Texans head coach Gary Kubiak answered questions from the media on Monday at Reliant Stadium. The following is a transcript of his press conference.
Head Coach Gary Kubiak
(on G Mike Brisiel's injury and WR Derrick Mason being cut) "Mike, we were concerned after the game. He had some lower leg pain and very similar, as a matter of fact, it ends up being exactly what Danieal Manning did, has a lower leg fracture. On the plane last night, we talked about it and hopefully we can be as lucky with him as we were with Danieal. So, we fixed it early this morning I think at seven o'clock. He's doing fine. The surgery went well. It was exactly like Danieal's, so the prognosis is hopefully he can be back on the field in three to four weeks if everything goes smooth. So, that's where we're at. Gump will step up in for him, (Antoine) Caldwell, will start for Mike. That's a big loss. We've been fortunate up front with those five guys. As far as Derrick, yeah we released Derrick today. Really that stems from some other issues we have on the team. For me, I appreciate what Derrick did. He was a true pro with me, did a hell of a job for us, but we got some issues going on. We lost Sherrick McManis yesterday to an ankle, which looks like he could miss a little bit of time. I'm concerned about our special teams as we move forward from a standpoint of depth and guys contributing on game day. Having a young receiver, be it (Jeff) Maehl or be it Trindon (Holliday) gives us a chance for that fourth receiver type spot to contribute on special teams, which Bryant Johnson is doing. That's why we made that move and we'll see where we go from there."
(on how long G Mike Brisiel played with his injury) "We really don't know because we don't know when he did it. He was complaining at halftime. He did what we had to do to come back out and play. He's a tough guy. He always plays beat up. He did struggle in the second half when you go back and watch the film, but then after the game, like I said, they did some x-rays. They feared that it might be exactly what it ended up being. He toughed it out. He always does. He always plays hurt for us."
(on if he feels comfortable with G Antoine Caldwell starting) "Yeah, he's been through a lot of nicks this year, too himself and it held him back in camp and missed a lot of time. But he's had six, seven, eight weeks of good work. He's always pushed Mike (Brisiel) for that job. You know they split time in the past, so it's time for him to step up and play. He's been working very hard. He's played with the group before, so they know he can come in and do a good job."
(on what his approach will be with playing players now that the Texans have clinched the division) "We got to go. You only got so many guys in this League and where we're at injury-wise and roster-wise, we just got to keep playing. The key is going to be how good are we playing here in about three weeks with our opportunity. We've got to push. If I could, I'd have Andre (Johnson) back this next week. I think he needs to play. I think he needs to get back in the flow of things before we do get to January, but we've got to be smart here. He did nothing last week basically, a little running in the pool. We'll increase that this week. Where we'll be, I don't know. We'll do the smart thing, but we do need to get him back on the field. We need some field reps."
(on the support from the city of Houston) "It means a great deal for the bus to pull down Kirby last night and see all the people that came out. A lot of the players spent a lot of time with them after we got here. All of our families were sitting here in the parking lot waiting on us. That's what you work for. That's why we've been doing what we've been doing, to get to that point where everybody could experience that. Obviously, you guys know for me, I grew up five miles down the road, so it's special to see that excitement. But I know the hard work that's been put in and the job that the coaches and players of this organization have done. To walk around our building today and see how proud everybody is that works here and is part of this organization is a great day. But we got a lot to look forward to and still got a lot of work to do, so we got to focus on that right now."
(on what he's looking for QB T.J. Yates to improve on) "He had some decision making issues that went on in the game. This team did blitz us quite a bit in the game, so he saw some things. Probably had a few balls he could have got rid of that he hung on to too long, but I did like the way he responded throughout the course of the game, the way he handled us on the road. We didn't have huddle problems, all those things you worry about with a young quarterback. He'll continue to improve and I just like the way he battled for his team, but there's a lot of things he can improve upon that he comes back the next week we fix those things. How quick he grows up and how he progresses have a lot to do with how far we go, so I think he took another step this week though."
(on if he was surprised by how many fans were at the stadium when the team got back last night) "Well, I started hearing about it on the plane. People started talking about it and I'm not surprised. I know how excited our city is about our football team and they've supported the heck out of us. The way our stadium was against Atlanta, I think everybody could sense that we were fixing to have an opportunity to get into position to get in the playoffs. For that to happen yesterday and the way it happened, they've always supported us tremendous."
