HEAD COACH DAVID CULLEY
Under the new COVID-19 protocols, what are the odds that DB Justin Reid plays on Sunday?
"There is a chance that he could play. There is a chance that he will get to play. He falls under the rules of being eligible to play."
In all of your years of coaching how is it different preparing for a 17th game?
"No different. I didn't even realize that it was 17. It's been the same for me. It hasn't been any different. I know there has been the extra game, but I think having the one less preseason game kind of evened it out a little bit. I've treated it just like it has been a 16-game season and it's felt that way for me."
How do you see players approaching this last week?
"Just winning the game. They want to end the year the right way. They want to end it with a win. We've had three or four ball games where we have gone into the fourth quarter with chances to win and couldn't finish it. Last week was one of those and hopefully this week we can finish it and finish it the right way and if we do the right things, we will get the results that we want."
What are some areas that you saw progression this season?
"It has not been consistent enough. We have gotten better at some areas. We just haven't been consistent. We haven't been able to put together those back-to-back games of taking care of the football, of playing complimentary football. I felt like the last four ball games that we've played we've been closer than we've ever been but we still have lacked that consistency that we need to be able to put together those back-to-back games where you have a chance to win and go into the fourth quarter to win it. We are getting better there but we are not there yet, and I want to end the season understanding that this is what you have to do to be able to establish that. That is what our goal is going into Sunday."
Do you expect anyone else to come back from injury or COVID?
"No, we will have most of our guys back. Justin (Reid) is the only one off the COVID that will have a chance to be back. All the other guys that were on the COVID that played last week will play this week."
Does Derrick Henry practicing change anything for you?
"No, it doesn't change anything. Obviously, he's a different challenge for anybody when you play them, and he is in there. They've been having three guys do what one guy had been doing but no, they are going to be the same. It's no different challenge for us. Obviously if he had played when we played them the first time, it would have been no different. Our preparation is all the same. Obviously, he's a great player and that offense goes right through him. Now they are just doing it by running back by committee, but we will treat it just the same whether he plays or not."
There have been reports that you will be back next year as the Texans head coach, have you been told by the Texans that you will be back next season?
"The only thing I've been concentrating on is winning this next ball game. That's it."
If you are back next season, how confident are you that this team can take a step forward next season under you as a head coach?
"Can't wait to start with it next year. Looking forward to it."
What is it about the Titans that allows them to run the ball regardless of who their running back is?
"They know who they are. They've gotten back to who they were. Obviously, when we played them the first time, they weren't able to do that. Our defense forced them to do something that they didn't want to do. Since our game, they've gotten back to that. It's a challenge. It's a challenge every time you play against this football team because you know what they're going to do. There's nothing complicated about what they do. They know what they want to do, they do it well, and when they are doing it, they're a very well-balanced football team offensively as well as not only running the ball, but throwing the football. When they're running the football, (Ryan) Tannehill is playing really, really good football. Defensively, obviously that's a very good front that they have, and they've got some guys back that they didn't have when we played them the last time."
How would you assess Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly's performance this season?
"Been fine. We've been a little inconsistent, but we've gotten better. We've just been trying to find out who we are. We've gone through some changes with some different guys and whatnot, and we've gone through the quarterback thing. We've settled in right now. Obviously, with Davis (Mills) being our quarterback, we kind of know which direction we want to go and which direction we need to go. I think Tim (Kelly) and our offensive staff have done a good job of putting us in the right direction in doing that, and I think it has shown since our bye week."
Was finding consistency more of a challenge this year with a new staff and new players?
"No, I think it's just taken us a little bit longer to find out about these guys and find out who we are, but that's normal and that's common."
How have you seen other safeties step up with DB Justin Reid out?
"They've done a really good job. Terrence (Brooks) has been dependable for us, Eric (Murray) has been dependable. Obviously, we don't have Jonathan (Owens) now, but those guys have done a really good job for us. They've stepped in and we haven't really missed a beat when that's happened, and I expect them to do the same thing if Justin (Reid) is not ready to play."
How important is it to make moves in the offseason to improve the run game?
"We'll definitely do that. We obviously want to be better at that, we're going to be better at that. That's one of the things that when the season is over, during the offseason we're going to sit down as a staff and we'll go through, and not only with just our staff with our scheme, but also personnel-wise as to which direction we need to go and what we need to do to get it right, and we're going to get it right."
