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Transcripts: 1-15-2022

Opening Statement

"These decisions are always difficult. Anytime you're put in a position of leadership, sometimes you have to make decisions that are difficult. It's never personal, but ultimately that was the position I was placed in by the McNair family to do the right thing for the organization. I would say when you rewind and go back to a year ago, where we were, I don't remember if we were in this room, I think we were in another room, but when I started and I took over, I'd say the organization was in a pretty rough spot. I think from where we were then to where we are now, we're in a lot better position. Quite frankly, I think that's because of the leadership and the guidance and direction that David Culley provided this football team. I have a lot of personal respect, appreciation and admiration for what he did for this team, for a lot of people in this building. Forever will be indebted to him for what he did for us. I would say our relationship, quite frankly, he was the same person however many years ago when I first met him at the scouting combine that he was yesterday when I met with him face-to-face, one-on-one and informed him of the decision to move forward and go in a different direction. These decisions are never easy. I know this year was, I would say, a challenging year, but it was a productive year. I'd say when we met back in September, we talked about where the team was and some of the goals for the season, some of it was about the process and some of the things that we were trying to put in place. I'd say this business is two-fold; it's results and it;s process. Process leads to results, so how can we establish and implement some processes at the beginning? I think when you look around at the building and the foundation that's been put in place, David has had a lot to do with that. So again, it was a difficult decision, probably one of the hardest decisions I've had to make in my life on a personal level. But that's the position that I was put in, and ultimately the McNairs have bestowed upon me the authority to do what I feel is best for the Texans organization. It's not about one person. My responsibility is to everybody in this organization, the players, the staff, the coaches, to the front office, to business operations. That's my responsibility, and I'm going to do everything in my power to try and continue and move this franchise forward to the best of my ability. Again, I think this - more than anything - is about being grateful for what David did for this organization, what he provided for us, what he provided for us personally, what he provided for me personally. In the end, this is my decision. This was something that I felt that we needed to do that was in the best interest of the organization, so that's why I sit here today."

The assumption is that you'll hire a candidate with Patriot ties. What are you looking for in your next head coach that you didn't get this year?

"I don't think anybody should assume anything. I think we're going to be very deliberate, will be very deliberate with this process, the most important this is just finding, I would say, the best fit for this organization. Again, there's probably a thousand things that go into that, so for me to kind of articulate one or two I don't think is fair. But again, there's a myriad of things that this role - again, it's all about the job description and what you want from that person, what you want from that individual, and there's some many things that go into it. So, I would say I wouldn't assume anything. I think we're going to go be very thorough and just try to make the best decision for this organization, whatever that entails."

You cited long-term philosophical differences as a reason for your decision to move on from David Culley. Can you share what those were?

"Out of respect for everybody involved, I'll refrain from talking about the nature of those conversations. What I would say is, if you just take a global view, let's take the Houston Texans out of it. If you look at any corporation, Google, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and you look at them from a global perspective, at the end of each year, what you want to do is make an evaluation and assessment about where your program is. What are the things that you did well? What are some of the areas where maybe that you didn't do as well, that you struggled? What do we need to do to fix them moving forward? So, I would say when you look at our team, there were some things that we did okay, and there were some other areas, quite frankly, that weren't good enough. I would say that all of us need to be better. I certainly need to be better. There might be some things that I can do to help whoever the head coach is, and I could have done a better job to help David with some of those things. Ultimately, I'm going to take accountability and responsibility. I'm not going to hide from those things, but to your question, I think it's about moving forward and it's about, I would say, being open-minded to potentially making some changes, whatever those entail, whatever that constitution looks like. Again, it's never about one thing. Out of fairness to everybody, I don't think it's the right thing to talk about what those differences are. I think the overarching theme is that we need to be better, we need to get better and we need find ways to get better. I'd say when you look around this league, the teams that can I.D. problems, assess, fix, and I.D. them, implement (solutions), those are the teams that have success. I would say, again, to take a big-picture, global view, when you look at organizational philosophy and organizational behavior, whatever the business entails, the businesses and entities that do those types of things are some of the better businesses and they give themselves a chance. I think you have to be willing to make changes. Sometimes they're difficult, but whatever that entails. There's a lot of layers that go in this, and that's kind of what the offseason discussion is as you evaluate your team, as you evaluate your personnel, as you evaluate your scheme."

