Jan 312007
 

Special Teams Coordinator Mike Sweatman Officially Retires: The Giants officially announced yesterday that Special Teams Coordinator Mike Sweatman has retired.

“I just feel like it is time right now,” said the 60-year-old Sweatman. “I’m sure I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss the game. I’m going to miss the people that are a part of the game. Not only different coaches and players but also everyone associated with the different teams that I have been a part of, different programs that I have been a part of.”

As we mentioned yesterday in “News and Notes,” Sweatman not only coached special teams for the Giants under Tom Coughlin for the past three years, he also was on the Giants’ coaching staff from 1985-1992.

“The two Super Bowls that we won here with the Giants were certainly highlights of my career,” Sweatman said.

“The opportunity to bring Mike Sweatman back to the New York Giants was something that I looked forward to, knowing full well that this is an individual that I could trust completely,” Coughlin said. “And the reason for that is that he has great pride. He has great loyalty. He has literally devoted the better part of his career to the special teams coordinator position. And he has done an outstanding job. And I could count on Mike Sweatman to make any and all decisions in the best interest of the New York Giants. He worked well with the players in that he was firm, but he was understanding – young players, old players, all seemed to enjoy playing for him in that capacity. And I think the obvious point with that was the fact that he brought such great creditability to the job.”

“I have a great appreciation for Coach Sweatman and a lot of respect for the kind of man he is,” said PK Jay Feely. “Anytime you have a man who first served our country and then served his players, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, and that’s how I feel about Mike Sweatman. He definitely helped me as a player. I’m a better kicker from having been with him. I had the best two years of my career with him, so I’m very appreciative for his help. Mike does what all great coaches do; he doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. He takes what you think are your strengths, tells you what he thinks can improve those strengths and tries to implement them. That’s what he did with me.”

“Mike really calmed the game down for me,” P Jeff Feagles said. “I’m pretty easy going. But when the games get going I do get a little bit upset at times at myself when I don’t do what I want to do – when I make a bad kick or something like that. Early on I used to get really, really mad at myself. Mike helped me create a sense of easiness. He helped with my demeanor on the sidelines, not letting the other people know that I’m angry and upset and not to carry it over. Mike likes the veteran players, which I enjoy, because he listened to me as far as what I wanted to do and I listened to him as far as what he wanted me to do. We had a very happy medium there. Mike was always in my corner and he always understood that when it didn’t happen that it didn’t happen. We would just try it again. So I just really enjoyed my time around him. And I can only wish him the best of luck. I think he is one hell of a coach and he deserves to ride off into the sunset and enjoy the rest of his life.”

“I learned so much from him in terms of the mental approach with regard to being a specialist,” said long snapper Ryan Kuehl. “With Jeff (Feagles) and I, he gave us room to grow while still making sure he knew what was going on. We knew that he trusted us – when you are a specialist that is the most important thing. If you know that your special teams coach trusts you, that really frees you up to perform well. And Mike was really a master at that, giving us the latitude but yet still knowing that he was in charge.”

Tom Quinn Promoted: The Giants have officially announced that Tom Quinn, who joined the Giants last year as their assistant special teams coach, will be promoted to the special teams coordinator position, replacing Mike Sweatman.

“I’m thrilled for the opportunity,” Quinn said. “It was a great pleasure to be able to work with Mike and learn from him. He is just a great man to start with, a great coach and a great teacher. I learned a lot from Mike. He taught me the importance of details, of being so thorough in your work and the preparation and translating that to the fundamentals on the field. He stressed that you must teach and coach very solid fundamentals. And it’s not so important to out-scheme someone. The biggest thing I learned is the importance of getting the match-ups with personnel and having a solid fundamental base to be able to execute from. It’s not so much about schemes, but it is about execution – just being simple so you can go out and execute.”

“Tom has Mike’s complete endorsement as a young coach devoted to special teams who is prepared to take the lead roll in the special teams position,” Coughlin said. “The energy and the passion which Tom brings to the job is infectious and our players will respond to Tom’s enthusiasm.”

“Tom is a very qualified young man,” said retiring special teams coordinator Mike Sweatman, “and the players and the fans will appreciate his energy and what he brings to the game and what he brings to the table for the New York Giants.”

“I think it’s a great choice,” said P Jeff Feagles. “He worked under Mike for a year and got to know his schemes and how the Giants do things special teams-wise and what is expected from Tom (Coughlin). So that is a good thing. You bring somebody else in here, there is going to be a breaking-in period. So as far as Tom goes, I think there are a lot of things we have already done and he has been around. He knows the schedule and the routines that myself and Jay (Feely) and Ryan (Kuehl) all work with. So, that’s good.”

“Tom did a great job in his first year in the league,” Kuehl said. “I thought Tom showed a great knack for strategy and schemes that I was a part of. I would expect us to improve in areas where we need to improve and have the same level of confidence in the areas we did well in this past year. I really enjoy Tom. He doesn’t come across as a guy who thinks he has all of the answers. He is willing to come forward and discuss things and he will receive input from players and then make a judgment based on that. I think players totally respect that and enjoy working for a guy who is willing to listen to them and take some ownership. And Tom, like Sweat, let the players take ownership. And that is great. It’s good news for the Giants, it’s good news for Giants fans, and good news for us special teams players.”

New York Giants Name New Assistant Special Teams Coach: To fill the assistant special teams vacancy created by the promotion of Tom Quinn, the Giants have hired Thomas McGaughey. McGaughey was a special teams assistant coach with the Denver Broncos from 2005-2006.

New York Giants Hire New Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach: The Giants announced yesterday that they have hired a new assistant strength and conditioning coach, Markus Paul. Paul replaces Andy Barnett, who the team apparently fired. Paul will work with Strength and Conditioning Coach Jerry Palmieri.

Paul was with the Jets for the previous two seasons as their strength and conditioning coach. The Jets decided very recently not to renew his contract.

Notes and Quotes: The Giants will have an entirely new set of coordinators in 2007.

Tom Coughlin on new offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, new special teams coordinator Tom Quinn, and new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo: “I think the Kevin Gilbride decision was based on the fact that the players and coaches responded to him in the opportunities that he had to lead the offense at the end of the season. Players are unanimous in their strong feelings about Kevin being the coordinator. I think Tom Quinn was brought here to understudy, if you will, with one of the veteran special teams coaches in the NFL. The guy has vast experiences. Tom learned a great deal from his year with Mike. And because of that we are very confident that he is prepared to fill that job. In Steve Spagnuolo, we have a guy who has been with the Philadelphia Eagles for eight years. He has worked and studied under Andy Reid and Jim Johnson, who brings an aggressive style and enthusiasm to the position of defensive coordinator. And the soundness of their approach, balanced with the aggressive nature of their defense, will excite our players.”

Phil Simms on the Giants and Super Bowl XXI: “When I watched the tape of the game, what jumped out at me is, ‘Damn, we were good. We had a lot of good players.’ No wonder we won. We were supposed to win. It’s always fun to go back and remember because it was a good moment.”