(on if he's ever talked to the team about the support they would get if they continue to win) "I don't know that I directly talk about that. Believe me, we talk about how our stadium was against Atlanta. We feed off that as a football team. That meant a lot to the guys. I think they sense it. I think that's why we played kind of poorly yesterday in the first half. I think they were thinking about what could happen, what we could get done that day and they forgot to go play the way we had been playing. It took them a little while to get focused and fortunately we did. Our guys are very proud of the backing they're getting and they know that every time they step to the plate and win right now that they're going to get everybody only more excited. We're all in it together. It's going to be fun. Let's just keep battling."
(on how he gets the team focused after clinching the division) "I really think we won't have a problem for a couple reasons. First off, we're going to look at the film and be very disappointed in our first half as a football team yesterday. We talked about that after the game before we talked about winning our division and I think that we've had so many issues on our team that our depth is such that we have got to keep getting familiar with each other and playing with each other and getting better as a group. It's not like we've been etched in stone all year, haven't had injury problems, haven't had issues where we know who's going to be there three weeks from now. We got to keep finding a way to get better for three weeks from now. From that standpoint, there should be a lot of confidence, but they should understand the work that we have to get done."
(on how he would feel if defensive coordinator Wade Phillips left for a head coaching position at the end of the season) "Whatever's best for the coaches. One thing about coaching, when they come in here and work their tail off for you, you got to want what's best for everybody in the organization. You guys know I've always answered that the same way. If that's an opportunity that guys want, I'm going to support them because they've come here and given me everything they have, so I understand that."
(on what it was like a year ago compared to now for him) "Well I try not to listen when they call for my head and I try not to listen today. That's the best way I try to handle it. I understand this business. I know how difficult it is to win in the National Football League. I think the thing that you got to look in the mirror with every day is your work and if you do that, you'll be able to handle both ends of the stick, so to speak. Success comes from a lot of people working and tough times come for everybody in life, so how you deal with those has a lot to do with whether or not you can get to the day like we got to yesterday."
(on if he will rest banged up guys like DE Antonio Smith or ILB Brian Cushing after clinching the division) "No, we're going to go about business as usual. The problem, like I said, you get 46 guys on game day. Everybody's got to play. You start talking about resting players and those type of things, you're not getting better. I'm going to be smart with every player we have, but at the same time, we've got a game to win this weekend and we got to be at full strength to get that done. My concern is how good are we going to be three weeks from now, so that means we got to get better this week and win another game."
(on if the play action play following QB T.J. Yates' interception was a call the coaches made) "No, actually if we were going according to our script, we had a run called, but after what had happened, I told (offensive coordinator) Rick (Dennison) and (quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp) Knapper on the headset, he's going to throw it again. We were backed up I think on our own 10, but that goes back to what I told you guys, I'm coaching this guy like he's a six, seven-year player because I think that's the only opportunity we have as a team if we approach it that way. I'm sending a message to him yesterday that I've got confidence in him. I had a good little talk with him after he threw the pick and he responded to me and continued to respond throughout the course of the game. Our players know, they're watching what's going on, they know that our expectations for him are big time. We don't want him to go out there and survive the game, so to speak. We want him to go out there and play and lead us to victory and he's done a good job."
(on the biggest difference in this year's team compared to last year) "You got to start with how much we've improved defensively. That's the most obvious thing. We went from a struggling defensive football team to the top defense, I think today, in football if you go statistically. Then when you play good defense in this League, you're going to have a chance to win every week. We've added, (General Manager) Rick's (Smith) done a great job of adding strength to this team when you look at our free agents that we've signed. You got to look very closely at J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed, the draft class and now T.J.'s (Yates) part of that draft class and look at what he's doing. Rick deserves a tremendous amount of credit. The group has come together. It was a group that a lot of guys didn't know each other very well when we got started, but it's come together very quickly and to me, that's about character and the job that people are doing around the team, the coaches, (defensive coordinator) Wade (Phillips), (offensive coordinator) Rick (Dennison), (special teams coordinator) Joe (Marciano). It's been excellent."
(on what he's going to do in the next few games to keep winning) "Well, it's not what I'm going to do; it's what they got to do. They've got to keep going. They understand. I had some great talks with some of our leaders on the plane last night and as I got back here to the stadium last night, but just talking to them about staying focused, keeping your blinders on, so to speak. We don't have many guys on our team that have been in playoff games. You probably could count on 10 fingers. I don't know how many we have, but the few that we do have need to keep our guys focused on what it's all about. I'm calling on guys like Antonio (Smith), people like that. They understand what's ahead of them, but they also understand how hard they've had to work to get to where they are. I think that's the most important thing. Watching them react to disappointment yesterday at halftime, they didn't have to wait on me to get on them at halftime, they were on each other. They knew they weren't as focused and when you got that going on, then hopefully it'll continue to go like that."
