Texans owner Bob McNair’s opening statement: You know, it’s great to kick off 2014 this year because I’m ready to kick 2013 the hell out of the door. I had enough of 2013 and you have too. Our whole organization is committed to quality and excellence. What happened last year is not acceptable. It’s not what we do and it’s not what’s going to happen in the future.
So with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I saw 2014 arrive on the scene and to arrive in such a grand way that we could welcome a new coach of the caliber that we have here today makes it even more exciting. This organization is committed to winning and we’re committed to doing whatever is in the best interest of this organization, and that’s what we do.
Every decision we make is based on that — what’s in the best of this organization, what strengthens this organization, what helps us win. That’s what we’re committed to. That’s what we’ll always be committed to and nothing else.
I want to thank all of our fans for being such great fans and being so supportive, and understanding what we stand for and what we’re working for and knowing that we’re committed to this and we know that they’re committed to support of a winning team. And that’s what we’re going to give them. As we set about this whole process, some people said, “Well, why did you make a change before the season was over?” We said at that time (that) we wanted to get a head start on the whole process. We wanted to be able to go out and talk to some people that could talk to us before the season was over and we didn’t want to wait and lose any time. So we started the whole process.
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We had our criteria as to what we were looking for in terms of a head coach and we said that we wanted somebody that was smart, somebody was that adaptable, someone that showed strong leadership, someone that had head coach experience, had had experience in the NFL, understood what it was all about, had a passion for the game, and the dedication to winning.
When we met Bill O’Brien, we knew that’s what we had and he met all of those criteria, and that’s why he’s here today. So we’re delighted that we’re able to start off the new year this way.
I think you’re going to really enjoy watching our new coach work. He has a great way with people. He’s a great leader. He’s showed that he has the ability to step into difficult situations and turn them around. He did that at Penn State in very difficult circumstances and did an outstanding job there. We know that he’s going to come in here and we expect to see good things happen immediately.
Without further ado, we’ll turn it over to Rick and let him talk about the football aspects of what was involved in with the process.
Texans general manager Rick Smith’s opening statement: Thank you, Bob. I want to take a quick second to express my gratitude and just how thankful I am to work for a man like Bob. He gives us the resources, his time, his counsel, his advice and just his general support. To be in an environment in a situation like this is a special one. I’m very appreciative of it, Bob. I think the city should be thankful for that.
Our process, much to dismay of a lot of our media friends, was done in a way that we tried to keep as much of it private.
I think Bob was clear in the press conference that we identified the traits and characteristics that we were looking for in the next head coach, but then we also looked at our organization and our team and we tried to look at where we felt like we were deficient and how could we look to improve those areas. Once we did that, I think one of the things Bob just talked about is intelligence — intelligence, innovative, flexibility. That was one of the things we were looking for.
That’s from a football perspective, that happens from game-to-game, whether you’re talking about a personnel grouping and how you attack defenses or how you attack offense, but the ability to be innovative and flexible that way, you have to have.
You come out in the first half and you have a game plan that you’ve worked on all week, but then you have to adjust, you have to be innovative, flexible that way. And then over a course of a football season, you’ve got to have that same ability.
We were tied for first with the Tampa (Bay) Buccaneers of number of guys in injured reserve at 16 and so you’ve got to be able to adjust and adapt to those changing circumstances. Conversely, the Green Bay Packers were third with 15 and they’re in the playoffs.
So you’ve got to be able to do that in an environment over the course of a football season, and being innovative and flexible, intelligent is one of the things that we think that Bill represents.
Another thing was accountability and toughness.
You’ve got to be able to run when you want to run the ball, stop other people when you want to and finish games. Games are won and lost in the first five minutes of a game and, quite frankly, the last five minutes of a game. When you look back at our season, we didn’t do that well.
I think, if you look at the number of times that we scored in the first five minutes of a football game, we only did twice. And in the last five minutes, we scored five times, four of which were field goals and only one touchdown. So you’ve got to be able to have the toughness to finish football games. And that’s one of the things we think he brings as well.
