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Texans Quotes: February 21

Posted Feb 21, 2014

Read quotes as Texans head coach Bill O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith spoke at the NFL scouting combine.

General Manager and Executive Vice President Rick Smith
(on what the team is missing when looking at the big picture) “Yeah, big picture, when you have the kind of the season that we had and you lose that many games, especially that many games in a row, they’re a lot of things that we’ve got to fix. You hear a lot of talk about how there’s a quick turnaround, potentially there could be, because we’ve had some recent success, but really we’ve had to be honest. It’s been tough to look at our team and to look at our organization all the way through Obviously, it’s tough to make some of the changes that we made, but we do think, as we have evaluated the season, our team, our processes, everything about our organization, that we’ve put ourselves on a good path to get better again.”

(on this draft not having an obvious number one pick) “We’re still in the process of ranking and evaluating all of these prospects. Really, the bulk of the evaluation is done because we put the real onus on the playing and what the guys film, what he is as a football player. So that part of it’s done. The other parts of the process that augment that evaluation, whether you’re talking about the performance here, the interviews, the medical, gathering more information from a character standpoint, the pro days, when we bring guys on our campus. All of those other ancillary are ways that we augment the evaluation process, but the bulk of it’s done. We know we how we feel to a large degree about all of these prospects, but we’ll continue to evaluate.”

(on if the team has narrowed the number one pick to four or five guys at this point) “Not necessarily. We just introduced the process to our coaches and they have a say. Again, this part of it, while it’s just a part, it is an important part of it. The medical piece is an important part of it as well. So it’s not narrowed down. We don’t have that kind of focus just yet.”

(on how important it is to get the number one pick right for the short and long term success of the franchise) “It’s not only important to get that pick right, but it’s also important to understand that this is a unique situation. You get a chance to really set your board three different times and pick the best player on the board three separate times the way that the draft is set up. You get to do that Thursday. You get to do that again on Friday and again on Saturday. You have a chance to obviously pick the best player or, if another team values a guy on the board and they want to come and maybe have the chance to acquire more picks. So it’s not only that first pick, but it’s the way that you manage this entire draft I think is going to be very important. We understand that and our scouts have done an excellent job so far. We introduced this class to our coaches last week and they’ve started to formulate their opinions as well. But we’ve got to do a good job throughout this entire draft process.”

(on if the team wants to stay at the number one pick or if they might be looking for a trade) “We haven’t even narrowed it down to the group of guys that we’re considering, so that I don’t think that you box yourself in any way. We’re open to all possibilities and, I think if you do that, you give yourself the right chance to manage the process the right way.”

(on the top three quarterbacks in this draft class and how they compare to other classes in the past) “I don’t really talk publicly. I don’t think it does any real good for me to let anybody know how I feel about them. I don’t really compare draft classes to another draft class. I will say this, I like this board. I think there are some good football players in this draft class and players that can come in and help us at a number of positions.”

(on if there is pressure from owner Bob McNair to select a quarterback with the first pick) “Well, the good thing about that is the ownership. Our owner will not put that kind of pressure on us to respond that way. There’s a certain amount done of discipline that’s necessary in this process that you have to exercise in order to block out all of those other distractions. Where that comes into play most is in your evaluation. You can’t evaluate, whether you’re talking about free agents or the draft, you can’t evaluate based on that your current team looks like. You have to remove the need and the current complexion of your roster now in the evaluation process and value players based on just pure value. And then as you work through the draft, you’ve got to take them that way. We’ve tried to do that over the years and I’ve talked for years about that, but that requires a certain amount of discipline to do it. I don’t think that we’re going to have a problem with that.”

(on working with head coach Bill O’Brien in the draft process and if there is outside pressure on both of them) “No, because we don’t feel that kind of pressure any external source. So I think what we’re doing is the good thing about me for having Coach O’Brien is I’ve enjoyed getting to know him. He is a very smart coach. He’s very expressive. He’s communicative. So for a partner to have that and to be able to learn a new system and start to talk about what type of players will fit into his systems, and the same thing with Romeo (Crennel). That part of it has been exciting for me. I’ve enjoyed that.”

