Texans owner Bob McNair and head coach Gary Kubiak spoke to the media at Reliant Stadium on Wednesday during a 30-minute press conference to announce a new contract for Kubiak. Their remarks are below.
Texans owner Bob McNair
(opening remarks) "Thanks for coming out. As many of you know because we've had conversations during the season, you've asked questions about what we're doing and what our plans are and what have you, and we've indicated to you that at the end of the year we sit down and evaluate our team's performance, look at our individual players, we talk about our coaches, we talk about what we're doing in terms of the draft and what our results have been there, and then we start looking forward into the next year. And so at this point in time, I thought it'd be a good opportunity for us to get together for a few minutes and give you our evaluation of things and then talk a little bit about where we think we are and where we're going, and then we'll open it up for questions.
"All of us were disappointed that we didn't make the playoffs. We really felt that we were going to do that and we should do that, and of course, we lost a tie-breaker. Two other teams with similar records won the tie-breaker, Baltimore and the Jets. Unfortunately, we sort of left it up to other teams, left the final results in the hands of other teams rather than keep it in our hands. And so going forward, that's one of the things that is a goal this year is to be in that same position to be in the playoffs but not have our fortune rest in the hands of other teams. We want to try to control our own destiny.
"In terms of looking back at the year and comparing what we've done this past year with what we've done previously, I think there were a lot of good things that happened. I think we made a lot of progress. First of all, we had a chance to win 15 out of our 16 games. That's never happened to us before. I think in terms of the excitement, I don't think anyone can question whether those 15 games were exciting games or not. They were as exciting as they can be.
"One of the things that we're learning as a team is to be mentally tougher so that in those close games, we're going to be able to come out the victor and not have it go the other way. I think we've made progress there, and I'm pleased with the way it's going. I think we're developing some leadership on the team. We have a very young team. I think I looked at the roster during the New England game, and I think in terms of age, I think the average age of our starters versus theirs, we were almost four years younger across the board. That's a big difference. We're getting some players now, though, who have been around, have played for a while, developed some maturity and can provide the kind of leadership that we need in those close games, and I think we're going to see the results of that.
"In prior years, we've never had the number of Pro Bowl players that we had this year. We had five players. The prior year it was three, and that was the most we'd had. Before that, it was two. And I think they're all good, solid players. I think in terms of looking at what we did offensively and defensively, as you know, in the first three games from a defensive standpoint, we had real problems. (Defensive coordinator) Frank Bush made some changes and he got that situation turned around, and we wound up I think the last 13 games of the season, I think we were in the top five. Offensively, we have done extremely well, also.
"Defensively, going back four years, in 2006, we ranked 24th in the NFL. This year, we improved that to 13th. In terms of offense, in 2006, we ranked 28th, and we went from 28th to fourth this year in total offense and number one in passing offense. So we've made a lot of improvement there and we're going to have to keep improving, but I think Frank Bush has done a fine job for us and he was new in that role. I'm sure that he learned a lot during this first year, but it looks like he's going to be a very fine coordinator.
"One of the most important things, when you look at teams that are successful – and this is my analysis; others might not necessarily agree with it – but I think that one of the most important things is to have continuity. I think that the most disruptive thing that you can do is to go in and every two or three years change your coaching staff. When you do that, the new coach might have different schemes that he wants to employ. All of a sudden, the players you have don't fit that scheme and now they have to go through and change the players out and it just sets you back several years. The teams that have done very well on a consistent basis have been the ones that had a good group of coaches but had confidence in the coaches and stuck with the coaches and had stability, continuity, and that is of great benefit to the players and the whole organization, and so I think that's extremely important to us.
"I think that we have a very fine coaching staff. I think (head coach) Gary (Kubiak) has done a very good job. One of the things that we did, we looked at what our team has done during the last four years, what our record has been, and what the record was in the prior four years, and we looked at every other team on the same basis. And in terms of that, you've got to acknowledge that a tremendous amount of improvement has been made, and I think Gary is primarily responsible for that. I think (general manager) Rick Smith is, too, in terms of upgrading our personnel.
