Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak addresses the New England media during his conference call on Wednesday, December 30, 2009.
Q: What is your expectation from the Patriots in regards to starters' playing time on Sunday?
GK: We have to stay focused on ourselves. Bill [Belichick] has a great football team. They are very, very deep. You just watch their performance last week against Jacksonville and it seems like this team is ready to make another run toward another world championship. We've got our own issues. We just have to stay focused on ourselves and get ready to play and we'll have to be as good as we can be to have a chance to win against you guys. So that's our focus, nowhere else.
Q: Does it matter who plays for your preparation?
GK: We are preparing to play their team, what they do offensively, defensively and on special teams. Like I said, it's a very, very deep football team and we have to prepare for what they do and in those phases of the game. We have our work cut out for us. We're not going to get involved in that stuff. We just have to get ourselves ready to play and stay concentrated on what we do.
Q: How much have you paid attention to the playoff scenarios?
GK: You know, I really haven't. We've been battling back from a rough streak- we lost four in a row back about a month ago, some very tough games. We're really just trying to right our ship and correct some of our problems and play better football. Obviously we have a mathematical chance and it's a slim one, but we're just trying to finish up the right way - be as good as we can be this weekend. We have to play, to me, the top franchise in football. We're staying focused on that. All those other things - not much we can control. All we can control is how we play.
Q: What kinds of things have you seen teams try against Andre Johnson?
GK: We've seen a little bit of everything. Obviously people try to take him out of the game and try to make us send the ball somewhere else. Because of that, we move him all over the place. It's a credit to him. He's a very smart player. He enables us to do that from an offensive standpoint. He gets paid the ultimate compliment every week with what people try to do defensively. He's been something else. He's kind of been the rock around this place ever since he's been here and I've known him for years and he's been as good a player as I've ever been around. He's been exceptional.
Q: Is there one coverage that sticks out as exotic or unique?
GK: No, I can't really say there's one. He gets a lot of double attention and those types of things and game plan coverages that you might not see from teams when you're studying their film during the week. Then you play and here it comes. It's something we have to adjust to and something Andre [Johnson] has to adjust to on a weekly basis. It's kind of become part of who we are and what we have to handle week in and week out.
Q: What do you feel that you need to see from Matt Schaub in order for him to take that next step up?
GK: Statistically he's been healthy this year and the numbers he's put up are comparable to everyone else in the league. But let's face it: quarterbacks in this league are judged in the long haul on winning. He's played good football. It's time for him to take his team to the next [level] and that's being a playoff team and having a chance to compete for a championship someday. That's what it's all about. Tom [Brady], Peyton [Manning] and of course I was around John Elway all those years. That's ultimately what those guys are judged upon. We're trying to get this football team good enough to where he's got a chance to get it to that point. I think he's doing his part. We have to continue to improve as a team and he has to continue to improve as a player. Him being healthy has been a big part and he's been able to do that this year.
Q: What's the missing part that is preventing you from getting past being on the cusp of the playoffs?
GK: Well, you're right, we are trying to get this place to a point where we can win week in and week out when we step on the field. We are much more consistent now from that standpoint week in and week out. Going from an eight-win team to a 10 or 11 or 12-win team in this league is a huge step. That's not one play or two plays. That's the toughest step to take in this business. That's the one we're trying to take. What exactly do we need to get that done? Number one, we need to continue to get the people we have here better. And we need to continue to develop more and more competition on this football team - throughout this football team - because I think that's what ultimately makes you better. But I think the biggest focus is these good, young players we have here have to reach a new level. You know, have them start to do that for us to continue to move forward.
Q: How much did losing your starting guards hurt you and how did you adjust moving forward with that?
GK: Offensively we've been adjusting all year. We lost both our starting guards I think by week three, so that's been a big adjustment for us. Losing Owen Daniels in week eight - that was another big adjustment for our football team. Losing [Steve] Slaton three weeks ago we adjusted again. So I think every year each team goes through some tough times from an injury standpoint. Ours have kind of been focused on our offensive side of the ball this year. So we've kind of had to go in some different directions to move the football. In the long haul, those things make you better. All those guys that are getting those snaps now that have been backup players for us are more seasoned-type pros now and in the future it should make us more competitive.
Q: How tough is it for a quarterback to miss a year and return to Pro Bowl form?
