INTERIM HEAD COACH ROMEO CRENNEL
What did you think about Bill O'Brien being fired?
"Well, Coach O'Brien, he was the reason that I'm here to start with, so I appreciate that. Over the years here we've done some good things. AFC Championships and all those – South championships. But we know that it's a production business and you have to produce. We were not off to a good start this year and the expectations were so much greater than what we've shown on the field, so as a result of that, ownership decided to make the change. So, it is what it is. You know that there are two kind of coaches – those that have been fired and those that are going to get fired. That's the nature of the business we're in."
What will your role with the offense and defense be moving forward?
"Well, I think like just like any other head coach you have control of the team. The game plan goes through me. The play calling also goes through me, and we're going to try to make the best of it whether it's special teams, offense or defense."
How much does your experience as a head coach in Kansas City and Cleveland help you now?
"No, I think it's helpful having done the job before because you have some idea about the workload that's involved, about the responsibility that's involved. Now it's just a matter for me of working through what's on the plate so that I can get into a routine because I haven't been calling the shots for a while. Now I've got to get back into the routine."
How did you get the news you would be the interim head coach?
"Coach (Bill) O'Brien announced he's being released and he said that he recommended me for the position. Then I was told that I can be the guy if I'd like to be the guy, and so I told him I wanted to be the guy. Because I tell you what, it's been going on seven years here. I have relationships with a lot of these players and I know that sometimes change is difficult, particularly when you bring somebody from the outside in and so, I want to do as much for these guys as I can to see if we can finish this season on a good note and have some stability in the organization."
How much is it a priority to get QB Deshaun Watson and the offense running again and getting the run game on track?
"I think that we would like for Deshaun to be who we know he can be. We're going to work to try to make that happen. I think that you're correct that if we can provide him with some tools, and the running game being part of it, that will help make him better. We're going to put an emphasis on our technique and fundamentals and try to get our running game going."
How would you describe your coaching style?
"I think that through your interactions that we've had just in the locker room and in the press conferences, I think that I am who I am. I have demands, I have standards I expect them to meet and I expect it in the locker room and on the field. I talk to those guys about it and I let them know what it is so that if there's an issue, if they're not living up to the standard, then they will not be surprised by whatever move needs to be made."
What do you think about becoming the oldest head coach to coach a game in the NFL?
"I just found out I guess maybe yesterday, somebody mentioned that I would be the oldest coach to have coached a game in the NFL on Sunday. I didn't think about it that way. I think that I'm just a football coach and I enjoy coaching and that's why I'm still coaching. So, I'm just going to try to make this team better and try to win a football game."
What does this mean to you to be in this role at this point in your career?
"Well first, it means that we didn't do well enough to start the season because if we would've done better to start the season, I wouldn't be in this position. Going forward, I have to do the very best that I can to help these players – try to put them in the best position to make plays whether it's in the running game on both sides of the ball or it's in the passing game on both sides of the ball so that we can win some games. So, the focus is to try to win one game. The one game we'd like to win is this coming game. It's a home game and it's a division game, so that's the focus."
Do you think this team can make a run and get back into the playoff hunt?
"I think that we have ability. If the ability and the coaching can put it all together, I think we can start winning. Then once you start winning, I think attitudes change, outlooks change, guys play better. Then only time will tell where you can go and what you can get to."
What might look different in Sunday's game?
"I hope our attitude and energy is different, and then I hope that our performance is different. You're not going to come in and put in a new offense or a new defense just overnight because it takes time if you're going to do that. We're going to have to work with what we have and then try to get our players to play it better then we have been playing it – and more consistently, because that's part of our problem. We're not as consistent as we need to be."
Do you have to manage some psychological aspects of players when a head coach is fired during the season?
"Sure, you do. Like any time a player gets cut, there's some psychological issues that go around with his friends and his position group. Well, when the coach gets let go, there are guys who are close with the coach. Now they wonder about their situation on the team, what's going to happen with them, it going to change and all of that. So, you have to deal with that. But I find out that, if you are honest and straight forward with these guys that they appreciate that the most, so that's what I try to be."
Have you been able to diagnose what has gone wrong so far this season?