Jan 302007
 

Special Teams Coordinator Mike Sweatman Retires; Tom Quinn Promoted: According to various press reports, Special Teams Coordinator Mike Sweatman has retired. Assistant Special Teams Coach Tom Quinn has been promoted to fill Sweatman’s position. The official announcement is expected today.

It had been rumored since the season ended that the 60-year old Sweatman was retiring. Sweatman not only served as the Giants’ special teams coach under Coughlin since 2004, but he was also the special teams coach with the Giants from 1990-1992 and an assistant special teams coach with the team from 1985-1989.

Quinn, who just turned 39 years old, has only spent one season (last year with the Giants) as an NFL coach.

Giants Officially Hire Chris Palmer as Quarterbacks Coach: The Giants have officially announced that they have hired 57-year old Chris Palmer as their new quarterbacks coach, replacing Kevin Gilbride who was promoted to offensive coordinator earlier this month.

As we reported on Sunday, Palmer served as the quarterbacks coach for the Dallas Cowboys in 2006. Before that, from 2001-2005, he was the offensive coordinator for the expansion Houston Texans. From 1999-2000, Palmer was the head coach of the expansion Cleveland Browns. And from 1997-1998, he was Tom Coughlin’s offensive coordinator in Jacksonville – ironically replacing Gilbride who had then moved on to become the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. Even more ironically, from 1999-2000, John Hufnagel was Palmer’s quarterbacks coach with the Cleveland Browns. The Giants fired Hufnagel as their offensive coordinator late in the 2006 season.

“Chris is an excellent football coach,” said Coughlin. “He’s very sound, very logical and very good with the players. He’s always done a good job working with quarterbacks. Just look at the numbers in Dallas this year after they made a quarterback change.”

“My knowledge of Chris Palmer’s coaching ability goes way back,” said Coughlin. “When I was with the Giants in the late ’80s, Chris visited with (Defensive Coordinator) Bill Belichick and the defensive staff. They were interested in the run and shoot offense and Chris was well-versed in that offensive scheme. When Kevin Gilbride left our staff in Jacksonville to become the head coach in San Diego, we brought in Chris. He did an outstanding job as our offensive coordinator for a couple of years before he became the head coach in Cleveland. I’ve had an opportunity to work with Chris before, and it’s an opportunity to add another outstanding coach to our staff.”

Palmer met with QB Eli Manning on Monday.

“I had Chris speak with Eli the other day and they talked for about 20-25 minutes,” said Coughlin. “They discussed many aspects of the quarterback position and I know they’re going to work hard together on the fundamentals. Chris will contribute to the game plans, but we’re specifically asking the quarterbacks coach to be involved in the fundamentals of the position.”

“I’m excited about Coach Palmer becoming our quarterbacks coach,” said Manning. “He has a history of working with some quarterbacks that have done great things in this league. I had the opportunity to meet with him on Friday and we had a good conversation. I think we communicated well. We talked about some things I need to do to improve. I look forward to getting started and working with him during the offseason to become a better quarterback.”

“I thought the conversation with Eli was excellent,” said Palmer . “I enjoyed my visit with him. I think Eli is an extremely talented quarterback and I look forward to working with him…I’m excited about joining the Giants and working with the staff and the quarterbacks.”

Jan 282007
 

New York Giants Hire New Quarterbacks Coach: Though not official, The Star-Ledger and The Bergen Record are reporting that the Giants have hired Chris Palmer as their new quarterbacks coach, replacing Kevin Gilbride who was promoted to offensive coordinator earlier this month.

In 2006, Palmer served as the quarterbacks coach for the Dallas Cowboys. Before that, from 2001-2005, he was the offensive coordinator for the expansion Houston Texans. From 1999-2000, Palmer was the head coach of the expansion Cleveland Browns. And from 1997-1998, he was Tom Coughlin’s offensive coordinator in Jacksonville – ironically replacing Gilbride who had then moved on to become the head coach of the San Diego Chargers.

Minnesota Vikings Were Interested in Steve Spagnuolo Too?: The Star-Ledger and Newsday are reporting that the Giants might have beaten the Minnesota Vikings to the punch regarding the hiring of Steve Spagnuolo as their new defensive coordinator. The papers say the Vikings would have been interested in Spagnuolo as their new defensive coordinator had the Giants not hired him first. Spagnuolo worked with Vikings’ Head Coach Brad Childress for seven seasons in Philadelphia.

Jeremy Shockey to Skip the Pro Bowl: TE Jeremy Shockey, who missed the regular-season finale against the Redskins with an ankle injury, will not play in the Pro Bowl. In 2006, Shockey was elected to his fourth Pro Bowl in five seasons. HB Tiki Barber was the only other Giants’ player elected.

Jan 262007
 

New York Giants Interested in Chris Palmer as Quarterbacks Coach: According to The Daily News and The Star-Ledger, the Giants have asked and been granted permission to speak to Cowboys’ Quarterback Coach Chris Palmer. Palmer was Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s offensive coordinator in Jacksonville for two seasons.

Yesterday, QB Eli Manning was asked about the search for a new quarterback coach to replace Kevin Gilbride, who was promoted to offensive coordinator earlier this month.

“I’m looking forward to that and seeing how that’s going to be,” said Manning. “Obviously I think our number one focus so far is finding a defensive coordinator, so we’ve solved that issue. I think now it will be trying to find a quarterbacks coach. I’m just looking forward to seeing who that’s going to be and starting our relationship, and coming here and getting to work.”

Manning was also asked who would make an ideal quarterbacks coach. “Obviously I’ve only had one quarterbacks coach in the NFL,” said Manning. “I’m just looking for someone who’s obviously smart, intelligent. Someone who we can have a good relationship and just really communicate well together and be on the same page with things. Someone who has good drills and is going to be hard on me and coach me and make sure that everything that I’m doing, I’m doing to get better and put me in a position to play better football.”

Plaxico Burress May Work Out Some in New Jersey: In 2005 and 2006, WR Plaxico Burress and TE Jeremy Shockey skipped the Giants’ “voluntary” offseason program. The 2007 program is schedule to begins on March 19 and QB Eli Manning said yesterday that Burress may make an appearance this year.

“I’ve talked to Plaxico a few times,” said Manning. “It sounds like he might be here a little bit more this offseason, so we just have to see as that approaches and gets closer. Hopefully we can have the guys here and get some good work. I have to get with Shockey and kind of see what his plans are. Obviously those guys feel that they get their best work done in different places when they have their own coaches and getting physically ready with lifting and running and getting in shape. I think we just have to work hard. We have to work hard to get together. I think we’re on the same page. We’re consistent, we do some good things together, but we can definitely improve on it.”

