HEAD COACH BIILL O'BRIEN
What have you seen from Browns QB Baker Mayfield?
"Baker's a winner. He's a competitor, very accurate, has a great instinct for the game, excellent ability to keep plays alive. I can just tell you we hold him in very high regard."
With everything he's been through, what does it mean for DE J.J. Watt to win AFC Defensive Player of the Week?
"It's great. He's done a great job of working very hard to get back to this point. It's great to see him playing at that level and to be rewarded for that is a nice thing. It's a nice reward."
What have you seen from the Browns pass protection?
"They do a really good job. The line does a good job. They've got a really talented offensive line. They've got guys up there that have a lot of talent. Baker (Mayfield) does a good job of getting rid of the ball. Sometimes, he escapes, obviously, does a great job with his feet, receivers get open, the tight end – second-leading receiver – is (David) Njoku. Guy is an excellent player. Jarvis Landry, I think Jarvis Landry's one of the better receivers in the league. It's just a combination. They do a really good job."
Did you talk to Browns QB Baker Mayfield at all during the pre-draft process although you weren't in the market for a quarterback?
"Sure, yeah, we talk to everybody. Baker's smart. I wasn't at this deal, but we went down there and worked out the tight end that they had that was coming out in the draft and Baker threw to the guy. Our guys that went down there were very impressed with Baker and how he was in that environment. Everybody (said) how much respect they had for him there, what a great teammate he was when we went down there to work out that tight end. Tim Kelly went down there and came back raving about the tight end and about Baker. I met him at the Combine. He carries himself in a good way, he's a confident guy, very confident, feels like he can make all the throws and he can make all the throws. He's the No. 1 draft pick for a reason. He's numero uno draft pick. There's a reason."
Do you think Browns QB Baker Mayfield's confidence helps his play?
"Yeah, I'd definitely agree with that. I think that Baker has great instincts. So, when you're a younger player and you're an instinctive player just like Deshaun (Watson) last year, you can figure things out just based on instincts even though you may be seeing things for the first time schematically or different players. Your instincts, they've gotten you a long way in life, your instincts and Baker has great instincts."
Earlier in the season QB Deshaun Watson said he'd never experienced losing. Do you think the beginning of the season helped him?
"I think you learn a lot from every game. I think Deshaun is a very even-keeled guy. He learns every day. We were just in a meeting – we had a lot of meetings this morning – and he was very focused, very alert, asked a lot of questions. I think whether it's a win or a loss, I think every experience for him, he really takes in a lot of information and he remembers it. I've always talked about him – obviously, he's a very talented guy, he's got a lot of talent, but it takes so much more than talent. One of his best traits is his memory. He remembers a lot and he tries to fix the mistakes and he tries to keep doing the things he's doing well and keep doing them."
Are you born with instincts or is that something that can be acquired over time?
"That's the ultimate question for evaluators. How do you see that on tape? How do you judge that? Can you teach it? Can you coach it? I think it's difficult. I've been so fortunate. When I sit back there, sometimes I think about it during down times during the offseason, it's all about the players. I've had the fortune of coaching some great players. I would say just about every great player was a very instinctive player and they were instinctive before I started coaching them, but I also think you can teach and guys can learn from experiences and things like that. I'm not saying that you can't learn to be instinctive, but then you have those players that are going to run that route exactly the way it was drawn on the piece of paper no matter what the look is. That's not very instinctive. I think that instincts are a big part of the game and I think it's very hard to judge those things. It's very hard to evaluate that."
What does it mean to you that DE J.J. Watt said he didn't think he's 'all the way back'?
"I'll let him speak for himself on that. He has 12.0 sacks. He's one of the best players to ever play the game. He's a great football player that impacts the game on every snap. I'm just the coach and I'm fortunate that he's on our team, but he, himself, that's for him to answer because that's the perfectionist that he is. He's always going to work to be better than what he thinks he is at that point. That's what drives him. That's what drives him to be who he is. He is a great football player and we're certainly glad we have him here in Houston."
What have you seen from ILB Zach Cunningham and how difficult is the matchup with Browns RB Nick Chubb?
"It's good to have Zach back. Zach's an athletic guy. Made a big play on fourth down in the last game. Made a nice play early in the game on the tackle in the flat on Dion Lewis, who's a very difficult guy to tackle. Now, you have Chubb who's an excellent running back. There's going to be other guys involved with tackling him, covering him, but Zach is a four-down linebacker. He can play on first, second and third down and then he's one of our better special teams players."
What difference does it make for S Justin Reid to know the defense well enough to focus solely on what the opponent is doing offensively?
"I think that's a process. I don't think anybody has that mastered. I think that's something that a young player is always working at. Knowing your own system and then how that system applies to the team that you're playing now, whether it's the scheme or the skillset of the players you're going against, I think that's an on-going process. I think that's why it's important for us to continue to bring smart players in here because I think that's really part of a growing process where you need a smart guy to be able to figure those things out."