"In terms of this year, and I think every year, I think Gary has tried to strengthen our coaching staff. And I think the sign of an outstanding head coach is a coach who will look at his coaching staff and try to determine how he can strengthen that staff, as opposed to having an overwhelming loyalty to the staff and not being willing to consider making any changes. Gary has been willing to do that and has done that, and this year we've got Rick Dennison coming in as an offensive coordinator. Rick has been in the role before and he was a player in the league, he's an experienced person. We think he's going to do a fine job. He and Gary have played together, worked together and know each other well. We've got Greg Knapp, who's going to be the new quarterback coach. Greg has worked with Matt Schaub before and he's been a coordinator in Atlanta and Oakland and Seattle, so he brings a lot of experience. So I think that we have strengthened our coaching staff, and so I'm quite pleased with that and I'm pleased that we were able to finalize our contractual negotiations with Gary and with our coaches so everybody will be on the same timeline. We'll go out through the 2012 season, and I think that makes everyone feel very good about the situation.
"In terms of where we are and what we need, Rick Smith was going to be with us this morning but his flight was delayed. He was flying back from the East Coast and there's bad weather there and he's had trouble getting out. But we need some more depth in the center of our line. You saw what happened this past year. We lost our two starting guards, and then of course we lost (TE) Owen Daniels. But it did affect us and it hurt us in our running game and we certainly need to get some more depth there, and you're also well aware of the fact that we need some more running backs. So those are some things that we're going to be looking at offensively. And defensively, we'd still like a little more help in the center of our defensive line with another defensive tackle if we could improve ourselves there, and we can always use more cornerbacks and we could use another safety.
"But the good news is that we have a foundation in place, and we don't have to go out now and try to establish the foundation, which is what we've been doing for the last eight years. We have the foundation now. We have a Super Bowl – I'd say he's a Super Bowl quarterback – in Matt Schaub, who was the MVP of the Pro Bowl. We have a guy who can I think take us to the Super Bowl. We've got an All-Pro receiver in Andre Johnson who many think is the best in the league; I certainly do. We've got some defensive players that are outstanding in Mario (Williams) and our linebackers, DeMeco Ryans and with Brian Cushing, and we've got some young cornerbacks coming on that are looking very good. So we've got some outstanding players and we just have to keep building on that, and this year I think we're going to continue to see improvement.
"Bottom line is, in evaluating where we were and looking at our coaching situation, I believe Gary can take us to the Super Bowl, and that's why we tore up his existing contract and extended him. I think we're making progress and I think we're going to continue to make progress. So I'm excited about the upcoming year. Right now, our scouts have been working on free agents. There are not as many free agents out this year because of the change, this being the last year in the CBA, so those players that would've been free agents after four years are not free agents; it would only be after six years. So that reduces the number of free agents considerably, so there aren't going to be as many unrestricted free agents out there. But the scouts are working on it, and now the coaches are in and they're looking at all these players and we'll go through that process and see if there's anybody out there that'll strengthen us, and if so we'll try to bring them in. Then, we go right from that into the combine and to looking at the draft, so we're excited about the year. I think our fans are excited and I think they see the promise that the Texans hold for them and I think that we're going to start realizing that promise. So with that, we'll open it up for questions if you want to ask Gary any questions or if you want to ask me."
(on why he chose to extend head coach Gary Kubiak's contract to 2012) "Number one, we were bringing in some new coaches and to bring in new coaches you can't bring them in on a one year contract. That doesn't make sense to them. So it was to provide some stability so that they could see that this group would be in place for an extended period of time. That's the reason we decided to do it."
(on how he will treat an uncapped year) "We'll operate the same way. In other words, basically the cap numbers are sort of budget numbers also. We have to live within our means just as you do. So we won't change what we do this year in terms of that. So it's a question of how you allocate your money. If you've got a set number of dollars, if you go out and spend a lot of money on free agents, there's less money to spend on the other players. So the question is how do you get the most bang for your buck. Typically, what I believe, and I think (head coach) Gary (Kubiak) and (general manager) Rick (Smith) feel the same way, typically what you see in the free agent market is a person that's had their best contract year, period. Maybe two or three years. But they've gone through their prime, they're at their peak, and if anything they might be beyond their peak at the time their contract expires and they're available. So when you go out and sign one of these players, you run the risk of paying them more than anyone else in the league will pay them, that's the only reason you got them, and they've started going downhill. And so you've tied up a lot of your dollars in a player that's not going to be as productive and that leaves you fewer dollars then to go out at work with younger players. So that's why we typically don't do that. Now, (DE) Antonio Smith was a great player for us, but he was a young player and everyone felt comfortable that he was highly motivated and physically he had not peaked, or was not going down. He might be at his peak, but not going down. So we'll look, but typically people that are good, solid players offer a better value than they guy that has been the star player."