Finally, a teacher and, when you talk about the NFL now in the salary cap era, you have got to have coaches that are teachers because you have to rely on young players to make significant contributions to your team.
You’ve also got to have a guy who’s inspirational enough who can bridge the gap with the veteran players and make sure that they inspire them to give their best. And we think that Bill does that.
And then the last thing and this is one of the things that I’ve enjoyed about this process, getting to know this guy, is you’ve got to have a little charisma and personality.
What you’re going to find out about Bill, every man that I know and called a friend that I trust that has worked with him, to a man, talked about this man’s character and they talked about how honest he is, how hard-working he is.
As we have worked through this process, I have enjoyed getting to know him. I see that I think he is a man that we will all appreciate and proud to call our football coach. So with that, I would like to introduce our new head football coach of the Houston Texans, Bill O’Brien.
Bill O’Brien’s opening statement: Thanks, Rick. Thank you very much. I would like to start by thanking Mr. (Bob) McNair.
This is a fantastic opportunity to join the Houston Texan family and really help build a winning Houston Texan football team here in the city of Houston, in the state of Texas.
I also would like to thank Cal (McNair, the Texans’ vice chairman). It’s been great to get know Cal throughout this process. We’ll be getting to know each other real well in the coming years.
I’m really looking forward to working with Rick. I really feel the same way about Rick as he just said about me.
We just have really gotten to know each other over the last two weeks, really bright guy, a guy that really understands the league, understands how to put a team together, understands how to evaluate talent, really good person to work with, easy to talk to, and really looking forward to working with Rick.
(I) can’t go any further without thanking my wife. My wife and my two sons, Jack and Michael. My wife’s name is Colleen. I really want to thank them. They’re not here today. It was tough in the transition to get the baby sitter that we had to get. They’ll be here eventually, but they’re not here today and I’d like to thank them for their support during this whole process.
I spoke to many people during this process who I have great respect for in this league. These people were unanimous in one thought and that is that the Houston Texans is a top-flight organization that does things the right way.
It’s rare enough to have the chance to be a head coach at the highest level of football. What makes this one opportunity special and put it over the top for myself and my family was the chance to work for an owner like Bob McNair.
I see this as a chance to not only perform, but also grow personally, just from being associated so closely with a man of his caliber. I worked for and with many, many great men, players, coaches, student-athletes that I’ve worked with over the years. What I’ve heard throughout this process is I may never get a chance to work for an individual like this.
Professionally, I know that he will support our program as well or better than any program that I have been in, and we will have the best opportunity to success under his leadership.
Finally, well not finally, I have one more thing after this. I just want to thank Penn State. I want to thank Penn State for the opportunity they gave me to be their head football coach. I love the players at Penn State and I respect their toughness and their resiliency, and everything they demonstrated on a day-to-day basis.
From the day we walked in the door at Penn State, the players at Penn State did everything we asked them to do and I respect them for that. I do regret not being able to continue with the great kids on that team.
Again, while I tried to never mislead anyone, I understand if some people feel let down. I do, I understand that. Again, it was a decision that was once in a lifetime opportunity for me and it was a great opportunity for my family. I’m really, really excited to be the new head football coach of the Houston Texans.
I can’t wait to get working and get ready to go and to meet all of the players, I’ve already met a few players, and to get going with Rick on putting together a great football team. (I’m) looking forward to getting going. Thank you.
On what systems he plans to run on offense and defense and the possibility of keeping any coaches already on the staff: Let me start with the coaching staff. We’re going to evaluate the whole process here.
We’re going to start by talking to the coaching staff currently, the Houston Texans coaching staff that was here in 2013. We’ll start by talking to them tomorrow. We’ll meet with everybody on that staff. Personally, I will meet with every one of those guys and we’ll go from there.
As far as systems go, if you look at offensively, to me, I would describe our system as a game plan system.