"I told the players that when I looked at the tape because I've just been looking at the defensive stuff, but now I had to look at some offense and some special teams as well. There are times that we do what we're supposed to do and we look good. Then when we try to make a play, we get guys trying to do too much, then that opens up seams. Then we look bad. My goal is to try to get us to look good on a more consistent basis. Then I think that that will give us a chance to be in the game and have a chance to win."
Can you tell if the 0-4 start to the seasons has worn on the players?
"Yeah, it's worn on them because these guys are a playoff team. Not everybody, because we had some changes, but the expectations are we're a playoff team and we want to play playoff caliber football, and we haven't been doing that. That's why we're 0-4. Now, the last two games we had a chance that maybe we could have won, but we didn't play well enough and we didn't win. But that's some encouragement because I think that from game one to game four, at least on the scoreboard we were better, and we've improved. Hopefully we can continue to improve, and if that occurs then we'll win some games."
How can you affect the attitude and energy of the players?
"You know what, I think the players to a degree have to bring their own energy. They have to be excited about playing, excited about the game, excited about the game plan. If those things are in place, then they can be excited about playing and they can look forward to the game and what they're able to do in the game. That's one thing that's key. The other thing is the discipline to do your job first, and then try to help out because some of these guys have been trying to help out before doing their job first. If we can just be consistent in doing our job – if I'm a B-gap player, I need to win the B-gap. Do that. Make sure that the ball doesn't run in the B-gap. If the ball runs in the C, and they gain yards out there, then we have to talk to whoever is the C-gap player to try to get that straightened out. I think that's the way it works when you talk about foundation and fundamentals. All right, boom, take care of your gap and then run to the football. Same thing offensively. If I've got to block a man, block this man and then work up to the linebacker on the next level. Just don't go up to the next level and bypass the guy I'm supposed to get a hand on or a piece of. Those are the things that I'm going to try to emphasize, so that fundamentally we can play good technique, be fundamentally sound and be closer in the games to give ourselves a chance to win."
How much of the poor run defense is due to attitude and poor technique?
"The thing that I have to do is I have to show them on the tape when they do it correctly and we get a stop or the guy gains one yard rather than 15. I have evidence of that on tape that when things are done correctly, we can stop the run. When it's not done correctly because somebody jumps out of a gap or somebody jumps off of a block to try to make a tackle and not understand that the running backs that we face are really good, that they can show you one thing and then go another way, I think that gives me encouragement because I see that they can do it and I know that they can do it. Now what I've got to do is I've got to get them to do it all the time."
QB DESHAUN WATSON
What's your reaction to Bill O'Brien being fired?
"I have the utmost respect for Coach O'Brien for getting me to Houston, teaching me what he's taught me the four years I've been here. The discipline, just everything as a person. Getting ready for professional football. He did a lot of amazing things to help me get two Pro Bowls and win the AFC South every year that I've played a full year. I have all the respect for him and the things but the business – that's just how the business goes. For me as a young player, I'm learning that and just going with the flow. That's just how it's been."
What do you hope for big picture as you go through this transition?
"For me, my main focus is of course finding something that's stable for a long period of time but also just continuing to build my game and continuing to grow as a person, grow as an individual, grow as a professional, grow as a football player, as a leader. Especially now, my role as the leadership, as the quarterback of this organization has to be uplifted even more. So, for me to be able to get to where we need to get to, it's going to take a lot of work, it's going to take a lot of sacrifice. So, I've got to continue to grow individually and bring a lot of people along with me. The organization has a bright future. We want to go in the direction that's going to take a lot of work, but very, very successful. We have the opportunity. We have the people in the locker room to go where we want to go, we just have to go do it and find the right pieces to match and be on the same page."
What has it been like to evolve in your career and seeing the changes the organization has gone through since you have been here?
"It's just growing pains. It's really just growing and seeing it from afar. I'm still young and still learning and still – I'm in a better spot than I was four years ago before Rick (Smith) – there was things that happened with Rick and then Brian (Gaine) and of course Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) and things like that and now Coach OB (Bill O'Brien). But I'm just growing and taking it step by step. I've never been in situations like this, so each situation is different, each situation is new. People that's been in it – there's been organizations that have the same things happen to them – I'm asking them questions and learning from them, how things go, how things operate. So I'm just learning on the fly and just making sure I'm keeping my head above water and trying to get better as a player but also making sure this organization, as long as I'm here, is going in the right direction."
