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Rick Smith interview transcript


Texans general manager Rick Smith sat down for a one-on-one interview with Texans TV to review the 2007 season and discuss how the team will approach free agency and the draft in the offseason.

Brooke Bentley (Texans TV): What do you think were the strongest points of the 2007 season?

Rick Smith: I think we had to deal with an unusual amount of injuries, first of all. I thought our team did a nice job of responding to that. We found some players and some depth at some positions that we were surprised at. But, I think overall, the biggest thing is that we are on schedule. I think we made some improvements from the '06 season and I think our team went through some learning lessons over the course of the season. I think we will be able to draw on those experiences next year to get us to where we are trying to get to. But the resolve that our team showed to get through all the injuries and end the season the way we did, I think was special.

Brooke Bentley (Texans TV): The Texans actually led the league in injuries. At one point, there were 17 players on injured reserve. What was the biggest disappointment during the season?

Rick Smith: I think certainly dealing with the injuries is one thing. Injuries are a part of the National Football League, but that's one area you don't want to lead the league in and we did. If you look back, I think the fact that we weren't able to protect the football at times and we turned the ball over so many times, I think that was the biggest thing. Going into the offseason, we have to take a really hard look and see why that was the case and how do we go about correcting it.

Brooke Bentley (Texans TV): From a personnel perspective going into the offseason, what do you think are the strengths of the team?

Rick Smith: As you talk about free agency, everybody is excited about the draft, about free agency, about acquiring new players. Certainly we are, too, but the first step in that whole process is to evaluate your football team. We are now in some exhaustive meetings to talk about our team, to really assess the positions of strengths and weaknesses so that we know that once we do start to acquire players, we are doing so in a manner that is going to help us become the team that we are trying to become.

{QUOTE}Brooke Bentley (Texans TV): As you do these assessments, where do you see holes? Where do you need to fill gaps?

Rick Smith: Well, again, our coaches are doing that now. We are in the process of doing that. If you look at our team, certainly one of the areas that I think proved this year that you need – you need running backs and you need a stable of running backs. Some people might argue that you need more than two legitimate running backs. You might need three, so that's an area.

You know, Ronnie Dayne is a free agent. We are going to have to look at whether we are going to bring him back. Certainly, Ahman Green's injury-plagued season was a disappointment for us, but we are hopeful that his offseason will be a good one and a productive one so that he can come back and be a positive contributor to our team next year. So that's an area where you know you've got to add a player or two.

I was certainly pleased with the way Darius Walker responded toward the end of the season and was pleased with his development. The corner position with Dunta (Robinson) going down is another position that you think about. Gosh, you've got to make sure you have guys that can cover it, knowing that he won't be back until the middle part of the season is a concern. Those are two areas, but we are going to meet here on Wednesday with our entire coaching staff and our pro scouting department to talk about our team and really hone in on where we think we need to go and players we think we need to address.

Brooke Bentley (Texans TV): You take a very meticulous approach to your assessment. I'm sure you also do that in the draft. What core characteristics do you use to evaluate players?

Rick Smith: We have what we call position parameters. Depending upon what the position is, there are some physical characteristics that a player has to have – height, weight, speed, he needs to run a certain speed to play a particular position. The corners have to be faster than the safeties. Linebackers have to be bigger than corners. There are some physical things that you look for, as well as some aptitude things. The critical piece, Brooke, is the way a guy plays football. What's his football character? Is he passionate about the game? Is his approach to the game one that carries over onto the field? The only way to really see that is by watching tape. We do a lot of physical testing, as you know, the Combine and all of the spring workouts that these guys participate in. You go and you look at those physical characteristics, but the intangible things are the things that you really can't quantify or measure, but you can see them and they jump off the table.

Brooke Bentley (Texans TV): I remember hearing last year that you like to pick winners – there is a winning characteristic that a player must have.

Rick Smith: There is. You like to have guys come from winning programs, who are used to winning. A lot of times – it's not always the case – but if a guy's putting in a winning effort, and certainly that had a lot to do with the way he approaches the weight room, the way he approaches his academics, the way he approaches his technique and the way that he studies. All of those are things that our scouts are asking questions about to the college coaches, so those are the things that we look at and we try to make sure that we get the right kind of guy that's going to add to our team.

Brooke Bentley (Texans TV): Of course, last year was your first draft with the Texans. You used the 10th overall pick on defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. You also had great picks with Fred Bennett and Jacoby Jones. What did you learn from that draft process?

Rick Smith: I went into the draft process trying to be as prepared as possible and I think that's how you should go into any event in your life. You can prepare for it and you can run the scenarios and you should walk in with confidence, and we certainly did that. But to actually live the experience - to be in the room and make the calls - it was an exciting experience. I just think that the more you can prepare, the more you can run scenarios and models and say, 'Hey, this might happen or that might happen.' Of all the models that we ran, we never had one where Amobi would be available at that point. So as much as you can prepare, you can never really be prepared for what actually happens. It was a fun time. It was a very exciting time.

Brooke Bentley (Texans TV): What are your thoughts on the 2008 draft class?

Rick Smith: This time of year everybody pretty much has the same type of feelings. You haven't really gotten into it. We set our preliminary draft board. Our scouts came back into town in December and we had a meeting and set our draft board. So you look and say it's a better draft at these positions or those positions. I'm not prepared to let that out yet right now. Certainly, the juniors will impact that when they declare. There are going to be enough good players for us to get better, that's for sure.

Brooke Bentley (Texans TV): I have to ask the question that all Texans fans want to know: What position group will you go after first?

Rick Smith: I don't know. It's such a fluid process. Brooke, you know that. It's a matter of what happens on draft day and who becomes available. The thing that you do is you evaluate the class, you rank the class and you put value on them. If you are fortunate enough to be in a situation where you've got multiple guys and a slot where you've got several guys that are rated at that position, then it's a luxury. More often than not, you're scrambling and looking and you're hoping that a guy's going to be there because those names come off the board pretty quickly.

Brooke Bentley (Texans TV): The Texans have the 18th spot this year in the draft. What kind of leverage does that spot give you? Do you want to trade up or down?

Rick Smith: I am always going to be under the opinion that if we can acquire more picks, we'll acquire more picks. Certainly, you're going to get a good football player at the 18th slot in the first round. From that standpoint, I'm confident that we'll be able to answer some needs for our team. If the opportunity presents itself that we might be able to move back and acquire another pick or two, then we certainly will entertain that. If a guy's there that we just say, 'Hey, we want to get that guy,' then we are going to do that. We will keep all those options open.

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