You have to have, in my opinion, a different game plan every week because you see so many different defenses every week. It’ll be a system that is adaptable and flexible. It’ll be a system that the players will enjoy playing in. Defensively, everybody wants to pin you down and ask you if you’re going to be a 3-4 guy or a 4-3 guy. To me, I think, right now, about 70 percent of games are played in nickel and dime defense because of the type of league it is.
We’ll evaluate the personnel on this team. We’ll do a really good job of putting together a good football team and we’ll adapt the systems to the players that we bring into this program.
On why he wanted to coach in the NFL and specifically for the Texans: I tell you, I have a real passion for the NFL.
I had a great experience in New England. It was a fantastic organization. We won a lot of games there and I just really enjoyed the players, the strategy from week-to-week, the offseason preparation, the part that I had in the draft and free agency up there. I just really enjoyed it and I missed it.
Again, I’m really passionate about the Houston Texans because of the people that I’ve met here.
Having the opportunity to sit down with Mr. McNair, Cal (McNair) and meet Janice (McNair), and then obviously get to work with Rick Smith is a great opportunity. I think this is a fantastic city. It’s a football city. (I’m) really looking forward to bringing a winning football team to Houston.
On one of his former Patriots players Troy Brown saying that changing the culture in the locker room is biggest challenge for him in Houston, and if he agrees with that and how prepares to do that: Again, I just got here yesterday and we’re moving on to 2014. I don’t know anything about the culture of the locker room that was here last year. But I know what I believe in. To me, it’s all about the team.
Everybody on this football team will have a role. Those guys on this football team will determine their own role. They’ll determine it by practicing well, playing well and, to me, it’s about accountability, it’s about demanding and it’s about putting together a tough, physical, smart, fast football team that can play in all different types of environments. A team that can play in the heat of Texas and play in the winter conditions up in Denver, so to speak.
We’re looking forward to starting that process and putting that type of team together and really working with the guys to field a great football team here in Houston.
On what type of attributes he’s looking for in a quarterback and if he has a preference for a veteran or a rookie in the draft: Just getting here yesterday, we’ve already started some of these discussions, but they’re very preliminary.
At every position, we want a good team guy. We want a guy that is a hard worker, a guy that’s physically tough, mentally tough, smart guy. It doesn’t matter what position it is.
To me, it’s a guy that understands the team concept and understands that it’s not about individual stats or individual performances. It’s about doing what’s best for the team and being a good teammate.
So whether it’s a quarterback or defensive end or linebacker or wide receiver, that’s what we’ll always look for here at Houston.
On his message to Penn State players that convinced so many of them to stick around the program even with sanctions from the NCAA looming: I think a lot of that is between me and the players at Penn State. I think that is an interesting question and I appreciate it, but again, I’m the head football coach of the Houston Texans right now.
I had a fantastic experience at Penn State. Like I said, the players there mean a lot to me and they always will.
Again, when we went in there to Penn State, there were some tough things that happened, but those kids and our staff, we never let it affect us. It was all about doing the right thing both on and off the field.
To me, when you have a good football team, which we’re going to have here in Houston, really all that matters is what the people in that locker room think. As long as each guy knows their role and understands what the gameplan is and what the task at hand is, then you’re going to have a chance to win games.
Really with all due respect, it doesn’t matter what goes on outside the locker room. All that matters is what goes on in that locker room, in that weight room and on that practice field.
To me, that’s a mark of a good football team, a team that has that type of mentality.
On how the last two years have prepared him for the challenge of taking over a team with the NFL’s worst record: I think anytime you’re a head football coach, there are so many different things that prepare you for whatever your job is as a head football coach.
There are so many things that come across your desk. You have to be a multitasker. You have to be organized. You have to be able to deal with all different kinds of people and personalities. I think in that regard, the two years at Penn State really helped me.
Again, I really appreciate Penn State for giving me that opportunity. It was a fantastic experience for myself and my family.