What kind of boost did getting LB Kamu Grugier-Hill back in the lineup provide? What have you thought about his season?
"He's a leader. He brings a lot of energy, too. He plays almost every snap and he also plays snaps for us on special teams. He's just that rock that's been there all year long, and he's had a really, really good year. He's played really good football for us. I look for him to continue to do that. He's one of those guys that guys follow. Because of his energy and the way he plays the game, it's very good for our guys on defense to have a guy like that."
What is the importance of having continuity with coaches and scheme for developing a young quarterback?
"That's very important to be able to do that, too. But most importantly, even more important than that is just for him to be able to continue to grow, to continue to learn from all this experience that he's been getting here and to take that and carry it on into next year and obviously not have to go through some of the things that he's gone through now being a rookie. Again, continuity is important, but the most important thing is for him to just keep developing and keep learning."
Was Mike Vrabel always destined to become a head coach, and what have you seen in his development as a head coach?
"He's done a great job since he's been there, and I'm not surprised at all with it. The same way he is as a coach right now, his football team emulates who he is and what he is as a person and as a coach. As a player, when I was coaching him there, he was the same way. He's done a great job, he and Jon Robinson have done a great job of developing a football team down there that fits who he is, and they're playing the kind of football that he wants to play. I'm not surprised at all, I'm happy for him. Other than not letting him get the No. 1 seed this week, I wish him very well, and I've got a lot of respect for him and that franchise and what they do."
DL JONATHAN GREENARD
As you head into the final game, what are the approaches of the team as far as trying to finish strong and go out on a good note?
"Obviously not the result we wanted this year but I see we've started to make some trends and doing some things really well that are going to lead us into next year, obviously getting used to the system but overall it's been good. I think the same mentality that we've been bringing into these past couple of weeks playing with a little more fire and trying to finish these games a lot. We are going to try to do the same thing this weekend."
What were your thoughts on adding the 17th game? Was it what you thought it might be like?
"That extra week, as the players know, you feel it a little bit. But at the same time, it's just as if it's another game. We don't think about it in hindsight with the preseason going down three instead of four. I think that really hasn't changed too much. We just continue to have that same game plan, that same routine that you do all season so that just for an extra week you're able to still go as strong as you could."
Part of the 17th game was adding some extra incentives, what do you see on that and was that worth what you are seeing right now because there will probably be more expansion in the future?
"We will just have to handle that when the time comes. I was a rookie last year obviously, so I didn't know too much about it. I obviously got a little more updated on it now that I've seen it and it's going to be affecting us. I think we all collectively as a group have agreed on it and we're just going to stand by it."
How do you feel about you played this season?
"I played solid. I think I can do a ton better, obviously going back and watching the film and the technique and things of that sort over the course of the game. Obviously, just staying healthy and being available. I missed too many games this year. Trying to make it through a full season so I don't have to have that tag on, things of that sort. There is always room to grow and that is credit to the guys and coaches that have been around me. We've just been feeding off each other. Just telling each other what we've seen in the game. Just different views from the game has helped us all out tremendously and I think that's just a hats off to my boys and the team for helping us out and putting us in the best situation."
What do you help to do this off season to come back next year and be even better?
"Just making sure I get in a better routine, making sure I take care of the body. Addressing things when I start to feel the small things and not let it get to where I am in complete pain to where I want to say something about things. Just understanding to listen to your body and we are going to try to make it through a full season and with the right results and the right mindset going into next year."
Does the 17th game help with incentives?
"I've seen on social media with the AB (Antonio Brown) stuff but I'm not sure about anybody's stuff with that situation on the team. It could. It could not. I just don't know. That's between them and their contracts and with the team and coaches. I know me, I'm on a rookie contract."
LB KAMU GRUGIER-HILL
We have an award to give to you. You are the annual Pro Football Writers of America Houston Chapter Good Guy award winner for helping us with our jobs and answering our questions.
"Awesome, thank you. That's always a good rep. Appreciate that."
How did you feel coming back this week? What was your experience like when you get hurt and then you have COVID?
"It was definitely a rough two weeks. I went down in the Seattle game. I thought the worst, but once we got all the things figured out, praise God it wasn't as bad. I was working through that and then I got hit with COVID. The COVID kind of took a little toll on me. Took me a little while to get back but playing the game last week, moving around felt pretty good. I'm excited to finish the year strong this week."
