John Mara – © USA TODAY Sports Images
New York Giants President/CEO John Mara (Video)
Thanks for coming by today. Obviously I am very disappointed about this past season. Sick about it, as a matter of fact. Certainly not what I expected or what any of us expected. 6-10 is an embarrassment. With that being said, I do think there is some reason for optimism going forward. We had some young players really develop who we are excited about. We have had two pretty strong drafts in a row that we feel good about. We were still 6-10, so obviously we have a lot of work to do.
[Chairman & Executive Vice President] Steve Tisch and I still feel very strongly about Tom Coughlin as our head coach. That is why, as many of you have already reported, we have asked him back for next season. We still believe in him. I believe the players still feel very strongly about him and the one thing that struck me during the season, even as bad as things got during that seven-game losing streak, they still played hard for him. There was no lack of effort there. They were still very attentive during practice and on the sidelines and their effort never waned, even though the results were not what we had hoped for.
I think that one of the things that really hurt us this year, in addition to the injuries, which I will get to in a second, is we obviously have a couple draft classes here that have been largely unproductive for us. When you combine that with the number of injuries we had, particularly with certain key positions, that is a deadly combination in the National Football League. I am very frustrated about the number of injuries that we have had. It has been two years in a row now that we have led the league in putting players on [injured reserve] and number of games lost by starters. We spent so much time last offseason addressing that and talking about how we are going to fix that going forward. We made adjustments to what was being done in the weight room. We had the GPS tracking system. For some reason, here we are again leading the league in that category. We cut down the number of soft-tissue injuries and then, all of a sudden, we get all these broken bones and torn tendons and torn biceps. I just don’t have an answer for that right now. Obviously we will spend a lot of time on it this offseason, talking about that and looking at ways that we can improve upon that.
I still believe, very strongly, in Jerry Reese and our organization. We have a lot of quality people working here. We have had two very strong drafts in a row. We need to have another one. I think with that and with another year under this new offense, we have a chance to be a good team next year. Obviously, that is a tough sell right now when you go 7-9 and 6-10, but I still have a very strong belief in this staff and in this organization. I think we are going to be a good team next year, but we need another strong draft. We need to make certain improvements on both sides of the ball, which we will address this offseason and then we will move forward.
It has been a very difficult year for our fans. It has been even more of a difficult year for me because I do not stomach this very well, as some of you may have noticed. It is going to be a long offseason. I do think there is reason for optimism. I think we will be a much better team next season, but we are going to have to prove that. Just talking about it is not very convincing right now, when you are coming off the season (at) 6-10. As I have said before, we still believe in this coach, this staff and in our organization. We are ready to move into this offseason and put the type of team back on the field that our fans deserve. So if you don’t have any questions…
Re: anticipating any changes on the coaching staff?
A: That is a discussion we are going to have going forward, but that will be Tom’s decision.
Q: Last year, you talked about fixing the offense… Is the defense something in your mind that has to get straightened out?
A: In my opinion, yes. That will be a discussion that we will have. Our defense did not play well this year. There is no secret about that when you finish 28th or 29th or wherever we finished. They had opportunities in a lot of games this year to make a key stop at the end of the game, and they didn’t do it. There is no question that has to be a focus going into next season. You look at the number of players that we got hurt here. We had three or four corners hurt. We were playing in a lot of those games with guys we had signed off the street, which is not the ideal situation. Again, that is no excuse for going 6-10 and, believe me, I am not under any illusions about where we are right now. I am aware of what teams we have beaten over the last two years and what teams we have lost to. We have a lot of work to do.
Q: In the past, you have been reluctant to let a coach go into a lame duck season… What will you do with Tom and his contract?
A: I have to talk about that with him. I am not so sure that will be the situation anymore. I need to talk to him about that first. We haven’t had that discussion yet. He is going to be back.
Q: The decision to bring Tom back, how much of that was based on the fact that a man has won two Super Bowls deserves the benefit of the doubt that other coaches don’t earn?
A: There is no question that was a big part of the decision. More importantly than that, I still believe we can win with him. If I didn’t believe that, then it wouldn’t have mattered how many Super Bowls he won in the past. It would be senseless to go forward with him. I look at how hard the players played for him and how attentive they still are. I look at his energy level and how much he still wants to win and how driven he is. That is what convinced Steve and myself to move forward with him. We have some talent deficiencies at certain positions. There is no question about that and that needs to be addressed and we will address that going forward.
Q: What was your evaluation of [Offensive Coordinator] Ben McAdoo this season?
A: I thought he did a nice job for us. We had kind of a slow start where we didn’t really move the ball very well. I thought towards the end of the season our offense started to come alive and I am excited about that going forward, but we still have some work to do there. No question that they made improvements this season. The quarterback certainly played better, especially towards the second half of the season.
Q: At the end of the Jacksonville game, I don’t know if you consider that a low point, but could you walk us through what you were thinking in terms of Tom and if it reached a point where it was a lot closer to him not being back?
A: To be honest with you, when I am sitting on the bus after the Jacksonville game, I wanted to fire everybody, from the people in the equipment room through upstairs because that was a low point for me. We had that three-game streak there – San Francisco, the Dallas loss was a gut-wrenching one for me, and Jacksonville was an embarrassment. That is why I learned a long time ago that you don’t make those judgments during the season. You try not to make stupid comments during the season or give votes of confidence or anything like that. I was just happy that none of you approached me in the locker room after the game because I may have said something that I would have regretted for a long time after that. That was a low point for me, but again, I learned a long time ago that you have to wait until the end of the season and look at the whole picture in a more rational frame of mind before you make decisions. That is what we try to do.
Q: When you talked about Ben before and the progress he made, how much did that play in the decision to keep Tom because of the fact that you didn’t want to mess up what seemed to be growing with Eli [Manning] and the offense?
A: That’s a factor, but I can’t say that was the main factor. I still believe in Tom. I still believe in him as our leader going forward. Steve, I know, feels the same way and that was most important factor.
Q: What were you looking for after the Jacksonville game?