I owe a lot to Penn State, but again, like I’ve said, I’m the head football coach of the Houston Texans and I’m really excited about that. I can’t wait to get going with Rick (Smith) and meet all the players here and put together a winning football team for the city of Houston.
On how an old defensive player became an offensive coach: That’s a good question. Yeah, I told somebody in the back there that I’m a much better coach than I was a player.
I played defense at Brown University and my first coaching job was on offense and I think I did one year on defense at Brown as a restricted earnings guy, but every other year was on offense because that was where the job was open and so that’s the job you took.
You do what you’re told to do and so I’ve always been an offensive coach.
On why he likes coaching quarterbacks so much: I think that’s a fantastic position to coach because of all the things that go into it.
I think the quarterback, let’s start with off the field, the quarterback has to be a great teammate, a leader, a hard worker, a really good practice player, a guy that’s always striving for perfection knowing that he’s probably not going to get perfection but he’s going to reach some level of excellence.
On the field, it’s a position that has to really have great knowledge not only of your own offense and your own teammates’ talents on offense, but also he has to have a great knowledge of defensive football and the talents of the defensive players that you’re going against.
It’s a job that is never ending. It’s a job that you can always improve at doing, coaching quarterbacks, and it’s a lot of fun to do.
Smith on what kind of say O’Brien will have in bringing in personnel via the draft and free agency and the balance between the two men: We’re going to work together hand-in-hand, OK?
Ultimately what we’ll do is make decisions that are in the best interest of our football team. I am confident that I will work well with this guy. I think he’s pretty smart. I have no problem listening to what his opinion is.”
O’Brien: I feel the same way. Again, I’m a coach.
My passion is coaching football and coaching the team. I’m going to be a part of helping put the team together. I feel like I’m a pretty good teammate. I’m looking forward to working with Rick and putting together a really good, competitive football team for the city of Houston and Mr. McNair.
I can’t wait to get started on it, I can tell you that.
McNair on how much the Patriots pedigree influenced the hiring of O’Brien: We looked at who he had worked with, not just there but also in college. I think that makes an imprint on a person.
He had worked for (George) O’Leary. He had worked for Chan Gailey down at Georgia Tech. He had worked for (Ralph) Friedgen and then he had gone up with Bill Belichick in the NFL.
He came up through a line of great coaches. I’m sure he learned different things from each one of them, and each one of them is different.
The smart things about Bill, this Bill, is that he’s going to be Bill O’Brien. He’s not going to be O’Leary. He’s not going to be Belichick. He’s not going to be Friedgen. That’s the smart way to do it.
The Patriots organization is an organization that I have a lot of respect for. The Krafts are great friends. They do a great job. Belichick has done a great job. It couldn’t be a better place for someone to gain a lot of valuable experience. All of that really entered into it and prepared him in an excellent way.
O’Brien on if there is a Patriot way and how he was influenced by it: I think that’s a better question for Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick.
I was just an assistant coach there. I was part of a great organization.
The things that I learned there, in my opinion, were there is one way to win and that’s as a team. It’s about everybody understanding their role. It’s about people practicing hard, working hard in the offseason, being good teammates, preparing well for each game. Every game is a little bit different and understanding that.
Again, whatever about the Patriot way and things like that, that’s a question for them, not for me.
I just know that I am very, very thankful for the opportunity to work there and I’ll tell you what Mr. McNair just said about Mr. Kraft. When I have spoken to Mr. Kraft, he had nothing but great things to say about Mr. McNair and the same goes for coach Belichick. Obviously, that meant a lot to me.
On the incident with Tom Brady that has been seen online by millions: It’s a competitive sport. Tom Brady is a great friend, a fantastic player and great teammate, just a really good guy to coach. Obviously, I’m very thankful for the opportunity to coach him.
These things happen. There was a camera on it which I feel bad about, but what people don’t understand about that was I think 30 seconds after that was over, we were sitting together looking at the pictures, getting ready for the potential overtime because it had a chance to go to overtime that game.
That quickly passed.
