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John Mara, New York Giants (December 13, 2020)

John Mara – © USA TODAY Sports

JOHN MARA ADDRESSES THE MEDIA…
New York Giants President and Chief Executive Officer John Mara addressed the media on Wednesday (video):

Q: I know we talked before the season last year about off the field issues and how do you evaluate prospects and what have you moving forward. I’m curious about the challenges in draft season under these circumstances when you’re not getting the time that you’d like to vet prospects face to face. From your perspective, how do you guide the personnel department, the coaching staff, in terms of taking chances on players that may have red flags?

A: It’s a little more of a challenge for sure, but you’re still allowed the Zoom interviews and those are helpful, and you can certainly do your own background work on these guys – you can do your research, you can talk to their college coaches, to people that are on the football staff. All of our scouts have connections at different schools, so there’s still a lot of research you can do with these guys. It’s certainly not as good as talking to them face to face in your building, but it’s something that all the teams have to deal with, so it’s doable. I thought last year we did a good job with it and we got some really quality people.

Q: What is your expectation for the cap in 2022?

A: Not sure yet. That’s going to depend on a lot of things – certainly will be higher – but that’s going to depend on a lot of factors including whether we’re going to have a significant number of people in the building this year and in all of the buildings around the league. It’s too early to make any projections on that.

Q: How much did the spending this offseason kind of bake in the fact that you are expecting a jump if not next year, then in the future?

A: Well, we’re desperately hoping that we’re going to have more revenue to work with and that the cap will be a little bit higher because, yes, we did obviously spend a lot of money and we pushed some money into future years to be sure to create some additional space. Certainly, we’re hoping that our revenues will be up and we believe that they will be, given the rollout of the vaccines and whatnot, but we’re certainly a long way from making any predictions on that yet.

Q: You saw [Head Coach] Joe Judge up close this recruiting cycle. What did you sense? You guys really wanted to get these big players in the building, which is kind of like a throwback to years ago. What did you see from your whole operation, especially from Joe, once you got these guys in the building? You know what he is in certain things, but maybe not as a recruiter. Kind of assess his recruiting style a little bit.

A: I think the word I would use is ‘thorough.’ I mean, even before guys came into the building he did a lot of background checks with former colleagues of his, other coaches around the league or college coaches that he has a relationship with, so he knew a lot about these players before they walked in the building. [WR] Kenny Golladay, for example, I mean Joe went to dinner with him the night before and then had him in the office the next day for an extended period of time, really got to know him, so I think it was a very thorough process. We had a number of people in the building sit with these players, specifically with Golladay and [CB] Adoree’ Jackson, so we got a pretty good understanding of what they’re about and that, to me, was a big advantage. It’s much more difficult to do this when you can’t get the guys in the building and you have to make a commitment to a large amount of money without getting a chance to eye them up and talk to them and get a feel for them. I was happy that we were able to do that this year. It made it easier to give the final okay to say, ‘Yeah, go ahead, get the thing signed.’

Q: Last year, there was a lot of preaching about patience, rebuilding, the process here kind of with a long-term view, but the kind of spending you guys did recently in free agency puts a lot of pressure on this year. Do you expect to make the playoffs this year like spending this kind of money would seem to indicate? And what accounts for maybe the shift from a long-term, rebuild view to so much emphasis on 2021?

A: You know, I think you have to seize the opportunities when they present themselves to you. The big money that we spent recently were on two young players that we think can be here for a while. And in terms of whether I expect to make the playoffs – look, I go into every season expecting to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, I’ve been wrong the last five years, but I always expect us to make the playoffs and expect us to be in contention at some point. In terms of the money we spent this year, I mean, there were opportunities that presented themselves, particularly at positions of need with quality players and guys that we did a lot of research on, so we took advantage of the opportunities and hopefully they’ll pay off.

Q: How involved has Steve Tisch been recently? Has he been involved in these owners’ meetings? How has he been involved in this free agency cycle, this offseason, etc.?

