Feb 272002
 
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Q&A: Defensive Coordinator Johnnie Lynn

My Ten Minutes With Jlo…

by David Oliver

So now that I have your undivided attention, it wasn’t really JLo, but JLynn, as in Coach Johnny Lynn, the new coordinator of the defense for the Giants. How and why did I interview Coach Lynn? It’s been a long off-season for me already. The inevitability of Jessie being released depressed me from the second to last game of the season; the hiring of Rod Rust (RR) sent the mercury through the top of the thermometer. Then, the personal attack on me by a clown with the initials TaLiBan (TLB) made me think of Rocky Thompson and his desire to spend a few minutes alone with certain individuals. My desire is always a little different. I just get the impulse to reach out and grab some of the asses on this Board by the throat and rip out their vocal cords. I’m not a tough guy, not belligerent, in fact, I’m kind of mild mannered. I relish combat, intellectual or other, but I detest anonymous personal attacks by jackasses who appear to have difficulty wiping their own asses.

One of the reasons I like the web so much is the absolute freedom to communicate, to disagree, to input and output information. But as an old man, one of the large disadvantages is having to put up with infantile, post juvenile attacks by the ME and ME ALONE generation, who are so used to not having to face consequences for their actions, that they have become the oxymoron of intelligent generation. There are only 2 things which shatter their veil of ignorance, violence and the F word. Both work for me.

But I am tired of “F”ing off dolts around here, and having been exposed to situations of real violence in my life, I have just decided that between the insults, Ernie Accorsi (EA) and now RR, I have just about come to the end of this chapter of my life. Those of you who have been with me since my beginning here know that I am on a journey. It is my journey and I have invited you along. I have realized for a while now that I’ve been pretty lucky. I’ve followed the Giants closely for several years – a blessing which most of you say you would give up much to have. And a blessing it has been. But it has also been wearing. It has taken up to four days a week of my time during the season, which is at least 20 weeks long. I am physically tired, mentally exhausted and in need of a change. I have been fortunate throughout my life in knowing that as one door closes, another usually opens. As Jason in Oregon knows, I enjoy racing – car racing, boat racing, speed activities. The nearness of death again was in evidence this past weekend as a young racer was killed at Homestead in a practice accident. There is something about being in proximity to a speeding vehicle, approaching 200 mph, sometimes coming within 5 or 6 feet of you. Many tracks are fencing and closing off the racing areas now, but there are places where I can get that close and look into the cockpit, study the drivers’ eyes and hands and capture the essence of the sport.

I once discussed a certain look with the greatest Hydroplane racer of all time, Chip Hanauer, and I told him I saw a look in his eyes which was almost frightening. He told me, “That look, let me tell you about that look. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of.” And then he went on to tell me of his competitiveness, of the desire to win at all costs. He told me how it cost him his marriage, family, wore on him constantly, and how his brother had told him of his love for him regardless of his won-lost record. He told me of his feelings of shame and inadequacy on the day a young man in a very high tech wheel chair was brought to him on the dock, and of his enthusiasm and exuberance. And of how he realized then what true courage was, what life really meant. Chip had just come out of retirement. He had a goal, a mission; to defeat Miss Budweiser, the boat he had piloted to victory so many times, the boat owned and campaigned by the most intense competitor in Hydro history, Bernie Little. I ran into Chip later that year at the Norfolk races. He was relaxed, he had won his victory. He retired again after that year. Now he’s on the track in a Kart and having fun again. (And, no, I have no macabre fascination with death, but I do have an intellectual appreciation of the challenge. Once, on a mission in Latin America, my fellow traveler and I were off to the jungles, close to where BB56 just visited. We were escorted by a supposedly vetted driver. The car began acting erratically – strange, because I knew it was mechanically fine. When our driver turned down the offer of assistance from a passing trucker, I knew the game was about. My friend was getting alarmed and he said to me, what are we going to do. I knew our driver understood English although professing he did not and I knew he was watching our conversation in his rear view mirror. So I said to my friend, without taking my eyes off the driver, relax, if this car goes anywhere that I am uncomfortable, I will reach over the seat and kill him – there were a few more tense moments, but I am still here. So without professing toughness, it is as my associates would say, I am effective because I am not afraid to die, and if you are not afraid to die, you are not afraid to, well, it is a zero sum game after all. So I like auto racing because none of those competitors are afraid of death – they don’t dance in victory, they don’t spike the car – they go out and get drunk, then get laid, then prepare to race again).