(on the importance of the team becoming mentally and physically tougher) “Yeah, I think that that’s a prerequisite to success in this league. I think you’ve got to be able to do that. What that amounts to is how do you define that, how do you quantify toughness? We’ve been able to sit down and talk through some things that we think are characteristics or things that we need to do as a football team that will speak to that. I think we can do that.”

(on teams trying to find out information about what direction they’re going to go with the first pick) “Yeah, everybody wants to know. Everybody wants to know. That’s fun. We try to keep our opinions close to the vest. That becomes increasingly difficult when the whirl of the media continues to grow the way that it has.”

(on Sammy Watkins coming out this year and how well Clemson prepared WR DeAndre Hopkins for them last season) “Yeah, DeAndre, he did a nice job for us. We were very pleased with what he did. Personally, I think the wide receiver position is one of the most difficult to come into the NFL and play early. There are so many things for a wide receiver to think about and to process and play at the speed that they need to play with. I think he did a nice job doing that.”

(on ranking players with similar grades at different positions) “I think what you do is you, we talked earlier about how you value your board. You value your board based on really what the football characteristics and potential is for the player. A lot of what we do, I said this earlier, a lot of it is projection, a lot of it’s risk assessments. You’ve got to put all of those factors into your evaluation when you go through the process of ranking and evaluating your board. As the draft progresses, any situation where your pick is there and you’ve got two players who are essentially rated at the same value point and if one of them is a position need and you get an opportunity to take that guy, then you’ve hit the homerun because you’ve not only filled a need on your football team, but you’ve also taken the corresponding value, so that’s when it works good. If you don’t have a position of need at that particular point and you draft a value, at some point, that’s going to help your football team. When you take players that valued at the point that you take them because they fit a need, ultimately where that gets you on the back end is you miss an opportunity to get another good player at a different position that’s maybe a little bit better football player. But because you didn’t need that position, you didn’t take him. That, to me, is where you make mistakes. You’ve got to take value because, at some point, at that particular time, it may not be a need for you, but you’ve got a good football player and ultimately you’re trying to acquire as many good football players as you can.”

(on what he thinks of Johnny Manziel’s comments about the Texans and if he appreciates his confidence) “He’s a colorful, confident guy. You’ve got to appreciate that about him. I don’t have any problem with that.”

(on how much stock he puts into Johnny Manziel’s height and how much the success of Russell Wilson has altered people’s opinions about quarterback heights) “Yeah, that’s a good question. The thing about it is you, again, you’re talking about a vacuum and how you evaluate. Each of these players, whether you’re talking about the three different quarterbacks, have different skillsets, different physical characteristics. To the degree that those guys can execute what you want them to do and really that’s what it all boils down to. You’re never going to find a perfect player. You have what we call position parameters and critical factors and specific things that we look at by position, whether that’s height, weight speed or whether that’s a certain football characteristic, whatever those things are that you look for by position. You’re always looking for those perfect characteristics. You’re never going to have players that fit all of those things, but what you try to do is project how well those guys, whatever his particular skillset is, how well does he project to execute what you’re going to ask him to do.”

(on if there is a lot of quarterback talent in this draft) “I think that there are some quarterbacks in this draft that absolutely that you can come in and ultimately be winners in this league. I like this entire draft class.”

(on putting players in specific categories when evaluating) “I don’t believe in being an absolutist. I think it defeats your chance for success. Again, you look for these characteristics that typically have historically equaled success in our league. That’s what it all boils down to. You look at what’s been successful before and so that’s really how we’ve created these parameters. To say that an inch here or five or 10 pounds there, or a tenth in the 40-time, is something that will disqualify a player. It won’t because really the bulk of the evaluation from our perspective is what type of football player is he and how can he come into our building and execute the things that we’re going to ask him to do as a player. That’s the most important piece.”

(on the potential of bringing in a veteran quarterback) “I think everything, at this point, we’re still evaluating the entire process. Everything is up for grabs at this point.”

(on contracts for draft picks changing and how that affects the ability to negotiate with them) “No, I think what you will see is obviously now this being first year that those deals can open up, I think you will see any number of positions that clubs will take. Again, we are in the process of determining how we are going to handle that as well. It’s an important piece. It’s an element that obviously needs to be thought through and carefully considered, and we’re doing that at this point.”

