HOUSTON -- The NFL owners meetings closed Wednesday morning after three days in Boca Raton, Florida, where coaches, general managers, executives and their families gathered for the annual ritual. Here are 10 things we learned:
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair believes in the job general manager Rick Smith is doing. It's clear that McNair hears the critiques of Smith, who has been the team's GM since 2006. When I asked about the job Smith has done, McNair said, "I think he's done a fine job." McNair said he has had "outside personnel people" evaluate the Texans' moves over time and the results have been positive.
Brock Osweiler is gathering his receivers to begin the process of developing chemistry. Osweiler already started getting to know them by communicating with them early, some even before his introductory press conference.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien has concerns about the rule change that will lead to ejections for players who incur two of a certain type of unsportsmanlike penalties. The rule passed on a one-year trial basis due to concerns from many coaches. O'Brien's point was that if an important player gets one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, he'll become a target of opponents who want to goad him into another. It's not a completely unfounded fear, and I bet it's something O'Brien will consider as an element of gamesmanship this year.
The signing of Osweiler doesn't preclude the Texans drafting a quarterback. What it means, rather, is that won't be in a desperate position when the draft arrives. With the 22nd pick, it's likely they would have to make a significant trade to get into the range where they'd be able to take a quarterback who could make a real impact. That would cost a lot of draft resources, which would impact the Texans' ability to fill other needs on their roster.
McNair won't tie the fates of Smith and O'Brien to the success or failure of Osweiler. At least he won't do it publicly. I tried asking this question in two ways and both times McNair emphasized he doesn't think that way. He also expressed confidence Osweiler would be at least adequate, if not better, for the Texans.
Brian Hoyer is the Texans' backup quarterback and Tom Savage is third string ... for now. O'Brien said there would be a competition for the No. 2 spot and that Savage could win it. And while Hoyer is still on the roster, I wouldn't be surprised if he was moved or released this offseason. He is a very good backup quarterback, which could make him a solid trade piece.
When O'Brien worked for Bill Belichick, part of the education in evaluating players meant putting the coaches outside their comfort zones. "You might have been an offensive coach but you’d go out and evaluate a corner, evaluate a safety, evaluate a defensive lineman, in addition to the offensive positions," O'Brien said. "He taught you a lot about evaluations. He doesn’t stand over you and teach you that -- it’s trial and error, and there’s a lot of error in the beginning and then you get it right."
Broncos coach Gary Kubiak and Osweiler have spoken since Osweiler's decision to leave the Broncos. Kubiak was asked if Osweiler's benching against San Diego was part of his decision to leave Denver: "Only Brock can answer that question, I’ve been asked that a couple times this week,’’ Kubiak said during his Tuesday breakfast session. "... [But] I’m the guy who put him in there, I believed in him." The topic of Osweiler's departure seemed a sensitive one for the Broncos during the week, including Kubiak and executive vice president and general manager John Elway.
O'Brien said signing Osweiler was not an indictment on Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Many expected Hackenberg to be the Texans' pick simply because of his connection to O'Brien, who recruited him to Penn State and coached him in his best college season. "I studied his two years after I left," O'Brien said. "Everybody’s like, ‘He played terrible.’ I don’t see that. I think he played pretty decently. Sometimes he threw an incomplete pass, sometimes he held the ball too long -- nobody’s perfect. I thought the guy played pretty well, to be honest with you, so I think he’s going to be a good player in our league."
Left tackle Duane Brown's rehab is going well. He's in the facility regularly, continuing his rehab from a torn quad tendon suffered in the final game of the regular season.