A: I wanted to see us win, number one. I am sitting on the bus after the Jacksonville game wondering if we were ever going to win a game again. I wanted to see how the players would respond to that because that certainly was a low point for this franchise for many, many years. They responded pretty well to it. They still had a lot of fight in them, as did Tom. I was pleased with how they responded. I am aware of who we played. I saw the intensity in practice and the intensity on the field and the fact that they stayed together. That was a big thing for me, too. You didn’t see throughout the season, as bad as it got, you didn’t see anonymous quotes coming out of the locker room complaining about the coaching staff. They stayed together pretty well all season. They did that last season, too, and I think a lot of that comes from the head coach.
Q: Can you clear up something that got misreported or misinterpreted… When Ben McAdoo came here, did you have any discussion with him about him being a coach-in-waiting?
A: Absolutely not. I laugh when some of you write some of that stuff. A year ago, I didn’t know Ben McAdoo from Bob McAdoo. Some of you have written that we brought him in here and anointed him as the next head coach. The first time I met him was after Tom had hired him and I went down and introduced myself and welcomed him here. Tom interviewed a number of candidates last year for the offensive coordinator position, but the final decision was always going to be his. I think he made a good choice.
Q: Aside from the obvious emergence of Odell Beckham Jr., what are the reasons for optimism that you saw this season?
A: It is not just Odell. This last draft class, I thought, was pretty productive this season. I think [Weston] Richburg is going to be a good player. Andre Williams showed some great promise. Devon Kennard. I think [Jay] Bromley is going to be a good player and I am probably leaving guys out. The  draft class is going to be a very productive class for us, too. We’ve got some good, solid, younger players to build off of right now, and if we can have another strong draft and just get back half of the [unrestricted free-agents] that got hurt this year and make it through a season, I think we have something to build on. If we get all of them back, then we really have something to build on, but this is the NFL. People are going to get hurt. Why it happens to us in such extraordinary numbers, I don’t know. I am just hoping that we are due to have a change in luck in that area, and hopefully that will happen next year.
Q: What did it mean to you to watch what Beckham became over the course of the season?
A: It was exciting to me. The energy and passion that he brought to our team was pretty startling. I was very frustrated for a while. He missed all of training camp and then he is missing the first four games of the season and we haven’t even seen him on the field. I have no idea what we have. Then, all of sudden, he starts making plays and it was pretty exciting. For me, you would have to go back to 1981 before we were that excited about a rookie coming in and what he could possibly mean to this franchise. I hesitate to say that because I do not want to put that much pressure on him, but he certainly has brought a lot to this organization.
Q: You mentioned the talent deficiencies… Were the draft classes from the last couple of years what sold you on Jerry’s plan to build a good future?
A: Jerry has been here a long time and I have watched him run our draft for many years. I always had that belief in him, but certainly there were a couple drafts in there, 2011 and 2012, where we didn’t quite get the production that we want out of it. We needed to do well in 2013 and 2014. I think we did. We need to do it again, obviously, because when you are 6-10, you obviously have a lot of holes to fill.
Q: In retrospect, how do you view last offseason where you spent a lot of money and the success of that?
A: It is hard for me to give you a rational answer on that because they all got hurt. Those guys are some good players, but they all ended up getting hurt. Even Rashad Jennings, who I think is a very good back and was hurt for a good part of the year. It is hard to pass a final judgment on that just yet. As I said, if we can just get half of them back healthy next year, I think we will be a much better team.
Q: Last year, you said the offense was broken…
A: I know and I have come to regret that because that is all you ever write. I am trying not to come up with any headline-grabbing remarks.
Q: How would you describe the state of your defense right now?
A: We need to improve the defense. They did not play well. We were ranked where we were ranked. When you give up the number of game-winning drives that they gave up, we obviously have a lot of improvement to make there.
Q: It is up to Tom to make any coaching changes… Will you discuss it with him?
A: We will discuss that with him. I will give him my opinion, but it has always been the case in this organization that the head coach makes the final call on assistant coaches and whether he needs to make any changes, contrary to popular belief. I am glad you brought that up. Tom was not forced to part ways with Kevin Gilbride last year. That was a discussion that Tom and Kevin had. The first discussion that Jerry and I had with Tom after the season, we walked into Jerry’s office and Tom came in and said to us that Kevin was going to be retiring. Before we said anything to him. This notion that we forced him to fire Kevin Gilbride is absolutely not true.
Q: Do you have any preference in terms of what you would want to see?
A: I will express that to Tom first, and again he will make the final call. You don’t tell a head coach that has been around as long as he has and has had the success that he has and who has the respect around the league that he has to make certain position changes. He knows better than we do.
Q: What kind of confidence do you have in your franchise quarterback and what do you see for the future?
A: He certainly had a much better year this year. I think he can still get better with another year under this new offense and we need to give him a little bit of help, particularly on the offensive line, I believe. I still think we can win a championship with Eli. There were some games where he didn’t play as well, but by in large, his body of work over the course of the season, I thought, was pretty good. He gives us some reason for optimism next year.
Q: How much do you think about the head coach positon long-term and is it hard to balance that against the year-to-year…?
A: I think about that all the time. Listen, I am certainly aware of who is out there, but right now, I think Tom gives us the best chance to win going forward. How long that is going to last for, I don’t know. He is going to be our coach next year.
Q: You might let [Coach Coughlin] coach under a one-year [contract] or you might not?
A: That has been our policy in the past, but that is not set in stone. I will talk to him about that.
Q: Has he expressed to you how much longer he does want to coach or is he taking it year-by-year?
A: He has not expressed to me a certain time period. I just know that he wants to coach next year. Knowing him as I do, I would have to assume that he wants to coach longer than that, too. We really haven’t had that discussion.
Q: If Tom decides to keep his staff in tact the way it is now, how do you as an owner justify that when you went 6-10 and had a strong finish at the end to get to that point?