I miss that. This past year, many of my auto contacts have dried up. I am scrambling now to put together a race package and I am having some trouble. It is going to take time. And yet, every time I decide to leave the Giants beat, my heart tugs at me. After all, the Giants are my first love, and even though she has become a whore, I hold the belief in my heart that if I remain constant, she will once again become chaste. So maybe I can squeeze one more year in, maybe. I’ll decide around draft time. Until then, I’ll give you the best that I’ve got. If my Sebring gig works out, I’ll be heading to Florida next week. I’ll spend a week visiting the NFL Euro camps and watching the scrimmages. I’ll talk to the Giants’ designated players and bring back a report.

I had Mom with me for 2 months this time; from the last Giants’ game to this past Tuesday. She turned 83 while with me. It was a difficult 2 months. It’s hard to watch someone you love so much suffer every day, all day, in constant pain. She came down with pneumonia, she fell and cracked a rib. She forgets. She doesn’t hear well. And then she is Mom, wonderful and caring and full of memories. She likes to talk about her childhood, her parents, father who died at 38, mother who died shortly after. She talks of the depression and how her dad lost everything. Of her grandfather, of whom she says I remind her because he always had them put out food and water for the cats “because they can’t talk and tell us when they are thirsty.” There is always a food bowl on my deck, and water, and bird food. I have three crows who come in the morning and eat cat food; 7 cats, the joy of my life, all wild, all loving; and between 9 and 12 raccoons who come every night, climbing down the trees, up from under the deck, out of the woods. All have been raised here and they are a scream. They are fat, roly-poly bundles of fun. We have families of Blue Jays and other birds. They all cohabit, share the food and water and live in peace. So I remind Mom of her grandfather.

And I learned something else. As that generation is all but gone, on my mother and father’s sides, there are only Mom and a younger sister left out of 12, and very few out of her 50 some cousins. So there is a desire to fill in some of the blanks before there is no trail. We are a 100 year family. Mom’s great grandfather was born in 1860, in Italy, and arrived here shortly thereafter. Dad’s side was just a little later. They settled in a little mining community in Pennsylvania, located between Scranton and Wilkes Barre, the anthracite center of the world. Many of the people in the town were related through blood and marriage. We are related to Olivers, Oliveris, Petrillos, Pepes, Serinos and Puzos. But this week I learned of a new branch, never in America – a new name which I can barely pronounce. It drove me on a little GeistReisse back into New Jersey and Pa. I am working on a project and there are a few photos attached. Although this is not the time or place for all of that story, I wanted to lead into my interview with Coach Lynn, because here began that love of the Giants, and here was the foundation of some of my “sociological” observations, which give Bob in Tx such amusement.

Both the Newark in which I was born and the anthracite region of Pennsylvania share a bond with T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
Come in under the shadow of this red rock.

Substitute black rock and we are out of London and in the coal fields. Substitute grey rock and we are in Newark. But it so much more than that. For all the despair, the pain, the agony of Christ in Concrete, people came here and they worked and prospered and grew for 100 years. I remember vividly my great Uncle Sam, a miner. I lived in PA for a couple of years around the age of 3 to 5, and I spent many summers there. Uncle Sam would come walking down the alley every day, ebony black, only eyes visible. He would walk behind his house and turn on the hose. When you could see his skin, he would go inside and take a bath. He never raised his voice, never swore or drank. He had a great sense of humor and took the family on picnics on weekends. He was a gentleman, as kind a gentleman as you would ever meet. And he died of pleurisy – black lung, a horrible strangling death, much like that of my Dad whose lungs just calcified.

