HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN**
"Just like I said after the game yesterday, I haven't had a whole lot of time to reflect on the year, but I'll definitely say that I'm proud of this team. Proud of these guys, they overcame some adversity during the season and proud to be associated with them. Certainly, not the way that any of us wanted the season to end. It's not good. It's a feeling that will linger for a long time. I know for me personally, it's going to drive me to try to be a better coach, try to help this organization get to where we all want it to get to. Games like yesterday, you know, they really only have meaning if you build on them and use them for future success.
Not really ready to give you a list of things that we have to change or improve. Obviously, the evaluations start right away. We meet with the players here at 11 (a.m.) and then we'll begin right away with our staff, evaluating our season strategically, personnel, schemes, everything. Every aspect will be evaluated. (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Rick Smith will do the same thing with his crew and we'll get together and we'll figure out what we have to do to be better in the coming weeks.
I know that J.J. Watt spoke to you guys in the locker room, significant groin injury. He'll have surgery this week. JD (Jadeveon) Clowney has a mid-foot sprain, tough injury. Knew later in the week that he wasn't going to be able to run, plant off of it, and was frustrated by that. But he knew that he wasn't going to be able to play in the game. Kevin Johnson played in the game yesterday with a broken wrist. So we'll monitor that and see how that's going. That's basically the injury update. So with that, I'll open it up to questions."
Will OLB Jadeveon Clowney need surgery?
"I don't believe so. I don't believe so."
Would DE J.J. Watt need to have surgery if he hadn't gotten hurt worse yesterday?
"I don't know the answer to that, I really don't. I apologize, but I don't know the answer to that."
What do you think about OLB Jadeveon Clowney saying he is going to dominate the league next year?
"I think the best thing that JD Clowney needs to do is to get healthy and have a great offseason."
What do you think QB Brian Hoyer can do this offseason to play better next year?
"I think everybody has to look at themselves and figure out what they can do better. I think at that position, it's a very difficult position. Obviously, he didn't play well yesterday. I mean, that's obvious. But you know, nobody on offense really lit it up yesterday, including the coaches. We all have to evaluate ourselves. That's kind of what this time of the year is about. Only one team at the end of the year is happy, that's just the way it goes. We have to figure out how to get back to this point, and then do a lot better than we did yesterday."
Where do things stand with QB Tom Savage as far as how the organization views him and his chances at competing for the starting quarterback job next year?
"I think he was very attentive in meetings. I'm in a lot of those quarterback meetings and he's in there taking notes. I ask him questions during the week every week and most of the time he's got the right answer. We like the way he throws the ball. It's unfortunate what happened to him in the beginning of the season there, in the preseason. He had a tough injury where the shoulder got driven into the ground there. We had to make a decision. But we feel the same way that we've always felt about Tom, he's a talented guy that has a chance to play."
Can you go back over the play where DE J.J. Watt tried to run the ball in at the goal line?
"Look, it comes down to me. It was a play that we'd been working on for about three weeks. We felt like it was a good situation to run it and it didn't work. Anytime plays like that don't work – it wasn't a gadget play. It was a goal line formation, goal line play, blocked like a goal line play and it didn't work. When those plays don't work, that obviously lays at the foot of me and I take that blame. I understand that. I'm not going to get into the schematics of it. It just didn't work."
Did the play not work because the Chiefs played it well or did you not execute it correctly?
"I would say that it was a combination of both. (Chiefs LB) Derrick Johnson and (Chiefs LB Josh) Mauga, they played it really well. We could have blocked it better. But give Kansas City credit, they stopped the play."
Is the tight end position somewhere you'll look to make changes this offseason?
"Again, I understand the question, I really do. I think that every position is going to be evaluated. No year is anything like the previous year. Every year is different. This 2016 team that we bring in here – I think April 18th is when the offseason program is allowed to start, the nine-week program – it may look nothing like the team that we have right now in some regards. I think that has to do with every position. We evaluate it. We look at and evaluate each other, coaching staff, the team and everything. We're going to do whatever we got to do to try to make it better."