Manning was asked if it was important for Burress and Shockey to participate in the offseason program instead of first showing up at training camp. “I think there comes a time when you should get together,” said Manning. “I don’t think it has to start March 19th and you have to be with those guys right then, but once you start – before mini-camp or those things start up – you get some time together. You get a few weeks to really work hard and get settled. Early on in March, as a quarterback, you don’t want to start throwing too early and do too many things. You do drill-work and do your things, but once you start throwing routes and get into our offense and running those plays, I think it can definitely be important to have guys around to throw with.”

When Manning was asked if Burress is going to become his version of Colts’ WR Marvin Harrison some day, Manning responded, “I hope so. I hope we can continue to grow. I think we’ve gotten better over the past two years, but we still have a ways to go. I’ve talked to Plaxico a bunch and he sounds excited about the off-season, about getting ready and becoming better. I think he wants to be someone who’s in that category, just as I want to be thought of in Peyton (Manning)’s category. That’s something we’re going to work on and we’re going to try to get on the same page with everything. We have good timing and we make good plays, but we’re not what you want to think of as unstoppable or just totally dominant, so that’s what we have to continue to work on – to get to that spot and to that plane of ability.”

Article on Bill Parcells and the New York Giants: Wild Bill by Dr. Z of SportsIllustrated.com

Quotes: QB Eli Manning on Kevin Gilbride being the new offensive coordinator: “I don’t think our relationship will change. I would say we probably won’t have as much one-on-one time in the meetings. He won’t be the guy running our meetings anymore, but I think you still have to communicate with your coordinator. I think he wants to be a hands-on coach in the offense. When we have offensive meetings with the quarterbacks and the receivers and we go over plays, I think he’ll be the one who’ll want to run that. I think he’s going to be good at getting everybody disciplined, getting the offense run the way he wants it run, no exceptions. I think we’ll still have to communicate and be on the same page, so I think obviously the relationship changes a little bit – you won’t have as much time together – but you still have to be on the same page with everything.”

Giants’ President and CEO John Mara on whether or not the Giants would be interested in Bill Parcells returning to the Giants in any capacity: “No.”

Jan 242007
 

Where Has the Time Gone?

I’m 39 years old. The last time the New York Giants won an NFL Championship was 16 years ago. I was 23 years old at the time. 16 years! When I think back to what my life was like 16 years ago, I can’t believe how much time has passed. I was fresh out of college, starting my first real professional, white-collar job. My life centered around dating girls, hanging out with college buddies, drinking, and the Giants. In those 16 years, I went from sharing apartments, to having my own apartment, to owning my first house. I got married and had two kids. I’m a family man now and I don’t get out much. My life is much different. The first gray hairs are appearing.

And I’m still waiting for the Giants to win another Super Bowl.

Think back to where you were 16 years ago when Scott Norwood’s last-second field goal attempt sailed wide right. How different was your life? Consider how much time 16 years really is. That’s how long we’ve been waiting. The old timers will say 16 years is nothing; that they had to wait 30 years between 1956 and 1986 for another Championship. It’s a valid point, but it doesn’t make me feel any better. I don’t really want to wait until I’m 53 until the Giants win another Super Bowl.

The average life expectancy in the United States is about 77. If I live to be 80, it means that I just spent one-fifth of my life watching the Giants futilely attempt to regain Championship glory. Worse than that, consider these embarrassing facts: (1) the Giants have only won three playoff games in those 16 years; (2) the Giants have not won a road playoff game during that time period. Yikes!

What Went Wrong?

How did the Giants go from a team that won two Super Bowls in four years to a team that that averages a playoff win every five years? The answers are pretty obvious: (1) bad personnel moves and (2) uninspiring coaching.

For all the positive work that General Manager George Young and Director of Player Personnel Tom Boisture did in the 1980’s, their magic quickly disappeared in the 1990’s. Young left the Giants after the 1997 draft and Boisture left the Giants after the 1998 draft. During that time period in the 1990’s, high-round picks were spent on players of dubious talent such as Jarrod Bunch, Kanavis McGhee, Derek Brown, Dave Brown, Marcus Buckley, Thomas Lewis, Thomas Randolph, Gary Downs, Tyrone Wheatley, Rodney Young, and Cedric Jones. And the Giants completely mismanaged the salary cap and free agency. The team overspent to keep its own mediocre talent, let talented players get away, and spent its remaining limited resources on guys like Mark Jackson, Carlton Bailey, and Ray Agnew.

It didn’t get much better under General Manager Ernie Accorsi and Director of Player Personnel Marv Sunderland. Accorsi’s first draft (with Boisture) was a disaster – Shaun Williams, Joe Jurevicius, a 3rd and 4th round pick for Brian Alford, Toby Myles, Todd Pollack, and Ben Fricke. Then from 1999-2002, the Accorsi-Sunderland team spent high picks on Joe Montgomery, Sean Bennett, Ron Dayne, Ron Dixon, Will Allen, Cedric Scott, Tim Carter, and Jeff Hatch. The Giants never seemed to have any cap space but did finally add some decent football players in free agency such as Mike Barrow and Dusty Zeigler. However, there were also big mistakes such as Kenny Holmes.

After the 2002 draft, Jerry Reese became the new director of player personnel. He and Accorsi spent high picks on players such as William Joseph, Osi Umenyiora, Visanthe Shiancoe, Rod Babers, Eli Manning (1st, 1st, 3rd, 5th round picks), Chris Snee, Reggie Torbor, Gibril Wilson, Corey Webster, Justin Tuck, Brandon Jacobs, Mathias Kiwanuka, Sinorice Moss, Gerris Wilkinson, and Barry Cofield. It’s been a mixed bag, but drafting does appear to be better. However, almost everything depends on the Eli Manning trade and we don’t know how that will pan out yet. Free agent additions during this time frame included Brian Mitchell, Jeff Feagles, Jim Finn, Dorsey Levens, Mike Hollis, Ryan Kuehl, Fred Robbins, Carlos Emmons, Shaun O’Hara, Barrett Green, Barry Stokes, Terry Cousin, Lorenzo Bromell, Martin Chase, Norman Hand, Brent Alexander, Kurt Warner, Antonio Pierce, Kareem McKenzie, Jay Feely, Kendrick Clancy, Plaxico Burress, Bob Whitfield, R.W. McQuarters, Sam Madison, Will Demps, Grey Ruegamer, Jason Bell, and LaVar Arrington. A lot of names – some good, some bad.

The net effect of all of this? Of the players added to the roster since 1991, both in terms of draft picks and free agent acquisitions, only seven have been voted to the Pro Bowl: Jessie Armstead, Michael Strahan, Ron Stone, Jeremy Shockey, Tiki Barber, Osi Umenyiora, and David Tyree. Sixteen years of work and only seven players who have been considered among the best at their position.

At the forefront of the frustrating personnel issues has been the inability to stabilize the quarterback position with an upper echelon talent. Since Phil Simms was forced to retire, we have gone from Dave Brown to Danny Kanell to Kent Graham to Kerry Collins to Kurt Warner to Eli Manning. And whether you believe in Manning or not, he certainly has not lived up to expectations yet. For better or worse, the fate of this franchise for at least the next few years is tied to Eli Manning.