Do you feel like you have been limited and are now capable of doing what you want to do?
"No, I feel the same. I don't think I was personally, from what I wanted to do, was limited. Not necessarily. I've just been doing everything that this organization has asked me to do and just trying to grow from there."
Have you talked to Bill O'Brien since he was fired?
"Yeah, I texted him a day ago. I think it happened a day ago. Something like that, yeah."
What do you think stability would do to help you?
"Of course, not just for me but just for anybody. Just stability. If you have a lot of change and a lot of people that's not on the same page, regardless of how good your team is or how good your organization is supposed to be, it's not going to be where it needs to be. There's going to be a lot of inconsistency and that's the things that we're going through right now and sometimes it takes a little time, but you've got to have that solid foundation before you can pile on things you want to pile on. The foundation or whatever you believe in or whatever you stand on, has to be solid. Once that's solid then you can pile and build what you want to build, and that's what we're trying to figure out right now. We're trying to figure out that solid foundation for this organization, for this team, for my career, for 99's (J.J. Watt) career, for all the players in that locker rooms career. Whoever comes through this organization, you have to have a solid foundation to believe in and follow."
Did you sense any of this coming and what is your feeling about the timing of it all?
"I mean, it's just how the business is. Me, my main focus is trying to get a win in the win column. All the other stuff right now, I can't focus on that. I've got to try to make sure this team is ready to play against Jacksonville. Hell, I'm just trying to get a win. We're sitting here 0-4. This is not where I want to be. This is not what I'm used to, so my main focus is getting prepared for Sunday. The owners and the staff that's above that controls all that, that's what they've got to do and that's the timing that they wanted to make sure it happened and hey, that's how it goes. For me, I've got to make sure that locker room is locked in and focused so we can go get our first W."
How will things change between you Offensive Coordinator / Quarterbacks Coach Tim Kelly, Assistant Quarterbacks Coach T.J. Yates and Offensive Consultant Carl Smith?
"The only difference is I won't have Coach O'Brien right there helping Tim Kelly, helping me, helping AJ (McCarron), T.J, all of us communicating as one. That's the only difference. I believe in Tim Kelly and what he has potential to do and what he's been doing and what he's proven to do. For myself, we're all just going to come together and continue to grow. This is his first year as a play caller, so there's growing pains to that and for me to be on the same page with him. We're learning as we go and we've got to be able to learn on the fly and adjust and try to have that success. That's the only difference – just having that extra voice right there as the head coach who's a part of – of course this is his system that he brought to the Texans. That's the only difference."
What does it mean for you and Interim Head Coach Romeo Crennel to become the first Black coach and Black quarterback combo in franchise history on Sunday?
"I didn't even know that. That's pretty dope. That's pretty cool. History is going to continue to grow, especially with the times going on right now, but me and RAC, what we want to do is make sure that this team and that locker room is focused and ready to go win on Sunday. We've got to make sure that we're prepared. We've got to make sure that we put in the work throughout the week. We've got to make sure we're healthy and we've got to expect to go out there and win. That's the mentality that we've got to have, not just for this locker room, for this team, but for this organization, for this city. We can't have any negativity regardless of what our record says or what's been going down. Everything's got to be positive for the rest of the year. For the next 12 weeks, 13 weeks, we've got to be positive, we've got to continue to grow and we've got to continue to stick as one – as a city, as whole, as an organization. That's what I'm going to preach and that's what we've both been preaching. Having that come out of that, I didn't even know that. That's pretty dope."
With Offensive Coordinator / Quarterbacks Coach Tim Kelly now being the play caller for the rest of year, do you think that provides stability and chemistry you guys have been striving for?