I played on those coal slags. We would stand transfixed at the colors in the water, blue, green, gold, knowing even at that young age that all that glitters is not gold. So I went back. I visited Eckley and rode through Hazleton, on down to Minersville. I took some photos, for after all, as my friend TLB says, I am just a photographer. But as I stood there, I thought of Henry James, and his espousal of the Virgin and the Dynamo.

Here opened another totally new education, which promised to be by far the most hazardous of all. The knife-edge along which he must crawl, like Sir Lancelot in the twelfth century, divided two kingdoms of force which had nothing in common but attraction. They were as different as a magnet is from gravitation, supposing one knew what a magnet was, or gravitation, or love. The force of the Virgin was still felt at Lourdes, and seemed to be as potent as X-rays; but in America neither Venus nor Virgin ever had value as force; – at most as sentiment. No American had ever been truly afraid of either

All this was to American thought as though it had never existed. The true American knew something of the facts, but nothing of the feelings; he read the letter, but he never felt the law. Before this historical chasm, a mind like that of Adams felt itself helpless; he turned from the Virgin to the Dynamo…

Here in this Valley, there was both the Virgin and the Dynamo. The power of religion held sway over these working people, Italians, Poles, Ukranians, called dagos, polacks and bunyaks. Yeah, and they built the dynamo on which we all still live and prosper. I rode past miles of black fields and active works, mountains of slag, huge breakers, now enclosed and less romantic than the old wooden structures of the days of the Molly Maquires. Can’t forget the Irish, can I. They worked here also, side by side with their European cousins. The Dynamo that was America, the power of her mines and mills and steel works. Strangely enough there was a rally this same day in Washington. A rally of steel workers. Throwbacks to the era of the Dynamo. Too ugly for the youth of today, not environmentally sound, not aesthetic, threatening the snail darters. I can categorize the ills as well as the greatness, still, the Dynamo was what made America. The Japanese knew in their souls that invading Pearl Harbor would spell doom for their Empire. They were and are intelligent people. The crazed Middle Eastern Rabble who destroyed the Towers have no idea of the Dynamo. It is good that there are some of us left who remember so that we can send these intellectual faggots into the dustbins of history.

So where is this going, how does it tie into the Giants. All this ruminating leads back to Sam Huff, out of the West Virginia coal fields and the players our fathers, and some of us loved. Of how the Giants broke our hearts in sending Sam Huff to the Redskins. Of what Sam stood for, of the purity of the game. And of how another brilliant strategist took an aging team and tried to integrate new blood therein and set off a nuclear winter which lasted until the coming of George Young and Bill Parcells. Jim Lee Howell was a winner and George and Tuna were winners. The rest have been football Lilliputians. Now the release of Jessie. I have never been a friend of Jessie’s, very rarely spoke with him and don’t idolize some of his antics. But I appreciated his ferocity, his ability to stoke up his mates, his willingness to play every game, every game for his career here. And I don’t consider football just a game or a business, for if it is just a business, we are all fools, because there is no return in it for any of us. It would be like watching Microsoft crush its competition and rooting on the Big M .

No, it is loosely called a game, even more loosely a business, but is being run by the same type of executives who have run Enron. And that will have consequences. Jessie was family, and you don’t do to family what the Giants did to Jessie. So I had to dig a little. SOTI is and has sources, Eric has sources, and I have a few. All are different. You know I don’t publish rumors and I don’t talk about the half of what’s going on, but I was on a mission. So I set up an interview with Coach Lynn and I met with a source, on that cold morning, in the far end of the parking lot at the Stadium. So much like Watergate that I had to chuckle. My source is real and wired tight. I told the source that I didn’t want particulars, I didn’t need specifics, that I just wanted a general idea of what the hell was happening here. There are rumors of discord between the Coaches and the Front Office, that Jessie wasn’t wanted back at any price, that others might be on some kind of list. The upshot of the revelation was that there had been a mini-revolt of some players who weren’t happy playing for the present regime. Sounds too familiar; the old bad apples saw that and sent Kent Graham and Brian Williams and others packing. Well, Rocky T, it seems you have allies in the ranks.