What is S Justin Reid like in the meeting room?
"Very smart, very attentive. Most of the meetings I'm in with him are in special teams. I'm in all of the special teams meetings and he's the quarterback of the punt team, basically. There's a lot that goes into that, all of the different calls, and I'm always impressed with his ability to decipher the call and make sure – he went to Stanford, so. I would tell you he's putting the Stanford degree to very good use."
Is your prior experience in New England part of the reason you've said the team hasn't done anything yet?
"You learn from all of your experiences, but it doesn't come from anything other than it's the reality. I'm not trying to tell these players that what they've done isn't good. We all know it's good. I understand that it's nice to set a franchise record and all of that, but nothing's been done. So, yeah, that's great – the franchise record – but do you want to be known as the team that started 0-3 and won eight straight? Great, but you haven't done anything. You've got a very talented team with, I think, one each side of the ball they have six first round or top second round draft picks on each side of the ball, Cleveland, with a No. 1 draft pick at quarterback that's playing really well and a very talented coaching staff coming in here on Sunday. The task has to be all eyes on that game. These games in this league are very difficult, very difficult opponents, great players, great coaches on each side of the ball. That's all I'm saying. One at a time."
ILB DYLAN COLE
Do you feel healthy now?
"Yeah, I feel good. I had a conversation with OB (Bill O'Brien) and Brian Gaine, and I guess we ultimately came to the decision that I feel good enough and I look good enough to play. So, that's the plan."
Do you have to prove to General Manager Brian Gaine and Head Coach Bill O'Brien that you can get back here and help?
"Yeah, no question. I don't think they're going to put anybody on the field that doesn't look like they're ready to play. I'm confident. I'm glad they're confident in me as well. I'm very giddy about the opportunity and I just want to make the best of it."
You got injured before the team got on the winning streak. How hard has it been to sit by and wait your turn?
"It's definitely hard. That's all I want to do is play football. That's why I'm here. Not being able to be out there with them and contribute, it was very tough, but it was also nice to watch eight wins in a row. So, that's one of the good things about it, but yeah it's a little bit more stressful watching it instead of having some influence on the game. Like I said, I'm super excited to be back and it's – I can't even put it in words – but I get to play football. I really didn't think I was going to [play this season] once the injury happened."
QB DESHAUN WATSON
You told us you hadn't experienced losing when you guys started 0-3, did experiencing that help you?
"For sure. Each game is a new experience. You're going to deal with a different situation, especially for myself being so young in this league, but each game was a different test and we learned a little something about myself, learned a little something about this team and this offense. Each game we kind of experience something new, but at the same time we experience situations we've been in before."
You haven't thrown more than 24 passes for five games in a row. Do you ever envy other quarterbacks who can let loose and throw more than you?
"Not at all. As long are we're winning and I'm doing my job, and trying to protect the ball, putting points on the board and getting these W's, that's all I care about. The stats will come, but right now, I'm just focused on winning, winning games and letting that speak for itself."
What are your thoughts on Browns QB Baker Mayfield?
"He's a guy that has a lot of confidence in himself, a lot of confidence in his team and he's a leader. Everyone in that organization is following him. That's the reason why he was the number one pick and that's the reason why he's the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns because he's doing everything right for that organization; winning games, giving that organization hope and he's playing really well. He's doing a good job for himself and for that organization."
Did CB/S Kareem Jackson ask you to wear a 'K-Jack TV' shirt?
"No, I always usually wear it. We had a workout this morning. I usually wear it during the workouts and I just had it on."
Why do you wear the K-Jack TV shirt during workouts?
"I don't know. I just like the black. It's the only black shirt I got in the locker room."
Can you tell us about the mustache celebration?
"I'm a fan of Young Thug and his music. He's from Atlanta, Georgia, I'm from Georgia outside of Atlanta. Me and Will Fuller, and Bruce (Ellington) when he was here, big fans of Young Thug and he says 'slime'. Slime is a code word for friend. It's like, 'Hey, what's up bro? What's up bruh? What's up slime?', and that's their sign – wipe your nose, I guess. So, just a little trendsetter that whenever we get the first down we just slime, keep it moving."
What do you see from the offensive line that tells you the running game is heating up?
"I mean, we see it early. We really see it before the game, the preparation throughout the week. I can tell which plays that the offensive line enjoy blocking, which plays they feel like it's not their best throughout the game plan. Then once we step on the field, I can just see it in their eyes and their energy whenever I call the play, how fast they get up to the line of scrimmage and do different things, but those guys have been doing a heck of a job of creating holes for the running backs, and the running backs are doing a good job of seeing the holes and hitting it downhill."
During the week leading up to the Tennessee game, could you tell WR Demaryius Thomas was settling in?
