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Houston Texans

Transcripts: 12-8-2021 Press Conferences 


What went into the LB Zach Cunningham decision?

"We have standards and I didn't feel like those standards have been met consistently. I felt like I made a decision that was best for the team. This is about the team. This isn't about any individuals."

Who will step up to take his place?

"The same guys that played last week will just keep playing, like we've been playing."

How tough of a call is that to make in this situation?

"It wasn't tough at all. It's about the team. It's not about any individual player. The one thing we always talk about is that it's not necessarily trying to be the best player on the team but being the best player for the team. That's our motto."

Have you decided who will start at quarterback this week?

"No, we will make a decision later on in the week. They will both practice." 

What is the message you are sending to the team with this decision to release LB Zach Cunningham?

"That if you don't meet our standards, and if you are not consistently meeting our standards, you are not going to be part of this team."

Do you think the amount of discipline issues you have had to deal with is a reflection of the team's leadership?

"It's just a reflection of guys not doing what we want done and when they are not doing what we want done, we deal with it." 

Is it more difficult when you have to deal with a player who has been productive as Zach Cunningham has in recent years?

"Listen, we are 2-10. If there was more of a production, it's a different deal. It has nothing to do with production, it has something to do strictly with not meeting our standards that we have here. He didn't meet those."

How are you going to handle who is getting the starter reps at quarterback in practice?

"We've got a plan for that. We've got a plan on how we are doing that. That's an internal plan."

Is one person going to get the reps?

"They will both get reps." 

Will QB Tyrod Taylor have to wear something on his wrist?

"No, he should be alright with it." 

What did the MRI show on QB Tyrod Taylor's wrist?

"He had a little hyperextension and it swelled up on him."

At what point do you determine it's time to move on from a player? How many chances do they get?

"It's not about chances. You feel it, you know. I sat down and had a talk with Zach (Cunningham) prior to this, the last time we had a conversation with a situation and told him this was it. Any more of these kinds of situations and we're going to move on, and that's what happened."

Are you having to reiterate the standards and culture to the team every week?

"Standards and culture is the same, that's why he's not here."

At what point do you and your staff look at yourselves in the mirror and ask what you could do better?

"We've just got to do a better job of coaching. We do that every day. Every day we walk into this building, the thing we're trying to do is just do what's best for this football team. We haven't done a good enough job of that to this point, and we're going to continue to keep doing that."

What are some of the challenges the Seahawks present to your team?

"They've got a very good defensive football team. (Bobby) Wagner's one of the best players. He's probably a lone holdover from their Super Bowl teams that they've had. He's the heart and soul of their defense. They've got a good front four, the secondary's very good, the two safeties are good. I just heard that Jamal Adams won't play in the game, but it's a very good group. They've had a history of always being a very good group. It's a team that always keeps the ball in front of you, and it's a team that has also taken the ball away."

Are you getting any guys back from the Injured/Reserve List this week? Do you expect DB Terrence Brooks to be able to practice?

"No, he will not practice."

How much will QB Tyrod Taylor's injury play a role in your decision, or is that not a key factor?

"It would have no role in the decision."

Are you comfortable with what General Manger Nick Caserio said about you yesterday about not committing to you after this season?

"I'm very comfortable. Every day we come into this building, all we think about is doing the best thing we can do to help this football team get better. All we think about is the next opponent, every day when we come in and when we leave."

Do you feel like you were put in a position to succeed?

"Yes. We are in a position to succeed. We just haven't done a good enough job of coaching to succeed and that starts with me. Yeah, we are in a position to succeed. There are games that we've played that I felt we should have won, and we didn't win them."

Why waive Zach Cunningham now and not at the end of the season?

"Well I got a locker room full of players in there that understand what our standard is. We preach it all the time. When guys aren't going to those standards, they are looking at me cross eyed when I am not practicing what I preach. He didn't follow what we needed to get done and I made the move."


What did you think about LB Zach Cunningham being waived today?

"I don't want to comment too much on it. That's the coach's decision. He felt like that was best for the team. Whatever the decision, that's what he made, so we have to move forward with that."

When you were in New England, did you all run a pretty tight ship?

"Yeah, we did. You came in expected to do your job and not get caught up in things off the field or distractions. I feel like that's how it is at a lot of places and how it should be. What you do out on the field sometimes correlates with what you do off the field. So, there's that trust factor there that has to be established with a team. You just want to be able to show that you can be trusted by the team."

How similar are the standards they've set in the first year here to the standards in New England?

"They are similar, but this is a different place. I feel like those standards are at a lot of places. If you don't meet them, then teams are usually going to move on."

How did you all find out that LB Zach Cunningham was being waived?

"I found out through social media. That's how I saw it."

Was there a team meeting about it afterward?

"I can't get into any of that, as far as inside."

What is the message that you take from this decision?