(on if they'll rely more on the draft than on free agency) "Yes. We've outlined basically what we're going to be looking for and it'll be a matter of the best athlete in one of those positions at the time our draft number comes up, and at this point we don't know exactly what it is. We believe in building through the draft. And I think you (Houston Chronicle) did an article on how the Colts put their roster together and how the Saints put theirs together, and I've looked at that and compared it with our roster and they're very similar, with the exception that the Saints signed more unrestricted agents than either the Colts or we have. But in terms of draft picks, I think we had 14 starters that came from the draft and that's what the Colts had, and I think the Saints have 12. So that gives you a pretty good idea of where we are. But we believe you have to build through the draft, and we'll continue doing that."
(on watching the Super Bowl and wishing the Texans were playing) "Number one, I'm convinced we will be there, and we're not that far away from it. I think if we'd have made the playoffs this year, we'd gone a long way. I'm convinced of that. I was very happy for New Orleans. It meant a lot to their city. Also the fact that we're developing a closer relationship with the Saints. They came over and practiced with us this year, and afterwards (head coach) Gary (Kubiak) made the comment and said 'Man, that's a fine team.' All of us were very impressed with them then. We knew they were going to be good. When they left, (Saints head coach) Sean Payton, I congratulated him on the job they'd done and what have you, and he said 'Well, there's a good chance that we'll be meeting you again.' The only place that would have happened was in the Super Bowl, so he respects our organization and our team and the job that Gary has done. They're a fine football team and a lot of what they did was as a result of creating turnovers. Difference makers. They did it again in the Super Bowl with that interception. That's what we're looking for. We've got some of those difference makers now. We just need to step it up and get some of those turnovers, and it makes all the difference in the world. I can imagine how this city will go crazy, just as New Orleans has gone crazy over winning the Super Bowl. We'll be over and will practice with them next year. I've talked with (Saints owner) Tom Benson, and we want to improve and strengthen the relationship between these two teams. It's a natural rivalry and we want to try to build on that. One way we do it is by practicing with each other in preseason and playing each other in preseason on a regular basis. But I'm very happy for them. I'm happy for Sean Payton. I think he's a great coach. They've got some terrific players. It was really something good for New Orleans."
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak
(on what it was like while he watched the Super Bowl) "I know how difficult it is to get to that football game. One thing about our league, is there's only one team standing at the end of each season that accomplishes that goal, that feels great about it. Everybody else came up short, somehow, some way. I've been fortunate. I've been a part of it a few times. Like I said, I'd love to see this place be a part of it someday. That's what we're working toward. But everybody's got that opportunity. I think our opportunity is heading in the right direction. We just have got to continue to do that. The most important thing for our football team and our organization is to stay focused on the work. It's easy to talk about where we want to get to, or where we want to go. But we've got to stay focused on the work. Right now the biggest part of that work is the free agency and getting ready for that and the Draft, and continuing to strengthen our football team."
Texans owner Bob McNair
(on if the Texans are giving away any advantages of being a high-revenue team) "No, I don't feel that we're giving away any advantage. We've done a lot of study. I was chairman of a committee that (former NFL Commissioner Paul) Tagliabue appointed five or six years ago, a special committee on league economics. One of the things we studied was the correlation between the pay scale and performance. The thing that was interesting was, there was no correlation. The teams that had the highest payrolls did not have the highest performance. Some of the teams that had some of the lowest payrolls, had higher performance than those. So there was really no correlation there. I think part of that is because if you build through the draft, you're going to have younger players. If you do a good job on the draft, then you've got good players. If you've got good players who aren't being paid as much money then you still have some funds to go out and get free agents if you think they're of value, without having the largest payroll. We're still around the top of the league. We're certainly in the top quartile in terms of what we pay, and we'll still be in that same range, but you've got other supposedly small market teams that have gone out and spent a lot more money than we have. Oakland is one, and look at their performance. We're not going to knowingly give up any advantage, I can assure you of that."