"I mean, Demaryius has always been a guy that feels comfortable doing what he needs to do. He understands his role in this offense and he's a guy that's very confident in whatever the coaching staff asked him to do. So, throughout the weeks, he's just been getting better, improving in the playbook and just kind of improving in his role."
How confident are you throwing to WR DeAndre Hopkins knowing he has zero drops?
"For sure, it makes my job a lot easier. It makes me a lot more confident in throwing the ball his way and he's the best receiver in the game. It doesn't surprise me that he has no drops when the ball's targeted to him."
As a first-round draft pick, what does it take to win over a NFL organization?
"I mean, of course you got to win, but you got to be a great person, a great character, a great citizen off the field and you just got to have that persona, that energy that people love to watch and be around. Not every person has that. You have some guys that are great players that don't have the right energy and it's not right for the organization or that team. Sometimes you have players that usually are not too good and have good energy and stick around. It's different for every city, different for every organization and I'm blessed to be in a position where our organization and city has rallied behind me."
The team has won eight games in a row, how far do you think you guys can take this?
"We can go as far as we want to go. It's all in our hands, all in our position, we just got to go do it and take it one week at a time, one day at a time and see where it takes us. It's really up to us."
What do you remember about facing QB Baker Mayfield in the Clemson vs. Oklahoma playoff game?
"Got the W, went on and went to the national championship. Didn't pull that off, but it was a good battle. It was a fun time competing against another great quarterback, another good friend of mine, we support each other and we pull for each other. So, all success and love to him and everything he's going to continue to do in this career."
Do you think players are born with instincts, or do you do think you develop them?
"Personally, I feel like instincts you just got to have. I guess it's 50-50. You can kind of do some drills and create those instincts, but you just got to have it. You just got to be able to feel things and see things. It's just something I've always had since I was a little kid, and it's kind of just reacting when things and situations happen. A lot of times I've been right and a lot of times I've been wrong, but that's one thing that OB (Bill O'Brien) and Coach Sean Ryan love about me is my instincts. They never go against that. They trust me with that area that I have and I just continue to rely on that sometimes."
Cleveland traded the pick that the Texans used to draft you, do you ever think about that?
"Not at all. I'm in the best city, best organization in the NFL. Hey, I'm fine where I'm at."
You had two long runs against the Titans, was that because of opportunity or was it a read you made?
"I mean it's just the opportunity and what I see at the time. I just try to take what the defense gives me and try to spark a big play in the offense on that drive and continue to move the chains. It's usually not the first option, but if it's there, I take advantage of those opportunities. I give another weapon for our offense that the defense has to worry about."
The team is really working together right now, are you guys have having fun out there?
"I mean, we're having a lot of fun. Of course when everything's going our way and we're having success, scoring points, the defense is playing well, special teams is playing well and we got the lead. We got to continue to have that. Fun is always in the winning and out there just giving your all. That's what you grind for six days of the week for that one day, that one game day. So, why not have fun and enjoy it while you can?"
Does it help you knowing that WR DeAndre Hopkins has such a large catch-radius and your pass does not have to be perfect?
"For sure. I try to be as perfect as I can, but for him, he just says, just get it in his area, he's going to come down with it. That's what I try to do, just throw it in his catch-radius, and majority of the time he's going to take it down. It helps me out big time."
DE J.J. WATT
What have you seen from Browns QB Baker Mayfield?
"He can move around, he can run around, makes plays, tries to find a way to make plays. He can do it with his feet, do it with his arm, so we've got to try to contain him."
What are your thoughts on winning the AFC Defensive Player of the Week?
"I appreciate it. I'll say I'll split the award with Cov (Christian Covington) this week. I think he deserves a lot of credit. He had a hell of a game. I told him, 'you can have half of the fake award that we don't get,' but he had a hell of a game. A lot of guys played great football. It's an honor and I'll take it."
What does it mean to you to be tied for the most Defensive Player of the Week awards among active NFL players?
"It doesn't mean a whole lot to me. It's cool. I appreciate it and I'm very thankful for any honor, but I don't have any posters up on my wall about Defensive Player of the Week awards."
Does winning AFC Defensive Player of the Week serve as a tangible reminder that you're back from your injury?
"I mean, I got Player of the Month my first month back, so that kind of did it, too. I don't know. Obviously, yeah, I understand like you said, the comeback story's a story and obviously, still trying and working to get better every week, like I said, but also, you just want to play good football to play good football, not just because you're coming back. I'm just happy to be out there playing with my guys, I'm happy to be winning, I'm happy to be contributing and helping the team win games."
The Browns have not allowed a sack in 125 straight snaps, which I the longest streak in the NFL, what do you think about that?
"Sounds like they've been doing a good job. I have a job to do and that's my job to go out there and hopefully end that streak. They've obviously been doing a good job. It's going to be a good battle."
