After the Texans concluded the 2011 NFL Draft, general manager Rick Smith and head coach Gary Kubiak met with the media at Reliant Stadium. The following is a transcript of their respective interviews.
General manager Rick SmithHead coach Gary Kubiak
Rick Smith(opening statement) "I don't have much of an opening statement. I'm extremely pleased about the events over the last few days. We talked the other day at our pre-draft press conference and we talked about the fact that the goal is really to come out of the weekend a stronger football team and a more improved football team. I certainly feel like that is the case. I felt like we were able to address some needs and specifically, and obviously on the defensive side of the football, that was one of the goals and one of the things we were really trying to get accomplished and really feel good about the players we've added to our football team."
(on how many starters he thinks he drafted) "I don't know that. I know one thing that we were focused on and that is to add quality football players that will come in and compete. I think one of the things that you will notice about all of the players that we took is that they are all high-motor, high-character guys. Football is very important to them. They're tough, tough-minded, disciplined players. I think that's going to benefit our team as a whole and our organization as a whole."
(on how much better does he feel about the defense after the draft) "I think that's obvious. We've talked about that again and again, and I'll reference the other day. We talked about the fact that when you look back on the season, we all felt like obviously we fell short of our goals and we had to start to take steps to rectify that. The first step obviously started with the changes on the coaching staff. We talked about the different pools of players and opportunities that you have to improve a football team. One of those and the first of which, this year a little higher than most, is the opportunity that we just had; and I do feel like we were able to address the defense and I think we're significantly better."
(on if they had any hidden gems in the middle to late rounds) "Well, interestingly enough, we moved around a little bit over the last few days. In the fourth round, when we moved back, we were able to pick up a couple of those fifth round picks and tried to target a couple of those guys. The (CB Roc) Carmichael pick, we actually had second- or third-round grades on him. That was another testament to staying true to the board. We felt like he was a guy that was a very competitive player at the position and had some skill. We moved back in the fourth round and were still able to pick him up and acquire those two extra picks in the fifth. One of those players is (S) Shiloh Keo. He is one of those players that you talk about as a diamond in the rough. He doesn't have great measurables, but what he has intangible-wise and what he adds from a physical standpoint, he has tremendous ball skills. He is a very heady player with great football instincts. He's the type of guy that you look for in those rounds, and we really think he can come in and help our team."
Gary Kubiak(on what he liked about QB T.J. Yates in the fifth round) "From a quarterback standpoint, obviously there was a lot of talk in the draft about the group and what was going to happen. I was really just surprised that his name never came up in the group, to be honest with you, after studying him. I think this kid is a fine player. A very solid career in college, which nowadays, we look at some players that have one-year careers, two-year careers—this kid had a nice four-year career and he played his best as a senior. He also overcame adversity at North Carolina. I just like everything he stands for. He is basically running our offense there at North Carolina. He walks in and he's going to know what we're doing. He reminds me of (QB) Matt (Schaub) a great deal. He's got a great play clock in his head. I just think we're very fortunate. Rick and I were sitting there talking in round five and couldn't believe he was still on the board. This kid has a chance to be a 'one' in this league if he keeps moving forward. It's a great pick for us."
(on what he saw in LB Cheta Ozougwu) "Well, we talked about him for probably an hour and a half. Obviously, we're going to play him at linebacker. He can rush the passer. He's a very smart young man. We all know that. We think he'll play four different positions for us on defense and be a heck of a special teams player. He, like a bunch of these players, has a big football IQ and a high motor. We think he'll find a way to make it in this league. It's just kind of nice that it ended up being right down the street. So we're happy for him."
Rick Smith(on when they can talk to these players again now that the draft is over) "Well, at this point, we can't. I don't have any timetable with respect to when that's going to happen. We have to let the labor situation play itself out, but you best believe that as soon as we can, we will."
Gary Kubiak(on if its been difficult planning around having players and not having players) "Yeah, I can't talk very much about that situation, but I will say this: the last 48 hours have been difficult because we thought we were fixin' to go back to work. We got to see our players yesterday. We thought we were fixin' to go back to work Monday morning and have a team meeting, start our workouts, our OTAs in two weeks and now it's back on hold. It's difficult, but we all have the same problem, so we'll just have to have some patience here. I've got a lot of confidence that it's all going to get worked out and I'm confident that our players are taking care of business away from this building and getting ready to go because they were very excited, the ones that were here yesterday."
Rick Smith(on dealing with undrafted free agents this year compared to previous years) "It's different and what we try to do in all instances is just try to make the best out of the situation. So actually what we can do is we've done that process. I've tried to keep it as normal as possible, so we went through that process in terms of identifying those players, both from a scouting perspective as well as what coaches think. We'll get a chance to sit back tomorrow and really fine tune that list and look at it and really identify the players and spend a little more time with it than we normally would so that we are ready to go whenever that opportunity presents itself."
(on if they are unable to contact undrafted free agents) "The minute we turn the card in with the last pick, all contact is prohibited from this point forward. So we cannot contact those players."
(on what made him choose DE J.J. Watt over other players) "I'll say this. Number one, there are any number of variables that go into our process of evaluating these players and in the selection process. Without being specific about any of the other players that we didn't take, if you look at the way the first round played out, there were a number of scenarios where we could've taken a different player. We could've moved. We entertained ideas of moving up. We entertained ideas of moving back. But at the end of the day, we felt extremely positive about J.J. Watt and what he can add to this defense. I know he's been up here in front of you guys and I know you've seen what kind of man he is and hopefully now, with some of the highlights you've seen of what type of player he is. He adds a dimension to our defense. I talk all the time in here about finding playmakers and guys that add dimensions to your football team. I think several of the players that we've picked over the last few days add a toughness and a competitive, get after your butt type of intensity that they all bring. It certainly started with J.J. and it continued throughout the couple of days."
