an ideal running back) "Jim Brown."
(On if Jim Brown could play in the Texans' system) "He sure could."
(On if there will be more of an emphasis on winning AFC South games in 2010) "I don't think we can put more emphasis on those games because we already understand how important they are. We're in a very tough division, obviously. We understand that. The road to the playoffs and the road to the championship-caliber play is through your division, ultimately. We get that and understand that and that's part of why we're here working and trying to improve our football team."
(On what strong safety Bernard Pollard offered and whether or not he'll re-sign) "Yeah, he did a heckuva job and I was very proud of him, the way he came in and impacted our football team. He's one of those restricted free agents I talked about. I met with his agents last night as well to kind of talk about his future with us. I like what he added to our football team. He added a dimension. I think if you look at our defense, we added a dimension to every level of our defense last year. Up front with Antonio Smith via free agency. Brian Cushing via the draft. Then Bernard, as a free agent really. I think those guys, at every level, added a dimension to our defense. We've got to continue to add players like that. If we do, I think we will continue to get better, as we talked about before. I was very pleased with what he did, and happy for him, because everybody doesn't get a second chance in this league and he has taken full advantage of it."
(On if he met with LB DeMeco Ryans' representatives) "I'm scheduled to meet with them before the weekend is out."
(On if he's structuring contracts differently because of the uncapped year) "We're approaching this as business as usual. Now there are some rule changes obviously that the last capped year affected contracts as well as the uncapped year do. But beyond the normal rules of writing contracts we're not doing anything differently. We write our deals the same way we've always written them."
(On how effective DE Connor Barwin was) "Connor came in and he's a tremendous athlete. When we took him we understood that if you knew his history, he was a tight end, he was a defensive end, he was very raw in the position. But we knew he was an explosive guy and a guy who could add some pass rush opposite Mario (Williams) and I think as you watched him progress over the course of the season we were very pleased with how he came on. I think his jump from year one to year two, after an offseason, after the minicamps and after another training camp will be exponential. So I'm looking for big things from him."