(on if he expects 2010 to be the only season without a salary cap) "That's just my personal opinion, yes. I think it probably is, and I'm optimistic that we'll get something worked out. I'm not on the management committee; I'm on the finance committee, and it's the management committee that's actually doing the negotiation – and the commissioner. I know they're doing everything they can to resolve the issue."
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak
(on his reaction when owner Bob McNair approached him about re-doing his contract) "I don't know if I was surprised. It was just part of our discussions as we move forward. I talk to Bob every week throughout our season about what we're doing, how we're doing it, what direction we're heading. I think Bob has taken a hard look at where we were four years ago as an organization and as a football team and where we're at today and with that, made a decision that we're headed in the right direction as a coaching staff. I'm just very excited to have the opportunity, very thankful to Bob and his family. I want to finish what I started. We've still got a long, long way to go, but I'm enjoying it. I'm enjoying the work, I'm enjoying the challenge. We've got a big-time challenge coming ahead this year, schedule-wise, and our division will always be a challenge, but I think we've got the right group of guys to do it and I'm very excited about our young football team. I'm just thankful for Bob to continue to give me that opportunity."
(on how much he will be making) "I don't know (laughing)."
Texans owner Bob McNair
"Gary said it wasn't enough and I said it was too much (laughing)."
Texans owner Bob McNair
(on the team's plans regarding CB Dunta Robinson's contract status) "Well, we haven't addressed that yet, because right now we're really looking at other free agents. That's something that will be addressed later. We're going to work on free agents right now. (General manager) Rick Smith will be looking at that and visiting with (head coach) Gary (Kubiak) and seeing what the situation is."
(on whether teams will re-sign their free agents before March 5, not knowing whether there will be a salary cap in place) "I think the guys that are already under contract, we don't have a time pressure on us there. We have plenty of time. A lot of what we do will be dependent upon who we might sign from free agency and who we get in the draft and what our needs are as we go forward. We won't look at that until later."
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak
(on if he still believes that the team has to be able to run the ball well in order to be successful) "Yeah, I do. I'm talking strictly for our football team. I know that we have one heck of a quarterback right now and I think we could go out there and throw it with anybody in the business if we went out there 45-50 times a game. My point is I don't think that's what's best for our football team in the long run. I think we've got to get more physical as a football team. We've got to find a way to get our defense off the field more; they were on the field too much. We've got to be more dominant late in football games. In games that we lost, we've talked about all these close games that we lost, it was because we couldn't hang on to the football late in some of those games, so I just think it's very important to the development of our team taking the next step. As you know, I've always been committed to running the football and that's not going to change. We're going to find a way to get better. It wasn't good enough last year."
(on what he believes is the team's biggest need right now) "I don't know. I'm not avoiding it; (owner) Bob (McNair) talked about our needs offensively, our needs defensively. That will take place, to me, you look at free agency. OK, how do you fill some holes in free agency? That's the first thing that we've got to figure out right now. So if we're able to fill a few holes in our football team, then our draft needs could change. If we're not, then they could be altered that way also, so I think we're just looking at the strengths and weaknesses of our team. We've got to evaluate how free agency might help our team and after we get done with that, then we move to the draft. But to put a finger on one thing, the one thing is that we all get better. I know that's a pretty vague answer, but we have to all get better."
(on this year's free agent class) "I'm actually going up there this afternoon where we're going to meet on that as coaches. I think what's taken place is there's a big quality of football player in year four and five, which are prime years in a football player's career, that have all of a sudden been taken out of this equation. So you're sitting there looking at that book that you normally look at each year and it's a lot less, and you're looking at guys that are six-, seven-, eight-, nine-year players. Teams don't let players get to that point if they're quality starters, so we're looking at just a totally different list this time around than we've ever looked at in my time in the National Football League. How we deal with that, how we help our football team – we can still help our football team, I don't have any doubt about that – but how we go about doing that I think will be a lot different than how it's been in the past."