Can you clarify how many guaranteed years are left on David Culley's contract?

"I'm not going to get into anything, this is consistent with what I've said from the beginning, I'm not going to talk about anybody's individual status or contractual situation and what that entails. Again, I don't think that's fair to anybody."

When you hired David Culley, you said that one of his strongest qualities was his ability to work with and motivate people. After evaluating his performance this week, what from the past year did you learn that led to the decision to part ways?

"I would say those were consistent. I think the one thing, you all met with him multiple times during the course of (each) week, very consistent day-to-day. I think when you look at the way we played and the effort and I would say the toughness, the consistency and competitive spirit that I would say we played with, forget about the execution and the X's and O's, I'd say a lot of the should be attributed to David and his attitude and mindset. So, that hadn't changed from the day he walked in the door to the minute I met with him directly. Again, I think philosophically there were some things in the end that maybe we saw a little bit differently. So, that was really the impetus for the decision that was made yesterday."

Did you view David Culley as a long-term solution when you hired him as head coach?

"We hired David because we thought he was the best fit for the Houston Texans organization at the time, and still feel that way. Again, this is a, I would say, year-to-year endeavor, and what we do each year is its own entity. You kind of have to look at its own bucket, and we made a commitment to David because we thought we felt that he was the best coach for our organization at that time. We still feel that way. So again, my responsibility organizationally, the position that I'm in, is to assess everything in detail from top to bottom, from coaching to players to our operation, whatever it is that we do. So, that's not going to change, not going to change today, not going to change next year. So whether it's one year, two years, four or five years, whatever it is, our responsibility is to at the end of the season and at the end of the year, evaluate everything and make the decision I feel is best for the McNair family and Houston Texans organization. We're going to continue to do that. That's not going to change."

What are some qualities that you are looking for in your next head coach?

"Honestly, I'd say a lot of the qualities that David possessed. Those aren't going to necessarily change. But I think the head coach position really is a probably a leadership position more than anything else. I think we get caught up in the X's and O's. Now, there's an X's and O's strategy component to that, but again, it's within the context and the construct of everything else that surrounds that. Our responsibility and my responsibility is to continue to provide support and create structure so that our entire organization and operation can succeed. I would say honestly a lot of the qualities that David possessed, those more than likely will not change."

Is it fair to say that the philosophical differences you cited were based in X's and O's?

"Out of fairness, I think there's a lot of things that go into it. I think, just generally speaking, when you evaluate a team or go through an operation or an organization, you always have to be sort of open minded to change. At least entertaining change, not necessarily change just to change, but there has to be an impetus to change. Just if we move it over to a football perspective, look, our results are what the results are. There were certain areas, quite frankly, were we didn't perform very well over the course multiple weeks. It wasn't as if it was one week or one game. Going back to what I mentioned earlier, it's about facing problems and finding solutions, and we need to do a better job of that, I need to do a better job of that. It's not necessarily one specific thing. I think in the end, there was some differences about next steps or how we move forward, not necessarily rear-view mirror about what has happened."

What would you like to see from your offense next season?

"I know we mentioned in the release about Tim (Kelly) and bringing some changes offensively. I think it's about production. Offensively, we did some good things. When you look at some of the things that Davis (Mills) was able to do, I would say the production of the quarterback is a reflection of the coaches that put him in a position to be successful. I think there's some areas, quite frankly, that we need to improve and we need to get better. I have a lot of respect for Tim, I think Tim is a really good coach. I think in the end we just felt that was one of the things that we needed to do, that we should do in terms of our next step moving forward in this organization." 

How do you regain the Texans fan base's interest moving forward?

