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Q&A With Texans Reporter John McClain

Posted Jan 30, 2014

Veteran reporter John McClain covered Gary Kubiak for all eight years he was in Houston.

Houston Chronicle reporter John McClain has covered the NFL for 35 years, and is one of the most respected voices in the industry.

He covered new Ravens Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak when he got his coaching start at Texas A&M University in 1992, he monitored him from a distance when he was in Denver, and covered him throughout Kubiak’s nearly eight years in Houston.

McClain knows Kubiak very well to say the least.

We checked in with McClain to give us his take on what Kubiak will bring to Baltimore. Here are the highlights of that discussion:

On Kubiak’s system

“Everything is set up by the run, and the play-action works because the running game works. Every once in a while you run that bootleg and, ‘Gee, we’re wide open.’”

“Gary is all about the running game. He’s all about controlling the clock. The motto, because they move the ball is, ‘Throw it away, live for another play.’”

“When Kubiak gets inside the 5-yard line, he loves to hand the ball off to a running back and he loves to throw to tight ends.”

“You all will have at least three good tight ends. If [Dennis] Pitta is smart, he should re-sign with the Ravens because Kubiak loves to throw to tight ends. The tight ends are going to catch a lot of passes and get the ball in the red zone a lot. In 2012, Kubiak ran more two-tight end formations than any team in the league.”

On working with Joe Flacco

“Flacco, I guarantee you, will not have more interceptions than touchdown passes. Until [Texans quarterback Matt] Schaub lost his confidence throwing pick-sixes, he always had a lot more touchdowns than interceptions. Kubiak is really good about working with quarterbacks to throw the ball away. Joe Flacco has the greatest arm in the league, but Kubiak will not want him to force the ball into coverage.”

“Kubiak will be tough on Flacco, and Flacco will respect the hell out of him. [Kubiak] will work Joe’s [butt] off. He’ll jump Joe’s [butt] in meetings. He will jump him in practice. But he will never embarrass him during or after a game.”

“He’s not going to all-of-a-sudden ask Joe Flacco to be Russell Wilson. He’ll still take his five-step drops, seven-step drops. He’ll throw short, he’ll throw long. Kubiak will cater his calls and his coaching to what Joe does best. He’s not going to be asking Joe to do things he can’t do.”

“If Matt Schaub can run [the bootleg], any quarterback can run it. I don’t care how slow Flacco is. Schaub spent too much time running in the same place.”

On Kubiak’s run game

“If I was a fantasy player right now, I’d take Ray Rice.”

“People used to say, ‘Oh it’s Mike Shanahan’s offense.’ Mike would say, ‘No, Gary calls the plays and Gary runs the offense.’ People didn’t want to believe it until it was proven when Gary came to Houston. He didn’t have Mike and did the same thing.”

“The center in his system has to be really smart. There’s a lot middle pressure put on the center to make the calls and adjustments. Gary was smart; he had [center] Chris Myers, who never missed a start.”

“The offensive linemen don’t have to be great individually, but they have to be really cohesive. Three Texans linemen went to the Pro Bowl after the 2012 season and only two deserved it.”

“You have pre-determined the holes. There’s no wasted motion in the backfield. There’s no herky-jerky stuff. If you start running east-west, you’ll be running on the sideline. The running back’s got to be disciplined to plant your foot and go, and know where the hole is.”

On Kubiak as a man and his relationship with Rick Dennison

“The reason Gary is good for the Ravens is because he has no ego. He is the most honest, genuine, selfless coach I’ve covered. And I’ve covered many head coaches.”

“He will blend in up there. He will fit into the Ravens culture. He’s not trying to bring anybody else’s culture. He will blend right in and fade into the background.”

“He’s an awe-shucks guy publicly, but he will be really tough behind the scenes.

“He and Rick Dennison go together like bacon and eggs. They played together, they coached together. They know each other so well, they can finish each other’s sentences.”

“The great thing about Rick is that he’s not afraid to tell Gary’s he’s wrong. He’ll say he shouldn’t do this, or he thinks he should do something else. That’s one of the reasons they work so well together.”

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