A: I don’t know that I need to justify that to anybody. Tom is a Super Bowl-winning, potential Hall of Fame head coach. It shouldn’t be up to me to tell him that he needs to change position coaches or coordinators. I think he is more qualified to make that judgment than I am. He knows that his legacy is kind of on the line here now. He doesn’t want to have three losing seasons in a row. If he thinks he needs to make a change and he thinks there is somebody better out there, then he will go do it.
Q: I am talking more as a whole though. You had the losing season and you didn’t make any significant changes to the organization at all.
A: You are assuming that we are not going to make any changes, and I don’t know whether we are or not. If we don’t, then we will go forward with the staff that we have and try to provide them with some better players.
Q: When you look at the defensive shortcomings, do you have a sense of how much of it was personnel, injuries or coaching?
A: That is hard to say. That is really hard to say. We lost some of our best defensive players during the course of the year. There is no question about that. Some guys may be getting a little older that need to be replaced. We certainly need to put some better players out there. I am not going to say our schemes were unsound or anything. It looked to me like we were prepared to play every week. I think if you ask the players that, they felt like they were prepared to play every week, but the results weren’t there for a number of different reasons. We are going to have to have that discussion going forward.
Q: In a situation like this, do you individually sit down with [Defensive Coordinator] Perry [Fewell]?
A: No, I would sit with Tom and Jerry Reese.
Q: Do you have a sense of how you want to proceed with Jason Pierre-Paul as far as his contract?
A: We would certainly like him back, but it would have to be at the right price, something that makes sense for us. He certainly had a great finish to the season and showed the type of player that he can be and that he will be going forward. I would be very surprised if he was not a Giant next year.
Q: What about Antrel Rolle?
A: We would like to have him back, but again, at the right price. I could say that about anybody. We would like them all back at the right price. What that is, depends on the circumstances.
Q: You have talked about the fan base being disappointed, but what about the boss? What does your mom say about all this?
A: She is not very happy with me right now, believe me. She suffers through this probably even more so than I do. I am on notice as well.
Q: After the Jacksonville game, did she want you fired?
A: Not just after the Jacksonville game.
Q: With JPP, would you consider using the franchise tag?
A: That is certainly one of our options and we really haven’t fully discussed that yet. I have no idea what his agent is going to do. Actually, I do I have a pretty good idea of what his agent is going to be asking for and whether we want to do that or franchise him is something we will have to fully discuss.
Q: Is there anything in the works with Eli’s contract?
A: He has another year left and I assume we will have a discussion with his agent at some point. Again, it would have to be at the right price for us.
Q: But you would like for him to extend?
A: Yeah, we would like him to retire as a Giant. That is where he should be. We still think we can win a championship with him and he is still playing at a high level. Of course, we would like to keep him.
Q: Would you describe next year as a win-or-else proposition for a lot of people in this franchise?
A: I do not think that is an unfair statement.
Head Coach Tom Coughlin (Video)
The first comment I’ll make is about our final team meeting (yesterday), which we met with our team and all our IR guys and all the coaches, etc. The first thing we did was analyze the Philadelphia game and there were various things that I pointed out. Obviously, you’re not going to win very many football games when you get a punt blocked and get an interception and they say, ‘wait a minute it’s a penalty and we’re going to give the other guy the ball on the whatever yard line’ and then you throw a pass and get it in the end zone and get called for holding. There were some errors there, things that have to obviously be cleaned up before you go forward. There was good excitement, good progress and we felt good about going into the game. Unfortunately, we didn’t win it.
The second thing we did was we went over the rules of the CBA and the dead period, the next few months here in terms of making the players understand what they can and cannot do and what we as coaches can and cannot do, which was very important because they have to understand the amount of football we can talk is very limited by the CBA. And then the importance of the systematic progress of the weight program as handed to the players as they leave here. The importance being that we stressed to them that there is a process by which you go through, but you must get started on this. We, as a team, in my opinion, we need to be a stronger football team and I felt that we needed to obviously start much prior to the nine weeks we’re allowed for our offseason program in this day and age. So we emphasized the strength program and the approach to it and how the calendar will affect their ability to get back to work and taking the first two or three weeks and making sure their body is healthy and then beginning in a light process and moving on into where they should be before they report. So we did cover that.
And then I spoke to them about the fact that I was proud of the way they hung together. There couldn’t have been any more adversity than we faced during the course of those seven weeks, but they stayed together, they supported one another, they fought for each other and I was proud of that and I mentioned that to them. I thought they demonstrated maturity and professionalism in doing that. And then I mentioned discontent. Discontent is the first necessity of progress. We must be determined to come back even stronger from this situation we find ourselves in and do not be accepting. Don’t be accepting of where we are because this certainly isn’t where we want to be.
I know you have no questions for me, just having followed the owner, so thanks very much Pat for this lineup the way it is.
Q: What more can you do to get a handle on the injury situation?
A: We’re going to practice at dark, so then we can get a few more reps in… It’s a good question. We depend an awful lot on the strength program and obviously that’s been reduced. The player really, really has to prepare a lot more on his own. We’ve done the science. We’re going to continue to do it. Our medical staff is the best in the league, in our opinion. We have the GPS system. We listen closely to the expert in that area and we do monitor a player accordingly. As John [Mara] mentioned, we have cut down on our soft tissue injuries. However, there are bones and there are tendons and muscles and knees that didn’t listen to the GPS program, so we’ll continue to do our work in that area.
Q: Do you make any changes in the strength program?
A: We certainly did, a lot of changes. But still at this coming time of the year there are segments here where you can get into the very heavy weights progressively moving towards the season when you do back off, but the strength development part of it would be in the offseason.
Q: Can you talk about being back next year?
A: I never considered not being back. As I said the other day, it’s business as usual for us. We’re into the massive evaluation process where everything is being evaluated from top to bottom and we’ll continue that. That will take us quite a while, to be honest with you, as we move through going back over everything, with the coaching staff obviously being a part of that.
Q: John Mara told us that on the bus back after the Jacksonville game that he wanted to fire everybody.