A: He’s been involved in the owners’ meetings and I’ve had a number of conversations with him, as have other people in the building, so he’s been fully aware of what’s been going on and has given his opinion. He has continued to be involved, yes.

Q: Hey John, you’ve mentioned a few times in the past, talking at the end of the season about telling fans to be patient. What message does this free agency spending spree send to your fan base?

A: Well, I think it’s just that we’re committed to doing whatever we have to do to put a winning team on the field. As I’ve said before, there were opportunities that presented themselves to add quality young players that were highly regarded, that we think can make an impact and also were positions of need, so we took advantage of them. I think you can’t do that every year, but when the opportunity presents itself I think you have to seize it and I think that’s what we did this year. We think it will pay off, but time will tell. We’re certainly not a finished product by any stretch of imagination. We need to add some more pieces in the draft, but I do like the direction that we’re going in.

Q: The media kicker comes into effect with the adding of the 17th game for next year’s salary cap, correct?

A: That’s correct.

Q: On the international marketing plan that you all just approved, what is your general sense of what that opportunity is? Is that more appropriately characterized as sort of an incremental, experimental thing or do you think there’s real revenue in the short term for the league and teams in this plan? And then also, where are the Giants looking, if anywhere, overseas?

A: We’re having some discussions about that. I don’t see us jumping into that right now – we’re more focused on the opportunities in our local market – but I do think it is a long-term revenue opportunity for the league and for clubs, no question about it. Our focus right now is on our local market, on getting people into the building, getting our inventory sold and improving the team. Will we look at that at some point in the future? Yeah, I would say that’s possible, but that’s not our focus right now.

Q: What are the benchmarks you need to see from [Quarterback] Daniel Jones this coming year and how tied is [General Manager] Dave Gettleman’s future to the future of Daniel Jones and his development?

A: Well, I think they’re kind of two separate questions. Listen, we think the world of Daniel in this building, I think I’ve said that publicly before, I know our coaches feel very strongly about him. We want to see him take the next step. I don’t have any specific benchmarks other than let’s win some more games. I think he will have a better team around him this year than he’s had in previous years, so we certainly expect him to take the next step, but I’m not going to put any specific benchmarks on him right now. I just want to see him continue to improve because I do think he has what it takes to be a long-term winner in this league.

Q: How much of the spending, especially on Kenny Golladay and then bringing in [Wide Receiver] John Ross, was motivated around facilitating him taking that next step?

A: Well, I think that’s part of it, for sure, but you have two guys – Golladay has obviously put up some great numbers in this league and John Ross is somebody who has some unique speed and we think maybe we might hit on him as well. So I think surrounding Daniel with more weapons was certainly a priority coming into this offseason, but that would be true no matter who the quarterback is. You always want to put as many weapons on the field as possible. It’s becoming more and more of a passing league, and we saw an opportunity to add some guys who have some unique talent and hopefully it’ll pay off for us.

Q: I know this team means everything to you, it’s been in your blood for your entire life. What would it mean to you personally to turn this thing around in a meaningful way and to get this team headed back for a Super Bowl?

A: Obviously, it would mean the world to me. It’s been a very difficult four or five year period for us and I’m tired of the losing and of having the postseason press conference trying to explain what went wrong and why I think we’re making progress. It’s time for us to start winning some more and that’s one of the reasons we spent the money we did. I do think we’re making progress here. We’ve added more players, it’s definitely a better locker room than we’ve had in a while and I think Joe has done a terrific job instilling a certain culture here. The players believe in him and the fans seem to believe in him, too, so I think we’re moving in the right direction. But, obviously, it’s been brutal the last few years and we’re looking forward to turning it around and not having to make excuses for why we haven’t done it.

Q: Your personal belief in Joe as the best coach for this team?

A: I think I said it at the end of the year. What he was able to do last year as a brand new head coach in this league at his age and not having any offseason program or any on-field activity, no preseason games, you just jump right into Week One, and we only won six games, but I just sense a different feeling from the players. They believe in his message and in his program. You can see that in team meetings, you can see that on the practice field, you could see that in their effort, so now is the time to just start winning more games. I think he showed us a lot last year, so now it’s time to take the next step.

