Originally aired on 12/19/2012


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Travis Rodgers: Rick, as an executive, as someone who isn’t coaching and isn’t on the field being able to effect the game, how difficult is it to “rise and fall” with the losses and wins of the season? 

Rick Smith: Well, it’s just a part of the NFL and you have to be able to do that. You have to be able to come back the next week and focus after a victory. We’ve had more of those than losses. We’ve played poorly a couple of times and lost but fortunately were able to respond to those losses.

TR: Are the losses to Green Bay & New England due to the Texans not playing their brand of football or was there something missing?

RS: The NFL is a tough league and you’ve got to be on your “A” game every week and when you’re not, you get exposed. We’ve had a couple times when we haven’t played at the level we’re capable of playing and when you do that, you’re going to get beat. I like this group because of their ability to stay focused each week on the task at hand.

TR: On the heels of last season when the Texans won their first playoff game, and then getting Matt Schaub back healthy this year, did you know this would be a team that would, not only be a good team but, probably be the best team you’ve ever had?

RS: We felt confident in the group we put together. This group understands the correlation between the work they put in on Monday-Saturday and how that translates to their performance on game day. We’ve got a mature group that understands we’re only as good as how much we work each week to prepare for our opponents.

TR: You’re exactly right that you have to have guys that are, not just willing but, excited to do the work. When you’re evaluating and selecting players, where does work ethic rank? Is it more important than physical ability? How do you slot it?

RS: It’s important. We definitely want guys who are passionate about playing football, have a work ethic, and are disciplined. We think that when the game is on the line, the guys that are disciplined and do things the right way will perform the best when the pressure is on. That’s what we look for and we have a locker room full of those kinds of players.

TR: Do you take a chance on a guy that doesn’t have that and hope that Gary Kubiak or someone else can reach him and coach more effort out of him, or do you think that if he hasn’t learned to work by now, you need to go in another direction?

RS: You can’t be an absolutist because it only diminishes your chances of success. If you have enough of the right guys, when get a guy who isn’t as detailed or committed to the work, you can surround him with guys that will not stand for anything less [than their best effort]. A lot of times you’ll see that player excel. [Effort and discipline] is something you look for and its important but you can’t have a bunch of robots, either. You have to have guys that want to play good ball.

TR: The guy who took in the 2011 draft with the eleventh overall pick, JJ Watt, I imagine was not one of those guys you worried about lacking commitment.

RS: No. You watch him on tape now, the same as in college, and the guy jumps off the line with effort and intensity. He’s got such a wonderful combination of size, speed, athleticism, length, power, and football instincts. That’s one on the things that no one talks about: this guy is a very instinctive player. He’s very disruptive and has had an outstanding football season.

TR: Did you know he was going to be as good as he’s turned out to be? You took him eleventh overall so, obviously, you expected him to start and have an impact, but he is in the conversation as MVP of the entire league.

RS: Well, you used the key word in your question, “impact.” You look for an impact player when you’re picking in that part of the draft so we were expecting that. But to say that we were expecting him to dominate and play the way he’s playing, it just wouldn’t be true. As crazy as it sounds, he isn’t playing his best. He has improvements to make and he can continue to get better.

TR: We’ve talked about drafting guys in the first round, but what are your expectations when signing an undrafted guy like Arian Foster?

RS: A lot of times in college free agency, you’re signing a guy that you had a “draft-able” grade on they had one or two characteristics that you liked about them. There were things we liked about Arian like his size, his one-cut ability, and vision. When you put a guy like that in, they have to maximize on their opportunity and that’s what Arian did. He came in, put his head down, and went to work. He excelled on the practice squad and once he made the team, continued to work. The thing that I don’t think people realize with Arian is he has a tremendous work ethic. This guy works and that’s why he’s good. He’s a microcosm of the guys on our team.

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