A: Well, we stopped the bus on that bridge and we were all going to jump in the water anyway. Quite frankly and honestly, everyone wants to talk about the defense. What did the defense have to do with losing that one? The ball was on the ground, they pick it up and run it into the end zone twice. You all thought I was making jest after the game when I said we could have knelt down in the second half and won it. We could have knelt down in the second half and won it instead of handing the ball to them and letting them run in the end zone. They ran it in from midfield and they ran it in when the ball rolled in the end zone after the sack fumble. You’ve got to understand that while we’re going to be very critical of everything, don’t forget that there are four major areas that our defense is in the top 10. Can you imagine being fourth in the league on third down? We are. Turnovers, red area, red zone… All year long we were in the top four or five in the red zone. Sacks, and so on and so forth. You have critical areas of defensive football. Quite frankly, the numbers in those areas are outstanding. Now the other numbers are not and I agree. I have a problem with that. But I think you’ve got to balance things off when you start talking about… Don’t throw it all into one bucket because it doesn’t belong there. How did get all the way back in sacks? We went forever without any sacks. We’re fourth. How do you do that? How do you get all that done? How about turnovers? We’re tied for 10th in turnovers. How did that happen? We talked about it all year long. When are we going to get some? We’re tied for 10th. You’ve got to take it all into consideration.
Q: Given all of that, can you say whether Perry Fewell will be back as your defensive coordinator?
A: I’m evaluating everything. That’s what I say.
Q: How much do the injuries factor into it?
A: It’s never an excuse, okay? It’s not an excuse. But it is a fact and the facts have to be dealt with.
Q: Do you believe the components are here to turn this around quickly?
A: I believe we’re going to be a better football team next year. What does turnaround mean? Winning season? I certainly hope so. Why am I here? I’m here because I want to win. What do you think I’m doing? Sitting up in the office with my feet up? The competitive spirit… You’re in this to win. You’re in this to try to beat the other guy. You’ve got to win in your division. You’ve got to beat Philadelphia and you’ve got to beat Dallas now. We win three games in a row and there’s some bounce again in people’s feet. I’m excited about getting in there and talking to our team in a little different version than I have to talk to them after losing seven games. We’re here to win. That’s what this thing is about – the competitiveness of winning. I’m as sick and disappointed as anybody in the last few years, but you know what? How are you going to do anything about it other than fight and swing and get back out there and try harder? What else are you going to do? Are you going to go crawl in a corner? No, I’m not going to do that.
Q: How do you view the job Perry Fewell did with the defense this season?
A: Perry had his hands full. There’s no doubt about it. Our staff did, when you want to look at the facts. But regardless of that, first and goal against San Francisco with the score 16-10. That’s a pretty good football team being held to 10 points. I understand the last drive against Dallas. That’s happened a couple of years in a row. We have some issues, no doubt. And you’d like to be able to think we can solve them, but you can look at the other things, too.
Q: You seem going out of your way to defend Perry?
A: I’m trying to introduce balance. That’s all. If you’re going to look at the bad… and I see it, too. How about the first four plays the other day? We spent a week working on stopping that stuff and they ran the bootleg like we’ve never seen it before. I saw that, too.
Q: Can some of those defensive problems be helped by a stronger offensive line?
A: By an offensive line that can run the ball and keep the other team on the sideline? Sure. It all fits. There’s no better example than Dallas this year. Everybody has had great stats because they’re running the football.
Q: Where do you put the emphasis on upgrading personnel?
A: That hasn’t been thoroughly talked about, but when I say we’d like… We’ve got to be able to run the ball and defend the run. How about defending the run? Do you think we’d be better if our (defensive) line was better defending the run? Probably. You do have to do a few things that you would like to have a little bit longer opportunity, whether it be training camp with more than one practice a day to get all of this stuff in. But yeah, that’s one area. I’d like to run the ball better and I’d like to defend the run better. That would be a pretty good start. If you stop the run and you do attack the quarterback and you do have a team that really didn’t do much for a while and then all of a sudden finishes fourth in sacks, you might have a chance to defend the pass a little better. It’s happened before.
Q: It seems at times the defense was a little frustrated with how things were going. Do you feel they responded well to Perry all year long?
A: Yes, I do.
Q: What are your thoughts on special teams?
A: The area where you’re dissatisfied there is we didn’t cover punts very well and I think there are couple of reasons for that and our return game was just a little better than average. But if you look at the body of work, we improved in every statistic, in every area from 2013 to 2014 and, of course, you can’t go without saying our kicker had an outstanding year. He kicked a 53-yard field goal at the end of December in MetLife Stadium. Okay, it was 50 degrees and it’s normally 15, but it still happened and the guy did do a good job with all of those things. We had the outstanding kicks, a variety that we’re prepared for, who knows when you’re going to need it. I called it historical. Let’s kickoff from the plus-35. When have you ever done that? I’ve never seen that one and we recovered that ball and we had the other one against San Francisco with just the little middle kick that [Mark] Herzlich pulled the ball out. We tried to get the hideout play in the other day. When you’re pushing the buttons, let’s try to score this way. I’m not down on the way things are coached and the variety of things that are ready to go. We thought we had a bunch of returners here and all of a sudden, we started losing them. Preston Parker, who had some problems with ball security, ends up being the guy and he’s a tough son of a gun, but he had to take that duty pretty much over himself. Over the course of the year, I think with Odell [Beckham Jr.] in the punt return area and you saw Rueben [Randle] back there… Rueben was there a year ago, a guy that when you think you’re in a game, that’s a fair catch game. Rueben is going to catch every ball and is going to give you great ball security. I think we could anticipate being better in the punt return area in another year. Our kickoff coverage team was outstanding. We’ve been very good at that. There are always ups and downs and certainly we’d like to have better field position. We talk about field position all the time and turnovers from our special teams outfit. We got one in St. Louis that put us up 10-0 and that was a nice way to start. We certainly would have liked more.
Q: Would you prefer to have an extension in your contract?
A: A 10-year extension? Yes. I would like to have that. I don’t think he’s going to speak to me about that one.