There has also been been mediocre coaching. After the Jim Lee Howell/Vince Lombardi/Tom Landry Giants won the NFL Championship in 1956, the Giants did not win another until Bill Parcells/Bill Belichick appeared on the scene. And they have not won another since. The franchise has been led by Ray Handley, Dan Reeves, Jim Fassel, and Tom Coughlin with some bad assistant coaches such as Rod Rust, Johnnie Lynn, Tim Lewis, and John Hufnagel.

Mediocre talent + mediocre coaching = mediocre results.

Current Events:

So let’s move to the current situation. Let’s recap what has transpired. In 2005, both Wellington Mara and Robert Tisch passed away. Their sons, John Mara and Jonathan Tisch, have taken over. According to press reports, the front office tried to convince Tom Coughlin to dump Hufnagel and Lewis after the 2005 campaign despite a largely successful season where the Giants won the NFC East. If true, Coughlin obviously refused. As we all know, the Giants were embarrassed at home in the playoffs by the Panthers 23-0.

Expectations were high entering the 2006 season. The team won all four preseason games, but came damn close to a disastrous 0-3 regular season start until Eli Manning saved the day with late-game heroics in Philadelphia. Then the Giants went on a five-game winning streak, highlighted by their 36-22 destruction of the Cowboys in Dallas on Monday night. The Giants completed what was supposed to have been the toughest part of their schedule 6-2 and had a two-game lead in the NFC East. The Giants had, at that time, the second-best record in the NFC. Life was good.

But the Dallas game was costly as the Giants lost LaVar Arrington and Justin Tuck for the season. Osi Umenyiora also got hurt and missed the next five games. Then Michael Strahan got hurt against the Texans. An MRI revealed an ACL tear in Amani Toomer’s knee. And Luke Petitgout fractured his leg against the Bears. Antonio Pierce had ankle and knee issues. Brandon Short missed a month with a quad injury. Sam Madison pulled his hamstring. Corey Webster suffered a turf toe injury. A team cannot lose that many quality players and not expect the product on the field to suffer. And it did. The Giants began a 2-7 slide. They finished the regular season 8-8, barely limped into the playoffs, and got immediately bounced by the hated Eagles.

Nevertheless, the disastrous finish to what had been an extremely promising start cannot be blamed completely on the injury situation. Questionable coaching decisions were a factor in losses to the Bears, Titans, Cowboys, and Eagles. The coaching staff was publicly criticized again by players after losses to the Seahawks and Jaguars. While many point to the loss to the Bears as the turning point to the season, I believe the real turning point was blowing the 21-0 fourth-quarter lead to the Titans. That was a devastating emotional loss. To the credit of the coaching staff and players, the team did fight hard in close losses to the Cowboys and Eagles, but odd red-zone play calling helped to prevent victory. More importantly, the defense was coming apart and Eli Manning was wildly up-and-down in every game. The low-point came when the Saints trashed the Giants 30-7 at home in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. The fans, before they left early, started chanting, “Fire Coughlin!” Coughlin (or the front office) decided that a change was needed and Hufnagel was fired. The Giants’ running game came to life again against the Redskins and the Giants defeated Washington 34-28. The outcome of this game was incredibly significant, not so much because it put the Giants in the playoffs, but it very likely saved Coughlin’s job.

Against the Eagles in the playoffs, the defensive problems that plagued the team in the second-half of the season continued, as did Manning’s up-and-down play. Issues with red-zone play calling remained despite the fact that Quarterbacks Coach Kevin Gilbride was now calling the plays. It was truly a microcosm of the entire season. An incredibly disappointing 2006 campaign ended with an equally disappointing finish as the Giants allowed Philadelphia to easily move down field and set up the game-winning field goal with no time left on the clock.

And then we all waited. Waited to see if Tom Coughlin would be fired. Waited to see who the next general manager would be. There were wild rumors of major changes. Names such as Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick, Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis, and Patriots’ Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli were mentioned.

What we can safely assume is that it was not a given that Coughlin would return. Ownership never spoke up in his defense during the late-season slide. And nothing was said for the first few days after the season was over. Coughlin’s annual post-season press conference was not held as both sides met. Three days after the season ended, it was formally announced that Coughlin would be retained and that his contract would be extended one more season. It was not a ringing endorsement.

“Jon Tisch and I sat down with Tom Coughlin on Monday afternoon and had a lengthy discussion with him about the state of our team,” said John Mara. “Those discussions continued on Tuesday. At the conclusion of those discussions we told Tom that we wanted him to continue to be our head coach…(Coughlin) knew that obviously we were not happy finishing 8-8, particularly after starting 6-2. We addressed our concerns to him.”

“It is our strong belief that consistency, stability, loyalty, and sticking by your people are extremely important,” said Jonathan Tisch.

But consistency, stability, loyalty, and sticking by your people didn’t seem to apply to Hufnagel, who was fired with two games to go in the season, and Tim Lewis, who was fired the day after the decision to retain Coughlin was announced. In January 2004, Coughlin vowed to “provide the New York Giants with the best staff in football.” In that he failed miserably as his two most important hires – offensive and defensive coordinators – were let go due to ineffectiveness.

He also said back in his inaugural press conference the Giants must “must eliminate costly penalties” and instill “discipline which provides us all with the courage and the confidence to win in this league in the fourth quarter.” Since Coughlin has been with the Giants, costly penalties have remained an issue and the team lost too many close games in the fourth quarter in 2006. The Giants certainly did not play with much confidence or discipline. Regarding the injuries that plagued the Giants in Jim Fassel’s last season, Coughlin said, “It is something that has to be corrected. It is a mental thing I believe as much as it is anything else.” Injuries have been a huge issue during Coughlin’s regime.

On the surface, there doesn’t appear to be much respect between at least some of the players and Coughlin. Players have publicly and privately criticized the coaching staff in the press. Coughlin has also repeatedly told them not do so to no avail. The team also seems to ignore his message about not talking trash to the media about an upcoming opponent. Most Giants fans wish the players would simply shut the hell up and play.

But even if you don’t buy into all of these arguments, coaches are ultimately graded on their win-loss record. With the Giants, Coughlin is 25-23 in the regular season and 0-2 in the playoffs. In other words, he has been a .500 coach. His New York teams have experienced two second-half swoons in three years – an eight-game losing streak in 2004 and a 2-7 finish in 2006. Giants’ pride has not been restored. In his last three seasons in Jacksonville, Coughlin’s teams finished 7-9, 6-10, and 6-10. The last time Coughlin won a playoff game was 1999.

Some have argued that a coaching switch was not made because of a lack of viable alternatives and/or there will be better candidates available next offseason. I’m not sure I buy that. For one, there are always good young candidates available (i.e., Mike Tomlin). Plus, there is no guarantee that coaches such as Belichick, Weis, or Bill Cowher will be available or even want to come here. It’s not an overly attractive destination as the team has a split ownership and an entrenched new general manager and quarterback.