(on if they are going to talk to J.J. Watt about a contract extension) “We’re not in talks with J.J. We’re in internal talks to determine what our strategy and how we’ll continue to put this football team together and move forward, whether we’re talking about free agency or the draft or our players that are unrestricted free agents or current restricted free agents, or any number of things right now that we’re in conversations about.”

(on how important it is to hit on the number one pick) “Obviously, I think that there’s a significant difference in the financial commitment that has to be made to these players, and so that’s pretty significant. It really is.”

(on if it’s a strike against quarterbacks not throwing at the NFL Combine) “Here’s the deal, we’ve made this event a pretty significant part of our year. The thing, as an evaluator, that I want to see is we think we’ve got 300 or so of the top guys that are going to be available for us and are drafted. So what you want to see is you want to see a guy come in and participate. You want to see him compete. You want to see him against his other peers. You want to see how he handles himself in various environments. So ideally speaking, we want them all to workout. I understand that people take positions and they decide not to do so. But from an evaluator, I would rather see every athlete that we invite to this camp workout.”

(on players not working out and the need to further check their background) “I don’t know if you have to look at the background for that. I think you articulate to the players that you’d like for them to workout. What it does is it requires you to have to now go attend the workout. If you’re really interested in a player, then you’ve got to go to his pro day. He doesn’t have that opportunity in front of all of the league’s decision makers to show himself because he’s not working out here. But it doesn’t require you to go back and do any other evaluation.”

(on the success of Russell Wilson and what that shows for the success shorter quarterbacks can have) “Yeah, I do. I think, at some point, again, we talk about the genesis of these position parameters. Really, it’s just a function of history and what’s been pretty common. Any time you have people who fall out of those parameters who are successful, then it does open up opportunities for others that may fall out of those parameters as well because it shows that you can have success.”

(on how to go about determining the character or draft picks) “Well, they’re a couple of different things. First of all, you’ve got to determine where that information is coming from. You’ve got to determine if you think it’s a character flaw or if you think it’s a function or a product of the environment that he came out of. If you think he’s legitimately a guy that will respond to encouragement or will respond to a new environment, if he’s in a different type of environment where that’s not acceptable. It’s any number of things that you’ve got to look to. Any of these variables that we evaluate in this process and, again, in an attempt to try and project how the guy will be when he comes into our building.”

(on if the team will use the franchise tag on anyone) “Everything’s on the table right now, but I don’t really necessarily see us doing that at this point.”

Head Coach Bill O’Brien
(on his comfort level with the guys on the existing roster) “Well the process is a long process. I think before, I understand the question, but I think the first thing you do when you get a job like this is you put together a good staff. We feel excited about the staff we’ve put together, the coaching staff. And then what you do is evaluate the current roster and then based on the evaluation of the current roster then you start to develop what you think are your needs are on both sides of the ball and special teams. That’s really what we are in the process of doing. It’s a very long process. It’s something that we are month and a half into now. Moving forward you’ve got the Combine here, the draft, free agency starts on March 11. It’s a long process; we are long way away from making those types of decisions.”

(on if the first round pick is wide open at this point) “Well, again, it’s a staff evaluation process. It’s a team process. We are always going to do what is best for the organization. Like I said before, we are only a month and a half into this process. And I think that is important. When I was walking over here I was talking to somebody, another coach in the league, what people need to understand is it takes a long time. It’s not something that you develop your thoughts right away overnight. These are a lot of discussions, meetings, communication between Rick (Smith) and myself, the coaching staff, Rick’s staff of scouts and all those things that go in to this decision and that is what we are in the process of doing.”

(on if they have the first selection narrowed down to 4-6 players and how much talent there is in this draft) “No. So far, of the players I’ve watched, which is probably, well I won’t put a number on it, but I’ve watched a lot of players. I’ve watched a lot of exciting players, players with different skill sets, players that have had really good college careers. There are a lot of younger players in this draft. I think it’s probably the most ever, juniors, that have come out early. There are a lot of guys to evaluate. I really enjoy that process. In my opinion, there is a lot of talent in this draft.”