Q: What goes into the decision making process when you’re evaluating coordinators and your coaches?
A: I think that you can tell many times when the way in which the process takes place is not being handled the way it should be, the fundamental part of it. You’re talking about a guy… Perry is a very good football coach. He’s been doing this a long time. He’s had his ups and downs. He’s had his ups and downs right here with this franchise. We’ve gone from here to here. A year ago we were eighth. Same guy, same coaches – eighth in the league. This year we’re 29th. But he’s a good football coach and if I felt that it wasn’t being properly introduced, taught etc…. But I haven’t finished.
Q: Would you have any problem coaching in the last year of your deal? Is that anything that would be an issue?
A: Walter Alston, maybe. Some of you guys don’t even know who he is. Twenty-one one-year deals, not bad. Motorcycle rider. Hell of a manager. What else you want to know? Managed in Brooklyn. Couldn’t hit the ball very well.
Q: Going back to what you said about needing to run the ball better and stopping the run, do you have the ingredients now to accomplish that?
A: Well, we need a little help, there’s no doubt. We have a draft, we have an offseason. Hopefully, we can add to it. Got some young defensive linemen. Got some young offensive linemen. Got to get better in some spots. Got to be stronger.
Q: How do you look at Jason Pierre-Paul and Antrel Rolle and their free agency? Would you want them both back?
A: I heard what John said and we’d like both players back. I know that there are issues. There are cap issues, always.
Q: You mentioned the Cowboys earlier. Is that sort of a model for rebuilding an offensive line? Is that what you’re looking for?
A: My point was the balance. They rush the ball, rush the ball. They do a heck of a job. The quarterback is well-protected. But not forcing anything because he’s pretty sure next time you hand it to that guy [DeMarco Murray], you’re going to get at least five. That helps, that helps.
Q: What do you think about Eli learning the offense this year?
A: I thought he progressed well. I thought early on, we didn’t have the numbers that we wanted to. We weren’t doing as well as we would have liked to. We stayed with it. We hammered our way through a lot of that. Eli got better and better in the offense. I’ve said before that this is exactly the way…if he can sit down and write how he would like to be in charge of an offense, this is it. Because he pretty much has control of everything, and by not huddling, he tells pretty much everybody what to do. And he’s good at it. Our protections were fine. When we had pressure coming, he adjusted the protection and he would slide away from the unblocked rusher and delivered the ball in the direction that it needed to be delivered in. I think from the second half on, the offense showed itself a little better. Still inconsistent with the run. One week we would run it well, the next week we wouldn’t. That’s an issue, but still I think there’s no question about the improvement from last year to this year just in Eli’s numbers alone. So I think he enjoys this system. I think he looks forward to taking this offense further, improving. We had a bunch of yards, but we still don’t feel like we’re getting enough points.
Q: John Mara called you a borderline Hall of Fame coach, but you know you’re legacy is on the line with what still happens here. Do you agree?
A: I don’t know. I’m not going there. I don’t think about that kind of stuff. My legacy. Year to year, how I’m viewed as a coach? Yeah that bugs me. It bothers me for sure. I don’t want to be associated with losing. That’s not why I came here, that’s not why I’m here. We’ve done a pretty good job with the exception of these last couple of years where we dipped. I didn’t expect to be 6-10 this year. We expected to be back on top. I didn’t know what the final numbers would be, but that’s what the expectation was. I don’t like that “borderline” stuff. What do you mean?
Q: I apologize. The word was “potential.” Is that better?
A: Not really.
Q: Do you want to get inducted now?
A: Can you do it?
Q: It has been two straight losing seasons. What does it mean to you that ownership just stood up here and said “we still believe in Tom?”
A: Well, I’m greatly appreciative of the support that I have received from ownership. Like I said, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the alternative. So I’m not trying to be a smart aleck or whatever, but when I say business as usual, that’s what we’re trying to do. Do I feel the support? Yes, I do and I’m greatly appreciative of that. Quite frankly, that’s the only reason I’m here is because Mr. Mara and Mr. Tisch still believe this is the best way to go.
Q: Do you view next year as a make or break year? That’s sort of what John said.
A: Every year is. Every year. Don’t put words in my mouth, and I’m not going to say that in those terms. Why would you do it for any other reason? You’re supposed to win. So win.
Q: Do you have an idea in your head how much longer you would like to keep coaching?
A: Probably 10-12 more years.
Q: There have been some flashpoints throughout your tenure here. 2006, maybe you’re not coming back, then you win the Super Bowl the next year. Even in ’11, 7-7 and you…you kind of had that losing streak. We don’t know what’s going to happen and you come out of it. You ever think there is something in your makeup or in the way you coach that lets you get to that point but makes you come out of it?
A: You’re trying to be nice now with ‘flashpoints.’ Nice choice of words, thank you. I’ve sort of been asked that before and I don’t have a great answer for that except that I’m standing on the edge of the cliff.
Q: What does it look like?
A: It’s not adrenaline. What’s the cliff look like? I usually look the other way.
Q: You never make it about you. You say that all the time. But after winning the two titles, how much of your desire to continue coaching is driven by just wanting to see Eli win his third one, wanting to see Victor win his second, and want to see some other guys win their first?
A: That’s the goal every year. The goal is to get to the winner’s circle every year. That’s why you do it, you really do. You know what, I take every team at the beginning of the season and that’s the goal. What other goal is there? Once you say that, win the world championship and win the Super Bowl, you have to talk to them about how you get there. Obviously, you can’t get there if you can’t function within your own division. But that’s the goal, that’s what drives you.
Q: When the question was how much longer you wanted to coach, you said 10 or 12 more years.
A: That’s not real, I’m just being facetious. Probably eight or nine.
Q: I was going to ask if that was a serious question but since you took care of that. Do you have an answer, do you know?
A: No, I don’t have an answer. Because there’s so many factors involved. Which factor do you want to get involved in? Judy’s health, my health, etc. All of those things are factors. But I’m not very good at golf. I’m not very good at a lot of stuff.