And then the news of Kerry Collins’ initial demands. I almost spilled my coffee when I read his agent was asking for Brett Favre money. C’mon, even as an opening gambit, that one must have had EA in paroxysms of laughter. Strahan will not be easy. He’s stubborn and proud and he has the Giants over a barrel. I remember one past negotiation where he was so put out because the Giants wouldn’t even initiate talks. This one is going to be cute, real cute. I never believed the Giants could re-sign Shaun Williams. If he is truly a Pro Bowl potential player, someone will offer him a lot of money. On the other hand, if he’s not, he better get damn reasonable, fast. And I know for a fact that Greg Comella has put a very reasonable proposition on the table, but the fact of the matter is, the Giants’ belt is so tight they can’t even consider someone not from central casting until they get the business at hand completed. Right now, the business at hand is Williams.

Now the flashback to the house in which I grew up. I haven’t been back in a lot of years. So many, in fact, that when I bumped into the present resident and told him I lived here 25 or 30 years ago, he laughed and said, it must have been more than that. Indeed it is. It was over 50 years ago when I moved in and almost 40 since I left. The neighborhood has changed. My sister asked if I wasn’t afraid of being mugged. I told her, no, but I think some of the present residents were alarmed at a white man, dressed in black, wandering their street with a camera in hand. The current resident is white and moved in to care for his elderly parents. He told me both that the neighborhood wasn’t the same, and also that it was pretty quiet. I asked about the stone lions which had decorated the front stoop and he told me that one had been stolen, so he moved the other inside into the front hall. There were signs in some yards warning that guard dogs were on the premises.

Guard dogs – I remember Ninny, the ferocious cur in Mr. Malanga’s yard. If you threw the football into the yard, or hit a rubber ball in, we fought over who would go over the fence to get it – because either Ninny would bite your ass, or Mr. M would kick it. We played stick ball, boxball, stoop ball and football here. The streets were cobblestone and their were gas lamps and Chestnut trees. The blight wiped out the trees and modernization paved the streets and did away with the gas lamps. We had a coal burner for heat and the fruit and vegetable and fish and meat men would come up the block with their horse drawn wagons, calling out their wares. There were two bakeries, one mid-block, one around the corner, and an athletic club on the corner where the locals played bocce on a summer night.

It was, and it is, a working class neighborhood. There are subtle differences. Now, there are homes with boarded up windows, there are more homes in disrepair, but there are also newer homes interspersed. It is still an integrated neighborhood, but the color line has shifted from 80% white to 80% black. Mrs. Beard’s school, made famous by Nabokov and Lolita, would now be a geriatric tale as it is a Nursing Home. Dionne Warwick spent some of her younger life near Lincoln Street and the school with that name. Few would know that. Fiore’s Liquor store still sits on the corner. I remember Fiore’s because he had a Weimaraner who he would send two blocks to the butcher, where the butcher would give him a bag of meat and he would return it to Fiore, carrying it all the way in his teeth. The athletic club, where TwoTon Tony Galento would hang, was now something else, and my elementary school is now a parking lot. Yes, Thomas Wolfe wrote you can never go home again, but Thomas Wolfe never lived in Newark.

But I wanted to talk to Coach Lynn. We had tentatively agreed to meet. I told him I would come up on Wednesday. He said , “See ya”. I let Pat Hanlon know I was coming, but I hadn’t heard back from him. Now, as most of you have discovered, as Paulie Walnuts has learned first hand, Pat is a gentleman – he’s cool, in a NY sort of way. I figured he was very busy, with the combine coming up and all, so I did as I learned when I was at the UN – dealing with Ambassadors, who are often busy. They never say, no, they just don’t get back to you. So I got into a routine of just showing up and knocking on the door. Most people feel sorry for a mangy, wet mongrel who is too dumb to get out of the rain and shows up on your doorstep without an invitation. So I showed up at the Stadium and rang the bell. Pat stuck his head out and yelled, “C’mon Dave, you have 10 minutes with Coach Lynn.” Then he was off down the hall. I was trailing at my usual mosey along speed. Pat was barking at me comically to hurry up. I inadvertently turned into an office and there were Coach Fassel and the GM. They looked up, said, hi, and I could see in their eyes that look, who the hell is this? The GM’s Office was nice, compact, slightly smaller than my last office – desk, sofa, chairs, table. Pat was in high gear now, so I had to run down the hall, laughing, and into Coach Lynn’s office.