What were your expectations of the 17th game of the season when it was being discussed? What are your thoughts now?
"As a player, I don't really see a benefit to it. I think it's more for the owners or whatever. I don't really see a benefit to adding a game. I thought that before and I still think that now. That's where I stand on it."
What were some things that made you feel that way now being in Week 18?
"Unlike any other sport really, we are the most physical sport. Some years you have years where you come out unscratched and then some years you have certain guys in the locker room that are scratching and clawing to stay healthy the whole year. I don't think it was a very player friendly addition but there is nothing I can do about it. It's our future now and we got to roll. We got to get used to it."
What do you feel were some of the keys to having the season that you've had and how you've played and grown as a player?
"Just the opportunity I was given here, coming in we didn't really know what it was going to be, and I just didn't really care. I didn't care about the circumstance or where I was on the depth chart to start. I just kind of made my goals and made things happen. I am excited to have the year that I had. I look back and there are some plays that I wish I could have had back. Going forward now that I have this base line of a year, I really believe that my career is just starting now. I had a good start in my career with special teams. I won a Super Bowl. Now being a starter, I think my career is really starting right now."
What are your thoughts on having a chance to be back next season?
"I love Houston. I love the team. We have things to build off of this year. It wasn't the best year. I've said this before in recent interviews, the bones are there. I feel like we truly have the potential to build something special here and I definitely want to be a part of it. Hopefully we work through that, we'll probably get closer to some stuff in the off season and go from there."
What are some of the things you can build off of on defense next year?
"We had a couple of glimpses throughout the year of our defense being a pretty solid shut down defense. I feel like there's been multiple games where we would shut teams down until the fourth quarter. So, having those glimpses and just building off that, coming into the offseason and just having more guys buy into the system and really play the way that Lovie (Smith) wants us to and just building off that. I think everyone can see the glimpses and the bright spots for sure. It's just now we need to step it up and be more consistent."
As a player, what differences do you feel when playing in a scheme for consecutive years in a row?
"For the first half of the season, we go through training camp, we go through OTA's. We're just learning the system. We are not even really playing the defense as is. Every individual player is just trying to do their job and, [think] ok on this play I have this. Going into your second year everyone that has been here and knows the defense, we know the defense as a whole. We know what Coach Lovie (Smith) wants. We know the holes in the defense. We know the strengths in the defense, and I think it allows everyone to play a lot faster. I'm excited for it. I hope I can be here because I think playing in this system for multiple years would be unbelievable."
When we first talked to you after signing here, you talked about how it was your goal to play in the state of Texas. After what you experienced in your first year is it everything you dreamed and hoped for?
"I wish we could have won a lot more. It was a great starting point. I love it here and I definitely want to be here in the future."
QB DAVIS MILLS
What are some things you want to do as players to finish the season strong?
"I think the message and our goal for this week doesn't really change from any other weeks. We've just got to come out and do our jobs and execute at a high level. Obviously, it's the last chance we have to go out there and perform this week, but everyone's excited to go out there and ready for another challenge."
Where do you think the offense is at in terms of finding its identity?
"I think we've kind of had to change identities a couple times throughout the season as different players get put in, as people get banged up and we have to replace them with different guys. So, we've kind of been playing around with that all season, but I think the past couple games we've kind of started to find what we want to be, more of a balance between run and pass. Obviously, with the run game starting to perform a little better later in the season, that's helped a lot in the play-action game and just spreading the ball around. I think as long as we can do that and just be consistent on first and second down to keep us in manageable third down situations, I think we have a ton of talent on the team and getting ourselves in those advantageous positions will allow us to spread the ball around a lot better."
What opportunity does a 17th game present you?
"It's just another opportunity to go out there and get better, have a chance to perform better than we have in any other week previous. We're excited for it and we're ready to take on another divisional opponent that has a chance to be seeded pretty high in the AFC, so we're going to try to go out there and do our best to stop them."
Is it disappointing that the season is ending after the improvement the team has made in the past few weeks?
"Yeah. Every week, I want to go out there and play football. Obviously, though, it's been a long season. A lot of guys are banged up and it'll be nice to get some people some rest now that the season's coming to a close. But like I've said in the past couple answers, everyone's excited for this last opportunity to go out there and perform and play the game we love in front of our home fans. It's nice that we get to finish at home instead of on the road."