(on which leg is injured on G Mike Brisiel) "I was supposed to know that, aren't I? I'll find out. I got a 50-50 shot."
(on how he would grade QB T.J. Yates' performance and what he needs to improve on) "Well, obviously a winning performance. You don't, as a quarterback in this League, go 80 twice. He took us 80-plus yards for the field goal and he took us 80 to win the game only the road. That's exceptional what he did. But it's going to get back to, he had a few accuracy issues. I'd like to see him start the game better. Well, he started it great, we dropped the ball. But the next play he came back, missed a throw. It's just going to continue to come back to decision making, keeping the team in the right spot. Like I said, he got blitzed a little bit yesterday. One of the things I'll teach him in two-minute situations is you just want downs, you just want opportunities and he took that one sack that put us in a really bad situation, but he also got us out of that. He was in there first thing this morning, him and Matt (Schaub) and my two vets watching the film and trying to get better, so that's the most important thing."
(on how important WR Kevin Walter is to the team) "You know guys, I could stay up here all day talking about that kid. Ya'll know what I think of him. He's a man now. You're going to get the same thing every day or every week. I got on the elevator with him at the hotel Saturday night, me and a couple of the coaches, and he was white as a ghost, didn't look very good. We asked him how he was doing. He said, 'Coach, I'm fine. I'm ready to go.' That's Kevin. He goes out there and makes a huge play at the end. He's a true pro. He's a pro's pro, got tremendous respect on our team. I'm happy for him. That was a heck of a deal yesterday."
(on how much it helps to have a coaching staff with a lot of postseason and Super Bowl experience) "Yeah, I think it helps because of preparation and when that time comes and what you got to do. I think we've all learned various ways to handle it and we'll get together and talk about our different ways that we've gone about it with our opportunities. You're right, we do have a lot of experience on our staff, but the key once you get there is still probably not to over-coach, make sure your team's doing the things they do best and not take the game out of their hands. We got some time before that. We just need to make sure that over the course of these next three weeks, we find a way to get better as a team."
(on if it's sunk in yet that the Texans have won the division) "Yeah, it's been a great day. It's been a great day really just to watch the people around the office because there's so many people involved with our work. For coaches, it's no different. Today's no different than any other day, but just to watch everybody here at the office today and what yesterday meant to them, they're so excited and I'm happy for all that."
(on what it means to him being a Houstonian) "I can't say enough. Like I said, I grew up right down the road. I was in the Astrodome when the Oilers came back from Pittsburgh. I can remember being there for that. I was around when they had the great, great time going on with their football team and yet, we get started 10 years ago again and how hard it is just to get back and become a playoff football team and I've been a part of that grind for six years. I'm just, like you said, I'm a proud Houstonian like everybody else and to see the excitement in our town and watch what's going on, my office sits over the store out there and there's people lined up at 5:30 in the morning trying to get in the store. Our store did well today, by the way. It's pretty cool, so it's been exciting."
(on how important it is to have guys like QB Matt Schaub and OLB Mario Williams around even though they aren't playing) "Well, it's been extremely important. That's a great question. When the buses parked last night, the first guy waiting on us in the parking lot was Mario because he did not make the trip. That meant a lot to the team and Mario had brought a lot of guys' families over for them. I told Matt this after the game, I told Schaub, I said, 'I know it's a great day for you, but I know it's a tough day because you're not out there playing.' I let Andre (Johnson) know how I felt about him after the game, but I could sit here and talk about Mario, I could talk about Matt Schaub, I could talk about (Darryl) Sharpton, I could talk about all those guys that have been a part of this that unfortunately aren't going to be a part of it as we move forward. We're here today because of a lot of people and our players understand that and they respect that. We carry those guys with us every week that we line up right now."
(on the continuity and chemistry of the offensive line and having G Antoine Caldwell being plugged in) "Yeah, like I said, our guys have played every snap. We've been fortunate. That's one place our team hasn't been nicked up. But it's interesting, Caldwell's the sixth guy every week. He's the swing guy. He works with the ones all the time. He has played a little bit this year. He has played a lot of football for us in the past, so it's not like him stepping into the huddle as a stranger, a guy that they haven't played with. They're very familiar from that standpoint and I know that Gump, we call him Gump, I know that he's got to be extremely excited because he hasn't had much of an opportunity this year and yet, he's going to have to go play in some of the biggest games this football team's ever played in. We'll get him going. He's just like anybody else. He's the next guy that has to step up for this team."