On what he looks for in the other coaches that will make up his staff: I’m going to sit down with every member of the Houston Texans staff tomorrow. It will be a long day. We’ll sit down and we’ll talk and we’ll meet eyeball to eyeball. That’ll be good.
It’ll be good experience for me and a good experience for them. We’ll go from there. We’ll put together a staff of great teachers, demanding coaches. Coaches that hold their players accountable for good play.
We’ll put together a staff of coaches who have a passion for football, that are good family men, that understand it’s important to go home. I think that’s important and we’ll have a really good staff of guys here to coach for the Houston Texans.
On if he has reached out to any coaches outside of the organization yet: First task is to meet with everybody on this staff. That’s what I’m going to do tomorrow and that’s where we’re headed.
On what he sees with this team that makes him think it can be competitive right away: I think that this is a football team, having just gotten here but listening to Rick (Smith) and Mr. McNair and Cal (McNair), there are a lot of pieces in place here.
Really, it’s all just about hard work. Quick turnaround, rebuilding, I’m not into labels and things like that. I think you’ve got to get going and get to work. You’ve got to evaluate the team. You have to have a group of guys that participate in the offseason program as a team and come back for minicamp and training camp in great shape and go out there and get ready to play a long season and take it one game at a time, one day at a time. That’s what we’re going to try to do.
I think in this league the goal is to make the playoffs and that will be our goal every year, to get in the tournament. Once you get in the tournament, you’ve got a shot and that’s what we’re going to try and do every single year here.
McNair on why he used the criteria of having NFL experience and head coaching experience: The criteria was established based on the fact that the NFL is different than the collegiate scene. So that’s why we wanted some NFL experience.
In terms of being a head coach versus a coordinator, if you look at the record, the record is that coordinators have failed much more than they have succeeded. Like 40 percent or so have made it as opposed to those who have been head coaches.
The statistics back up what we were doing but there was a reason for doing it and that is if you move from being a coordinator to a head coach, it’s a different position. It’s not just being a coach.
All of the sudden, you’re chief executive officer and you have to make tough decisions about who is going to be on your staff and who is going to be on your team. A lot of these decisions are very difficult and some coaches who have been players and then become coaches, are still thinking as a player or as a coach rather than as the leader of the organization and they have trouble making some of those difficult decisions.
We wanted to have someone that had shown that they could make difficult decisions and in the case of Bill, he had done that, been in a very difficult position. That was the reasoning behind it. He met all of our criteria.
Smith: I think I will add to that. You also have to be specific to your particular situation and we were.
We had a big universe of candidates. We did not limit ourselves in terms of having qualified candidates to fill this position.
We interviewed some guys that would have, in my opinion, done a great job and were very capable of handling the job. We just feel like this man beside me is the guy to lead us in the future. We felt great about him when we sat down. We felt great about him when we researched him.
We think we were exhaustive in our process and we’re happy that we got this guy as our head football coach.
O’Brien on how familiar he is with the Texans’ roster and how much studying he did before he came in: I can tell you that I basically studied what I saw on paper. So the answer to your question is that I’ve got a lot of work to do on this team and the sooner that I can get back to my office and start that work, it’ll be better.
I can’t wait to get going and to study this football team and watch all these players and I’m really looking forward to that.
That’s one of the things about football that I love. I love to sit in there and watch tape and really understand each player’s talent and skill set.
Of course, I know J.J. Watt and Andre Johnson, along with a lot of the players that I’ve met out here today have had really good, Chris Myers and Brian Cushing, have had really excellent careers.
There are a lot of good football players on this team. I know that.
On if there is one thing about the team that jumps out at him: No. Again, no, I don’t think so.
I would tell you this: in talking to people around the league and then doing my own research, I do believe that this is a strong roster of players and it’s going to be fun to evaluate it.
On if he can elaborate on making it a point to leave work behind when he goes home and making sure to spend enough time with family: I think that in my own personal situation, what I know has been well-documented; I have great perspective on these things.