The next major decision the Giants made – even bigger than the decision to retain Coughlin – was the promotion of Jerry Reese to general manager. On the surface, it appears odd that the Reese was promoted after – and not before – Coughlin was retained. But Reese, at least publicly, said he supported the decision to keep Coughlin. It also seems odd that the only external candidate the Giants interviewed for the position was ex-Redskins and Texans’ General Manager Charlie Casserly, although they did reach out to Pioli (and were rebuffed). It will be Reese who will guide the franchise for the foreseeable future. That said, John Mara did make it very clear that his brother, Chris, will have an ever-larger role in personnel matters. I wonder how that dynamic will work in actuality behind the scenes. How much power will Chris Mara have? Under Reese, the Giants have drafted better in recent years, but he also said he fully supported the trade for Eli Manning and would make that trade again.

The next major announcement was the decision to promote Kevin Gilbride to offensive coordinator. This was a curious move for three reasons. For one, according to Gilbride, Coughlin immediately picked him as the man to be the coordinator. He did not interview anyone for the position. Secondly, Gilbride was quickly fired after two seasons from both of his last two offensive coordinator gigs (Pittsburgh and Buffalo). His 2003 Bills’ offense was one of the worst in the league and ultimately got his head coach fired as well. In Buffalo, Gilbride was criticized for being too pass-happy. Thirdly, Gilbride was the quarterbacks coach in charge of the immediate development of Eli Manning. Even the casual observer would question how effective he has been in that role. Indeed, I would argue that the Giants have dumped too much responsibility on Manning in his first three years in the League. The coaching staff certainly does not make it simple for him and they do not employ much of a short-passing game in order to get him in a rhythm and build up his confidence level. To the contrary, both Coughlin and Gilbride said one of their main offensive priorities in 2007 would be to throw the football down the field even more. Now to be fair to Gilbride, he has had some success as an offensive coordinator with the Oilers, Jaguars, and Bills (2002). So we shall see. As for why Coughlin did not interview anyone outside of the organization for the position, it may have been his wish not to throw another offensive system at Manning and maintain some level of continuity. There is something to be said for that approach, especially since the Giants decided to keep Coughlin.

The latest major decision was hiring Eagles’ Linebacker Coach Steve Spagnuolo as the new defensive coordinator. On the surface, this appears to be a good move as Spagnuolo has coached for eight seasons under Eagles’ defensive guru Jim Johnson. He has experience in Philadelphia working with both the linebackers and defensive backs. He also knows the NFC East, and the Eagles in particular. However, it remains to be seen if Spagnuolo is capable of replicating the Eagles’ success without Jim Johnson. “That package we had was Jim,” said Spagnuolo. “We put our heads together as a staff and came up with a few things, too, but the majority of it is Jim sitting down, mixing it together and coming up with something good.”

The Future?

So where does that leave us heading into 2007? That’s the million-dollar question. Coughlin is not in a strong position. He knows it, his assistant coaches know it, his players know it. The one-year extension means nothing. It was just for show. It’s pretty clear that the expectation level by ownership is for this team to make the playoffs and win in the playoffs. If not, Coughlin is likely gone. Some of the comments made by Coughlin recently are laughable. When talking about the decision to promote Gilbride and the Giants’ offense, Coughlin said, “It’s the New York Giants’ system. And the New York Giants’ system has tremendous flexibility.” When talking about Spagnuolo, Coughlin said, “I was obviously looking for a guy who had had the opportunity to work with some outstanding defensive people in this league. It wasn’t just a matter of the aggressiveness because the scheme that we have played here has been an aggressive scheme.” Fans would beg to differ on both accounts.

Obviously what will decide his fate will be if the team wins or not. That will be tough unless Eli Manning becomes a much more consistent quarterback. The Giants’ best player – Tiki Barber – has retired. The defense has issues in the back seven and will be learning a completely new system with the inherent growing pains that come with that. If the 2007 New York Giants experience a two- or three-game losing streak, how will it respond? This hasn’t proven to be a mentally tough football team. Will the players begin criticizing the coaching staff again? We know the press doesn’t like Coughlin and smells blood in the water. This situation has the potential to spiral out of control with the media (and fan sites such as this) fueling anti-Coughlin sentiment. If the chants of “Fire Coughlin” begin again and patrons start leaving the stadium early, a change will be made.

But there is some hope. In recent years, at least under Jim Fassel, this team has played better when expectations were lower. The Giants have talent at the skill positions and on the offensive line. I think Brandon Jacobs is going to be a heck of a player. Eli Manning lobbied for Gilbride so hopefully he will be more comfortable. Defensively, if everyone returns healthy, the defensive line is one of the best in football. Antonio Pierce and LaVar Arrington have talent. And while the Giants should add a stud corner to the secondary, the cornerbacks were not as bad as everyone makes them out to be. An improved pass rush will help. Spagnuolo’s defense will likely suit the talent on this roster better than Lewis’ system did.

Let’s just hope that history doesn’t repeat itself. In 1996, Dan Reeves was a lame duck and the team pretty much tanked after the 0-3 start. The Giants finished 6-10. In 2000, Jim Fassel was very much on the hot seat entering the season. He got his team to the Super Bowl before it was creamed by the Ravens 34-7. Fassel got an extension and held onto power for another three years before a change was made. In a way, it may be better to get this situation resolved quickly one way or the other.

Jan 232007
 

New York Giants Name Steve Spagnuolo New Defensive Coordinator: The Giants have officially announced that Steve Spagnuolo will be the team’s new defensive coordinator, replacing Tim Lewis who was fired earlier this month.

Spagnuolo has spent the last eight seasons with the Philadephia Eagles, first as a defensive quality control coach (1999-2000), then as a defensive backs coach (2001-2003), and then as a linebackers coach (2004-2006).

“Steve Spagnuolo is a young man that I had an opportunity to interview and I was very impressed by his detail, his energy, his enthusiasm,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “His resume is outstanding. He’s had a lot of different football jobs. He’s been in the scouting end of it, he’s been a defensive line coach. When he first went to Philadelphia eight years ago he coached the corners and then the safeties. Then the last three years, he’s coached the linebackers there. He’s been with Jim Johnson and that outstanding defense for a number of years. His philosophy is an aggressive philosophy.”

Coughlin said Spagnuolo was the only candidate that he formally interviewed. “I was obviously looking for a guy who had had the opportunity to work with some outstanding defensive people in this league,” said Coughlin. “It wasn’t just a matter of the aggressiveness because the scheme that we have played here has been an aggressive scheme. Steve is familiar with the fire-zone theories. He’s also familiar with absolute blitz coverage, which obviously you’ve seen over the years from the Philadelphia defense. I just thought it was such an attractive commodity to have a guy who has worked to a great extent and in great detail with one of the recognized outstanding defensive coaches in our league.”