What are your thoughts on DE Jared Crick, C Ben Jones and G Brandon Brooks, who were all in the last year of their contract?
"Jared Crick, tough guy, tough football player. He plays through injuries, has been a good guy for us the last two years. Ben Jones, same thing, tough guy, smart guy, and has played hurt. He played with a sprained MCL, bad back. Then Brooks, he's a very talented guy that over the last two years has – when he's been out there, has played very consistently for us."
Is it safe to say the Texans need to get faster on both sides of the ball?
"I think everybody has to get better. So whether that's faster, smarter, bigger, stronger, whatever it is, skinnier. I don't know, but everybody's got to get better. All of us, coaches, players."
You can't get faster, can you?
"No, but I can get skinner and I can get smarter, so that's what I'm going to try to do."
The special teams struggled again this year. What needs to change for it to improve?
"It's not very good. Again, I'm not going to get into all of it because I really haven't evaluated the season as a whole. But looking at yesterday's game, we have to cover kicks better, we have to return kicks better. We have to block better. Everything's got to get better on special teams in order for us to be where we want to be this time next year. We have to really improve on special teams."
Did anybody improve more than OLB Whitney Mercilus this year?
"I'll say this, I think he's a very improved player. He's a good football player. I think he had (three) sacks yesterday so he ended the year with (15) sacks. I mean, that's pretty good. So, I think I've said that all along about Whitney, even last year I thought that he was a guy that really had improved a lot through his own work ethic, number one. Then number two, through the coaching of (Linebackers Coach) Mike Vrabel. Mike's done a great job with that guy. Yeah, I think he's an improved player."
Do you anticipate staff changes whether it's guys leaving for other jobs or otherwise?
"You know, at this point right now I think everything's being evaluated. We'll take a look at everything. All those things, in the four years I've been a head coach, nothing surprises you. We've got a strong staff. We've got guys that I'm sure other people may want, things like that, but we'll evaluate all that in the coming weeks."
How much better should OLB Jadeveon Clowney be with an offseason the opposite of what he had last year?
"Yeah, I think that's what I said in the beginning of the press conference here – that's what I'm saying. I think the best thing that he can do is get the foot ready to go where he can move, which hopefully that'll be soon and then go have a great offseason. Come back here in great shape, come back here strong, ready to go, knowledge of the system, I think the best thing he can do for himself is have a great offseason."
You've been working with Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith for two years now, how in sync is his and your vision for this team?
"We have a good relationship. We meet every day. We text, we talk, we meet, and I think as far as the vision that we have for our team, that's something that may change year to year, really. May be something where look, we got to improve in these areas so the vision kind of changes sometimes. It's not always the same thing, so that's what these days and weeks and months are about here. One of the things that we'll do just to give you an idea is our coaching staff will sit down now and evaluate the season, personnel, scheme, situations, all the different things that go in, and then Rick's guys are sitting down and evaluating, they've been doing it all year, evaluating our team and hopefully we can all come together and kind of, hey put the evaluations on the table and come up with what we need for next year to be better."
Do you fully anticipate to continue working with Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith as the general manager?
Do you like the scouting part that comes with the offseason?
"Yes, yeah I really do. I do enjoy that a lot. I like studying the film and meeting the guys, and I enjoy doing that with (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Rick (Smith) and his guys, and Rick and I aren't always together on that. Sometimes he'll go over here and I'm over here, and we'll come back and talk about the players that we saw, but I do enjoy doing that."
Is there a break right now or do you guys go right into the scouting and evaluations?
"There's not much of a break, maybe a little break, but no we'll get working on it pretty soon. We take some time off. I think everybody needs to get away from each other and take some time off for a while. It won't be too long, and then when we get back, we'll really focus in on those types of things."
What's the first thing you do when you take a break?
"I don't know. I'm not really thinking about taking a break right now, really."
When you talk to the guys today I'm sure you'll be honest but also uplifting, is it a fine line between the two?