Q: Hey John, the last time you guys spent like this in free agency obviously was 2016, which led to a playoff berth, but obviously didn’t work out great in the long term. Why do you believe this is different this year? And because of that 2016 experience, did you have to be convinced to be big players in free agency?

A: My feeling whenever we go into a free agency period – and I tell our people this – I don’t care how much money we spend or how much cash we spend, just make sure it’s the right guys that we’re bringing into the building. Make sure it’s the right guys and that’s why being able to bring Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson into the building and for our people to have that much access to them and to do the research on them was so vitally important. It made it, quite frankly, an easy decision to me. My only concern is, what’s the cap effect and how is it going to hamstring us in the future? We think we’ll be able to manage that going forward, but the critical thing for me was bringing them into the building, having the thorough process that we had, all the research that was done on them and then having the conviction of so many people in the building about those two individuals, and [Tight End] Kyle Rudolph as well and also the other guys that we signed.

Q: You guys have been known to be one of the more traditionally conservative teams medically with guys. A lot of the guys you signed this offseason, they missed a lot of games the last couple of years. How did that factor into your decision this offseason to make all those splashes and do it with guys that, quite frankly, missed a ton of games last year?

A: That was certainly an important factor and that’s why it was so critical that they take complete physicals and that we have our medical people take a good look at them and make sure that they were over whatever injuries they had and were able to be healthy players for us in 2021. I was satisfied at the end of the day that we had done that. I was convinced, particularly in Kenny’s case and also in Adoree’s case, that they were healthy and would be expected to contribute fully in 2021, but that’s a huge thing when you’re laying out that kind of money. You have to make sure that these guys are healthy. We believe that they are and time will tell.

Q: Was this your plan? You had three big-money signings, over $100 million in guarantees. Was that the plan going in or did you sort of pivot at some point?

A: It wasn’t necessarily the plan coming in. We knew we had some room to operate with, we knew we had some needs. We wanted to see who was going to be available. If the right opportunity presented itself, then we’ll spend the money. If not – the one thing we said at the beginning of the process is we’re not going to spend just for the sake of spending, it has to be the right opportunity, it has to be the right individual. I think in all the cases, they were the right individual, so it made it a much easier decision to give the okay to go ahead and spend the money. But I can’t say we came in expecting to spend $100 million or whatever the final figure was. I say it in every year, just make sure it’s the right guy, it’s the right individual, it’s the right fit, they’re healthy and that we can manage the cap situation going forward, and I think we’ll be able to do all those things.

Q: Would you like to get something done contract-wise, ideally with [Running Back] Saquon [Barkley] this offseason or do you want to see how he responds from his knee injury first?

A: I certainly think we’re not in any hurry to do that. We fully expect him to be as good as new. I mean, if anybody is going to spend 100 percent of his efforts to rehab, it will be Saquon just knowing what type of motivation he has and desire he has. But we’re not in any hurry to do that at this point in time, particularly after the money we just spent. But listen, I said it at the end of the season and I’ll say it again, we hope he’s going to be a Giant for life and at the appropriate time we’ll start those discussions.

Q: You talk about wanting to win and you’re expecting to win more. If this team does not produce more in 2021, will Dave Gettleman be your GM in 2022?

A: I’m not going to speculate on that right now, let’s just see how the season plays out. I have more confidence going into this season than I’ve had in previous years, so hopefully given the money that we spent, given the draft we expect to have, we’ll have a better team on the field this year.

Q: [Minnesota Vikings Defensive Lineman] Dalvin Tomlinson obviously left, homegrown guy, captain. [Washington Football Team Safety] Landon Collins left a couple years ago, homegrown guy, captain. Do you worry about what that sends the locker room about guys doing things right and not getting extensions? To that end, [Safety] Jabrill [Peppers], [Tight End Evan] Engram, Saquon are up for extensions. Do you need to be proactive about getting those guys signed?