“Obviously you guys have seen the Giants-Eagles contests the last few years,” said Spagnuolo. “That’s obviously going to be the bulk of what I am and what I do, because I believe in it. It’s been successful. But I will pick pieces and parts of where I’ve been in a lot of different places. This business is a beg, borrow and steal, so whenever you can get an idea of something new or innovative, you try to incorporate it into what you have and what you do. I’ll try to put all of the pieces together and come up with something new.”

“I’m a little overwhelmed,” said Spagnuolo. “I’m excited and certainly proud to be a part of the New York Giants. When you think of the NFL and you think of NFL football, there are certain teams that jump out in your head and I think the Giants are one of them. I think it goes without saying that I’m a lucky, lucky man to have the opportunity to hold that position with that particular team.”

“We don’t want a passive coordinator with the type of players we have,” said LB LaVar Arrington. “If is coming in with that Eagles style, that get-after-it style, that’s a good thing for us.”

Tom Coughlin Says Other Defensive Coaches Will Be Retained: Head Coach Tom Coughlin said yesterday that all of the defensive position coaches will be retained.

“I expect to retain all of the position coaches on the defensive side of the ball,” said Coughlin. “I do want to say this: I think we have an outstanding group of coaches. Steve is familiar with a number of them and I think that one thing that was a huge plus is I have a great sense that he will work very well with our current coaches and that the transition for him will be smooth.”

New York Giants Still Searching for Quarterbacks Coach: Head Coach Tom Coughlin said yesterday that the search for a new quarterbacks coach continues. “It’s ongoing,” said Coughlin.

The quarterbacks coach vacancy was created when the Giants promoted Kevin Gilbride to the offensive coordinator position.

Injury Update on LB LaVar Arrington: LB LaVar Arrington, who missed the bulk of the 2006 season with a torn Achilles tendon, told Newsday that he is ahead of schedule on his rehab.

Quotes: Phil Simms on QB Eli Manning: “They all want him to be more vocal, but if that’s not you, it’s not you. I don’t think I ever saw Joe Montana get irate with a player on the field. All you can do is be who you are. That’s what everybody wants to see from Eli Manning, but that’s not how he leads football teams. It’s got to be who you are. To be a great leader, you work hard, you do the right thing and you win games.”

Jan 192007
 

New York Giants Officially Promote Kevin Gilbride to Offensive Coordinator: The Giants officially announced yesterday that Kevin Gilbride has been promoted to the offensive coordinator position. From 2004 to 2006, Gilbride served as Tom Coughlin’s quarterback coach with the Giants. Before the regular season finale against the Redskins, the Giants fired Offensive Coordinator John Hufnagel and handed play-calling duties to Gilbride, without the official “offensive coordinator” title.

On the surface, this appears to be an odd move given Gilbride’s inability to develop QB Eli Manning and his recent failure as an offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh (1999-2000) and Buffalo (2002-2003). He was Coughlin’s offensive coordinator in Jacksonville from 1995-1996.

“(The last two games of the season) was an opportunity for Kevin to demonstrate his leadership skills, and I thought he did a good job,” Coughlin said. “Based on that performance it became clear to me that he is deserving of the role of offensive coordinator. The good thing is that he has worked hand-in-hand with Eli, and Eli and the offensive team will welcome this announcement. I made the decision to create a spark and I think a spark was created. I think the offense – the players and the coaches – rallied around Kevin and certainly gave evidence that this was something that they are most excited about continuing.”

“The flavor of play-calling many times is the ability to do the unexpected,” Coughlin said. “I think Kevin does that well. We had a 3rd-and-10 when we ran a draw down in Washington. It did not succeed. But there was a draw on a 3rd-and-10 in the Seattle-Chicago (divisional playoff) that scored a touchdown. One of the tricks in play-calling is obviously to do the unexpected. Also, the belief in balance is ingrained. Philosophically, we’re both on the same page that way.”

Coughlin warned that there will not be radical changes to the offense. But one wonders if he did kept a straight face when he said, “It’s the New York Giants’ system. And the New York Giants’ system has tremendous flexibility.”

“I expect the ball to go down the field more than it did this year,” Coughlin said, an odd statement since many have been critical of the Giants not helping out Manning more with the short passing game. “There are two things. One, we didn’t score enough points. Two, our big-play production was not what it was a year ago. Those two things have to come back up. It was been discussed and I’m confident we can regain that stature.”

“I had an opportunity to experience him not only as a coordinator (in Jacksonville), but as a play-caller on Sundays,” said Coughlin. “I was always very impressed with that part of his game. I think he’s an excellent teacher. He’s articulate. He’s blunt, but when he makes corrections it’s encouraging rather than deflating. That’s been a positive.”

“I think Tom pretty much had made up his mind (to pick me as the new offensive coordinator) based upon what he had known from that body of work and the response of the players over the last two games,” said Gilbride. “I didn’t say or discuss anything with him. He came to me afterwards and said if things work out, then you’ll be the offensive coordinator here, and we’ll move forward from this point on.”

“The system that we put together was a combination of a lot of different thoughts,” said Gilbride. “The core was certainly things that Tom wanted in. Then we have the things that (John Huffnagel) brought with him from New England and Indianapolis, and I had brought with me, and the other coaches as well. So it really became the New York Giants system. It wasn’t any one individual. It was a hybrid approach to things, but I think it was a good one. It was certainly steep in sound principles. So any tweaking that will take place will take place after we go through the cutups and see those areas that maybe need to be reexamined and re-thought through, that maybe there’s a better approach out there than the one we were taking. But essentially it will be the same, and hopefully we’ll do a better job of implementing it and instructing it with the players and getting them to execute it better. Certainly we’ve got to throw the ball better than we did this year. I don’t think there’s any question that that was an area where we were not as productive as we think we can be. You get Luke Petitgout back, you get Amani Toomer back, that helps, but there’s also other areas. I think we need to be a little more efficient throwing the ball down the field, getting Jeremy Shockey involved down the field. getting other players involved – having them earn the trust and confidence of the quarterback besides just Plaxico (Burress), who was pretty much our individual deep threat.”

When Gilbride was asked about the development of Manning, he responded, “You look at the playoff quarterbacks – you’ve seen some of the ups and downs of some of the other guys in these games and you compare (that) to what he did in our playoff game, and I think you see that he’s certainly right up there at the top of the people that he’s competing with at that position. I think the biggest thing with him is that we’ve got to stay away from those bad plays, those catastrophic plays which are such momentum killers. Unfortunately we had a few of those last year. It’s really the consistency thing. When he’s playing as well as he’s capable of, I think his accuracy, his arm strength – I think even his technique – was better. But it’s those plays that jumped up and bit us. We can’t have those and he knows that. If we can avoid those things, then we certainly have a chance – because we’re only going to go as far as he takes us – for both he and our offensive unit and therefore our team, will have the best chance to be in the hunt again.”

Notes and Quotes: The Star-Ledger speculates that the Giants may be looking at former Falcons’ Head Coach Jim Mora or current Redskins’ Defensive Backs Coach Jerry Gray as their next defensive coordinator. The Journal News says that Coughlin is believed to be very interested in Mora.