"Like I said, I don't really want to get into it. I'm just focusing on my job, what I can do to help this team out and help put us in a better position to go out there and win."

How do the standards translate to winning and what you all do on the field?

"Little details, being able to focus on those and understanding all that matters out there on the football field. If you could live up to those standards every single day, go out there and execute, then you're going to get better as a football team. I think that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to grow as a football team every single day, and to keep that standard high. Keep that competitiveness high, because we know if we do that, we're all going to get better collectively together.

Is that challenging to do with the results you've been getting?

"Yeah, it's tough, but losing's never easy. You try to see those mistakes on film, see what you're doing, whether that's individually or as a unit, and try to fix those. The best you can, try not to make those same mistakes twice and understand it's a process at times on certain things. It's really communicating with each other about those things that you need to correct, whether that's looking at the older guys or the younger guys or the coaching staff, and come together on those resolutions."

What is the message that you take from the decision to let LB Zach Cunningham go?

"It's one of those deals you've just got to do your job, keep controlling what you can control and not get caught up in other things." 

What sort of boost do you think a quarterback change can bring to the offense?

"Whoever's in there, I'm ready to go to battle with. If that's Tyrod (Taylor) or if that's Davis (Mills), I'm ready to go to battle with (them), so that's up to the coaches to decide there."

What does the team need to do to get a step in the right direction?

"Execution, that's what it comes down to. From the get-go, starting fast. Last week we kind of started slow there at the beginning, for sure. Whenever you can start fast, establish the line of scrimmage, control up there, and of course, executing in the passing game. I definitely think that would help us get into a rhythm."


What did you think about the decision to waive LB Zach Cunningham?

"As far as just what I think, I keep that to (myself) and to the team and our messaging. It's just internal, and that's the way I'll keep it, with all due respect."

Do you think that sends a message to everybody?

"Yeah. I think they're just trying to do things in a certain way, and I think that message is being made loud and clear."

Do you think the habits and routines you all are trying to develop are resonating with the team? Is there progress being made in the way you guys practice?

"Absolutely. Like I've always said, I step in and say we got a great bunch of guys that go out and practice hard every single day and try to do the right thing. Unfortunately, it hasn't showed on Sunday, but from our process and that standpoint, coaches and (everyone) definitely has that buy-in, to continue to show up and be the best that we can be day in and day out."

Going through this season, did it take a message being loud and clear to get across to the players?

"No, I wouldn't say that. I think from a standpoint of guys, for the most part, are always trying to do the right thing, and Coach (David Culley) made that clear from the moment that he stepped in. That's what's expected from all of us, is just trying to do the right thing the best that we can."

What are the commonalities between the standards set with other teams you've been on to this team's standards?

"I think the biggest thing, whatever the standard is, it doesn't shift. It stays the same for everyone. As far as what that standard is, every team is going to have a different standard. But one thing I did notice from those other teams, like I said, it never shifted regardless of what was going on."

Do you think winning sometimes covers up some of the cracks?

"Yeah, absolutely. But at the same time, those cracks won't stay cracks for long regardless if you're winning or not. If you don't address them, sooner or later they're going to bust open to a huge gaping hole."

How do you all keep the belief in a message when going through a losing season like this?

"Like I told the offense coming in, watching the film Monday, at the end of the day as players, we've got a job to do. We get paid well, and at the end of the day, what we can do is show up every single day and put our best foot forward no matter what's going on. Win, lose or draw, we do have a job to do, to show up and be the best that we can. As far as trying to uphold that standard, for me, that's just what I've known. That's all I've known. I try to relay that message to teammates, just 'don't give them anything. Just continue to come in and work hard every single day and put your best foot forward.'"

In terms of team success, this season has been unlike any other season you've played in. What have you learned about yourself through it?

"I think the biggest thing is just sticking to the path, standing firm and continuing to sharpen my blade to be able to make those around me better, and not just myself."

With all of the suspensions and releases this season, do you think that upper management is putting too much of a strain on the players?

"No, I don't think so. I don't think so. It's just a part of our job, it's just a part of our game. Rules are rules, but I don't think that. I don't think that at all."

What do you think about Head Coach David Culley and what he is trying to implement?

"Well, I think he's doing a great job. I think he's doing the best that he can. He has a lot on his plate. One thing I have a lot of respect for him, he never changes. Every single day he comes in here, he upholds his standard. He remains the same and that's the same thing he's asked for from his team, and the fact that he is able to do it with everything going on, we should be able to do that as well. Got a lot of respect for him from the standpoint of being consistent no matter what's going on."

What do you have to do offensively to turn things around?

"I know it's cliché, but you have to continue to get back to work. Trust the process, but the biggest thing from a game standpoint is trying to stay ahead of the chains as best we can, eliminating penalties and having that intensity when we go out the, run the ball well, throw the ball well. We just have to keep pressing on them, honestly, and hope that something shakes but we just can't hope, we have to practice that, and we do that. We got to continue to trust it and keep pressing on."