For such a busy man, his office was clean – desk, chair, bookcase. An assistant was just finishing up and we joked with each other. Coach Lynn was busy, but relaxed. He is comfortable with himself, which makes me comfortable with him. We have a good relationship. I can speak freely with him, and he both listens and talks. I have teased him about Shaun Williams since the beginning and he has been forthright with me about everything. In this world, you want some guys to succeed because their success will bring you some kind of pleasure. Some guys, you could care less if they succeed. And there are some you want to succeed because they are straight shooters, deserve to succeed, and will carry success well. Coach Lynn is one of the latter. I will make no bones about it, I like Johnny Lynn and I want him to succeed because he the kind of guy who will spread his success around. So I am biased. Am I objective? Well, read the interview and decide for yourselves. Read it carefully for a lot was said, some orally and recorded and some not. I won’t give you every nuance, every shift of body language, or everything that we discussed. But there is plenty here for you to form an opinion. Keep in mind that this is a very early interview. Coach has just set his staff and is doing his prep. He was gracious enough to open the door for me, maybe a little prematurely. But that’s how Coach is. Both he and I are wysiwyg guys. Enjoy.

ME: Coach, you are heir to one of the greatest traditions in the history of professional football – the NY Giants defense. Have you thought about it in those terms?

COACH: It’s a rich history. The NY Giants football history is rich in itself, but just defense is what they have always won with; they’ve always played great defense and that’s why they’ve got two Super Bowl wins and a couple of Championship wins; it’s because of their defense; it’s not because of stellar offense; it’s because they have a workman’s attitude to things, to get the job done. Offense sells tickets, but defense is what wins the games.

ME: Has the impact of the new position hit you yet?

COACH: No. Right now they’re shooting no bullets. We’re unscored upon, we haven’t had anybody shooting real bullets at us yet. We’re working at it. We’re reviewing last year to see what was good and what was bad. We’re going to try to improve on that.

ME: We at BBI are a fan based site. John Fox walked on water with a lot of our fans, until the end of last year, when it became obvious that John Fox was probably going to move on. Suddenly, the defense became suspect. At the end of the year we started hearing things like “well, Dave Brazil had a huge impact on John Fox”. Now, you are the coordinator. You listen to everybody, but tell me, is Johnny Lynn the Coordinator of this defense – do you call the shots?

COACH: I call the shots. The buck stops here. It’s not a matter of…John Fox called his shots also. There was no influence, nothing like that. John Fox called everything he wanted to call. That was him. And just as Johnny Lynn is going to call the defense here, there’s no shucking and jiving, no pushing anything aside. It stops on me.

ME: Let’s talk about what defenses there are. Everybody seems to run a mix of defenses…

COACH: Well, not everybody. We’re multiple.

ME: John Fox worked in Pittsburgh; he worked with Dave Brazil, he worked with Rod Rust, so his defense was, well, sort of a “read and react”, but he was a lot more aggressive. What philosophy of defense does Johnny Lynn rely upon?

COACH: Well, we don’t have one. John (Fox) never had a “read and react” defense. John (Fox) has always been proactive. He wants to dictate to the offense what he wants them to do. It’s not a matter of sitting back and waiting and reading. You’re thinking about somebody else’s team, not this team. It hasn’t been for the last five years since I’ve been here. And it’s going to continue to be an aggressive style of defense that we’ve grown accustomed to having. We can’t back our players down now. If you get real vanilla stuff, they’re going to get bored and we’re not going to have the success we need to have. You always have to keep them enriched with something to keep their spirits up, to tell them, hey, we have got something new, we’ve got a new weapon that we can go and attack somebody with. We’re going to be aggressive; we’re going to get after people; we’re going to be proactive.

ME: Thank you, Coach because that’s my feeling. But I’m giving you what I’ve been hearing and you can react any way you see fit.

