Bill O'Brien, Rick Smith, and Bob McNair took to the mic today to introduce a new age of Texans football. For those that were not able to follow along with the rest of us, here is a quick run down of what was said:
- O'Brien was told by everyone he knew that the Texans were a top flight organization, and that you could not ask for a better, more dignified employer than Bob McNair.
- Though he understands the disappointment at Penn State, he stresses that he never intended to mislead anyone. He still loves and respects every player on that team.
- When asked why he returned to the NFL, O'Brien talked about missing the week-to-week strategy and passion at the professional level. He liked being a part of the draft process and free agency, and his positive experience at New England was a big factor in his return to the pro game.
- On how the last two years at Penn State have prepared him, O'Brien talked about learning to be a multitasker, how to be organized, and how to deal with a multitude of personalities (perhaps he was subtly alluding to the "Paterno people" in Happy Valley).
- On why he likes coaching quarterbacks despite the fact that he was a defensive player, O'Brien talked about getting into coaching offense because "It was the open job", and that he has coached offense ever since. That defensive mentality from the old days could play a role in why he always opts to teach his offensive players about defense before they even smell the game plan for the week.
- O'Brien and Smith will work "hand in hand" on crafting the personnel for this team, though I would expect Smith to have the final word on everything.
- O'Brien will sit down with every member of the staff tomorrow to start evaluations and decide who stays and who goes. He wants "great teachers, demanding coaches that hold people accountable", as well as men who "know when to go home and see their family". Intelligence, accountability, and knowing one's role on the team have been stressed very hard in this press conference.
What I found most interesting were Rick Smith's comments on what he was looking for in the coaching search.
"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 where we were deficient and how could we look to improve those areas. Once we did that, one of the things that I think Bob just talked about was intelligence. Intelligence, innovative, flexibility - that was one of the things that we were looking for. From a football perspective that happens from game to game, whether you are talking about a personnel grouping or how you attack defenses, or how you attack offenses, but the ability to be innovative or flexible that way [is an ability that] you have to have.
You come out in the first half and you have a game plan that you worked on all week, but then you have to adjust and be innovative - flexible that way. But then over the course of a football season you have to have that same ability. We were tied for first with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with number of guys that were on injured reserve with sixteen, and so you've got to be able to adjust and adapt to those changing circumstances. Conversely the Green Bay Packers were actually third with fifteen and they're in the playoffs, so you've got to be able to do that over the course of a football season and being innovative and flexible and intelligent is one of the things that we think Bill represents."
A coach who preaches adaptability is in stark contrast to the principles of Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips, who often staunchly held to their systems whether they were working or not. Being able to adjust not only after a game plan stops being successful, but before it stops being successful, is a trait that the previous two head coaches of this organization have not had. Bill O'Brien's comments, however, point to flexibility being the very foundation of this team in the future.
"As far as systems go, when you look at offensively, I would describe our system as a game plan system. You have to have in my opinion a different game plan every week in this league because you see so many different defenses every week. It will be a system that is adaptable and flexible, and it will be a system that the players will enjoy playing in. Defensively, everyone wants to pin you down and ask you if you are going to be a 3-4 or a 4-3 guy, and to me I think now about 70% of the games are played in nickel and dime defense because of the type of league it is, so we'll evaluate the personnel on this team and we'll do a really good job of putting together a good football team and then we'll adapt the systems to the players we bring into this program."
And, of course, a question about the future at the quarterback position just had to be asked. O'Brien's response is about as O'Brien-ish as you could expect.
"Just getting here yesterday, we've already started some of these discussions but they are very preliminary. In every position we want a good team guy. We want a guy that is a hard worker - physically tough and 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 what's best for the team and being a good team mate, so whether it's quarterback or defensive end or linebacker or wide receiver, that's what we'll always look for here at Houston."
Intelligent. Team player. Hard worker. You are going to hear these words a lot for the next few years. Let's just hope it works as well in Texas as it did in Massachusetts.