Texans head coach Gary Kubiak met with the media on Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The following is a transcript of his Combine interview.
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak(on his thoughts about Auburn quarterback Cam Newton) "I haven't had a chance to visit with him yet since I've been here. But I have had a chance to look at him as a player. A tremendous athlete. What he accomplished last year in college football is as good as there can be. A tremendous athlete and I'll get a chance to take a look at him over the weekend and I'm sure he's got a bright future in our league."
(on how important the Combine is for Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson) "He's obviously not far from us down the road, so you know a lot about him. I followed his career at A&M. He goes into last season as a very highly touted player that ended up starting four or five games and what we have to do as coaches is go back and assess his career up to that point, because it was very positive. He was doing a lot of great things. He's very talented. If he's in this business as a quarterback or whatever position he played he'll go through some tough times. He went through a tough time this year, but that doesn't mean that form and that confidence in our league. So we'll take a look at his ability. I know he's a great young man. I played with his dad. He'll have a chance this weekend to show that he's capable of doing that. "
(on if there's any way the Texans wouldn't choose a defensive player in the first round) "I think you're always talking about taking the best player for your football team. But we had big problems on that side of the ball last year and we made a big commitment to (new defensive coordinator) Wade (Phillips) to come in and get our defensive football team going very quickly. We've got a lot of improvements to make in that area. We'll have to evaluate the draft. That won't change. But obviously that's a big part of our football team that needs some correcting."
(on how much Kubiak will listen to Phillips' personnel suggestions) "A great deal. First off, I've known Wade a long time and he's very impressive as a football coach. Being in meetings as we prepare for free agency as we start to prepare for the draft, and listening to him talk about players, how he evaluates players, I think that is a huge strength of his. So we'll be leaning on him big time. That's what we brought him here for: we want to listen to him and get this defensive football team turned around as quickly as we can."
(on the importance of the nose tackle position in the Texans 3-4 defense) "It's very important and I think one of the biggest things is a lot of people look at a nose guard and they think he has to be a huge guy. Wade has played with the big guy, he's had the small quick guys like (Dallas Cowboys NT Jay) Ratliff in Dallas. So when you look at our football team right now, we have Earl Mitchell, who's a young guy that played well for us last year. Shaun Cody. We think they give us both an excellent chance to do a good job at the nose position. So we'll be a little smaller there as we get started."
(on how important the nose tackle position is in general) "Changing the defense for us is a big change across the board, going from the 4-3 to the 3-4. But obviously, playing that position's got to be played well and we've got a couple of guys we think are capable of doing that."
(on how DE Mario Williams fits into the 3-4) "You go back to when Wade was in Buffalo and he had Bruce Smith. We see it a lot that way. Obviously Mario's hand can go down. His hand can come up. He can come off the edge. But it's our job as coaches to get Mario in the best position to be successful and make plays. I see him doing a lot of things. I think he'll give Wade some flexibility."
(on what the Texans need to do to challenge the Colts for the division title) "Well, they punch back real good seven or eight weeks later. They've been the standard in our division for a long, long time. They're the one we're all trying to catch, so to speak. They do a great job. But they're about consistency, and that's something we're trying to find as a football team and organization in Texas. I think it's about 16 weeks, not opening week. Not four or five weeks throughout the season. It's about being a good football team 16 times."
(On how much he and general manager Rick Smith have second-guessed their defensive evaluations) "I don't second-guess. I think we've accumulated some very good football players on our team. We've had a lot of draft choices that are defensive players. Our progress offensively has been pretty darn consistent. I think one of the reasons there is we kind of kept all the same group together. A lot of that's coaches and players also. On defense we've had some change. The nucleus of (linebacker) DeMeco (Ryans) and Mario has been pretty set in what we're doing. Of course we add (linebacker Brian) Cushing to that last year. Those three guys together missed 20-something games last year. So I just think one of the biggest issues we've had, especially on defense last year, was missed time by key players. We didn't play well on that side of the ball, we go get a coach who's proven to have some great defenses in this league for a very long time and he's also done it very quickly when he's made changes in football teams. So we're going to lean on him big time to get that consistent for us."
(on the importance of the safeties) "It's very important. Of course we let (free safety) Eugene (Wilson) go a week ago. Of course, (strong safety) Bernard (Pollard) is a free agent. So we've got two guys that have been playing with that we don't know what's going to happen. Well, we obviously know with one. So it's a key position for our team. We think (free safety) Troy Nolan has made a lot of ground up. We think he has a chance to be an excellent starter. There has been some talk of us moving (cornerback) Glover (Quin). We'll see what happens with our football team."
(on what's been said to cornerback Kareem Jackson this offseason) "I think he's going to be a great player. I really do. We drafted him. We put him in a tough spot. As a player, we start him from day one. We know he went through some tough times. The whole back end went through some tough times. To be a great player in this league, I think you have to go through some of that. The thing that I'm impressed with Kareem is through last year he never missed a day. Never missed a practice. Never missed a game. When you're able to withstand that type of stuff, you're able to go through tough times. The biggest bounce you usually make is from year one to two. I'm expecting him to do that."
(on what would make Quin a good free safety) "He likes to play around the box. We play him in nickel, inside. He's a physical guy and likes to mix it up. Likes to tackle. Those type of things. So we see him playing around the ball a lot more. He's a leader. He's a very smart young man. He could call our defenses, and could do a lot of those type of things for our football team. But also, that's yet to be determined. It all depends on what happens throughout the offseason and the Draft. He's our best corner. He was our best corner last year. We'll see what happens."
(on the team's youth last year on defense) "We're still going to be young. There's a lot to see what happens throughout the course of this offseason with free agency. Of course, whenever that does take place. We'll see. But we're still going to be a relatively young secondary. But I think if a guy like Kareem makes the jump that he's supposed to make. If we're able to get better in the draft at that position. Wade feels good about it. That's all that matters."
(on if free agency will yield experienced players in the secondary) "Yeah, I think so. I think it's something we've obviously looked at. Whether or not that happens right now remains to be seen. But it is something that we looked at. We know where all our holes are. We know where to get started with our football team. It probably starts with corner and outside linebacker with our football team. We've got to fix it."
(on if that makes bringing Pollard back more important) "It's very important. All the guys right now that would be considered free are very important to our football team. There's obviously just so much work to be done now and then. So we'll see."
(on how different this offseason is because of the CBA) "It hasn't been any different for us. We're proceeding very optimistic. Hopefully something gets done and nothing changes. So our preparation, we know we're going to play football in 2011, so our preparation hasn't changed one bit. Like everybody else, if something does take place, then we'll adjust and be able to handle it. But we know we're going to play and be ready to go."
(on if Brian Cushing can return to his 2009 form) "I don't have any doubt. Brian's probably the best worker we have on our football team. Nobody goes at it any harder, or cares more about what he's doing than Brian. We put him through some really tough situations last year. Obviously he misses a month. We lose DeMeco. We bounce him to Mike. We bounce him back to Sam. So we put Brian through some tough situations lasts year. Wade will settle him down this year. Brian's going to be a great player. He has been a great player in this league. Defensively our whole team went through a tough time last year. He'll bounce back. He'll be fine."