COACH: No problem.

ME: Is “read and react” something the offense does?

COACH: Well, they like to dictate, too, but in our case, we’ve always been an aggressive style of defense. We’ve always given multiple looks. That’s one thing we’ve always done, whereas a lot of other teams don’t do as many things as we do. We are one of the few teams that do a multitude of things. We’ll continue doing that and that causes problems for the offense, because they have to get ready for all the different fronts and different sets, and then you’ re able to just play.

(As an aside, Coach pointed to a 6-inch thick book in his bookcase and told me that was the defensive playbook. He then told me it was his belief that no one in the League could top it).

ME: At the end of the year there were a lot of articles about Lovie Smith and the Rams, how he had “simplified” their defense and gone to “cover 2″. You said, in one of your interviews that you would be doing much of the same defense, but that you would simplify it. Is their any confusion here over the use of the word simplification?

COACH: What I said is that to a person looking at our game, they won’t know that we’ve changed and are being simpler. We practice a lot of things that we don’t call in games. We do a lot of things in preparation to call this particular defense, like in training camp, that you never see; so to the untrained eye that’s not in camp with us, that doesn’t understand what we’re doing, you won’t be able to tell the difference. But we will be simpler, we will do things more fundamentally sound, we’ll go after the ball.

With regard to Lovie Smith, that’s a totally different situation. That’s not a situation like we have here. We have an established program, as to how we do things. At the Rams, they brought in a totally different staff, so you were starting over with guys from a different situation and they’re looking at, hey, our offense is great and we’ve been overlooked for the past few years. Now we’ve got a guy coming in that will give us something that’s going to help us get better. They also brought in a bunch of players, too. That’s what people don’t look and see. You bring in guys that help and enhance what you are going to be doing. We’ve been successful doing that and we’re going to be successful doing what we do also.

ME: Jessie Armstead. The Giants have always been known by their linebackers. In the 50s and 60s, you had Svare, Swaboda and Livingston. Even in the bad years you had Hughes, Kelly and Van Pelt. Can you replace Jessie’s leadership?

COACH: First, he’s not gone yet (this was Wednesday). So I really don’t talk about things that haven’t happened. How would I react in that situation – if Jessie is gone? The situation would be, hey, you’ve got to deal with leadership. This is a veteran team, it’s not a young team. So somebody else has got to step up and assume that position. Now, who that person is – we don’t know. I mean they’re talking about Sam Garnes, too. (Now gone). Sam Garnes provides a lot of leadership for us. It’s going to be a hard situation. We have to groom guys to take over that leadership position. It may not be one guy like Jessie, or with assistance from Sam Garnes. It might be guys that are already here that just don’t say anything, they do things by example. Jason Sehorn would be a great example. He can take the reins by showing leadership. I’m not saying talking the game, I’m talking about playing the game. Strahan is here. He’s not one that gets real verbal as far as ‘c’mon guys, let’s do this, that and the other’; he’s a guy that leads by example. Mike Barrow is the same way. So there’s guys on the team that can assume leadership roles. If Sam Garnes is not here, you’ve got Shaun Williams, who has been in the system for four years. Leaders aren’t born every day, but they can be groomed. And if everybody does a little bit here, a little bit there, it’s going to work out.

ME: Anything recent on re-signing Williams?

COACH: Coaches are the last people that know what’s going on. Those are the people upstairs, and coaches, we know after everything is done. The Press knows when guys get cut before we do. We don’t know. We’re walking in saying, hey, we’ve discussed this but we don’t know what’s going to happen, and when it’s going to happen. Then it happens and you guys know it before we do. So, I don’t know. We’re going to find out pretty quick, I guess. I hope so.

ME: The race question. Nolan Richardson made some very legitimate points. I talked to (Jim) Skipper about it. You’ve been in football your entire life; you are the first person of color, to my recollection, who has been in this high of a position on the Giants’ coaching staff. Is color a source of pride to you, as an individual, then you dispense with it and move on. Just how does color, race, relate specifically to your position in football today and the position of other coaches?