The Bergen Record is reporting that the Giants have been looking around the League for a new special teams coach. Special Teams Coordinator Mike Sweatman may retire.

The Giants will also hire a new quarterbacks coach to fill the vacancy caused by the promotion of Gilbride. Names being mentioned by the press include Dolphins’ Quarterback Coach Jason Garrett and Bills’ Offensive Quality Control Coach Alex Van Pelt. “I think Tom is obviously going to make the decision,” said Gilbride. “He’s already mentioned a few names that he’s thinking about. I think he’s taking his time. I don’t think he feels he’s in any rush. He wants to makes sure he has any candidate that’s available, that he’s giving them a thorough review. We’ll try to find a guy that is certainly knowledgeable about the position of quarterbacks technically and fundamentally but also can bring something to the table in terms of gameplanning thoughts and contribute in those areas as well.”

Gilbride on OC Shaun O’Hara, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason: “We’d love to have him back and I think if we can get all the parts back, including Luke (Petitgout), that makes us a better offensive football team because we have a better offensive line that’s worked together. Not only is Shaun a part of it because of his ability level but because he’s very much, at the center position, a leader of that line because he makes most of the calls and directs most of the things after the quarterback has given him his instructions. It would be a big loss. If we have to (start Rich Seubert instead), then we have to go that way, but we certainly don’t want to. Hopefully management and his agent can get the thing worked out.”

Jan 172007
 

Jerry Reese’s Inaugural Press Conference as the New York Giants New General Manager: The Giants held a press conference yesterday morning to introduce the new general manager of the team, Jerry Reese. The following is the transcript of the press conference:

Opening Statement – John Mara: The New York Giants are pleased to introduce Jerry Reese as our new Senior Vice President and General Manager. Jerry, as most of you know, has been with our organization since 1994, starting as an area scout and working his way up to Assistant Director of Pro Personnel in 1999 and then Director of Player Personnel in 2002. I’ve had the opportunity to observe Jerry’s work firsthand throughout his time here, and he has demonstrated extraordinary leadership skills, intelligence, confidence, a superior work ethic and an outstanding ability to evaluate players. Jerry earned this position the old-fashioned way: through hard work and dedication, being promoted through the ranks, and demonstrating a unique set of skills that caused us to take notice of him very early on. He has earned the respect and admiration of everyone in this organization from the first day he walked in the door and we are very excited about his ability to lead our team in the future.

Opening Statement – Jonathan Tisch: On behalf of my mother and my siblings, and reflective of our partnership with the Mara family, I am thrilled to be part of recognizing Jerry Reese as absolutely the appropriate person to be the general manager of the New York Football Giants, starting today and for many, many years to come. Today we are reminded that hard work, discipline, integrity, honesty and being somebody who is very thorough are skills that put people at the top in leadership positions. When you consider Jerry’s background — when you consider that every step of the way he has been inclusive in how he manages, he has learned his trade, he knows football — then you come to understand why John and I felt that Jerry should be our general manager, once again, for many, many years to come. Jerry is extremely knowledgeable. He now takes this role. He will work with the organization. Change is not always necessary just for change’s sake. Today we are able to continue the continuity that is embedded in this organization, that has been around historically since the Mara family took over and since my family has been fortunate to have been partners for the past 16 years, and reflect upon Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch and move forward with an organization that is strong and wants to put a winning product on the field. That will now happen under Jerry Reese’s leadership.

Opening Statement – Jerry Reese: Thanks, John and Jon. First of all, I have to say this – I wouldn’t be sitting here – I would be silly to think I’d be sitting here without God’s favor, so I just want everyone to know that I’m a spiritual person and I appreciate the favor that God has given me to be here. Secondly, I’d like to thank John and Jonathan, the Mara family and the Tisch family for giving me this great opportunity to be the leader of this organization. I’d also like to thank my family – Gwen my wife, and my kids, and all of my extended family, everybody. There has been a lot of praying going on the last few weeks to try to get me in this seat. Also, I’d like to say congratulations to Ernie (Accorsi) and thanks to Ernie for all of his help and his guidance in being a true friend to me, and all of the mentoring he’s done for me over the years. I’d like to thank him for that. And quickly, I’m a stickler to the scouts. Thanks to the scouts. Those guys really do the legwork. Those guys go out – They’re out there right now at the East-West All-Star game. They’re doing the work. These guys get in the trenches and do all of the hard work for us, so I really appreciate – I don’t ever want to leave them out of anything, because that’s our lifeline – our scouts. I’m looking forward to working with Coach Coughlin. Anything he needs from me, all he has to do is come ask me and we’ll try our best to make it happen for him. Also, a personnel staff – There are other people in this organization who are very qualified for this job, and I’m looking forward to working with Chris Mara, Kevin Abrams, Dave Gettleman, Ken Sternfeld, Jerry Shay – I’m looking forward to working with all of them. We already work together, but I’m looking even more now (forward to it). We’re going to make a terrific team.

Opening Statement – Ernie Accorsi: I’ll just say something briefly, because this is Jerry’s day. If you were to map out a blueprint on how to prepare for this position, Jerry Reese would have written it: a graduate assistant at Tennessee-Martin, assistant coach at Tennessee-Martin, assistant head coach, road scout, assistant personnel director, player personnel director. His record…In everything he’s done, he’s done well. And those are the auditions, those are the important things – your body of work. Our drafts have been excellent since he took over and it just proves that the world will step aside and make way for someone who’s dedicated and talented. For me, it is very satisfying and fulfilling that I’ll be succeeded by Jerry Reese in this position.

Q: Will the front office be reorganized and will someone replace Reese?

A: (Mara) I don’t know that ‘reorganize’ is the right word. I think we will be looking for someone to take Jerry’s spot. I know he has some ideas on that. Jerry will run the draft this year, just as he has done in previous years. After the draft we will look for somebody to (fill) his roll. There may be some other minor adjustments made, but I wouldn’t term it a reorganization.

Q: Going from talent evaluator to managing talent, what will the change in challenges be?

A: (Reese) I don’t know if there is a great deal of change when you evaluate football players and then you evaluate people who run your departments. You try to help them as best as you can and whatever they need in their department, you try to make it happen for them. That’s what I want to do. I’ll have meetings coming up shortly with all of the departments, trying to get acclimated to what they’re doing, what they need (and) how can we make their department better. It’s a little different evaluating people who are in management positions than football players. It’s a little bit different for me.

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from Ernie Accorsi and from George Young?

A: (Reese) I was thinking about that a little bit. When I first got here, George Young hired me in December 1994. Actually, I think I’m the last hire for George Young, then obviously Ernie promoted me within the organization as time went on. But from George Young…George’s style, Ernie and George have two different styles. George was the kind of sit-and-wait and just stand pat with your hand, whatever you had in the draft. He would take what was there, and he thought that was the way to do it. Ernie’s style was a little bit different, and I took something from both styles. Ernie believes if you see a guy on the board and you want him, you go get him. If it’s time for you to pick and it looks like a guy that should be a third-round pick – hey, don’t mess around. If you want him, pick him. Don’t mess around. So I got (something) a little bit different – Those two different guys, but I got a little bit from both of them in that aspect.