(on how S Shiloh Keo fits into Wade Phillips' secondary) "I think he does have the range. He doesn't have great top-end speed, but he's got enough speed and range to get over the top. He also is a very laterally quick guy and the biggest thing that you need, probably from a safety perspective in my opinion, is instincts. He's got tremendous instincts and tremendous ball skills, where as a guy who might be a little bit faster than he has and might have better measureables, this guy can get to the play because he's got such great anticipation and instincts. That's what you need at the position."
Gary Kubiak(on if S Shiloh Keo has a chance to contribute in the return game) "Yeah, he definitely has the ability to do both. Remember, Wade (Phillips) had this man at the East-West game. He coached him. He thought a lot of him, not only as a safety and what he brought, but his leadership. I think the kid was named captain of the team within two days of being at the game. Wade had a very high opinion of this young man going into the draft. His ability to return did add some value to him."
(on having four quarterbacks if QB Matt Leinart comes back) "We can take them all to camp. It all depends. It's another thing that's yet to be determined until this thing gets worked out."
Rick Smith(on trying to make a positive impression when he brings in draft prospects) "Yeah, we do. We try to represent our organization as best we can in any situation. Certainly, that's a part of it. Like we talked about before, our primary use for those visits are those guys who didn't make it to the Combine. We're trying to get physicals on them, trying to feel out who they are as individuals, and a part of that process is a little bit of recruiting if those guys don't get drafted."
Gary Kubiak(on the team's priorities whenever free agency begins) "Well, I may skate around it. Everything is going to work in reverse. Normally, Rick and I are here, our team is set and we get our rookie free agents and we go to work in two weeks. Now we have to come in tomorrow, Monday morning, and talk about free agency, so, it's a total flip on a year-to-year basis in this league. We've done our homework, we're ready for free agency, but until that takes place it's kind of hard to sit here and talk about it. We'll be ready for it. Obviously some of our holes may change from before we went into draft. It will be important, still a big piece of us going into September and getting ready to go."
Rick Smith(on second round picks LB Brooks Reed and CB Brandon Harris) "First of all with Brooks (Reed), we were holding our breaths. There were a lot of rumors on Friday that New England might take him with the first pick of the second round. We made some calls and tried to feel the situation out and what it might take to get up. At the end of the day, when they didn't take him, we sat there and were so happy he was on the board when we were able to pick. And all the things he has relative to the things I've talked about before and characteristics that J.J. (Watt) brings, he brings those same: temperament, playing fast, explosive player, all those things from a pass rush perspective are good. And, then really we felt like Brandon (Harris) was a tad bit better than all the rest of the corners left on the board. So, we felt like we needed to make the move to get back to the second round to pick him up and were able to make the trade with New England. Basically, we just gave up a fifth-round pick to move from that pick in the third round to move back into the second round to take Brandon (Harris). He's a fiery football player from Miami - he's got all the confidence you need at the position, and is a very versatile player and can play inside and outside. To get back into the second round, it felt like we needed to do it because we felt so much better about him than anybody else left on the board at the position."
(on selecting six cornerbacks in the past three years' draft) "Personally, we have said this in years past, you always have to have corners in this league. We always talk about how this league has changed and how important cornerback play is because you throw the ball so much. You've got to have guys that cover. I've always said that is an important position. When you've got to play against Peyton Manning and stop that offense, we start with them obviously this year, we'll be in nickel a lot and that's an important position and will continue to be."
(on the Indianapolis Colts' drafting two offensive lineman) "They do as good as a job of anybody in this league in terms of configuring their draft and free agency. I'm sure they addressed needs as they feel like they need be."
Gary Kubiak(on which players he is most excited about) "I am going to start with the safety (Shiloh Keo.) I love this guy's football IQ when I watch him play, diagnosing routes, formations, and what's fixing to happen. He has great hands. If the ball is close, he's going to make the play and has the ability to take it back to the house; makes big hits in games that are difference-makers for football teams. The passion he had when we called him, him and his family, if he brings that to our locker room, he's going to be just fine."
Rick Smith(on which players he is most excited about) "I'd agree with that. I mean, I could pick somebody different, but I really think I am more excited about this kid. The more than he can bring to our team, the physicalness he brings and the excitement he brings."
(on what he wishes the Texans could have gotten but didn't) "I don't know if I'm processed that way. I don't ever go into the draft saying we have to get something, so I don't feel like I'm disappointed, personally that we didn't get any one position."
Gary Kubiak(on what he wishes the Texans could have gotten but didn't) "I would agree. The only thing that is different at the end of the day, for us, is that normally if you're looking at a spot or two as you're ready to go chase it in free agency. Instead of doing that, we have to go back, wait until Monday morning, and get game plan number two going."
(on utilizing Mario Williams) "Mario is the piece to the puzzle, defensively, that gives us the flexibility. He's the guy that we didn't have to lock in at an end or lock in Mario at a WILL (linebacker). Mario can play with a hand up. Mario can play with a hand down. As soon as we get this football team in here and Wade (Phillips) starts working with the group we got and then we will make that decision. The options we have for Mario are wide open."
Rick Smith(on draft surprises) "Well, there was a lot of talk, prior to the draft on people who needed quarterbacks and how many quarterbacks could potentially be taken in the first round. With the group of quarterbacks that were not necessarily stellar, I wasn't really sure if that was going to play itself out, but sure enough there were four quarterbacks taken in the first round, a little bit of surprise there. Everyone was speculating about free agency after the draft and how impactful that was going to be, and I think at the end of the day that had something to do with it."