HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
Have you thought about whether or not you will call plays next season?
“I think at the end of every year we evaluate everything. Obviously, we just ended yesterday. But, we’ll take a look at everything. We always try to make the best decisions in the best interest of winning. Like I said after the game, I think we have a very good future here. A lot of things to fix, but like I said, we’ll take a look at everything.”
Do you expect Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel to return?
“Yes. Yes, I certainly do. Yep.”
Do you feel like you can fix the offensive line with the players you have or do you think you will have to bring players in?
“We’ll definitely look at every position, and that’s – every year is different. So, we’ll evaluate every position. But again, the one thing about is that there’s a lot of things that go into a sack. I’ve said that, and it’s the truth. There’s, obviously, offensive lineman maybe getting beat, or we miss a hot, we miss a sight adjust, the quarter doesn’t get rid of the ball on time, the receiver runs the wrong route. So, there’s a lot that goes into the sacks. So, those are two separate discussions. The big things is, is evaluate the roster. Every year the roster’s different just by the nature of the draft and free agency and all those different things. We’re not near there yet. We’ll begin that process, though, right away this week. We’ll start to get a handle on what we think we need to do moving forward with Brian (Gaine), and his staff and our coaching staff.”
How much of an advantage is it to have three picks in the first two rounds as opposed to none last year?
“Yeah, I think that’s good. I do – again, I give Brian (Gaine) a lot of credit last year, because I think that – I do know that this is a very strong rookie class that we have in here. A lot of these guys played a lot of snaps, got a lot of good experience. But, we didn’t’ start picking until the second day. So, I think that having some early round picks, as long as we work hard at it and we all see it through the same set of eyes, and obviously we make a pick of a guy that’s a talented guy that loves football, that is a great representative of the Houston Texans organization, then, yeah it’s good. It’s definitely good to have early picks.”
CB Kareem Jackson and S Tyrann Mathieu expressed that they are interested in returning to the team next year.
“Yeah, we feel good about those guys. You know, it’s funny, when I first started as a head coach in this league, I’m not sure how I would have answered that question because I’m not sure I totally understood it the way I do now. I think that that’s the business side of things, that’s very, very difficult. That involves agents, that involves guys that you really respect. The two examples you just gave, Kareem, Tyrann, what they bring to our locker room. But, at the end of the day, we always do what we feel is best for the Houston Texans, led by Cal McNair. Then, they always do what they think is best for their families and their future. Hopefully those two things can come together, but if they don’t, they don’t. That doesn’t mean that we think any less of anybody that was here in the past or any example you give me of a free agent. We think highly of those guys, and hopefully we can work things out.”
What do you and General Manager Brian Gaine think about the strides you need to take to get to the championship level?
“We obviously have to fix things. First of all, we have to look in the mirror. OK, what can we do better from a schematic standpoint? What can we do better to get these guys, whoever the players are, to execute better? It always starts with coaching. It does. That’s the way it is. That’s coaching. You’re a teacher, you’re a coach, you’re trying to inspire the players to go out there and try to execute the game plan at the best of their ability the way you see it. Then, Brian and I always talk about the roster. I’m not going to get in to all the details of that, but clearly there’s some things that we need to do. We’ll begin those discussions right away tomorrow. But, that takes – that’s a long process. The other thing, if you asked me that question five years ago, I’m not sure how I would have answered it. Now, I know. I mean, that is a long process. That’s a day-by-day, months. That’s Senior Bowl, combine, free agency, all the things that we’re mapping out. We actually met this morning on the calendar just to map out daily what we’re going to be doing for the next few months to try to get this organization where we need to be, which isn’t where it was yesterday, but I do believe it’s in the right direction.”
What are your thoughts on QB Deshaun Watson’s season overall?
“I think he’s done an excellent job. I met with him this morning. He’s such a unique guy. He’s a very bright guy. He’s a great player. He’s an even better person. He made a bunch of strides this year. He’s only 23 years old, played a full season coming off of an injury, which is hard to do. The first quarterback to do a lot of different things. Combine the passing yards with the rushing yards. Awesome guy to coach. We’re lucky to have him in this organization. Not lucky – I mean, we went up there and got him, but it’s great to have him. I think he’ll make tremendous strides. Again, what he and the team went through yesterday, they’re going to use – the core of this team is a very good bunch of guys that are going to use it as motivation to try to work hard in the offseason to be better next year.”