"Like I said, we're all confident in Tim Kelly. We all have the potential and we have the talent to be very explosive. We just have to put it together. We have to do it for four quarters. There's flashes where we don't do it the first half, we do it the second half. We do it the first half, we don't do I the second half. Once we put it all together and be explosive, we can go out there and win some games and put up a lot of points and have a lot of excitement. We haven't done that for four quarters. We've done it in flashes here and there and then that costs us and turnovers happen, and the other team goes up two scores and we're a little bit late in the fourth quarter. The potential is there, and the consistency is going to come as we continue to grow and continue to work. Now Tim Kelly has the open book for him to just do what he wants to do and how he wants to control this offense with me, and we're going to do it together."
DE J.J. WATT
Do you think your quotes after the game and rumored verbal interaction with Bill O'Brien contributed to him being fired?
"I don't know. I'm not going to talk about what happened at practice or what conversations were had or whatever it may be. The situation is what the situation is. We right now have a fresh start and we had a good practice today. We're looking forward to Jacksonville."
What do you think it will be like to play for Interim Head Coach Romeo Crennel?
"RAC's a great man. I've been around RAC. I've said before many times, I was fortunate for early in my career to have Wade Phillips as a d-coordinator, and then I got Romeo Crennel as a defensive coordinator. Two absolute legends of the game. Guys with unbelievable experience and knowledge and insight. So, RAC has a ton of that. He's seen a lot. He's been round a lot. He's been around great players, great teams. He has rings and he has a positive air about him. He has just kind of a jolly nature to him. So, you can't really help but smile when you're having a conversation with RAC. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do and what he brings to our team. It should be fun."
Did you have an idea of what you thought needed to change after the Vikings game?
"I mean, when you're 0-4, obviously things need to change. It wasn't working. I appreciate and respect what we had. We won four division titles in six years with Bill (O'Brien) and I appreciate that and that time. But obviously this year we're 0-4 and stuff wasn't working. When you have the talent that we have, specifically at the quarterback position in this league, you can't be 0-4. We're looking forward to doing what we can to get on the right track and looking to get our first win this weekend."
How do you feel about where the organization is at right now?
"One of the things I'm excited about right now is hopefully getting on the same page with our fan base again. I feel like that's something where there's certainly been a bit of a tension there in the last months and years. I can't wait to have us all pulling in the same direction again. I feel like there's been a bit of a disconnect there. It's not fun as a player to be a part of that when you feel like your fans can't fully back you the way that they want to. I really am so excited because I've been here in some of the best times we've ever had. There's nothing better than when this city is all on the same page and pulling for the Houston Texans, and I can't wait to have that feeling again because it truly is a blast. I'm really looking forward to that."
What was it that you felt like wasn't working in the first four weeks of the season?
"I mean, there's a lot of things that have to change. We have to stop the run. We have to get takeaways. We haven't got any takeaways. We obviously would like to score more points. We'd like to get that momentum going where we can get a takeaway on defense, give it back to our offense, then go down and score. There's a lot of things that have to change. I have to play better. There's plenty of stuff that has to change. We're looking forward to getting that corrected and moving forward."
How will Interim Head Coach Romeo Crennel get you guys to play better on defense, especially against the run?
"One of the things that Romeo, obviously being who he is and being the coach that he is, he's extremely high on fundamentals and everybody doing their job and everybody focusing on building a strong foundation from the ground up. That starts with little things like footwork, hand placement, hat placement, where are your eyes, all that type of stuff. It's just little things. It doesn't need to be crazy complex. It doesn't need to be, I don't think that he has – he just wants you to do the little things right. It doesn't have to be elaborate and beautiful. He just wants it to be done right. That's what we're doing. It's a bit of simplification just to do your job and do it right and do it well."
Interim Head Coach Romeo Crennel said he hopes the team's attitude and energy will be different on Sunday. Is that an easy fix and how do you change that in a short time?
"I agree with him. I think that we want our guys to play loose and free and have fun and enjoy it and trust in each other, and feel like they can go out there and be who they are and play the game the way they know how to play it. I'm looking forward to seeing that. I thought we had a great practice today. I thought guys had good energy. I thought guys were doing their job, communicating really well. That's what we're looking for. Personally, for me on defense, we have to do our job very well, but we also have to fly around and make plays. At the end of the day, this league comes down to making plays. We've got to go out there and make those plays."