"Yeah, first thing is I think they have to know that I'm proud of them. I think that there were many things that went well this year. I mean we overcame a lot of adversity. We were, we were 2-5 and there were a lot of injuries, we were able to win a division title and that's good, but then there's things that aren't good that have to get better. As a team, we have to show up in better shape next year. I think we have to do a great job of starting the season better, starting with training camp and actually OTAs, training camp and then into the season. I want these guys to really work – in the NFL right now when you're done playing, you know we don't have them now until I think it's April 18th, that week, that's like three months that they're on their own that they don't have to be here. My recommendation to them will be, let's not sit on our couch for more than a couple weeks. Let's get back to work and get going here, get in shape, get stronger, do what you need to do, study your tape, what can you do to be better? I know that we have a room full of guys that will do that. I really do."
Will that change your philosophy and maybe play more veterans in preseason games?
"I haven't even thought that far ahead, that's a great question, but that's not something that I'm even – I haven't even thought about that."
Owner Bob McNair always says he sits with you and reviews the game film from Sunday on Monday morning. Will you do that with him today and what's that like?
"If he wants to watch film I'll – he's the boss, I've said this to you guys 50 times. If he says, 'Hey, I want to watch film with you,' then we grab the clicker and we watch film. If he says, 'I want to go out to the field and show me how you're teaching this block,' then we're going out to the field and I'm showing him how to teach the block. Whatever he says, that's the boss. That's the way I've been brought up. It's the chain of command. He's the man, so whatever he wants to do, you want to watch film, we're going to watch film."
Have you talked to Owner Bob McNair since the game?
"I saw him but I didn't have a long chat with him."
OLB JADEVEON CLOWNEY
Were you frustrated yesterday because you really wanted to play?
"Of course, I think so. I'm frustrated I didn't get to play. I think anybody would have been. I watched the game, stayed here and watched the game."
Do you feel like you could have played?
"No, I knew before, before the game started that I couldn't play Saturday."
So why did you get so upset when they made it official?
"I didn't say that. I was just mad I wasn't out there with my team. I didn't get frustrated that they didn't write me out or nothing. I got frustrated because I couldn't play, which I think anybody would have been."
So when you left the stadium you left to take tickets to your family, is that true?
"You know, people say what they want. I was right here too watching the game."
So you never left the stadium?
"No, never left."
Is it frustrating to you that people continue to say these things about you when you're doing all you can to play for this team and be a good teammate?
"Yeah, but you know, it happens. I don't really care. I just keep playing, that's all I can do, be me I guess. I don't know."
Are you happy overall to get back and help the team this season?
"Yeah, I was just happy to get back out on the field. People were telling me I probably wasn't going to play this year with the injury I had, just to get back out there was a plus for me. This offseason I'll just go out and work really hard and come back and try to dominate this league when I get back."
How much better will this offseason be for you now?
"It'll be great. I think it'll be real, I'm just going to work on my craft a lot, work on the things I need to work on and next year's going to be a big, big season for me in this league. I know I can dominate this league."
Were you happy about the progress you showed?
"Yeah, I was very happy, just to go through a whole season with no problems with my knee was a plus for me after hearing about the injury. I think it was a very big plus for me, just this offseason I need to work, man. That's all. Just keep doing what I've been doing, just work hard and come back and dominate the league."
Are you looking forward to what you can do when you're 100 percent healthy?
"Oh yeah, I know what I can do. It's funny, just hearing people talk. I just think I'm going to come back and dominate the league next year."
DE JARED CRICK
Is this any better 24 hours later?
"No, the feeling is still there, but you got to move on."
How much are you thinking about your future here?
"It is bright. For an organization, we did a lot of good things, had the ball rolling really. Good things happened for this team and as for myself, who knows really? It is my last year of my contract so, hopefully I am back, but if not, wherever I go, I go."
How much would you like to be back?
"I would love to be back. I love my teammates. I love working for these coaches. I love working for this owner and I love this city. Everything about this team, I would really like to be back."
How tough is it going from preparing for a playoff game to packing up your locker?
"It is tough, especially after all the things that we went through late in the year to get to the point where we were yesterday and to just be done like that, it's tough. But that's the way football goes. You have to keep your head up and look back on the good things that we did and be proud of it."