You said you thought the team has a really bright future. Is QB Deshaun Watson one of the big reasons why you feel that way?
“Yeah, certainly. He’s a young player who I think, like I just said, made tremendous strides this year. I don’t think he has a ceiling. I think we’ve got to, together, work to figure out how to get him to the next level – because there is a next level, but I believe – I know, that we have the right guy. We’ve got a guy that’s a dynamic player that loves to be in critical situations and loves to have the ball in his hands.”
When you look back at the season, what is tough about today?
“I feel terrible about yesterday. When I woke up yesterday morning, I felt really good about what we were going to do. Obviously, like I said after the game, give the Colts credit. They did a much better job than we did. So, it’s an abrupt ending, but that’s the way it is. There’s only one team in the league that ends up being really happy at the end of the year. But look, we did accomplish a lot. It wasn’t a great year because greatness is championship. But, it was a year that we went from 4-12, from 0-3, so really 4-15 to 11-5. I think that says a lot about the direction that we’re headed, and now we have to build on it. We’ve got to build on it and learn from our mistakes and continue to try to get better.”
You told your team to not let what happened yesterday to define what your season was about.
“Absolutely. I’m not up here to make excuses. I mean, we did not – I’ve told you time and time again, we did not do a good enough job yesterday. We didn’t coach well enough, we did not play well enough. But, there’s no way that that one game will define us. There’s just no way. We’re going to work hard to be better, and we feel like we’re really moving in the right direction and we’ve got to work hard this offseason to make sure that that’s the case.”
What are your thoughts on WR Demaryius Thomas?
“I had a long talk with Demaryius the other day. He’s a great guy. That’s the thing about this locker room, a lot of guys come from a lot of great stories, a lot of different backgrounds. You try to do the best you can to try to keep that together, because I think that meant a lot to this team. A lot of these guys overcame a lot of adversity. Whether it was the way the way they grew up or injuries, whatever it was, a lot of guys have overcome a lot of adversity. Demaryius is one of those guys. So, we had a long talk. We’ll see how the rehab goes. That’s a tough injury. He knows that. He’s 30 years old. That’s not easy to come back from, but he’s going to work hard. He wants to play again. He made that statement to me, and we’ll see how it goes moving forward.”
What happened to CB Aaron Colvin?
“I think, again, Aaron worked very hard. He’s a good guy. He worked hard. He was injured in the first Colts game, and I think that was a tough injury. Not to make an excuse for him, but tough one to come back from. It was an ankle injury and it just – I’m not sure that he every fully recovered from it. I don’t want to speak for him, but we just felt like at the end of the day, we went with the 46 guys that we felt were the healthiest and the most ready to go.”
How excited are you about potentially having WR Keke Coutee, WR DeAndre Hopkins and WR Will Fuller V next season?
“I am, but that’s one of the things that I’m talking about during the offseason that we have to figure out. We’ve got to figure out how to help these guys to stay healthy. Keke is a very dynamic player, obviously, what you saw yesterday. I think in the two games that he played versus Indianapolis the first game and this past game, he had probably 20-something catches. He’s a dynamic player, but he only played a certain amount of games. He’s a great guy. He knows what he needs to do, but we’ve got to keep him healthy. Will Fuller is obviously a very dynamic player. Great speed, great route runner, all those things, but we need him for a full 16-game season. So, we’ve got to figure that out. The players have to be part of that, too. They’ve got to keep their end of the bargain up and figure out how to stay healthy.”
What do you think about DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney and where he’s at right now?
“I think very highly of him. I think he’s a disruptive player. Again, it’s kind of the same answer I would give, I think in these things, this is where the business side comes in. This is the tough side of professional football. Everybody’s got to do what’s best for their ‘family’. Our family is the Houston Texans. He’s got to do what’s best for him. We’re going to make those decisions as time moves on. We have not even ventured down that road yet. But, obviously, we will. Jadeveon is a big part of what we’ve done here. Like I always say, when he feels good, health-wise, and he’s ready to rock-and-roll, he’s hard to handle. Him in combination with J.J. (Watt) and the other guys, it’s a tough front. So, we’re going to work hard to try to get something done, but we’ll see how it goes.”
What are your thoughts on the way the offensive line progressed over the season despite rotating players in to the mix?