Can you officially say you're all the way back now?
"No. No, I cannot. I have very high expectations. I have very high expectations for the way I play and where I want to be. Like I've told you many times, I don't know if I'll ever say it, but I'm going to continue working to get there, I'm going to continue – the goal's always to be better than you were. You don't ever want to just be the same."
Why do you think the defense has played better as the season has gone along?
"I mean, you just play more ball and you get in a rhythm. You find a groove with each other and you learn how to play with each other and learn how to be great with each other out there. Practice, you get more practices under your belt, you get more games under your belt. It's just experience, that's all."
If you had to name one thing that allowed the team to make the turnaround that they did, what would it be?
"Daily work. It's nothing special, just daily work. Everybody has a routine: you go to practice, you watch film, you go to meetings, you have good days, you string them together. I think that it really hasn't been anything crazy. I think we have a lot of talent, we have a lot of great players in the room. It was just a matter of us putting it all together and playing complete games, complementing each other and picking each other up when the other side's down. It's just day-to-day. I don't think there's anything crazy that we've done. It's just work."
How do you stay focused when you start a season 0-3?
"You just have to believe. A lot of it comes down to belief, remaining positive even in a difficult situation and believing in yourself, and believing in each other and knowing that you can turn it around. I think sometimes, like I've said before, sometimes you're 0-3 or you're in a tough situation, you look around and you're like, 'maybe that's just us'. I think we all in that situation this year, knew that wasn't us. I think we knew we had the players in the room and the ability to play a lot better than we did and to win those games. So, I think it's easy to believe when you know that about your guys."
Do you think the slow start to the season was a result of so many players returning from injury?
"I don't know. We lost a couple close ones there at the beginning. It's not like there was anything crazy happening at the beginning. It was just finishing a couple games and finding a way to close them out in the fourth quarter, which is things we do now that we didn't do in the first couple games. I think it was just a matter of playing good football and putting it all together. Some places, some phases would play good and other wouldn't. Right now, we're just kind of putting it all together and finding a way."
Can you talk about the depth and the talent of the defense?
"We have a lot of great players. We have a lot of great players who work extremely hard every single day. Obviously, not everybody gets to see it, but the meetings, the practices, the workouts, everybody's putting in the work. We have a lot of talented guys and not everybody may know who they all are, but we have a lot of guys that can contribute in big ways. I mean, you look at the last game as an example. Cov (Christian Covington) goes out there and has 2.5 sacks, that's a hell of a game. You see, D.J. (Reader) gets held, very clearly could have had a sack. I mean, Angelo (Blackson) gets held, there's guys all over that can make plays. You have guys go out with injuries and other guys step up into their place. It's been happening all year. So, we're very fortunate to be in that situation where we have guys that can fill in in difficult situations like that and play extremely good football."
How exciting was it to get that 4th-and-1 stop, and then RB Lamar Miller responds with a 97-yard touchdown?
"I would like it to happen like that every time. It was incredible. Huge stop by Zach (Cunningham), I mean incredible play, really changed momentum there. Then, obviously, Lamar housing it from 97 is a hell of a thing to watch from the sideline. I'm glad I don't have to play against him, but that's just an incredible play. The blocking and the guys up front making the blocks, then Lamar just being able to take it to the house."
As a player, how does it compare to be in a game that is down to the wire opposed to when you have a comfortable lead?
"Well, when we have a comfortable lead, they take me out and I don't like that. It's fourth quarter, you want to get after the passer, you want to go have some fun. There's always some interesting conversations on the sideline and I try and hide as much as I can like some of the other guys. We try and stay away from the coaches, but that's the biggest thing. You want to be in that situation every single time. You'd love it, but the tight games, I think some of those, while we don't want to be in them, they help build character, they help build experience, they help really make you a tough team and you have to find a way at the end of the game to really gut it out. I think that we've done a good job with that, but I'd much rather have the wins where Weav (Anthony Weaver) comes over and says put the helmet down than the ones where I have to hopefully get a missed field goal."
As a defensive player, how aware are you when an offensive player is having a game like RB Lamar Miller had against the Titans? How helpful is it when the offense is able to sustain those drives using the ground game?
"It's fantastic. We're aware of it. We're sitting on the bench watching the game just like everybody else. We make our corrections, but when those are done, we're just watching and we're just fans. I mean, when you look up and see – I think he had like six carries for like 150 yards or something in the first quarter – I'll take that every single time. It's great when the offense is rolling, when they can take a drive down the field and just methodically move it down and put the ball in the end zone. You can't ask for much more as a defense. You get a chance to rest on the sidelines, you get a chance to have fresh legs, go back out there and then try and give them the ball back. It's great when everything's working together. I think our special teams deserves a lot of credit. I think our specials teams has had a great year this year. We've got guys flying all over on that unit. (Brennan) Scarlett, (Johnson) Bademosi, we've got guys everywhere that are just making plays. (Brian) Peters does a good job, (Justin) Reid does a good job, there's guys all over that unit that really do a good job and it puts us in good position. I don't think that can be overlooked. From the kickoff cover team giving us good field position to start, to the punt return team, to the punt team covering. Those guys deserve a lot of credit."