A: I do worry about that, I really do. I loved Landon Collins and Dalvin Tomlinson, those were two great players and they were great people in the building. It broke my heart to see them go, but at the end of the day you have to make a cold hard business decision, can you afford to devote that much cap space to this particular player? But I am very cognizant of the message that it sends out, but you can’t pay everybody. We do have some important players that will be coming up for extensions pretty soon, so that is something that’s always in the back of my mind. Listen, that played into the decision not to trade those individuals either when the trade deadline came around and we’re still fighting to salvage the rest of our season. Maybe it would’ve been a better idea to try to trade one of them and pick up a draft pick. One of the things I was concerned about was the message that it sends, but I think players for the most part understand that you just can’t pay everybody and you have to make some very tough business decisions. But those two in particular were two of the toughest ones that we’ve had to make for many, many years and they were particularly upsetting to me because I hated to see those two guys walk out of the building.

Q: Hey John, you mentioned in the article with Ian [O’Connor] in the New York Post earlier this week that you were even on the phone with Kenny recruiting him a little bit. I’m curious as to how you would characterize your role this year in free agency versus years past.

A: I would say pretty much the same. I let the football people do the work on that, do the recruiting. One of the things we did a little bit different this year is we had some players involved in the recruiting effort as well, which I think was very effective. But I did call up Kenny and tell him how I thought he’d be a great fit for our organization. I talked to him about the resources that we have here to help him develop not only as a player, but as a man and I thought he could really be helpful to us. So, I did a little bit of recruiting with him, but I think by the time I got to him it sounded to me like his mind was already made up, so I’m not going to take any credit for that. I think our staff did a great job in that recruitment process and we were happy to get it done at the end of the day.

Q: Did you feel any more urgency once you made that decision that you were going to go to certain lengths to get a little bit more involved?

A: Actually, Joe had asked me at some point to make a call to Kenny in particular, which I was happy to do and would’ve done anyway probably, so I did feel some sense of urgency. We didn’t want to lose him. We thought he’d be a vital piece to what we want to accomplish going forward. To have a receiver with that skill set alongside the guys we already have we thought would be a huge piece for us. It also takes pressure off of us going into the draft. We don’t have to take a receiver in round one or round two, we can sit there and just take the best player available when it comes to our spot. I think that’s another reason why it was so important to us.

Q: Hey John, what do you and your organization need to do to have a full house of fans at games? I know Roger Goodell mentioned yesterday he’d like to see all teams with full houses next year?

A: I think we’ve been in close communication with the Governor’s office here. I’ve had a number of discussions with them and we’ll continue to work closely with them as the vaccinations continue to roll out. Hopefully, the positivity rate will decrease in future months, but we’ll be guided by certainly the Governor’s office. We’re hopeful of having a full stadium next year, that would be a huge plus for our players, for our fans and for our organization, and obviously that is something that we have to work with the Governor’s office on. As I said, we’ve been in close communication with them for the last year really, going back to last March.

Q: The owners voted unanimously to give [Washington Football Team Owner] Dan Snyder a debt waiver to buy out his limited partners. I assume no bank is going to loan him a lot of money if there’s a material judgement pending against him. How confident are you that the league won’t find any wrongdoing in his handling of the front office issues there?

A: I really don’t have an answer for that. I’ve not been involved in that process. I’m just glad it was settled between Dan and the minority partners so that they can move ahead, but I don’t have any comment on that investigation. I’ve not been a part of it and I don’t have any information on it.

CARDINALS SIGN COLT McCOY…
The Arizona Cardinals have signed New York Giants unrestricted free agent quarterback Colt McCoy. The contract is reportedly a 1-year deal.

McCoy easily won the back-up quarterback spot for the Giants in 2020 and ended up playing in four games with two starts, completing 60.6 percent of his passes for 375 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The 6’1”, 212-pound McCoy was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He has spent time with the Browns (2010-2012), San Francisco 49ers (2013), and Washington Redskins (2014-2019). The Giants signed McCoy as an unrestricted free agent from the Redskins in March 2020. In 11 NFL seasons, McCoy has only started 30 games, 21 of which came with the Browns in 2010-2011. 

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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