"We have a lot of work to do. This year, I think we put a really good foundation in place. I'd say with the infrastructure and the team and the players, you all talked to the players on a week-to-week basis. In terms of the attitude, the professionalism, we got a lot of good production and performance from a lot of players this season, some career-(best) level of performance. When you move forward, rear-view mirror, here's what's happened. Moving forward, our situation right now is a lot better than it was, I would say, when we sat here last year from an asset allocation, from a salary cap structure, from resources or players in the building to externally, opportunities that might be available for us in free agency to right now. We have the third overall pick or whatever that is. Whether or not we stay at three, that's a whole separate discussion, but we'll talk about the draft a little bit later. I think there's some pretty good things that are in place. Again, there's a lot of work to do in front of us and we're not afraid to roll up our sleeves. But I think the competitive spirit and the mindset and the thought process of the people that are here in the building is overall positive. You all aren't here on a day-to-day basis, so it's hard for me to articulate what that entails and what that looks like, but I think there's some things going on underneath the surface where we've made some advances. Ultimately, those things have to transfer over into production on the field. Nobody realizes that more than I do. We're committed to making whatever changes are necessary and trying to put together the best team possible for the 2022 season, whatever the construct looks like."

Do you believe you got your first head coaching hire right?

"It's not for me to judge. I would say we hired David (Culley) because we believed in him, I believed in him. When you look at some of the things we were able to put in place in the building and where the program is right now, I'd say he deserves a lot of credit for that. Again, I think it's important to take a global view each year. Unfortunately, this is a year-to-year, bottom-line business, so this is like when people have a one-year, three-year, five-year plan, or even when somebody takes over a new job. Sixty-day, 90-day, 200-day plan, whatever that is, I think sometimes it's hard to kind of talk about that because some of it is very subjective and sort of not real. I think what you have to do is deal in the real, deal in the now, deal with the day-to-day, and day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, and that's how you build something sustainable over a long period of time. I think in your mind you have a vision of 'X' number of years, and this is what it's going to look like and it might come to fruition that way, but along the way you might run into some bumps and you have to make decisions ultimately that you feel are best for your organization at that time." 

Typically, successful organizations like New England, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Green Bay haven't made the level of changes in leadership that your organization has in recent months. What will make this situation different?

"I think those organizations that you mentioned, that's who we're chasing. Those are some of the better organizations in sports and we're trying to put ourselves on a similar level. Are we there yet? Not even close. Do we have a lot of work to get to that point? Absolutely. I think there has to be an expectation and consistent standard of performance from everybody on a day-to-day basis. Not just football. It has to be scouting, it has to be personnel, it has to be data technology, it has to be data science, it has to be sports performance, it has to be nutrition. When you do those things along the way, that's what's ultimately going to give you the best chance for sustainable success. Not to speak specifically on the one situation, but I would probably know that one the best. Those were some of the things that we were able to do over the course of a long period of time. Obviously, there are some key people and some key components that are a part of that, and we're going to probably have to be able to do that at some point as well. Candidly, that's one of the reasons that I was brought here to try to do that. I'm grateful for the opportunity and the belief that the McNair family has instilled and feels that way about me. I have to, in turn, be accountable to them and be able to perform and deliver something that they're proud of and the city of Houston is proud of. It's going to take a lot of work, but the one thing I've never been afraid of, never been afraid to work. I think if we're going to fearlessly evolve as an organization, we can't be afraid. We're going to have some bumps in the road along the way. There are going to be some things that don't work out the way that really we hope, but ultimately we have to keep pressing forward and take as many people along with us and create an environment that's conducive to winning on a day-to-day basis. That will ultimately lead to more sustainable success over a long period of time, which those programs that you mentioned, that's what they've been able to do. We competed against them almost yearly, but nobody respects what the Pittsburgh Steelers have done more than myself. When you look at Coach (Mike) Tomlin, you look at the organization, basically three coaches over the course of the Rooney ownership. They went from Chuck (Noll) to Bill (Cowher) to Mike (Tomlin). When Mike was hired, Mike was a coordinator for one year in Minnesota. He was maybe 31-years-old and at the time, I don't think people knew Mike Tomlin was going to not have a losing season in 15 years. I think the Rooneys saw Mike Tomlin and said, 'You know what? That's our guy, we believe in him and we're going to give him the runway and opportunity.' Mike's as good of a coach, I would say as good of a leader as there is in, forget about sports, probably in organizational behavior. I have a lot of respect and admiration. But I think it's a good point. Look, that's the goal. That's a difficult goal and a difficult mountaintop to reach, but that's what we have to strive for. We're not there. I'm not going to sit here and tell you we're there. We've certainly made some incremental progress this year, and hopefully we can continue to make more incremental progress understanding change is going to be a part of it."