I have a fantastic wife, Colleen, and I have two young sons, one that’s special-needs, Jack, and an 8-year-old, Michael, who will be running around here very soon. And I think the most important thing in your life is your family. That’s really, really an important part of my life.
I know when I met with Mr. McNair and Cal (McNair) and met Janice (McNair) and had dinner with them and talked to them, I know that family is really important to them. And so when I went back home and talked to my wife about it, you know that was a big deal. Family is very, very important here at the Houston Texans and I think that’s important.
There’s only so many hours in a day. Some of them have to be spent with your family. No question about it.
On if he has visited the city of Houston on any other occasion besides coming to Houston for the Bear Bryant Award last year: Right after this I’m going out and buying my first pair of cowboy boots. How’s that?
Holy smokes. I’m not a foreigner, I’m from Ireland. So I’ve been to Houston a few times. In the places that I coached, we recruited Houston a little bit.
Obviously I was here in ’09. That wasn’t a great memory because I was on the Patriots staff and we lost to the Texans here at Reliant Stadium and then, like you said, I was here last year.
This is a fantastic city. My wife and I have really researched this city. I think some of the things that stand out to us are the cultural diversity of this city, the medical care in this city is really second to none.
The McNair family and what they’ve done for this city and how they’ve given back to this city; I think Mr. McNair moved back here in 1960 and has been here ever since and I think that says a lot about this organization and this city.
The one thing that we all have in common is that we all love football and we like to win football games and so that’s probably the most important thing as it relates to the Houston Texans.
On if the fact that Houston’s medical center and surrounding hospitals probably have some of the world’s experts on his son’s “disease” strengthened his interest in the job: It’s not a disease. It’s not a disease.
He was born with what they call a brain malformation and you’re right, there’s a fantastic children’s hospital here that my wife and I have already researched. It’s one of the best in the world.
So we’re looking forward to meeting the people there and meeting all of the people in Houston.
On how his son, Jack, has given him perspective on life coaching football: I think I answered that a little bit before.
Again, there are millions of people around the world that have special needs children. That’s number one. I understand that. My wife and I are well aware of that but because of the position that I’m in, sometimes I get the chance to talk about it.
My wife and I talk about that a lot, whether we should talk about it or not. And I think it’s important to talk about because in our personal situation, it has given us great perspective on life.
Fourth-and-one is important. Getting to the playoffs is very, very important. Winning football games for the Houston Texans is very important.
But at the end of the day, what’s most important is your family and the health of your sons and your wife. We feel really strongly about that.
On how growing up in the Boston area helped shape him as a man and coach: I grew up there and I grew up in a great family. I have fantastic parents, John and Anne, that still live up there.
My two older brothers, Tom lives up there. Actually, my oldest brother lives in Dallas. We’re going to try to get him to move to Houston, Mr. McNair. He’s a Texans fan, I can tell you that.
It was a great place to grow up. My roots are up there. My dad grew up outside of Boston. It’s hard-working people, genuine people, honest people. People that understand that telling the truth and being hard workers are very important and being good family men are very important things in your lives.
Those are some of the things I learned growing up there.
On if he feels more prepared for a head coaching job in the NFL after being a head coach in college: Certainly. I think anytime you go from being a coordinator to being a head coach, that’s a difficult move just for the fact that you’ve never done that. When you sit in that seat for the first time and all the different things that come across your desk start to come across your desk and all the different people that come into your office on a daily basis and they start coming in, that’s a different experience that you’ve never had as an assistant coach.
I think that, again, my two years at Penn State really helped me in being prepared for this job. This is going to be obviously a challenging job but it’s also going to be a job I can’t wait to get started on. We’ve already started on it. Like I said, looking forward to working with Rick on evaluating this team and putting together a really good 2014 team.
Yeah, certainly, my experience at Penn State, I would definitely tell you, helped me for this job. No question about it. And again, I reiterate, I appreciate the opportunity that Penn State gave me, Rod Erickson, Dave Joyner. I appreciate the way those guys played for us there at Penn State.