(on what you make of comments from a head coach who questions the work ethic of a draft eligible player) “Well, again, I’m not going to comment on what Coach Spurrier said. I’ve watched Jadeveon (Clowney) on film and he’s obviously a very good player. He played very well this year. There are a lot of good players in this draft. Like I said earlier, when I sit down and evaluate the players in this draft, I see a lot of talent, a lot of exciting players, guys that bring different skill sets to the table. Jadeveon is one of those guys.”

(on how you evaluate the intangible qualities of a player such as a good motor or competitiveness) “A lot goes in to that. I think you look at how they play on film. That’s obviously one of the tools of the evaluation process. I believe when you meet them and you sit down and talk with them in the interviews that we have here. Then when you go on campus and you spend more time with some of these guys. Maybe eventually you bring some of these guys to your organization. It’s a process that goes on for a long time. It takes a long time to really get to know these guys. I think that’s how you get to know about those things that you asked about. What’s his personality, what’s his competitive spirit, how important is football to him – all those different things. All the different positions maybe that he played in college, or going back to high school. It’s a long process of getting to know these guys.”

(on if he would consider Matt Schaub or Case Keenum as the starter if you don’t draft a quarterback) “I’ve met with all three of the quarterbacks in Houston: Matt, Case and T.J. Good guys. I’m looking forward to working with those guys. At any position on our team we are always looking for guys that are competitive, hard-working guys that buy in to our program and the issue right now is because we can’t really work with these guys right now. We don’t really start working with them. They work with our strength coaches starting on April 7. They go for two weeks with them and then I think April 28, we are allowed to start working with them and we’ll go from there. I’ve met all three of the guys and had good initial discussions with all three of them.”

(on if he has a head start on the draft process because he was a college coach the past few years) “I don’t have a head start. I was coaching Penn State, so I was focused on that team and then who ever our opponent was every week. I don’t have a head start on anybody. I’m a rookie NFL head coach and really excited about being here and really getting going on this process. When I was in New England, I really enjoyed the draft process, especially my last two years there. So it’s really exciting to be back in the process and here at the Combine. This is a really, for me, a really good part of the process because it really allows you to begin to get to know these guys.”

(on what he’s learned from Bill Belichick) “Well, you know I think it’s been pretty well documented that I’ve learned a lot from him – between how to get ready for a game, prepare a team for a game, evaluating your roster, getting ready for the draft. He and I have a good relationship. I’ve seen him here; it’s been good to see him. All of us that coached there for Bill have learned a lot from him. I think I’ve said that a bunch in the past.”

(on how different Tom Brady looks now compared to when he coached him) “Again, I haven’t watched too much. I watched a couple games on TV. I still think he’s playing at a very high level. He’s a good friend, great competitor, really enjoyed coaching him and he’s one of the best to play this game.”

(on his impressions of Blake Bortles) “Sure, we played against him at Central Florida, the Penn State game. He played well. They beat us. I thought he threw the ball well that night. Obviously, I have a connection with George O’Leary and their coaching staff thinks very highly of him there. He’s a big guy, he’s athletic, and he’s a competitive guy so it’s been fun to watch him play on tape and good to watch him work out here.”

(on his thoughts on the offensive tackles available in this draft) “I think one of the things in this league is the tackle position is so important. I learned a long time ago when I came in to this league is that you really can’t have enough tackles. We are looking at all the tackles. The tackles our team, the tackles in free agency, the tackles in the draft. That is a very important position on your football team.”

(on how you determine if a player fits on your team) “I think what you try to do, especially with younger players when you get them in to your organization right after the draft, is you begin to talk to them about what’s important. What is important to your team is that you have team guys that are thinking about being coachable, being really good teammates and understanding that when they leave the building that they represent the organization. I think that is a process that you being right away, after the draft we’ll have a rookie minicamp, I think the week following the draft, and we’ll begin that process then. For all of the players on our team we are always looking for guys that are team guys, guys that care about being good teammates, guys that are hard-working guys, competitive guys, and guys that really care about what goes on in that building and not so much what goes on outside of the building. So that is what we will continue to try to put together in Houston.”