COACH: Well, one thing is, I try to improve myself to be the best that I can as a person. I don’t look at color. Even when I played football, I wasn’t a football player; that was something I did. What I am, you are going to see what I am when I walk in the door. But you won’t know what kind of person I am until you sit down and talk to me. So there are stigmas here and there are stigmas there, but, as far as the race issue is concerned, what you see is what you get.

Now, you can assume what you want to assume, but once you get in and know ME (emphasis) as a person, you’ll know what kind of moral standards I have, what kind of person I am; then you’ll say, hey, we need to give this guy a shot. We need to give this guy a chance. Regardless, I’m going to do the same thing I’m going to do anyway; I mean, most people around me that know me, they’ll say good things about me. I’m not one that people say, he’s this and he’s that. They say good things and that’s the kind of life I lead. We’ll see.

ME: I know you can’t discuss specifics, but is there any particular position you are looking for at the combine?

COACH: I’m trying to get a broad perspective of all the positions because I’ve been in the secondary for so long. Now, I’m trying to touch a little of everything. As far as myself, I’m getting a chance to look and sit down with Denny (Marcin) to see what kind of defensive linemen we’re interested in getting; what kind of linebackers with Tom Olivadotti. We’re going to see. We’ll sit down after we come back from the combine and deal with specifics.

(Laughing) I know what you want, but I can’t give it to you as, hey, we’re going to the Combine looking for this guy or that guy. I’m trying to understand what Denny is looking for, what Olivadotti is looking for. I think I have a pretty good picture of what’s going on in the secondary. We’ll get back and decide. There’s not that many days…who do we cut, where do we have shortages; there are a lot of questions to answer before you can draft and recruit and evaluate people.

ME: Sky Walker, tell me a little about him? (New Defensive Backs Coach DeWayne Walker)

COACH: (Laughing) But that is his name. That’s why I laughed because I don’t know where you got Sky Walker – that goes back some years. Good young Coach. Well, I don’t want to say young, I mean he’s 41 years old. I’m 45. (Now I laughed and told him they were both young). Coach said OK we’re young, but he’s very bright, a quick study, smart, energetic, knows football, been around football all his life.

ME: How is he with player development?

COACH: Very good. That’s where his expertise is, in fundamentals and basics and getting guys to do the job.

ME: Do you plan to turn him loose?

COACH: Oh, yes. We don’t hold anybody back. If you think you can contribute and go for it, go for it. He’s got great guys to be working with, tremendous guys. That secondary is a strong together group. We’re only going to get better. We weren’t as good as we needed to be last year, so this year we’re going to get better, a lot better, and that’s going to be under his leadership.

ME: There are three names – Allie Sherman, Ray Handley and Rod Rust – that for older Giants fans make the hair on their neck stand up. The Giants have re-signed Rod rust. You now have two guys advising you whose combined age is greater than your entire starting line and throw in a corner. Comments?

COACH: That means great. Isn’t it great, though? That’s awesome. To me, it’s a win-win deal. With all the coaches we have on defense, it’s not like Johnny Lynn on defense. YES, THE BUCK STOPS HERE. YES, I will be accountable for everything, but we have a great nucleus of coaches so that we can get down into a game plan and break things down and get things to where we can handle them. I think it’s very positive, the knowledge. Rod Rust and Dave Brazil probably have forgotten more than we thought we ever knew about football. We only wish we knew what they’ve forgotten. That’s what you need, a rich heritage – this is basically where our defense has started from with rod Rust and Dave Brazil.

ME: Give me your assessment of what you have here?

COACH: Well, we don’t know what we have yet. We’ll find out after March1, what we have and what we don’t have. Then we can go from there. That’s the reality of the job. We have a nucleus of guys that will play hard. I think the secondary right now is pretty solid in what they’re doing – young guys and old guys in the mixture. The linebackers – they’re trying to develop some kind of mixture. (More about Jessie here – overtaken by events). Up front, the defensive line is pretty solid, with the starting guys. These are guys that will return next year and will improve. Mike Strahan getting 22, 23, 25 more sacks (smiling) – that’s what we want. Kenny Holmes needs to get on that sack train, too. He needs to eat what Michael’s been eating, and pick it up that way. Keith (Hamilton) has been a stalwart inside and the young pup, well, I don’t want to say young pup because Cornelius Griffin has been here. This is his third year; he’s coming around and he’s a welcome addition which we can turn loose to put pressure on the QB.