How healthy are you?
"I came out good, so I am in good shape."
Do you think that you made a strong case for the team to keep you here?
"I hope so. That is all up to the guys upstairs. I just did my part, did my job and played as hard as I could. That is really all that I could control."
Have you had your exit talk with Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith and how did it go?
"Yeah, it was good. He just told us that he is proud of us and of the past four years what I have done in my career here so far. It was short and sweet, nothing too in-depth, but I think he was pleased."
Did you just leave it open-ended in regards to contract negotiations?
"Yeah, it is something that is going to be down the road a couple months whenever they ramp that up. Right now, for me, just go home and rest for a little bit and whenever the time comes, got to be ready."
What are you looking forward to this offseason non-football related?
"Getting out of town other than traveling for a game. Go on vacation or something, just let the body rest is the biggest thing for everybody right now. Just get healthy and get ready to go for next year."
C BEN JONES
Have you thought about the fact that you'll be a free agent for the first time and what's next?
"Just got to move on and take it day by day. Just heal all my bumps and bruises and move on to next year."
How tough was it to go through all your injuries this year?
"That's just part of the business. I do whatever it takes to win. I'm out there just trying to grind every week and do what it takes every week to go out there and try to get a win."
Do you need to have anything fixed this offseason?
"I was pretty fortunate, just bumps and bruises that happened throughout the year, pretty healthy as of right now and just move on and go take care of business."
What case do you think you made for the Texans to keep you?
"I've done everything I can and it's up to them right now."
From a team standpoint, what do you see from this entire team and the adversity that it faced and how it grew together?
"We're definitely a team that grew throughout the year, and we have a great, close-knit bunch. I love everything about this team. I enjoyed coming to work every day and just love everybody on this team and I really enjoyed this whole season, the ups and the downs. I learned a lot from each of our players and stuff like that, so it was definitely a blessing to be here this year."
What's it like dealing with the uncertainty going into this offseason?
"You really don't even think about it. Really I just come out here every day and try to get better and it's the offseason right now so I'm going to try to heal up all my bumps and bruises and be ready when April or March comes around."
Did you have a positive meeting with Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith?
"Sure, I haven't done anything yet. I just got here, I'm about to go do my exit physical now."
What are you looking forward to doing non-football related in the offseason?
"I'm really football all the way around. I'll probably start working out next week."
Do you feel like the organization has turned the corner?
"Definitely, we have a great organization upstairs. We've got a lot of great leaders up there, and it's been a blessing to be a part of this organization for four years."
With all the shuffling at quarterback, how did you grow through all that?
"That was definitely one of my roles. I've been in the system for two years and I've poured everything I have into it, and switching quarterbacks, we had to be on the same page and I knew that, so the extra meetings, the before and after practice that we spent the time to make sure everything went smoothly so we could be in the situation we were in yesterday."
You're one of the closest to the group, does that make it harder to say goodbye?
"Definitely, these are your best friends and you never know the next day who you might not see. Some guys this might be the last time you talk to. "
OLB WHITNEY MERCILUS
If you played another game would you have three sacks?
"I really don't know, but I would try."
How will you look back on this season?
"I just got to continue forward. It shows the little bright spot type of player that I am and all of that, so I have worked hard for everything and just got to keep that going for next year. That is all that I will be looking forward to."
What does it mean to you that you got an opportunity this season?
"Yeah, that is what the coaches always say. If you get the opportunity, seize it, seize the opportunity. I felt like I have done that. It has been great. It has been great. Each opportunity that I have had and for my number to be called to go out there, I definitely did that."
Does this loss hurt worse since you made so much progress and then it came to a screeching halt?
"Yeah, it definitely hurts. For everybody to count us out at 2-5 and for us to turn things around and for guys to believe in us in this locker room and what we had and to turn things around and get the ticket to playoffs, it really kind of sucks. It sucks to be out in the first round, but it doesn't put a damper on anything. It actually puts us in a position to look forward to the future. Understand that we have the team that we want, we just have to make a few improvements and we will continue on in building more success."