How excited are you to have your softball game back?
"It's great, I'm very excited about it. It's going to be a blast. It's always a blast. I figured yesterday was a good day to re-announce it as it was Giving Tuesday. We're excited to raise a lot of money to charity. We're excited to be back in front of the fans, be back at Minute Maid. We're very excited about it. I'm very excited to have it back."
What makes this Browns team different from in years past?
"They have more wins. I mean, they're playing good football, the last couple weeks especially, they've been playing good football. They're putting up points, they're defense is playing good, they're playing good ball. I think they have good players all over the place and they're finding a way to put it all together and go out there and win some football games, which obviously have been tough to come by there for a little while. I think there's an excitement around that program, and I think that they're starting – you get a couple wins and you start to put yourself in those situations – as everybody knows, winning's better than losing. So, I'm sure it's a little bit more fun around there now than it may have been."
In your experience, what have you learned about rookie quarterbacks and will you use any of that knowledge Sunday?
"I don't think so. I think it can almost go one of two ways. Sometimes they can get into a moment and it will be tough on them, and then sometimes they're so young and confident and maybe naïve that they don't even realize what the moment's like. So, I think it can really go both ways for a young guy. You just never know how it goes, so you have to play your game and do what you do and try to do the best that you can to make sure that you put him in tough situations."
What do you think about playing Browns QB Baker Mayfield who said he remembers watching you play when he was in high school?
"Am I that old? I'm only 29. I'm only 29. I mean, yeah, I guess. I don't know, I just have to do my job. I don't care how old somebody is. My job is to find a way to get there. That's all."
How do you feel about being able to watch your brothers play against each other on Sunday?
"I can't wait. I can't wait. I'm excited that we play the noon game and they play the night game so I get to go home and settle in and watch it. I've talked about it all year long how it's the coolest thing in the world to have two brothers in the league that play in the NFL. So, this weekend to be able to watch them play and watch them compete against each other, I'm lucky. I'm very lucky. I'm very proud of them and I can't wait to watch the game. I'm really not – I haven't figured out yet, what I'm cheering for or what I'm supposed to be looking for because now they're on both sides. they're going against each other. I hope T.J. (Watt) gets a couple sacks. I hope Derek (Watt) gets a touchdown or a carry, has some great blocks. I mean, he's a fullback. I hope the game, I don't know, I guess ends in a tie. I guess that's probably the best thing for everybody. It's probably good for us too. They're two good teams in the AFC and they're having great years. It's going to be a lot of fun. I'm very proud of them and I can't wait to watch them play. I'm going to talk a lot of [trash] in the text message group during the game. That's about it."
Will your brothers hit each other when they play against each other on Sunday?
"We were just talking about it in the group text the other day and I basically just said, no cut-blocks. That's the only thing. Just don't go at his knees. Otherwise, everything's fair. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch. I hope there's at least one play where they have to – Derek has to block T.J. straight up and we can settle it once and for all and we'll see, but it will be cool. Like I said, I haven't actually seen it before, and I haven't played against either of them either. I'm interested to see my emotions, I'm interested to see what my parents wear to the game and who they cheer for. I'm excited to be able to be a spectator and just be a fan."
CONFERENCE CALL WITH BROWNS HEAD COACH GREGG WILLIAMS
"I just want to say on behalf of the Dee and Jimmy Haslam family and the entire Cleveland Browns organization, we want to offer our condolences to the Texans and the McNair family on the passing of Mr. McNair. We know it's been a tough week in the City of Houston. He loved football, he loved that city, he loved his family. The Cleveland fans up here they know, just like the Houston fans, what it is to lose a team to another city and have a team come back. I think what Mr. McNair did for the community of Houston by bringing NFL football back to that region was extremely noble and the people of that city greatly appreciate what he did for them. The NFL is going to miss Mr. McNair quite a bit. I was at the Bills when Houston got the team back. I met with him at the owners' meetings and the head coaches' meetings and talked about whatever I could do to help him. I had a really good relationship, really a couple of years prior to him bringing the team back. He and I had talked and met at a couple of different things. He was a good friend of mine and he's going to be missed. We just wanted to make sure that everybody down there knows that."
In what aspect can you see that your stamp has been put on this team since taking over in late October?