Q: Danny [Langsdorf] is probably leaving. What did he say to you? What does that do for you guys as a team and what do you say to him on his [first year here]?
A: He is leaving. It’s his choice. You don’t expect someone to be here for a year, but that’s his decision. Wish him well. Let’s go.
Q: Are you bringing someone in from the outside? Is Sean [Ryan] going back to coach the quarterback position?
A: I don’t know. I’ll think about that. Sean did a very good job this year. Very good job. And he is a very good football coach. Matter of fact, he had a lot to do with third down. We were 43 percent on third down. I need to look around and get a sense for where we are.
General Manager Jerry Reese (Video)
Good Morning. Six and 10, obviously we are all disappointed. Like always, our goal is to come in the season, have a winning season, get into the tournament. Haven’t done that in the last few years, that is not our standard. We want to apologize for that, number one, to our fans, who, no matter what, they come out and really give us their best. We want to apologize for that. Moving forward, I want to try and accentuate what the positive things are because there are plenty of people who can talk about what the negative things are. What disappoints me the most before I try to get to the positive things are that, during the season, we had plenty of chances to win some games. We were in a lot of games and we didn’t close games out. That was the most disappointing thing for me. People like to throw the injury thing in there. Everybody has injuries, that is a part of the league.
We had chances to close games out as an offense, as a defense, even on special teams. We didn’t close some games out, so that was disappointing. It is a learned behavior that I think when you have a chance to close teams out, you can step on their neck, you have to do that. If you don’t, it’s hard to win in this league. You can go back and look at our schedule and look at the second half of some games, we were ahead, or close, or leading in some games, and we didn’t close games out. Again, we had all three phases of the game, we could’ve closed some games out and we didn’t do that. The positive things are, I do think we are going in the right direction. I heard John Mara, I heard Tom Coughlin, I don’t want to try to repeat everything they said, but I do think we are going in the right direction. I think we can have a really good football team going into next year. The draft class, I know there has been some personnel issues, and I am responsible for that. I take full responsibility for all of the personnel issues. We did have a few things that happened to set us back some…on our roster. Again, in spite of all of that, we had plenty of opportunities to win games, and we didn’t close teams out, we had an opportunity to do that. You have to do that in this league.
Q: Any regrets about drafting Odell Beckham Jr.?
A: No, he’s got a chance to be a good little player.
Q: How good can he be?
A: He is good. The best thing about him is he’s got a gifted skill set. His number one trait that sets him apart from a lot people with a superior skill set like he has, he is what we call a ‘dog’ around here. He’s got that ‘dog’ mentality, his passion, and as you can see, you almost have to calm him down a little bit with how he plays. He is a gifted young football player, he has the chance to be a really good player for us for a long time, we hope.
Q: Why do you believe next year could be different?
A: The reason I think that is because we were so close so many times during this season. Again, I say this every single year. When we win Super Bowls, or when we are 6-10, it is a really close margin between winning teams, teams that are in the playoffs, and teams that are not in the playoffs. It is a learned mentality, I think, a learned behavior that you have to close games out. We were so close so many times, our offense could’ve closed some games out, the defense could’ve closed some games out, special teams could’ve closed some games out. We have been really close. Again, teams that are not in the playoffs, it is not a big difference in those teams and those that are playing in the playoffs. The ball can bounce a certain way; I have said this plenty of times, the ball can bounce a certain way, you can get a call go your way, or a call not go your way. All of those things come into play, but at the end of the day, you have to good personnel, you have to have good coaches, you’ve got to have a little bit of luck. I say that every single year, and we had a little bad luck. We are still trying to research why can’t we stay more healthy during the year and we will continue to sift through that and see how can correct that even more.
Q: When you look at the record this year, even though it was a little worse than it was last year, do you still feel that you need to make wholesale changes, or is it a matter of just tweaking things moving forward?
A: Well, not wholesale changes. Last year we had to turn the roster over and we are not going to go out and spend a huge amount like we did this past offseason in free agency. (Last year) the roster was getting a little older, so we did have to turn the roster around. There are some new faces. Offensively, I thought we would jell a little bit quicker than we did. We saw flashes later in the season of what we think the offense can be. Defensively, we had some new faces, we lost some players on defense. I do think that if we can get players back, we can have another good draft, we will definitely do some things in free agency, but we are always going to try to upgrade our roster at every position, every year.
Q: How do you look at the confidence that you and Tom Coughlin received from ownership?
A: I am grateful to be here, regardless. From being a young scout, I’ve been here for 20 years, from being a young scout to being where I am now. I am always grateful for this organization, they took a chance on me, and I can never repay them, and I am always going to give them my best, you can count on that.
Q: You spoke about being close in games, some bad breaks, and the injuries, but you have had two losing seasons in a row.
A: You can make stats say what you want to say. You can say, well, we had a bunch of winning seasons before we even had a losing season. You can say that if you want to. You can say we won a couple of Super Bowls in the last few years. You can make stats say whatever you want to say. Do we want to be here right where we are right now? Absolutely not. We are going to try everything under our power to make a difference going into next season. I know the people upstairs, I know they work their behinds off, I know our coaches work their behinds off, I know our personnel people work their behinds off, and we are going to continue to try to make a difference going into next year. I don’t think we are that far away because I do think we have a nice mix of young players along with some veteran players that we can get to where we want to go.
RE: On improving next season.
A: We are trying to upgrade at every position on the team. Offense, defense, special teams, we are trying to upgrade everywhere.
Q: How much discussions have you had with Jason Pierre- Paul and his agent?
A: I sat down with all of the unrestricted free agents yesterday and that is the only conversation I have had. I haven’t talked to Jason Pierre-Paul’s agent yet at all.
Q: Why did you decide not to try and negotiate something before the season was over?
A: It wasn’t the right time for us to do that.
Q: What do you think of Jason Pierre-Paul ‘s season this year?
A: I think at the beginning of the season he wasn’t playing like he played at the end of the season. The second half of the season, he came on really strong and played like we thought he should play. The guy has some ability to be a game changer. We didn’t see enough of that in the first half of the season.