How important is it as a team to buy in to what the coaching staff is teaching you all?
"That's extremely important. You're never going to win any games if you don't buy in. Where we sit right now, we need to do it very fast. So, it's extremely important that everybody buys in and that we all band together and we do this together. Because right now it comes down to winning one game. It comes down to figuring out having great practices, having a great week and going out there and winning one game."
What are your hopes for the organization as it goes through a transition?
"Like you just said, it's one win. You can't really look past one week. You've got to take it one game at a time, one day at a time. The biggest thing I can say about big picture is what I already spoke to about the fans. I'm really looking forward to having all of us pushing in the same direction again. I'm looking forward to going out there and working on this one win."
Did you feel like players lost that 'buy in' at a point during the season?
"I don't think our players ever give anything less than their best, no. I think our guys come to work every day. I think they're professionals. I think they do their job. I think that our guys give what they have every day."
Why do you think ownership had to make a change this season in comparison to previous seasons when the team started slowly?
"You'd have to ask them."
Why do you think it's different?
"That's not my job to tell you. I'm just here to tell you that I've got to go out there and make some plays and get us one win. That's all I'm trying to do."
How important is it that future decisions made by the organization align with QB Deshaun Watson's skill set?
"Deshaun Watson's an incredible quarterback. He's the face of this franchise. He's the future of this team and this city. We have to do whatever we possibly can to make sure that he's in the best position to have success and to lead this place to success, not only this year, not only next year, but for the next 10 years. Whatever it takes to give him all the tools he needs to be successful in order to be and flourish and build into the best possible version of himself he can be, that's what we need to do."
Interim Head Coach Romeo Crennel talked earlier today about how important gap control on defense is and it reminded me of how the team changed from playing Miami to playing Tennessee in 2015. Do you remember that the same way?
"Yes, that was a horrendous game in Miami back in the day, so I appreciate you bringing that back up. But yeah, there are certain times where you have to just kind of re-lock in on certain little things where it seems simple. Like you would think hand placement, all those little things, but sometimes you just have to put that focus back on it to make sure that you're doing it at the highest level possible. Whereas the plays tend to come to you when you're just doing your job and doing what you're supposed to be doing, as opposed to kind of trying to do everything in your entire power to make the play. That's definitely a key to Romeo and what he does and what he's about and Weave (Anthony Weaver) by proxy also is about focusing on those fundamentals and technique and getting back to it."
Have you felt that when things are going poorly, you start to do other players' jobs at the same time as yours?
"I wouldn't say that. Not the lack of trust next to you. Sometimes it's a matter of trusting yourself too much. Thinking that you can do everything at all times as opposed to not trusting the person next to you. You just think that you can do everything possible. Sometimes you have to remember that there are 10 other guys on your team that are extremely capable, that you don't have to do it all by yourself."
How much do the leaders in the locker room need to step up with 12 games remaining?
"It's huge. Don't get me wrong here, we have absolutely a lot of blame to take for being 0-4. I don't think that there's anyone here saying that there's not things that we can do massively better. But no, we have to lead this team. Obviously, through a transition like this, the leaders of the team are extremely important in ensuring that the guys buy in and ensuring that we come to work every single day and try to improve and get better and that we focus on that one win at a time. Because when you go through a transition like this, things can go obviously one of two ways. I think that we all want it to go the way where everybody buys in, everybody gives everything they possibly have, and we go out here and we get this win."
Do you believe sunshine has returned to NRG Stadium after that tweet you put out yesterday?
"I think that's – I appreciate what Bill (O'Brien) did here. I'm very thankful for what Bill did. You're trying to get me to go down a road here – we won four division titles in six years. The one thing I'll say about Bill O'Brien is he always stood up for his players. I've been in meetings with him and things like that. Off the field, certainly he tried to do whatever possible to support his players and give his players the absolute best support. I truly believe that he always did what he believed was best for this football team. So, I don't have ill will at all. So, no. I do look forward to a fresh start. I do think there's an energy and excitement, and we're looking forward to going out and getting a win and going 1-0. That's our goal."