"The things that I was already doing here on one side of the ball is just that I've emphasized extreme focus, extreme discipline and extreme accountability. These young guys here have bought in. They've done a very good job. They enjoy the routine of how focused the building is. There's a lot of different distractions in their life when they're outside of the building. It was a distraction when they made the change here in the coaching area. How fast could we get them refocused again and understand what's important to playing in the game and what's important to do in your job. I think those are the biggest things that we were able to do. They've bought in and done a very good job with that. I credit the players to their buy-in."
What's it like coaching QB Baker Mayfield?
"I think he's a young, up-and-comer, and I'm very happy he's on our team, I'm very happy he's our quarterback. I think he has a lot of the intangibles that I've been blessed in of seeing and being with some really good quarterbacks on some really good teams that I've had the opportunity to coach on. I think he has those rare intangibles of being able to walk in the huddle, getting people to pay attention to him, getting people to understand about how it is to compete. Not only does he have those intangibles, but he also has the physical skillset. He's extremely accurate, he's very instinctive, he has very good anticipation processes, he's a smart football player. He's a player that the other players, whether it be defense, offense, special teams, all enjoy being around because he loves to compete. He shows them all the time he's got their back and they want to perform for him too and have his back. Good quarterbacks can do that."
What was Offensive Coordinator Freddie Kitchens and your plan for QB Baker Mayfield that you wanted to put in store for him moving forward?
"Well, the big thing was in the short amount of time from seeing – just from our point of view – what his strengths were and then trying to utilize and morph the offense a little bit more into things that he could do real well. Then, press toward those things right there and maybe eliminate some of the things that were foreign to him that he's never done before. Those are good things that continue to grow in the offseason on and grow in years to come, but I think Freddie and his staff have done a very good job on involving him in the selection of schemes, selection of play calls and getting the game plan together. He's very involved in the game plan himself, as all good quarterbacks should be. It's not just here. All good quarterbacks are involved in how the plan is set up. Setting the play calls and setting the plan up around the strengths that Baker shows us, and I think they've done a very good job with that."
Do you think DE J.J. Watt is 'all the way back'?
"Yeah. If he's not all the way back, then I'll be shocked because I think he's playing outstanding. I thought this Monday night he was as powerful and ballistic as I've seen him be in quite a long time. We have to understand where he's at all times. He's a really good football player. It brings a smile to my face – I was talking to people up here, too about some of the arguments that other staffs that I've been on on how we evaluated him – I had an awful high evaluation on him at the time and was getting questioned about that, about why I felt that strongly about him. It's been really fun to see him play football. He's a really, really dominant defensive football player in our league."
What are your thoughts on QB Deshaun Watson?
"I think he's grown. I think he's taken the next step. I think Bill O'Brien and that staff have done a very good job on some of the very same things that we were talking about Baker (Mayfield) on on devising an setting the skillsets up to what Deshaun can do. I think the game's slowing down for him. You can see that he's more relaxed. He never did show any stress or panic, but you can see he's more comfortable in what he's doing. The fact that he fought through the injury – he's done that several times in his career be it high school, college and now that this level – you can see as the season's gone on, each week he's more and more comfortable with how he's playing physically, let alone mentally. They're both coming together pretty well."
Do you see similarities between QB Baker Mayfield's personality and your personality?
"The first day he came here on a visit back in the 30-man visits before the draft, several coaches on that Oklahoma staff had told him about me. He came searching me out when he first came in to visit. He won me over. Immediately wanting to argue. Immediately wanting to compete. I thought that was really cool from the very first time I had a chance to meet him. He's that way every day. Yes, we do like to dig each other and joke and mess with each other every day. I think the rest of the team sees that also. I don't let everybody do that. Only to the people that deserve the opportunity to do that. He deserves it."
What have you seen from DE Myles Garrett this season? What do you like about him as a player?
"He's another one of those guys that's at the very top the league. He's done a good job of fighting through this year. He's stayed healthy – knock on wood – and the thing he's also seeing now different from the college game and different from some of the games he was in last year, he's seeing dedicated schemes and dedicated protections to sliding and doubling him - a lot of the same things you see some of the really good players on the Houston defense. He's had to learn how to battle through those things and change a couple of technique things there, but I love coaching him. He's got great ability. He's got great effort. He's only going to be better as years come."
Could you reflect on your memories of working in Houston and what the City of Houston has meant to you?
"Two of my three older children were born there at Texas Women's Hospital. I had the opportunity to coach at the University of Houston. Had a chance when Andre Ware won the Heisman Trophy. Had a chance to be with the Houston Oilers there in the early years there with Jack Pardee and Jeff Fisher. Two of my three older kids were born there and they're coming back into town. They're flying into town this weekend to reminisce and take a look at some of the places they grew up there in town. Have a lot of very strong memories, have a lot of very good, fun people that are still there in town that still live there that have been friends of ours for life. I treasure the time that I had a chance to live there, almost 10 years in Houston. I treasure that time and was really sad when we were moving to Nashville. It was a tough time for our family. The circle of life, the team came back there. Who knows? One of those days, maybe I may end up back there, too."