How much better can you get?
"A whole lot better. There is no settling at all. The sky is the limit and I have just been making strides and all that and just go reach it, go seize it."
Is the defense we saw the last nine games the defense we should see all season next year?
"Of course. That is the type of defense that we know how to play. We know how to play our game. Guys in the locker room, all 11 guys on defense, starting with (Brian) Cushing, J.J. (Watt), all of those guys, they play with passion and you see it on the field in the second half of the season and that is what we are going to do for next season."
How important was it to make those strides given the fact that the team invested in you earlier in the year?
"It was very important to me. It made me realize that each opportunity that I get, always push forward and try to seize those opportunities and show exactly what they invested in me, so I went out and did that."
T DEREK NEWTON
Because you guys came back through so much, does it hurt that much worse? Was yesterday the real team or was the real team what we saw before yesterday?
"No, that's not us at all. You know, when you start down like that, you get counted out. But the team we've got right here is a lot of fight, a lot of guys that's not going to give up and that shows what type of team we have, what type of players we have on this team, coaching staff, all those guys. They believe in us, we believe in ourselves. So I think the sky's the limit for this team. A lot of great guys on this team and we'll see how things go this offseason and be ready when it's time to kick off OTAs."
Is there still some disbelief the season is over?
"Yeah, it is. A lot of fight went into this, blood, sweat and tears, pain and to see it fall like that, it definitely hurts."
Do you feel like the organization has turned the corner?
"I feel like we did some good things. Now is the time to pick it up some more. I feel like we can do that."
What's something you're looking forward to doing away from football this offseason?
"I don't know that right now. First thing, I'm just going to go chill with my fam for a little bit. Haven't seen too many of those guys yet, but that's what I plan on doing."
How do you look at what you did this year?
"Did pretty good, had some bad plays but that's part of the game. All about fixing them in the offseason."
QB TOM SAVAGE
How eager are you to get back out on the field?
"Very eager. Definitely excited. It is a bitter-sweet thing that it ended, but now I am ready to go."
Did you wonder what things would have been like if you had been on the active roster considering that the team used five quarterbacks and started four?
"Every night, every night. It was tough, but that is a really tough spot to be in as a coach when you have that awkward timing for an injury like that. You can't really control that and I am just ready to go."
What did you learn this year?
"I had a plan for each week. It was beneficial to kind of take a step back and get an outside view of what is going on. I always had these little game plan packages and stuff that I could work on and learn from, so I kept them all and I got all of my notebooks ready and I am ready to go."
What is your timeline over the next two months?
"I have to take my wife on a honeymoon so she doesn't divorce me sixth months after our wedding. That is pretty much it. Like I said, I am ready to go, but just need to keep working out and get ready."
Have you ever thought by taking the time off now that it might add some time to your career in the future?
"Like not taking hits? I don't know about that. Obviously, you want to be out there playing, but I can control what I can control and be ready to go."
How much better are you now within the system?
"I think just being in the system for two years has been huge. It is a tough system so you just really have to take advantage of this year and I think I did that."
Are you 100 percent now?
Does that make it even tougher to sit back and watch this?
"Yeah, it would be anybody. Anybody it would be tough on. Like I said, it is a tough spot for the coaches to do that whole IR deal, I don't know how it works up there, so I just stay out of that and control what I can control."
What did you see from your vantage point from this team this season?
"I just think the atmosphere in this locker room, I know you guys can see it too, it's just been a different year. Everyone has been positive and we have a really good team here. Obviously, you don't want it to end that way, no one does, but I think everything is looking bright here and everyone is pretty excited about where this organization is going."
When you come back, are you coming back with the idea that you are going to win the starting quarterback job next year?
What do you think you will have to do to win it?
"Just perform and compete and obviously just stay on top of this whole deal. I am going to have an awesome opportunity this spring no matter what happens and I am going to be ready to go."
There is obviously going to be a lot of talk about drafting a quarterback, but that sounds like a challenge that you are ready for?