Have you started putting together an offseason workout plan? What are some things you want to improve this offseason?
"I'm still trying to figure that out. A lot of it's mainly focused on this last week, the last opponent before I switch my focus to the offseason. I'm planning on staying here in the offseason working out through our facility and try to get some of the rookies from this year and some of the younger guys on the team that we can build on to stay here as well so we can continue building chemistry in the offseason and come out next year and start playing really well at a high level."
What has it been like playing for this coaching staff, especially Head Coach David Culley, Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly and Passing Game Coordinator / Quarterbacks Coach Pep Hamilton?
"It's been great. A whole lot of fun to start off, I love playing the game of football and I'm out here doing my dream, playing at the highest level, so that's the first thing. All three of those guys are great coaches with a lot of experience and a lot of things I can learn from. It's starting to slow down. It was fast when I came in during OTAs and the start of the season, having to pick up the offense with all the new verbiage and different things that were just different than what I learned in college, because I was in a little bit of a different scheme in college being like a true pro-style, old school offense at Stanford. Coming in the first half of the season, a lot of it was just trying to keep my head and learn all the stuff. But now that I've got everything pretty much ingrained and it's more week-to-week game plan stuff rather than trying to learn the foundations of this offense, I've really started to not worry too much about what we're doing but more so what my coaches can tell me about the other defenses that we're playing and how I can anticipate better, and really go out and attack each week week by week, opponent by opponent. So, it's been great."
What is your connection with WR Brandin Cooks? How does he help your understanding of the offense?
"He's been great. To go back to that touchdown against the Browns, that was a play initially for Nico (Collins), but Nico went down earlier in that game. But Cookie (Brandin Cooks) is reliable and he can step in for somebody else at another position in the whole offense and execute somebody else's job if he has to get thrown into that spot. That kind of explains how he is for this team. Just extremely consistent and diligent in his work, and he's able to go out there and he's played at a really high level at any position on the field receiver-wise because he knows the offense so well, can switch around spots. He's been great for this team, great for the offense, and I obviously love going and throwing to him out there because he's a true weapon. I don't think there's anyone on the other side of the ball who can stop him."
In recent games, are there conversations that you guys have on the sideline about things he notices?
"Yeah, that's constant throughout the game. Different looks we're seeing, how corners are slow-pedaling out, maybe he can get behind them on different releases or different routes. That stuff, we talk about it. In the week, too, we're watching film together and talking about different looks and how we want to run certain routes in the game plan against their defense. Just continuing to grow together, that's been the biggest thing. It's exciting, it's been fun."
The broadcast showed a stat during the game that you rank among the top five rookie quarterbacks in completion percentage since 1970. What does that mean to you?
"It's pretty cool. Obviously, with the guys who have been in the league for a long time and been successful, it's cool just to be in that same discussion as them. Hopefully, my career will turn out, say like Ben Roethlisberger who just played his last home game in Pittsburgh this last weekend. That'd be awesome if I could turn my career into something like that, but right now it's just go out there and attack each week, and obviously make smart decisions with the football, because that's where completion percentage comes from. Ultimately, just go out there and do my job, move the ball down the field and get our team in the end zone."
What has it meant to you to get this opportunity to play so early in your career?
"It's been great. I didn't know I was going to get this opportunity this early in my career, but I'm extremely grateful for it and I'm grateful for my teammates and my coaching staff, and really the whole team here to put their confidence in me and support me. I'm ready to go out there and give them my all each week."
What benefit would continuity provide to you as a player?
"It's big. I'm not saying you wouldn't have to worry about it, but one more thing that's similar to the previous year allows you to put more of your focus on other things so it will allow you to grow in different ways. With the same offense you're able to do self-study on your own offense, but allow yourself to do more study on opposing defenses and just stuff from around the league to make your own game better because you're not going to have to worry about learning a new offense and stuff like that. The continuity is great and I'm looking forward to it this offseason."
Is there anything that WR Brandin Cooks has done or told you that has surprised you?
"Not necessarily. I think coming in, you hear stories about how some of the best guys in the league, the top dogs of their positions are able to make all their teammates around them better, and that's exactly what Brandin does. It's been exciting working with him and really just growing together and getting on the same page on different things in our offense, because it's been fun going out there and being successful with him."