Do you remember Buddy Ryan punching Kevin Gilbride, when you were coaching for the Houston Oilers?
"I didn't even know that went on. I'm coaching special teams at that time and the assistant special teams coach. That's going on right behind me. I'm bent over in punt protection, not even looking at it. I didn't even know anything went on about that until I'm driving home after the game. I had no idea."
What are your thoughts on the Texans offense?
"I think Bill (O'Brien) has done a very good job of crafting the best things that all of the guys he's coaching can do. Obviously, the big run the other night got everybody's attention. They've done a very good job with how they've done the run game on things that he's been able to do at other places. I even see some of the similarities of what they were doing when they were back with Belichick, back there in the run game that I've seen them doing. I think they've morphed that offense into what Deshaun (Watson) can do and all of those other players can do. Honestly, DeAndre Hopkins is a big-time threat, Demaryius (Thomas) just came in from Denver, all of those guys. He's done a good job with that entire offense."
Is it safe to say you didn't have a problem with QB Baker Mayfield's comments on former Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson?
"One of the things I talked to our guys here today about, too – the press – is that we're on to y'all's game. Those are things that took place last week and we've addressed them here internally. It's not something I talk about outside of what we do behind the scenes."
Have you tempered your desire to blitz frequently as the years have gone on?
"I think what we've done is I've had to adapt to the skillset of wherever we've been. During the early days, the pressure was a big part of how we adapted to that particular team's skillset. I do know that I probably rank up there pretty high every year on most number of pressures because we're trying to affect the timing in the quarterback's mind and the timing in the offensive execution in all their minds. But, a large part of that goes to what are the skills of the players you have, and if you can do a better job covering and a better job rushing and don't have to blitz as much, then obviously it's a little bit safer doing that. We've kind of adapted a way now throughout all those years that the pressures that we do do aren't those all-out, really, really bold pressures back in the Buddy Ryan days and back in the early Jeff Fisher days. We don't do things that way anymore."
How has WR Demaryius Thomas changed the look of the Texans offense when coupled with WR DeAndre Hopkins?
"He's a very powerful player at the point of attack. It takes a while for a quarterback and a receiver to get in sync, but I thought they took the next step on getting in sync here this past week. I saw more confidence out of both of them in this last ballgame."
What have you seen out of the Texans secondary on tape?
"It's extremely versatile. The mix-up and the dynamics of how they change the scheme and change the look to provide a different look to the quarterback to cause a reset or to cause some type of a slight distraction, they've done a pretty good job. All those guys' versatility of being able to play more than one position, it only helps you. I'm sure Tyrann (Mathieu) will tell you that I was trying like heck to recruit him to come here. He ended up coming to the Texans instead of coming here this past year. I think he's done a very good job. He's smart as all get out on how he's able to help other people play around him because he has a lot of awareness of where the ball's going. Those are some of the things you really can't coach. You're just born with those things."
What can you impart from a defensive perspective to QB Baker Mayfield to help him navigate his rookie season?
"I've given a few kind of disguise tips to him on that. Also, the big thing is we have, in our practices, we're still doing quite a bit of competition in our practices on trying to show each other things that maybe not are in the game plan. So, the fact that he's battling in practices against a lot of the things that we have to do on defense gives him an opportunity – not very many things trick him or confuse him. We're doing a lot of that – just competition plays, not in scout cards or scout team plays. We've seen him grow very well here on just competing against us on defense because we're not having as easy a time of confusing him anymore. He's done a good job of that."
How much do DB Jabrill Peppers and DB Denzel Ward mean to your defense?
"Jabrill got the game ball last week. I thought he's played very well and how he's gone about playing. I think he is an extremely versatile player that can play – really, we have him play three or four different positions on defense each and every week. What people don't realize is how smart a human being he is. He is a smart football player. He's a smart young man and he's not over-burdened with giving him too much to do. Then, Denzel has come in here and we needed to improve our secondary, we needed to improve our ability to play man coverage, we needed to improve our ability to be able to isolate and match up when we want to match up with certain guys at certain times. He's fit in there very well and there hasn't been anything too big for him since he got here. I think the competition level he played at in college is very good and I think the fact that playing for Greg Schiano, who had an understanding about being in our league for quite a while, it did help him transfer a little bit into what we were doing here."
CONFERENCE CALL WITH BROWNS QB BAKER MAYFIELD
When you first met with Offensive Coordinator Freddie Kitchens a few weeks ago, what did he map out for you in terms of how you guys were going to run the offense moving forward?
"He pulled up some off the stuff that they had done in the past at Arizona and he talked about how we weren't going to change our terminology or anything like that. You can't just slap a playbook on somebody last-minute, but just to be able to spread them out and somewhat resemble what they've been in the past but also really do what we were good at so far on the year and just continue to build on that. We didn't need to do too much, we just needed to grow within those plays."