(on how important it is to build a tough identity as a team) “We have a lot of tough players on our roster. We are going to do the best we can to put in all of our schemes this spring and teach our guys the style of play that we want to play. We are in a very tough division in the AFC and we have very tough opponents next year. To me, again, it’s all about the process of the off season program. It starts April 7 and on April 28 you are allowed to start working with them on the field a bit, and then you have OTAs and minicamps. We’ll begin to teach our style of play to our players and make sure that we field the most competitive team we can come next fall.”

(on if he compares other quarterbacks to Tom Brady during the evaluation process) “You can’t, in my opinion, you can’t compare guys to Tom Brady. Guys like Tom Brady don’t come around very often. He’s a great player, has had tremendous success in New England. You have to look at each player for what he is individually and how he fits your team, whether it’s a quarterback or any other position. What do we do as a team scheme-wise on both sides of the ball and how does this player and his skill set and his personality and all the things that go in to being a good teammate, how does he fit your team and that is what we are in the process of doing.”

(on what is his type of quarterback is) “I look for what is best for the team. There is no way that you label yourself that you like this type of quarterback over that type of quarterback. You look for what is best for your football team and how does he fit the type of things you are going to do on both sides of the ball, whether it is a quarterback or any other position. In my career I’ve been around quarterbacks that were 6’5” and I’ve been around quarterbacks that were 5’10” and both types of quarterbacks were very successful with what we did offensively. Again, we are looking for the best at every position, whether it is a quarterback or not, the best fit for our team, our roster, our organization.”

(on his thoughts on the size issue of quarterbacks) “There is one thing to be a certain height and then there is another thing to look at the way a player is built. That goes in to the evaluation process too. It’s one thing to be a 5’11” guy, but a guy that is built very stoutly and can he take some of the pounding that he may take if you run that style of offense. Again, that is part of the evaluation process and that’s what we are all in the process of doing here to try to find those types of guys at every position that fit our teams the best.”

(on Mike Mayock’s comments that Johnny Manziel has the ‘it’ factor) “I don’t know exactly what the ‘it’ factor would be. I think when you play quarterback there are so many different things that go in to playing that position – knowledge of your own offense, knowledge of your teammates, knowledge of defense, how much you’ve won in the past. Do you come from a winning program – high school, college, all the way through? If that is what ‘it’ is, I guess that is what it is. We are in the middle of this process, not even the middle, we are still kind of in the beginning stages of it. We are all trying to figure out which one of these guys fit our team the best.”

(on how he will use J.J. Watt in his defensive scheme) “Again, we have talked about a lot of different things. Our defense will be very multiple. I think always try to put your defense in a box and label it. We are going to be a 3-4 defense. I think the majority of games played in the NFL now are played in nickel defense or dime defense. Our defense will be very multiple. We know in J.J. Watt that we have a fantastic player. I’ve had the chance to sit down with him and talk with him, really a good guy as people in Houston know. We are looking forward to working with him on the field and looking forward to seeing what he brings to our defense. I think he’ll fit in really well in our schemes.”

(on if he’ll run a zone blocking scheme) “We are going to run our scheme. Our scheme on offense will be diverse. We’ll run a zone blocking scheme, a power scheme, a trap scheme, a draw scheme, a blast scheme; we’ve got a lot of different schemes. We are going to do what is best for our team each week. We’ll be a gameplan offense and we’ll look at the team we are playing and try to figure out what is the best way to play that team.”

(on how keeping guys from Penn State on his staff has helped with the transition to Houston) “I brought some guys from Penn State that I really believe in – good coaches, smart guys, good communicators, they understand how we work, the hours that we work, the way we work, the way we meet, the style of play we want to play. So anytime you can bring guys with you like that, I think it definitely helps your transition.”

(on if his relationship with George O’Leary will help him evaluating Blake Bortles) “I don’t think it gives you a boost. Again, I’ve only spoken to George once since I took this job and that was just more of a congratulatory, ‘Hey congratulations on getting the Houston job,’ so I haven’t spoken to George on anything other than that. Again, I did work for George for a long time and I’m sure that at some point in time we’ll talk about Blake and some of the other guys. He’s got other guys on his team that are in this draft process too like Storm Johnson and guys like that. So I’m sure we’ll talk to George just like we will talk to a lot of college coaches about that they have in this draft.”

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