“We did shuffle. We had some injuries there. Obviously, Seantrel (Henderson) was injured early and we had to shuffle some things around, but Nick Martin – I just saw Nick upstairs. We’ve got a great bunch of guys there. They work hard. They played tough. I thought yesterday, for the most part, they protected well in the passing game. So, I think that there’s a lot to work with there, but again, every year’s different. We go back, we look at the roster, we try to make the best decisions at every position relative to moving forward and we’ll do that with the offensive line.”
With starting 0-3 and the passing of Founder, Senior Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert C. McNair, was this a tough season as a head coach and as a team?
“Yeah, I think every year’s a little different. This year, there were definitely some things. The No. 1 thing was the passing of Mr. McNair, which was tough because he was here all the time. He was at every practice. Just a great guy. He was always around. He was always very supportive, and he wasn’t here. There was a void there. That was definitely the toughest thing as an organization, but there were a lot of personal things that guys were dealing with. I take a lot of pride in these guys and coaching these guys that they were able to overcome some of that. Again, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to end. We don’t feel good about the way it ended. We feel terrible for our fans. We want to give our fans a winner, and we have to do that soon. We know that. We’re not blind to that. We had a great crowd out there yesterday and we go down 14-0 six minutes into the game. That’s not how you keep the crowd into it. We understand the importance of that, but we also have really good guys that did overcome a lot. There are no moral victories, but I do agree that there were a lot of guys that dealt with a lot of adversity to be able to come out as an 11-5 team.”
How important is it for you to keep this coaching staff together?
“Always important. I think we have a really strong staff. I think when you look at – I really like this staff. I believe in the core of this staff. When you look at Brad Seely and the difference he made on special teams. RAC (Romeo Crennel), he’s been such a great coach for us here. Mike Devlin has done an excellent job of working with that offensive line every single day to chip away, get better and improve. We’ve got a young guy on the offensive side of the ball – I can’t mention every guy – but, Timmy Kelly, somebody that guys probably haven’t heard a lot about, he’s an excellent football coach. We’ve got a strong coaching staff. Hopefully we can do the best we can to keep them together.”
What do you think was the source of the struggles in the redzone and getting off the field on third down on defense?
“I don’t know. That’s something that we’ve really got to study, but we were terrible in the red area on offense, not very good on third down on offense, and the same thing on defense. We still won 11 games. I think a lot of that had to do with our takeaway-giveaway ratio. I think we were plus-13. So, that helped us, but we’ve got to get better in those situations. We feel like we went into every game, we felt like the players were prepared, we felt like we had a good game plan, but it just didn’t come out that way. We have to look in the mirror as a coaching staff, and those are two areas that we’ve got to get better in on both sides of the ball.”
Once you get past yesterday’s loss, will you be excited to have three draft picks in the first two rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft?
“Absolutely. Yesterday I just – like I said, I’m not trying to overstate this – I felt terrible about yesterday. That I couldn’t get that team to play better than they did yesterday. That’s something that will stick with me for a long time, and I’ve got to figure that out. But, I definitely, at some point in time pretty soon here I get a second wind and get excited about helping Brian (Gaine) because now Brian really takes over relative to the draft and free agency and things like that, but we work very well together. We met. We were both in here early as hell and we already met for an hour. What do we want to do right away? Sometime this week, we’re going to meet, coaching staff and scouting staff. ‘Hey, here’s how we see the roster.’ We’re going to start this process right away because it is a new year already and we’ve got to get going. Like I said, we feel like we’re building something here, but I’ve been here for five years. Brian was here before, but this was his first year as a GM. We understand that we’re in the right direction, but we’ve got to get going.”
How much of a difference does it make to the organization knowing that you don’t have to go find a franchise quarterback?
“That’s a big deal. I think at the most important position in this league – every position is important. You need pass rushers, you need corners that can play man, you need top receivers, you need offensive line, offensive tackles, guards. Every position is important, don’t get me wrong. But you have to have a quarterback, and we have a quarterback. There’s no doubt in my mind that we have the type of person and the type of quarterback that you need here to win in this league. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.”
What are your thoughts on your running back situation?