ME: Looking at the eventuality that Jessie doesn’t come back – have you spoken to Dhani Jones yet to tell him he has an opportunity? I’m sure you’ve spoken to some of your troops.

COACH: We always try to keep in good communication with the players. I talked to a bunch of the defensive backs and I know Denny (Marcin) has talked to the defensive line and Tom Olivadotti has talked to the linebackers. As for your question, Tom Olivadotti will relay to Dhani what situation we have once we find out what’s going on. If it’s going to happen, he’s probably going to say to Dhani, “It’s a good opportunity for you. But you’ve got to win this out. You’re here, but nothing is given to you when you’re at this level”.

We might go out and draft a guy. You go there and draft a guy and he might get an opportunity to go out and play. There’s going to be competition for that position. That’s only if Jessie is not here. We’re hoping that he’s here. And that’s the situation we’re looking at. You can’t walk in by default to a position. You have to be able to challenge and compete for that position, and that’s what is going to happen.

ME: How many hours a day do you spend here?

COACH: It’s off-season. We’re 14 to18 hours a day during the season. We put in time. I have to put in extra time. It’s a race, in a manner of speaking, for me, it’s a catch-up situation. The race has already started. I’ve got to catch-up. That’s where the assistant coaches come in. Like I say, the buck stops here, but the assistant coaches around me, they make it work. They’ve all been coordinators, I’m the only one who hasn’t been. Even Sky Walker has been a coordinator. I haven’t. This is new for me. But I’m excited about the opportunity, and we have in place failsafes. If I start going down the wrong path, we’ll need to say, hey, we have to go down this path, let’s try this. It’s all open for discussion, but the final decisions will come down to me.

Just about this time I realized I was a little over my 10 minutes. I didn’t want Pat knocking on the door and confiscating my tape recorder, so I told Coach Lynn that I had taken enough of his time. We chatted off the record for a while, then he walked me out front. We discussed a lot of interesting things. I teased him again about his wish list and I threw out two names, Ryan Sims and Napolean Harris. He acknowledged he had seen Sims play, but, in all honesty, he didn’t even know who Harris was – ergo Harris is off my list.

Now, here at BBI, we have either traded or cut everyone on the team, including the Coaches and the Management. We have done at least twice for everyone. Unfortunately, we don’t have input, but the Giants are off to a good start. They have chopped the offensive line, cut Jessie, pushed Sam Garnes out the door and are in danger of losing Williams. On the plus side, there are rumors about Christian Peter returning and maybe signing Dave Szott. Signing Peter is a positive. Another Peter always helps, especially a Christian Peter (grin). Szott for Parker – just a body trade. I can’t believe they wouldn’t sign Lomas for the minimum – that will play out.

Frankly, this year I don’t have a clue where they will go early in the draft. Three positions are certain somewhere: tight end, offensive lineman and safety. I would have to throw in a linebacker because there isn’t much depth here. With Joe Jurevicius about out the door and trade rumors on Ike Hilliard, throw in a wideout. The real screamer here is Joey Harrington. If he is available around 14 or 15, and Kerry acting like a damn fool, how could you not take a flyer on this kid? Jessie James Palmer was picked as a project. I can’t remember the last Giant project that panned out. So the team has got to go quarterback.

This is turning out to be an interesting and bizarre off-season. Somehow, the Giants can get lucky, notwithstanding any apparent game plan other than to rebuild in place. On the other hand…well, screw the other hand, we’ve got plenty of time to talk about it.

Coach Johnny Lynn is a great guy. He is as he says. I could not imagine his defense being anything but aggressive and he will forge a strong bond with his guys. I appreciate his giving us his valuable time and I hope it gives you all a few answers and some comfort at this early stage.

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