Q: How important was it for him to stay healthy for a whole season after the last two years?
A: It is a combination of all of those things. He has had some injury problems and we’ve seen the guy be a dynamic player, and he still is a young player. We know that ability is there. What we have to do is sit down and have a conversation with his agent. I know you guys talked to John Mara and Tom Coughlin about these things already, but it has to make sense for us, it has to make sense for him, like any free agent.
Q: Will you consider restructuring Eli Manning’s contract?
A: We will keep all of our options open.
Q: Do you have any problem with him playing out the last year of his deal?
A: We will keep all of our options open.
Q: Do you anticipate any changes on your staff and have you received any requests from other teams to talk to anyone for other jobs around the league?
A: No, I haven’t had anybody call about our staff, no. Everything is evaluated at the end of the year, personnel staff, everything is evaluated.
Q: How much longer can Eli Manning play at a high level, do you think?
A: I don’t know. Who knows? Eli Manning is not a baby, I don’t think he is an old man, but he is not a baby anymore. I do think he can still play at a high level. For how long? Who knows how long?
Q: Technically, Tom Coughlin is in charge of his staff. You are in charge of yours. When does it get a little blurry? If you really want somebody in the draft, and Tom Coughlin really wants somebody else. Do you pull rank?
A: No, what we try to do in our draft room, and all of our decisions around here, we try to come together as a staff. We want everybody to be on board and sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. We talk about it and the final decisions we make, we live with it. We don’t look back and we just live with it. It is our decision, it is not my decision, it is not Tom Coughlin’s decision, it is our decision.
Q: Has there been a time when you say “this is our pick and I don’t care who wants anybody else?”
A: No, we try not to do that. I don’t think it is like that around here. Everybody has an opinion, personnel, our coaches write reports. Of course, our personnel staff, myself, we come to a consensus on who we like and it is rarely a situation where somebody gets on the floor and we are going to pick this guy and that’s it.
Q: When John Mara stood up there last year, he talked about making changes in the draft and taking less risk on guys. Have you made adjustments and did you see that this year?
A: In personnel, it is like I just said. We always talk about taking risks, and we talk about personnel. Everybody is involved, and sometimes we take risks, we know we are taking risks on some guys. We took a risk on Mario Manningham and he turned out to be a pretty good player for us. We took a risk on Ahmad Bradshaw. Sometimes, it is just a part of personnel. You don’t bat 1.000 in personnel. You want to get more right than you get wrong. When you pick late in the draft, we picked late a couple times in the draft, that is why call it “row” (instead of round). I have said this to you guys before, I am not trying to make any excuses why some personnel didn’t work out. It is just part of personnel. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t. We call them ‘rows’ because the 32 guys in the first row, they are all not first round picks, so if you are picking 32, most likely those guys down at 32, some guys you would like to have in the second, third round. It is a privilege to pick down there. It is a lot easier to pick 12 and above than it is when you are picking at 32.
Q: Have you taken less risks now in the last couple of years?
A: The less risks, I am not sure what you are saying when say, “take less risks.” All players are risks. Sometimes it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and you get it out there on Sunday, it is not a duck. It is all a risk.
Q: It seems like last year you made it a point of emphasis to draft team captains and that paid off for you this year. Is that something you anticipate, you might consider?
A: We are not cavalier here; we try to whatever is best for this organization. We try to pick the best players available, and whatever it takes. if it takes a conscious effort of taking captains or taking whatever, we are willing to do that. We just want to get this team back in good position to be a playoff team, win our division, be a playoff team, and win Super Bowls. That is really what our goal is and never changes.
Q: Do you have an idea if you are going to have enough room to bring back Jason Pierre-Paul, Antrel Rolle and Eli Manning?
A: We will do what we have to do. The evaluation process is ongoing right now. We will do what we have to do and everybody will be evaluated and we will make it work.
Q: Is using the Franchise Tag on Jason Pierre-Paul something you will consider?
A: We will keep all of our options open.
Q: Do you express your opinion to Tom Coughlin about the coaching staff?
A: I have my opinion. Tom Coughlin and I talk every Monday. As you all know, we talk every Monday and we don’t sugar coat talk, we talk about the good, we talk about the bad, we talk about the ugly. I think that is why we have a great relationship because we don’t try to BS each other in our Monday conversations. We talk about what really happened and I think is a great conversation and I give my opinion about everything.
Q: Are comfortable with the fact he has the final call?
A: Am I comfortable? Yeah, of course, I am comfortable. John Mara said this, when a coach has been as successful as Tom Coughlin and has been in the National Football League as long as he has been in the National Football League, he should have the right to pick his coaches. He should have the right to do that. He has been able to do that. I give him my opinion on what I think, I believe John Mara gives his opinion, Steve Tisch gives his opinion on what he thinks, but the head coach with the caliber head coach Tom Coughlin has been and still is, he has the right to pick his coaches.
Q: Why is Tom Coughlin still the right man to coach this team?
A: Again, John Mara said it and we talked about it, he knows how to coach. He is a teacher, you have to coach the players and you have to coach the person when you are coaching in the National Football League. Tom Coughlin knows how to do that. John Mara said it as clearly as you can say it, during the bad time of the season, the players kept playing, they played all the way through. You can tell quickly if a team is not going to play for a coach, you can tell, and that never happened.
Q: How much will fixing the offensive and defensive lines be a priority this off season?
A: Everything is a priority. We are going to try to upgrade every component.
Q: How do you look at Victor Cruz, especially for next season? Do you think the injury will take a while? Or do you expect to have the old Victor back?
A: It is a significant injury that he has. You never know how he is going to come back from that. We are hoping that he is definitely going to come back and be the Victor Cruz that we know. You never know with the significant injury he had. We are hopeful that he will come back and be the Victor Cruz that we like, but you never know.
Q: Do you approach it like you did David Wilson, where you were prepared in case he didn’t make it back?
