When you call out situations in practice, how do you evaluate the play calls that Offensive Coordinator / Quarterbacks Coach Tim Kelly and Defensive Coordinator / Defensive Line Coach Anthony Weaver make and what do you look for from them?
"So, when we work on situations, everything is about the players and the coaches seeing things through the same set of eyes. What is the situation? It's the end of the game, field goal wins, we have no timeouts, there's 56 seconds left to go in the game. OK. How do we see this play? What yard line are we starting on? What is the best call? We've met about it. We know what to expect. We're all seeing it through the same set of eyes. Then, as you work through a situation, other situations within that situation come up. That's where you have to, as a coaching staff, make sure that you're handling it the way you want to handle it. It's not necessarily what I'm looking for from any coach, it's just all of us being on the same page with the players."
Now that you're in regular season practice mode, is everything getting ready for the Chiefs game planning already or are you still working on training camp things?
"I think we're still in training mode a little bit here. We're still working against each other and trying to clean some things up. We had a tough practice yesterday. It was a hot, humid day and guys competed hard, so we'll back off a little bit today. We're still working against each other."
How do you feel about signing ILB Zach Cunningham to a long-term extension and the quality of the player you'll have for years?
"I think we were very happy to be able to get something done. Zach is a really good football player, a very important part of our team. I think when look around the league, all of us talk about culture and what we're trying to build within each one of our cultures and culture is defined in my opinion, by the behaviors of the people within the culture. That's really how you know you build a good culture. We've got a lot of good guys here. We talk about DTS – dependable, tough and smart, and that's what Zach is. He's a dependable player, he's a tough player, he's a smart player and he's a really good player. He does a lot for us. He's obviously a three-down linebacker and then he plays on the fourth down, too, so we were happy to come to an agreement with he and his agent, Kyle McCarthy. He's a really good agent, good representative of Zach. We worked well with him."
As an organization, how encouraging is it to know that guys want to do long-term deals and how much does that factor into negotiations with QB Deshaun Watson?
"I think, look, obviously we feel good about where we're at as a team. We feel like we have a lot of, like I said earlier, we've got a lot of dependable, tough, smart guys and they get along well. They want to be here. Houston's a great city. They want to live here and they want to represent this city. Like I've said all along, I don't really want to get into specific contract talks but quite obviously we want Deshaun Watson to be here for a long time. He's had a great training camp, he's a great player and we're going to work hard to get that done."
How important was it for you and the organization to get ILB Zach Cunningham's contract done before the season? What is the organization's message to the players when you're getting things like this done in this situation?
"I think it was important. I think the way myself and Jack (Easterby) and Kevin Krajcovic and Cal (McNair) think about this is, if a guy is playing well and is a good person and a really good person in the community, you're going to do whatever you can to try to make that guy a part of your team for a long time. A long time based on you agreeing with their representation on what the term is and all those different things. But yeah, I mean, we felt like getting something done with Zach was important. I don't know if it necessarily had to be before the season. That's my point. My point is like, look, if the guy's playing well, it could be November. It could be October. If the guy's mature enough to handle that, then why don't we try to keep as many good players as we possibly can on our football team that are great people. I mean, why not? So, we're always thinking about that. We really want to try to do that as much as we can."
At what point either in the draft process or in QB Deshaun Watson's time in Houston did you realize you two were aligned philosophically in terms of running an offense?
"I think from the beginning. I'll let Deshaun speak on that from his own thoughts, but for me, I've always felt very aligned with Deshaun. I would say this year he works probably hours-wise more with Tim (Kelly) and T.J. (Yates). First few years it was more with me, but I feel like we're very aligned on how we want to design the offense and how we want to move the ball and the plays that we like and how we see the opponent, how we see practice and the situations that come up. I feel very good about that."
Why is it so important to be on the same page with QB Deshaun Watson and to buy in from the very beginning?
"It's always important for players, especially your best players, your leaders, to buy into what you're doing. That's always really important. I just think that helps everybody. That helps everybody relative to team belief and that helps everybody relative to winning."
With you playing earlier than other teams, do you have to make cuts earlier?
"We probably will start chipping away at that. But again, the whole league has to get down to 53 by I think three o'clock central time on Saturday the fifth. We'll probably use all of that time, but we'll begin to start chipping away here."
Was it easy for you to get ILB Zach Cunningham's contract since you are the head coach and general manager since you see him every day whereas most general managers don't get to have that daily interaction with their players?
"I totally understand the question. I don't see it necessarily that way. Really, to be very, very honest with you, Jack Easterby did a lot of this negotiation. I was there. I'm coaching the football team. We have a very unique model. I've said it a thousand times and I'll say it again. I don't mind saying it. We, Jack and I, work together. We're all in charge of different things, so relative to how a general manager's position has been defined in the past may not be exactly the way we do it, if that makes sense. I coach and I work with Jack and he works extremely hard with the things that he's in charge of. He oversees a lot of different things from medical to training. He works on contracts with Kevin (Krajcovic) and we work together. It's a team. It's a team. Hopefully we can win and prove that's the way to do it. I would say that Jack and Zach's representation should get a lot of the credit for getting a deal done, and obviously Zach."
How do you feel about where you are on offense, defense and special teams right now?
"I feel good. You know, look, there's so many unknowns. I mean, what am I going to say, 'I feel bad?' You know what I mean? 'I don't feel very good.' You know what I mean? I don't know any other way to answer that question. Yeah, there's things we've got to work on but I'm very positive about this team. I feel good about the team. I think they fought hard yesterday in a tough practice. It was 100 degrees. It had to be one of the hottest days this year in Houston. It's amazing, when I came here, people said in 2014 'hey, it's really hot there. It's really hot there.' They must've said it to me like at least 100 times when I arrived here. But you know what, it's really hot here. Yesterday was a tough one and these guys fought through it. They competed, and I like that. I like that about this team. We've got to stay healthy. Things have to fall in line, but we've got a lot of good players that are playing hard and I like where we're at right now."
Considering the amount of experience on your roster, how different is this year as opposed to some of your years when you were adding a lot of new players?
"We do. If you look, at even the offensive line, the defensive line, you've got a lot of experience up there. So, for a guy like Ross Blacklock to come in, it's really a good situation for him because he can learn from so many guys that are good veteran players. Charlie Heck can come in and learn from some really good veteran players. That's just an example of two positions. You could use that example with a lot of positions. Yeah, I think it's good this year that we have some experience. Hopefully we can stay healthy and be a good football team."