What was Chair and Chief Executive Officer Cal McNair's reaction when you informed him of your decision?

"I think they've been very open-minded. They've listened, they've been very receptive. Ultimately, my goal is to do right by their family and this organization. You have to have honest conversations, sometimes they're hard conversations. They believe in me, so I, in turn, have to take ownership and give them the information and do what I feel makes the most since. Really, if we just take myself out of it for a second, what we're trying to build in terms of our system, in terms of our process, there are things that are sustainable for a long period of time so that when I'm not here, which at some point I probably won't be here, the Houston Texans organization can continue to move forward. We're sort of at the infantile stages of building and growing, and this is a youthful organization. The organization is 20 years old, so it's a young organization, it's a new organization. We're trying to do things that their family can carry with them for a long period of time. Honestly, they might supersede the time that I'm here. While I'm here, I'm committed to them, I'm committed to this organization, I'm committed to the people in the building. They listen, they're receptive, and ultimately they're placing trust in my vision and playing for what we are going to do moving forward, and that's a lot of responsibility to put on my shoulders, but that's okay. That's why I'm here, and I'm not afraid to do it."

What is your plan with QB Deshaun Watson?

"I think there is going to be a number of things that we talk about during the offseason. That particular situation, I don't think there's any more clarity today than there was here previously, but we're going to work through it. Ultimately, we're going to do what we feel is best for the organization."

When David Culley got here, there was uncertainty with the Deshaun Watson situation and high turnover with the roster. How long will the next coach have to work through the same situation?

"All of us are year-to-year, day-by-day. We have 31, 32 players that will be free agents so there will be a lot of new players that are going to be on the team next year. Some players that aren't under contract for next year that played here last season that we're going to have conversations with, with the hope of trying to bring them back into our program and help us moving forward. I think the one thing that is consistent in the NFL, which those of us that have been in it for a long time know, change is constant. That's the one thing that's constant – there's going to be change. There's probably some organizations and constructs that maybe have a little bit less change, but when you look at the overarching theme and the overarching identity of the NFL and what happens, there's a lot of change. We'll take it one day at a time and we'll just try to do what we feel is best on a day-to-day basis and try to make consistent, good decisions, repetitive action over the course of a long period of time and ultimately see where that ends up."

How much control will your next coach have when filling out the rest of the coaching staff?

"We're not going to dictate anything. We're going to have open discussions and dialogue. You're always open-minded and receptive to whoever the coach is, what their thoughts are and plans are from a staffing standpoint. We have a lot of good coaches on our staff here currently. Are there going to be some changes on our coaching staff moving forward beyond the head coach? I'd say there's a possibility, but I think it's too early to make any declaration on that point. Whomever that coach is, we're certainly receptive to their feedback and their plans and their comfort level with coaches that they're going to work with on a day-to-day basis."

Did you see enough from QB Davis Mills to believe he could be the starter going into training camp? Considering the success the defense had as the year went on, is it safe to say Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith will return next season?