What were your thoughts on the team releasing LB Zach Cunningham?

"It was tough. Zach's my dog. He's a good friend of ours, but it's a business. You have to take care of your business at the end of the day. Team made a decision and we ran with it."

Is it tougher when you lose someone who is your friend of yours but also a good player?

"For sure but at the end of the day, he's still another player. That's one thing about it. People come and go all the time. Of course, you would hate to see him go, obviously he's a good player. But at the same time it's not going to be the last stop for him. All we can do is control what we can control here. When we got the news, it sucks but hey we still have to play ball."

How did you get the news?

"From him. We saw him this morning."

What do you think the message they are trying to send to the team?

"I didn't think there was a message. If you aren't handling your stuff to a certain standard then boom, that's what goes on. If you take care of your business, you shouldn't have nothing to worry about. It's pretty obvious what you all heard, so just run with that."

What do you think of the job Head Coach David Culley is doing behind the scenes with setting standards?

"It's kind of like an unspoken rule what the standard is. Obviously, take care of your business, show up on time for meetings, all the little basic stuff that's kind of self-explanatory. I've handled it the majority of the team's handled it, everybody is doing their job. As what you all have seen, he was inactive last game, obviously something was up. Stuff got to be done. It wasn't the first time, so stuff had to be done."

You are number two in the NFL behind T.J. Watt in getting a sack every 20.5 pass rush snaps. Did you know that and what do you think about it? If you would have been healthy, where do you think you would be sack wise?

"I didn't know that stat, but that's cool. But I'm going to go back to my same answer as before, we have to get a dub. It's cool. I think I had a pretty good offseason. Just staying healthy now is the key and that's everybody issues just trying to make sure we are moving forward for a 17-week season. Who knows, I think I've done the best I could with the opportunities I was allotted. Missed a couple of games here so it could have been higher, it could have been lower, who knows. I am just going to try to take it and run with it and do as much as I can to help myself out to help the team out."

On film, does Russell Wilson look back to his normal self?

"Oh, he is still Russell Wilson, don't forget that. You guys saw him last game, like you said, he just threw 30 passes and completed them and led them down the field to the game winning drive. He is who he is. At the same time, he is still a good athlete, still a good quarterback and it doesn't change for us at all."

How much do the standards that the Texans are trying to set benefit you and your career?

"Like I said, it's kind of an unspoken rule. If you tell me I got to show up somewhere, I'm going to show up. That's the type of person I am. That's the type of person I was raised to be. All the things they ask me to do, I do it. That's how I at least give myself the best chance to stay here. Everything else, I have to take care of myself on the field and it goes off of my plate after that, but they are not going to be able to say anything disciplinary or any of that stuff that you read, none of that, about me."

How does the tone of the season change with a losing?

"It's tough because nobody wants to lose. Obviously, we don't live under rocks. We understand there is a chance we don't make the playoffs, but at the end of the day, we still be putting on film. We still go out there on Sundays with thousands, million people watching us. We have to make sure that we put our best foot forward no matter what the situation is. We got a lot of guys on one-year deals. They are just trying to put their best foot forward, like myself to make sure we can set ourselves up for the future. It sucks but at the same time, you have to dig down and fight it."

How do you see the guys with one-year contracts responding to the last five games of the season?

"They are balling. Tremon (Smith), he got his new deal. That's one person who is handling his business. Kamu (Grugier-Hill) is definitely balling. Kirko (Christian Kirksey), all of these guys, these guys on the one-year deals, not even the guys on one-year deals but everybody, the one's you see on the field are hungry. I just know we go onto the field with the same mindset of just trying to make sure because it's not guaranteed. Just make sure we at least give ourselves a chance to not just be here, but anywhere. Hats off to them boys because they are playing their butts off right now."

What about the guys that know they will likely be here next season?

"I don't want to get complacent. I hear what you are saying but I still looking over like they can call me over, 'hey, bring your iPad.' It's just one of those type mindsets. The day you get comfortable like that, the day I get comfortable like that, that's when something bad happens. I definitely try to make sure I don't go to that mindset. I know a lot of guys don't walk around like that because nobody in here, and I'm telling you firsthand, nobody in here knows that they are just going to be solidified and coming back. Anybody who says for sure they are going to be here next year, they are telling you a lie. Anything can happen. It's a cutthroat business. I kind of like it that way just to make sure you're always on your P's and Q's, you are never slacking on practice, meetings, whatever it is, just make sure you are never slacking."

Is that crystalized for you in your first two years in the league?

"Obviously, it's not the first two years I would love to have. Nobody wants a losing season their first two years but at the same time, I've made a lot of bonds, learned a lot in these two years, going to keep growing. It's just understanding the standard coming in and understanding that we are all expendable and this thing could end just that quick. So, I am always make sure I am staying on top of my stuff so they can't say that I didn't take care of that aspect."

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