Do you view this game as a pretty tough test against the Texans and do you look forward to measuring yourself against such an established defense?
"Absolutely. I look at it as a huge challenge for us, not only myself but us as an offense. We've been building the past couple weeks so now we're going to have a great test in front of us. I hope everybody looks forward to the challenge of playing that defense."
What was your meeting like with Head Coach Gregg Williams when you made your prospect visit?
"Gregg's had a reputation of just being very blunt, brutally honest his whole life. I knew that reputation from people that had been around him so I went in to just kind of mess with him. That's kind of been the relationship the whole time, just a little razzing back and forth, messing with him, just trying to fluster him and keep him off guard."
How do you feel about former Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson?
"Obviously, he was the first head coach I had in the NFL so I'm thankful for that. Everything else that transpired after that, I've had to grow and learn from. It is what it is. There's not need to get into any detail about it. What happened, happened. I have to move on and focus on making plays for our offensive coordinator and our head coach now."
What stands out to you about the Texans secondary and what they do so well?
"Obviously, those are very talented guys to begin with. They make plays on the ball, they do all the right things of creating huge plays for a defense. Then you add in the front that the Texans defense has – it's a huge opportunity for them to play even more aggressive and make more plays. Like I said, it presents a huge challenge for us."
What has stood out about your rookie season and have you had a 'welcome to the NFL' moment?
"I think there's been different things throughout the year that have been new to me. There's been a couple hints of – obviously the coaching change midseason. A few things, and just how competitive everything is, how close every single game is. I think all those are included on my welcome to the league."
Can you reflect on your first professional game back in Texas? How many tickets did you have to buy?
"I'm absolutely looking forward to it. Any time you have a chance to go back to Texas it's a lot of fun. There's always support there, which is great to have. Unfortunately I had to tell people they were almost on their own because of how many people want to come to that game – which is great to have, but I can't buy everybody a ticket. I would love to, but that just can't happen."
Do you have any memory of watching Texans DE J.J. Watt in his first couple years in the NFL when you were in high school?
"Absolutely. He's been very dominant ever since he stepped in the league. It's been fun to watch. Like I said, it'll be a good challenge for me and I'm looking forward to playing him. Everything he does defensively is almost uncanny how talented he is, and then you add in his football IQ, he really knows he to affect a game and change a game. I'm looking forward to it."
Can you feel the culture slowly starting to change in the building?
"I can, and that needs to keep building. We never need to be satisfied with that. Culture change is something that takes a long time. To get everybody on the same page is one of the more difficult things to do. In any industry, you have to have everybody that you're working with on the same page. So, when you have so many people that come from different places, colleges, that were coached different ways, raised different ways, you have to somehow be able to relate to them and get them all on the same page. That's why it's taking so long but that's why we need to continue what we're doing, because you just have to believe in it. It's not going to be solved overnight. You have to chip away each day."
How important has RB Nick Chubb been to your success in recent weeks?
"He's been huge. You talk about the run game being able to open up our throwing lanes and play-action, he's been a huge help to that because teams have to swarm to the ball when he has it. He's not going to go down by just one guy tackling him. He's going to break tackles, he's going to add extra yardage after that first contact. He's made huge plays in the run game but also opened up our passing game and, obviously, last week he made a huge catch for us and a lot of us were very happy for him."
Do you get a sense that your personality and style of play resonate with the City of Cleveland?
"I'm starting to get that sense. People talked about how Cleveland's a blue-collar city, everybody works for everything. That's something that I love to pride myself on, is that you have to work for it every day. That's how I've gotten here. I have to continue to do that and never be satisfied. I think just knowing that about the City of Cleveland, I've embraced it fully and I hope they feel the same way."
What do you think about Texans QB Deshaun Watson so far in the NFL?
"He's been so fun to watch. I've been really happy for him. He's an unbelievable guy that does a lot for his team and always has, everywhere he's been. It was fun getting to know him, it was fun getting to compete against him. I think everybody saw this coming, all the success he's had. Obviously, unfortunately last year he got hurt, but he's had an unbelievable first two seasons and that's only continued to grow because that's who he is and that's how hard he works."
With you and Texans QB Deshaun Watson both being young quarterbacks in this league, do you feel like this is a matchup we'll see a few times in the playoffs over the years?
"I'm hoping so. Obviously, we're trying to take it one game at a time. We haven't won eight in a row like you guys, but yeah, I'm hoping down the road in the future that we can build something that y'all have right now."
Do you have a favorite story about Offensive Line Coach Bob Wylie?
"I don't know. Any time that he tells me that he used to fly in a plane and actually pilot the plane, I try to imagine him a few pounds lighter. It's a little difficult. It's just funny to hear him tell stories and when he says, 'Set, hut' his whole belly moves."