"I have a lot of respect and appreciation for what Lovie did this season. There's things defensively that we can certainly do better, but with the ability to take the ball away, we played better in the red area as the year went on. We're going to have to take that one day at a time and see where we end up on a coaching front. I think Lovie's a good coach and I think he's done a lot for our program and our system and our players have a lot of belief in him. On Mills, I think Davis made a lot of progress this season and he's under contract. He's one of the few quarterbacks we have under contract. Tyrod (Taylor) is a free agent and the Deshaun (Watson) situation is something we're going to have to deal with, but (Davis) made a lot of progress and strides in those first however many games that he played. Any rookie quarterback would be put in a tough spot, but when you look at the body of work and some of the things he was able to accomplish, he made a lot of progress. When you look at him relative to some of the other rookie quarterbacks that played last season, you can make an argument that he was just as good or better than any one of them. What does that mean for next year? That doesn't really mean anything. We felt Davis was a good player when we drafted him and some of the things that you saw from him this season were confirmation of that. He's got a long way to go as well and he'd be the first to tell you that. He's got to learn, more than anything, defenses and what the other team is trying to do. When you take it out of what are we running, I think for any quarterback the ability to understand what's going on on that side of the ball helps you as much as anything about here's the play call and here's what this guy's doing on this play."

Do you feel there is added pressure to get this head coaching hire right, given most general managers don't get the opportunity to hire a third head coach?

"Only the pressure you guys put on me. I'm immune to pressure. We live with pressure every day. Everybody deals with a lot of difficult situations that we're dealing with. I'm blessed to be in the position that I'm in, excited for the opportunity here moving forward to try and continue to build our program out with whomever the next coach is. Excited about the opportunity. Pressure is however you define it, so the pressure will probably come more externally, but that's OK, that's part of the fun of it."

Do you have a timeline for making this hire?

"I wouldn't say there's a timeline. We'll be patient and however long it takes, it takes. When we have a solution that we feel comfortable about then we'll go ahead."

You started by saying you believe the organization is in a better position now than it was a year ago. What are some reasons for that belief?

"The building, the attitude, the belief in some of the things that we're doing. When you look at the way the players responded throughout the course of the year, the way they went out there and performed on a week-to-week basis. Take the execution out of it, but they went out there and they performed. They played their ass off and they went out there with a lot of competitive spirit. And we put ourselves in a position to win some more games that we maybe could've won or at least had the opportunity to do so. I think the attitude, the approach day-to-day when you're around people in the building on a day-to-day basis. I think that goes back to the environment and the attitude David (Culley) was able to put in place. We have some players that are committed to us and excited to be here for next year. We made some commitments to them during the season. They made a purposeful decision to be a part of they're doing because they believe in some of the things that we're doing. That doesn't necessarily mean anything other than they want to be here and they believe in what we're doing. They understand there's a lot of work but work, we're about the work. The NFL is about the work and the one thing of how you want to define the Houston Texans for 2022, it's going to be about the work."

Can you talk about how much autonomy the next coach will have on gameday?

"Those discussions will be very organic and my philosophy has always been to serve and do the right thing by the people involved. Whatever that entails. If it involves doing something else, if it entails doing something less because that's the best thing for the organization then I'm more than willing to do that. That's been my philosophy and attitude and track record over the course of my career. If you were to talk to anybody in New England, I would hope they would tell you the same thing. For better or for worse, the reality is my perspective a little bit unique relative to some other people in my position. It doesn't necessarily mean it's better, it's right or it's wrong. I was trained to look at things from a global perspective so if I can be an asset and provide some info or input wherever that may be necessary then that's what I'm here to do. My goal is to serve the Houston Texans, to serve the head coach and the people in this building and I can't undo the fact that I was in a press box for 18 of my 20 years in New England in various roles. I'm proud of that. I just want to serve and help, and provide a sounding board for the head coach, our staff, whomever else is in the building because that's my obligation and responsibility."

When making the decision to part ways from David Culley, how much did you consider what candidates were available during this hiring cycle?

"Those are independent entities. I don't think you make said decision based on all of a sudden something that has changed or something is different. I think you have to first start with your situation, evaluate it, make an honest assessment, make the decision and then if that so happens to be in conjunction with other things that happen in the league, that's out of our control, out of my control. That's really not the criteria to which, the lens through which you make those decisions. You have to look at everything as an independent entity. We're taking the information here about the Houston Texans, where we are – rear view mirror here are things that happened, moving forward what's ahead, what's the best thing for us and that's what we did."

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