“We’ll evaluate it. Look, I think Lamar (Miller) ran hard and I think we did a pretty good job of managing Lamar’s reps. We gave him a couple games off when he was injured. He was injured, he had ribs and ankle. We’ve used him a lot in the years that he’s been here. He’s a great pro. I love Lamar. I thought he had a really solid year. Look, D’Onta Foreman’s obviously a very talented guy, but it took him forever to comeback from his injury. So, hopefully with a good offseason, here’s a guy that can really, really be an excellent player in this league. I have a lot of belief in his ability, in D’Onta Foreman’s ability. I know he’s from right down here and he wants to be a Houston Texan and he wants to play well. I think he’s somebody that can help us. Alfred Blue always fills an important role for us, he always fills an important role for us. He’s a backup first- and second-down player and then he plays on special teams. And then there’s other guys. Buddy Howell did a nice job for us on special teams. It was unfortunate that he was injured and not able to play in the last game. We got guys on the practice squad, Josh Ferguson, who we think is somebody we can continue to work with. It’s a good position.”
How much do you value what WR DeAndre Hopkins did for you this year considering the injuries he dealt with this year and yesterday vs. the Colts?
“Big time. He’s such a great player, such an important part of what we do. It was tough yesterday. Give the Colts credit. Like I said after the game, we tried to move him around. We tried to do different things with him and just didn’t end up being able to get him the ball as much as we wanted to. So, we’ve got to figure that out. But his season was a great season. I mean, he’s individual performance was – I don’t think there was anybody better in the league at what – our team asked him this year, especially with Will Fuller V out and Keke (Coutee) not being able to play, every team knew that we were going to him on every play and he still had (115) catches. That says a lot about DeAndre Hopkins.”
When you went over the calendar with General Manager Brian Gaine, did you decide that training camp would be in Houston?
“I don’t want to make that announcement yet because I have to check with Cal (McNair) on that, but I can tell you that it’s trending in the direction of being in Houston, if that makes any sense to you. That’s not a confirmation but I do believe it’ll be here in Houston.”
Do you have to be brutally honest with the roster to help improve the team even a player is good, but you know you can do better?
“Great question. That’s all part of being an NFL head coach and being an NFL general manager. Those are the decisions that are tough. Many of these guys, personally, I’m very attached to. A lot of them probably will be back, but there will be some tough decisions that have to be made. That’s kind of, again, like the answer I gave about free agency. Those are the things that we have to sit down and really think about. When you make tough decisions like that, how does that affect – what is out there? How is the draft at this position? What is out there in free agency? I don’t think you want to build it through free agency. That’s my personal belief. You want to build it through the draft so you can mold the guys. I don’t think you want to bring in a bunch of free agents. These are decision that we have to make and these are decisions that we are going to be talking about daily.”
When you talk about evaluating what do you did, who do you talk to so that when you evaluate yourself you aren’t missing something?
“I think it’s another great question. I lean on RAC (Romeo Crennel). He was a head coach. I lean on Brad Seely. He’s been around a long time. I lean on Mike Devlin. Mike Devlin has worked for a lot of different guys, played for a bunch of different guys. Then, I have some guys that I have a history with that are very honest with me. It does start with me. I realize that. I think that there were things that we did very well this year, but there were things that we have to get better at and I have to get better at, so I’m going to work hard to do that.”
What do you expect from your two rookie tight ends after having a year in the system and a season under their belt?
“I think it’s good. I really believe in those two guys. I just met with Jordan Thomas. Going through a rookie year at that position is hard. It’s totally different than, especially for both of them, the way that they were used in college, they weren’t asked to block. Jordan Thomas was a wide receiver and then all of a sudden he walked into the building at Mississippi State and he was 275 pounds. You aren’t going to be a wide receiver anymore. Jordan Akins lined up as a wide receiver a lot at UCF or in the slot. Now they’re asked to do a little bit more in the blocking, because if you can block and you run routes, now the defense has to decide how they want to play that from a personnel standpoint. They learned about all of that, if that makes sense. They learned how to get better with their techniques and I think they will – I really do believe if they work hard in the offseason, they’ll make a big jump between their first and second year. No doubt about it.”
Did the blocking struggles impact how you used the rookie tight ends?
“I think it always impacts it. It’s not about necessarily always the technique or their knowledge of the assignment. Sometimes it’s just about who they have to block. ‘OK, so do we think that this guy as a young player is going to be able to block that grown man?’ I think that’s something that we try to decide every week and hopefully we can be more consistent with being able to do that next year.”