Kubiak on Improving Texans

By John Granato


John Granato: You own this town right now. This is a Texans town, coach. Is it not, with the love that’s flowing in this town for your Houston Texans? Gary Kubiak: Well, it’s amazing. Last year at this time, everyone was disappointed last season with the lockout. [But then] we make the playoffs, win our first playoff game. That’s why we’re all here. You know that, John. We’ve got our work cut out for us. We’ve got some people to replace, and we’ve got a tough schedule, but we’re going to have a dang good football team and I’m looking forward to getting started.

JG: You talked about that, coach, you got some people to replace. That’s kind of the nature of the business; it’s a function of being a good team is that you’re going to lose guys. How different was that this offseason, seeing a lot of guys leave and then having to replenish that depth?

GK: You know what? To be honest with you, it was very tough, but it’s part of the business. We have to replace those guys. They were not only good players but greatguys. They tell coaches they’re not supposed to get close to players, but [I was] very close to those guys and I appreciate what they did. A lot of them ended up in some great situations. It’s time for us to...find some new “Mike Brisiels,” “Joel Dreessens” and “Demeco Ryans.” We’ve got to find new leadership from that standpoint and that’s starting to happen throughout the course of our offseason program. Our players have been working extremely hard. I’ve been very impressed with what they’re doing.

JG: It was nice that [Wade Phillips] let you take an offensive guy with the second pick. That was awfully nice of him, wasn’t it? [laughs]

GK: You know what, as long as we play defense like that, we’ll keep taking them. I’m an offensive guy by trade, that’s the way I was raised, but if you play good defense in this league week in and week out, you’re going to be in every ball game, and boy did we play well last year.

JG: Talking about Wade, I don’t know if you hear it but we hear it all the time – the love for him in this town that he gets. Some people have asked, “does Gary Kubiak mind how much credit Wade Phillips gets?” You just want wins, you don’t care who gets the credit, right?

GK: I want to win. We’ve got a great coaching staff, and Wade’s a very good friend of mine. I was a player, actually, in Denver when Wade was coaching. I have great respect for his dad; I worked for his dad as a kid. Wade had opportunities last year, could have went a lot of places, but he came to us. He had opportunities at the end of this year. He could have been possibly a head coach again in this league, but he loves this city. One thing Wade really loves is his defense. We got a bunch of young players playing hard and I think we’re heading in the right direction and the reason we’re heading that way is because of him. I’m just very fortunate and I appreciate him coming to Houston and it’s great for me to be around him on a daily basis.

JG: How hard was the decision to release Jacoby Jones? I’m sure you’ve seen or heard the amount of vitriol towards him after the playoff game (versus the Ravens). How tough was that whole ordeal to go through, not only letting him go but the weeks leading up to it?

GK: You know, it was very tough because the guy came so far. The first couple of years I had him, I probably spent as much time with him as I did any player trying to turn him into a pro. He really responded and he’s been excellent over the past couple of years. Andre (Johnson) missed games and Jacoby played well. But, drafted a couple of young guys and we’re gonna go young. Rick (Smith) and I sat down and said, “Let’s be fair to Jacoby,” and give him a chance to go somewhere and get going again. He gave me a big hug the other day. I’m going to miss him. He’s a
great personality to have around. And he’ll go and play
well. So we wish him all the best and now we’ve got to
get these young guys going.

JG: How worried are you about those young guys? They’re going to have to contribute, and they’re bound to make mistakes. Are you a little bit worried about [the offensive] side of the ball?

GK: Well I’m not worried; I’m excited. Obviously, you’re always concerned [with having] guys who have played in this league and been successful. If you look at our group right now, there’s not a lot of those guys around, but we feel like we’ve got a lot of good young talent. Nobody knew J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed, or T.J. Yates would do what they did last year, either. We’ve got a lot of confidence in building young players and it’s our job to go get that done.

JG: You gotta make tough decisions, don’t you? What about Eric Winston?

GK: I thought he played well, John. Our group up front played as good as the top five in the business. Like I said, every year’s a different year and you have to make tough decisions. Eric’s getting a great opportunity in Kansas City. Mike (Brisiel) went from a free agent kid just trying to find an opportunity, to making a lot of money playing for the Oakland Raiders. So we’re happy for those guys. I’m very close with them; I talk to them all the time.

JG: There’s obviously hard decisions to make every offseason. One of the first things you guys did was sign Arian Foster to a contract. How neat was that day to watch him and his reaction to finally getting that contract?
And how do you think he’s going to handle not being the underdog anymore?

GK: We’re happy for him. He came in as an undrafted rookie, had some baggage hanging over him, he worked through all that stuff, and earned his keep. He stepped up last year. He came off a great year, came right back and did it again, and that was very impressive. We’re all happy for Arian, but now there’s a lot expected of him. He’s working extremely hard. I tell you what, Ben Tate’s having a great offseason, too. Between those two guys, we expect to run very well. Arian has to lead the way.

JG: How excited are you to work with Case Keenum?

GK: It’s pretty cool. I watched him in Indianapolis, watched him two weeks after that when he did his private workout, and then when he came and worked out for me. I’ve said this about three or four times, but if people had seen that workout, he would have been drafted and we wouldn’t have him right now. That’s how much progress he’s made. [He’s] a very bright young man and he can move. I think the pressure is kinda off. It’s like, “Hey, let’s go relax and go play” and he gets to do that right here in his hometown. We’re excited. Matt (Schaub) is excited, T.J.’s excited, and they know him very well. It’s a nice fit and we’ll go to work.

JG: Has J.J. Watt taken over as a leader?

GK: No doubt. Come watch him work out. He and Chris Myers lead the way every day in what they do. A matter of fact, just standing on the wall, he was talking to (Dan) Pastorini and I told Dan, “Don’t corrupt him. Leave him alone.” [laughs] He’s a fine young man, he’s a great player and he’s going to be a leader around here for a long time.