GK: That just tells you the great player that he is, what the game means to him and how hard he's worked to get back. I have the utmost respect for him. I obviously saw him many, many times when I was in Denver and we played against him a great deal. I'll tell you the way it is: as I'm raising Matt [Schaub], I'm showing him a lot of Tom [Brady]'s film and how he handles things, how he plays the game - foot work wise, poise wise. I mean, he's the model guy; he's the model player and handles himself with a great deal of class. Those are the guys that play a long time in this league and are successful. There's nobody better for Matt to keep an eye on week in and week out, year to year. But, I'm very impressed by what Tom's done and obviously he's been exceptional. Last week, apparently, he was just incredible. So he's gearing himself up for January. That's what he does best.
Q: Speaking of Tom Brady missing a year, what kind of year has Bernard Pollard given you?
GK: He's played really well for us. We picked him up I think in week three off the waiver wire when Kansas City had let him go. We really haven't had a safety that's kind of been a rock back there for us and we took a shot on him because our defensive backs coach David Gibbs had him in Kansas City and boy, he's played very well for us. He's given us some stability back there. He's given us a physical nature back there as far as playing in the box and doing those things, so we've been very pleased with him.
Q: You played with John Elway all those years and then you coached him and I know he and Tom Brady are very different players, but are there certain things that you can tie together between the two of them that you've seen watching Tom?
GK: The biggest thing that would jump out to me is that they're both at their best when it matters most. I mean, that's just so important in this league. Games are so close and there's such an ebb and flow to what goes on in a typical NFL game, but then all of a sudden there are the ten most important snaps of the game, of the season, of the year. And certain people are at their best at those times. To me, when I look back on John, being his roommate and a former player, that's what I saw. Being his coach, that's what I saw. And to me, we've been seeing that from Tom his whole career. Some guys just raise it up a notch and they're at their best at those times, and these two guys have always been that way.
Q: Is Tom Brady the only guy on tape that you sit down and show Matt Schaub, or are there other guys that you've shown him?
GK: You're always pulling from guys and doing some of the things that you do offensively, but the thing with Tom is his feet. He plays the game with some of the best feet I've ever seen as far as in the pocket, rhythm, throwing and those type of things. And I think Matt's built a lot like Tom from the standpoint [of being] more of a pocket player. [He] doesn't run around a great deal. So he's somebody that we just try to have him model himself after and do a lot of studying from that standpoint.
Q: I would assume it helped Matt that he had some experience in that system, having played in Atlanta. Was there a lot of carry over there? And I guess also from what you guys did in Denver to Atlanta to Houston?
GK: Well, yeah and when we went and got Matt, that was one of the big things. The terminology and stuff was going to be a very quick carryover. Alex Gibbs had been in Atlanta with Matt, so he helped me a lot with what Matt had done and of course Alex was with me, so I had a lot of guys familiar with him in Atlanta before we pulled the trigger to do the deal. I knew he was a fine football player, but I think finding out more about him as a person and how important football was to him made it a very easy decision.
Q: Specifically when you guys do the scout team, is there going to be extra time this week spent on having guys mimic, say, Myron Pryor instead of Vince Wilfork?
GK: No, we've got to prepare for their scheme. Bill presents so many problems. I've been going against him for so many years. You don't know whether you're going to be play against a three-man front, a four-man front. I mean, you have no idea. We've got our work cut out for us this week just assignment-wise to get on top of our stuff and then obviously the problems they present for you offensively. And I think their special teams is as good a group as I've seen this year. This is the best football team we've played, the deepest football team we've play this year, so we've got to be at our best.
Q: Do you feel like down there in Houston there has been any more pressure on your guys to win this year, and maybe you personally, too, just based on being there and knocking on the door the last few years?
GK: Yeah, but that's a good thing. That's why I came here. We started at the bottom. We took over a team that had the first pick and was at the bottom of the barrel and we went to work with young guys and have been fighting the good fight and we've made a lot of progress. The last couple years around here there have been no losing seasons, but we want to be a playoff team and start to experience some of those things that you guys have been doing on a regular basis. So the expectations have changed here and that's OK. That's what we want to get done and if we keep working at it and moving forward with this group, we'll have our chance, so we're just trying to stay positive and we like the expectations. That's what we want to eventually achieve.
Q: With Andre Johnson getting the attention that he does from defenses, how does he continue to be as productive and consistent as he is?
GK: I think - and I've said this many times - he's a smart player. I mean, we move him all over the place and you've got to try to make it tough on defenses by what you do with him. He deserves a great deal of credit for his football mind and the way he handles game plans and [it] gives us the flexibility to move him all over the place. That's a credit to him. He's a very sharp player.