"Yeah, they can draft 12 quarterbacks. I am going to be ready to go. I am definitely excited about competing and that still falls under the category of controlling what I can control. I am not up there. I don't make those decisions, so all I can do is be ready to compete."
DE J.J. WATT
Feel any better this morning?
"No, not in the slightest."
How are you doing physically?
"Not so hot, but we'll get it taken care of and I'll be fine."
What's the diagnosis at this point?
"Not 100 percent sure, we'll get it diagnosed tomorrow but I'll have surgery on Tuesday, take it from there."
Does this loss hurt more because of the progress you guys made this year?
"It really doesn't matter. It's going to hurt, no matter what, when you get knocked out of the playoffs. The goal in this league is to win championships. So at whatever point you get knocked out, it's going to hurt and it's going to be painful."
Is the surgery going to be for your groin?
"I'll know exactly what it is when we get it looked at further, but yeah. I know for a fact we've got to fix something, that's for sure. It's something we've been dealing with for probably six or seven weeks now, and our training staff has done a great job of just getting me out there on the field so I could play. Yesterday was kind of the breaking point. Lot of credit to our training staff, they've done an unbelievable job."
How much did that injury limit you?
"I won't ever make excuses."
Will your hand heal on its own or require surgery?
"The hand? Yeah, the hand is almost all the way done now. It's maybe a week or two away from being 100 percent again. It's definitely good enough to do almost every activity."
What are your thoughts on the season with it ending yesterday?
"Not good, this league is about winning championships. That's why you put in the work. That's why you put in the time. When you don't win a championship, it's a disappointment. It's just the way it goes."
Do you feel like the organization has turned the corner?
"I mean, I don't know. I don't know what the corners are. I don't know. We didn't win a championship, so we have work to do."
Even though you didn't win a championship, are there still some positives you can take from this season?
"I mean, did we do some good things? Yeah, we obviously turned it around from a crappy situation, but I'm not too big into that whole narrative of 'just look at what they did good' because quite frankly at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. It's about results. It's about what did you do? Yes, we want to win the AFC South Division Championship every single year, but I'm not going to stand here and tell you that I'm going to be satisfied winning an AFC South Division Championship every year. I'm going to tell you the truth. I want to win a world championship. Until we do that, no, I'm not going to be satisfied and it's going to hurt whenever we get knocked out before that."
What does the team need to do to get to that world championship level?
"We need to play better. We need to perform better. We just need to execute better, simple as that."
Last year, you had quite the offseason. Are you looking forward to getting back to some of that stuff and all the fun that the offseason can bring as well?
"When that time comes, yeah. Right now I'm just looking forward to getting my body healthy, taking some time to make sure that fully heals so I can get back to being 100 percent. That's the biggest thing right now, but yeah, there will be some enjoyable parts about the offseason, of course. I think the biggest thing besides getting my body healthy is seeing my family and friends and really just getting a chance to reconnect with them and kind of say hello again because it's been too long."
What will it mean to you if you win Defensive Player of the Year for a third time?
"Yeah, I mean it would be obviously an honor, but like I just said, the goal is to win a world championship. Individual awards are great and I'm very much appreciative of them and I work my ass off for them, but I want to win as a team."
As you were battling the groin issue, were you surprised they called the jumbo package with you on offense?
"No, not at all. We were very confident in it. We thought it would work. They did a great job defending it. Like I said, those guys get paid too and I think they made a great play."
Did you see Arnold Schwarzenegger's tweet to you?
"Yeah, he texted that to me earlier in the day. We had been talking a little bit after the game throughout the day and so he was – he's a good friend. He's a very good man. He's a good friend of mine. He just wanted to pick us up a little bit. He's a good man, so I appreciate it."
Your message to the fans after the game saying you were sorry, some thoughts about that.
"I mean we didn't win a championship. That's what our job is. So I'm sorry, I'm sorry I had to come out of the game. I'm sorry that we couldn't bring you a championship. I'm sorry that it ended the way it did. I feel like fans pour their heart and soul into this thing just like we do and so I feel like we've got to take accountability for the fact that we didn't accomplish our goal."