A: (You do that with) any guy that has a significant injury. That was a significant injury, just like David Wilson had a significant injury. You’ve got to prepare as if, “what if Victor Cruz doesn’t come back?” That is always in the back of your head. If you are a personnel guy, or a General Manager, that is always in the back of your head. What if this guy doesn’t come back and be the player that we think he is?
Q: There was probably some discussion of selecting an offensive lineman in the first round last year. What was it about Odell Beckham that you put him over the top in terms of being the choice?
A: I think I said this back during the draft. In this league, you have to have weapons. I said we think this guy is a weapon. That was pretty apparent. In the SEC, you see this guy line up and you saw those good players in the SEC, they back up when this guy lines up to their side of the field. We thought he was a game-changing kind of weapon and it is hard to pass those guys up. He was the highest guy on the board when we picked.
Q: Do you look at next season being a win-or-else season?
A: Every year. Tom Coughlin said the same thing. When you win Super Bowls, it is what have you done for me lately? You have to continue to win, it is hard to do it in this business because the league is built on a cycle. If you win, you are penalized for winning, so you have to fall back and pick last in the draft, you lose some coaches. That is how the cycle goes, but our job is to beat the system. That is what we pride ourselves on, beating the system, staying on top, staying relevant. I heard someone ask Tom about every four years, you should start to be able to build your team back up after you have had some down time. We should be at a point where our team is being built back up because we are going to have a top 10 pick this season, last year we had a top 12 pick. You get better players, it’s a little bit easier to pick up front in the draft than it is to pick in the back of the draft, but you would much rather be picking in the back of the draft, obviously.
Q: Your favorite phrase has been “best available.” When you’re drafting higher, does that become less significant because they’re all great athletes?
A: We’re always conscious of where we think our need is. But we always try to pick the best player available. If you can get a combination of your need and what the value is, it’s an easy pick for you.
Q:… it’s either a need or a best available?
A: Maybe some people though we try to pick the best player available on our board.
Q: When you’re 6-10 and you compare it to the Super Bowl rosters, do you see a dramatic difference in talent, preparation, or play? And if so, is there a specific part of the team?
A: I’m not sure what you’re asking me. I think you’re saying is the personnel on a 6-10 team close to the 2011 team or the 2007 team? I don’t think there’s a huge difference. Our two championship teams, I don’t think that was the best personnel we had. Our two championship teams, if that means anything, I don’t think that was the best personnel we had.
Q: Other than Victor Cruz, is there anyone that’s on injured reserve that you’re concerned about moving forward?
A: Well, all the guys on IR, we’re concerned about. Geoff Schwartz, Jon Beason, I can go on. There’s so many, I can’t think of them off the top of my head right now. We had a bunch of corners to go down. Prince…
Q: Anybody you think might not be ready to start OTAs or training camp?
A: We’re hopeful for all of the players. We’ll have a medical meeting here in the next day; actually, today we’re having a medical meeting to see what the status is on all of our players. We’re hopeful. I heard John say “half the guys back.” But injuries are just part of it, guys. That’s no excuse. Again, we had plenty of opportunities during the season in spite of all the injuries. We had plenty of opportunities to close teams out. With our offense, to close some teams out. With our defense, to close some teams out. Even with our special teams. Josh (Brown) had a tremendous year, but he still missed a field goal in Jacksonville. If he makes the field goal, we win that game. Our second Dallas game, we’re inside the 30 right there and we miss a pass and it’s intercepted and goes the other way. Our defense during the Dallas games, all you have to do is pick up a stop right there, we’re going to win. It’s a learned behavior, that’s what bugs me the most about our season last year. We had some chances to close some teams out and we didn’t do it. I think that’s something we’ll talk about in this offseason. We had a chance to close teams out because we were there in spite of all the injuries and attrition that happened to roster. We were there. That can be attributed to our coaching staff and our players. They’re fighting and trying to put themselves in position to win games. We had some opportunities to do that and we just didn’t do it.
Q: What do you think is lacking that the learned behavior hasn’t been acquired?
A: This is part of it. When you turn your roster over, you have a lot of new faces on your roster. Some teams that we had under Coach Coughlin had been here for some years and we had a pretty tight roster. We didn’t have to make a lot of changes. We get a new group of guys, they have to learn that. They have to learn how to play together and have that mentality with each other. Somebody’s got to rise up right here, right now, on defense: “We have to make this stop right here.” I don’t know if we had enough players to do that. Offensively, on special teams: “I’m going to make a play right here on special teams. A big play right here.” I think it’s a thing that grows when players are together longer and most of these players on the roster will be back next year. I think it’s something we have to learn and grow as a team.
Q: When you assess the roster, personnel-wise, obviously you want to upgrade in every spot. Are there any spots you look at and say, “You know what, we’re good there,” where you don’t have to worry about that?
A: You’re an injury away from not being good anywhere. That’s why I say we try to continue to upgrade every chance we get at every position possible.
Q: Does that make the challenge of rebuilding even more difficult?
A: Obviously, if we think we have some issues on the offensive line, but we’re not going ignore our offensive line, then ignore our running back position or our safety position, or our defensive line position, or our tight end position. That’s why, as a personnel person, you try to upgrade in as many places as you can, as often as you can. Injuries happen, attrition happens and you want your roster to be as deep as possible.
Q: What is the importance of continuity, when you talked about guys learning to play together? Are you more inclined to keep the core of this group together heading into next year, especially getting some of the guys back from injury, to see what they can do and what they can actually be?
A: I think it’s going to be a good core of guys here, regardless, coming back. There’ll be some changes, like always. There are always changes every year and there will be some this time. We definitely want to keep a good core of players because you can’t turn your roster over every single year. You have to try to keep a core of guys that you can build around.
Q: There were a bunch of guys maybe at the end of the roster last year, that were draft picks that didn’t really play much. How long do you hold out hope those guys will work out? Is there fine line there?
A: We try to give guys a chance to fail. If you give them a chance to fail and they fail, that’s fine, we made a mistake. But you have to give guys a chance to fail first before you push them out the door.