Q: As a graduate assistant and someone who was in coaching, what were your career goals then and when did you start believing you could be a general manager?

A: (Reese) As a grad assistant, I started out at Tennessee-Martin as a grad assistant. Of course, you guys already know that. As I was finishing up grad school, they hired me. As soon as I was finished, they hired me full-time to coach the secondary there and I moved up through the ranks and they moved me to assistant head coach and I started coaching receivers. At the time, Jeremiah Davis, who is one of our scouts now, he used to work at Tennessee-Martin. That’s my whole connection to the Giants: Jeremiah. I was a grad assistant. I was sleeping on Jeremiah’s couch. We were friends through the years and he was working for the Giants and he called and said, ‘We need a scout in the southeast.’ I was like, ‘Jeremiah, there’s no way. I’m assistant head coach at UT-Martin. I’m going to be the head coach in a couple years. I’m not going. There’s no way.’ But he kept talking to me: ‘Just please, please give us a chance.’ And finally, long story short, here I am.

Q: How did it feel when the Giants were doing their due diligence and interviewing outside candidates? What were those days like for you?

A: (Reese) You know what? I respect John and Jonathan and Steven for doing the process like they did. They could have easily gone out and said we’re going to go for this guy or go for that guy, but they did a thorough evaluation of the candidates at the time and as far as I know, I’m the number one prospect. As far as I know. They didn’t tell me I wasn’t the number one guy, so – And I told them, I appreciate how they did the process and just like personnel, we’re not going to go out and just pick guys because someone said we should pick them. We’re going to evaluate them and we’re going to be thorough about what we’re doing, then we’ll make our decision. We’re not just going to pick guys at random, so I respect how the process was handled.

Q: What do you think is the number one thing you’re going to have to learn to do as a general manager?

A: (Reese) Probably the most difficult thing for me, I’m kind of a hands-on – I really like to get my hands in what’s going on. I like to try to evaluate all of the players. Obviously I can’t evaluate everybody. You have to depend on your scouts, but I like to put my eyes on the players that we’re thinking about drafting, so it’s going to be hard for me to back off that a little bit. You’ll never lose me as an evaluator. That’s who I am, that’s what I know. But it’ll be difficult to back off a little bit and do my other duties as a general manager. That’s one thing. And people probably will ask me, ‘Well, you don’t know that much about the cap.’ I know enough about it, and we have an expert capologist –Kevin Abrams, our assistant general manager. He’s an expert, so anything I need to know about that, we can get that from Kevin.

Q: Knowing that the press conference and the official announcement was coming today and being the third African-American GM in league history, did the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday yesterday hold special meaning for you?

A: (Reese) You know what? I thought about that a lot and it was perfect timing. It was absolutely perfect timing for this to happen. I really feel like it’s my time to carry the torch. I don’t mean to sound cliché, but I really feel it’s my time to carry the torch. There are many people who went before me who really suffered through this process, and now it’s my time. I’m going to be successful – I have to be successful on a lot of levels. I’m looking forward to the challenge. Actually Doug Williams e-mailed me this morning and Doug said, ‘Jerry, I was just looking at my old tape from the Super Bowl,’ and he said, ‘You know what? It was all worthwhile just to see you in that spot this morning. I’m really proud of you.’ It’s my time to kind of keep the dream alive, because it’s very important to me. I don’t take it lightly.

Q: The usual course of action is to name the general manager and then to make any coaching decisions. This organization did the reverse – Can you talk about that process and moving forward I guess you would have the final say on coaching in years to come?

A: (Reese) Yeah, I’ll have the final say on the coach in years to come, but the process was – John and Jonathan, they both spoke to me (about) how I felt about the situation with Coach Coughlin, and I was very supportive of the decision we made. I’m looking forward to Tom being here a long time. We’re going to support him 100 percent. Tom is our coach and we want him to be here for a long time.

Q: I know you’re young in this position, but is there anything you’ve identified that needs to be changed for next year?

A: (Reese) There are several things that I think we can get better at. Ernie has left us with a strong core of players, and it really kind of makes me sick to look at the playoff games going on right now – even with all of the injuries and the bad situations that happened to us this season, the tough schedule and all of that is well-documented. Our team is good enough to still be playing right now. It’s no question in my mind. So there are some hot spots that our personnel staff and I… We’ll evaluate our team and we’ll evaluate where we think the hot spots are. We’ll talk to Coach Coughlin and what he thinks about where we need to delete some guys or add some guys, so we’re in the process of doing that right now. The process is already underway.

Q: You said you took from both George Young and Ernie Accorsi. Give us one area where you’re your own man.

A: (Reese) I don’t know if I can reinvent the wheel. It’s a lot of things that you have to take from what you’ve learned over the years. I’m not going to try to reinvent the wheel, but there are a lot of things that….I think in the organization – I’m not saying we haven’t had great communication, but communication is the key for everybody. I have to communicate with the owners, the owners have to communicate with me, I have to communicate with the head coach, the head coach has to communicate with the players. So communication and trust and respect – We’re going to build that and we’re going to talk about that more, but I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel on the way George did it or the way Ernie did it.

Q: When a new coach comes in, he usually gets years to entrench himself and get his system up and running. Is it the same for a general manager?

A: (Mara) I don’t know if that’s going to take a long period of time because Jerry has been here. He knows how the organization works. I think he has some good ideas for how we can improve going forward, but I’m not anticipating it being a terribly long transition period for him. He has the support of some terrific people around him, and so I think it’s going to be a very smooth transition.

Q: What are your thoughts on Eli Manning’s progress and what can you do as a GM to help that along?

A: (Reese) Eli’s progress right now is not where we want him to be. Obviously it’s not where we want it to be. We want him to be a Pro Bowl guy that can lead us into the Super Bowl. That’s our goal and that’s what we’re going to do with Eli. He’s our quarterback and we’re going to go forward with him, we’re going to evaluate him and see what other things we can do to help him in this process. Eli has played for two full seasons as a starter, so he’s really not the far behind. I think it’s over-exaggerated how far – Look at the quarterbacks that are playing now, still in the playoffs. Are those guys that much greater than our quarterback? I don’t think so. So Eli is our franchise quarterback and we hope he’ll be here for a long, long time. Again, we’re going to do everything possible, whether we have to get a new – a quarterbacks coach, a quarterbacks guru – whatever Coach Coughlin needs, we’re going to get it for Eli because we’re depending on him to take this where we want to go.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice Ernie Accorsi gave you on dealing with agents? Or the media?

A: (Reese) It’s the same thing. Respect the media, respect the agents. It’s a working relationship with everybody, but myself, as far as the media goes, it’s not about me. It’s about our football team and preparing and building to get ready to win championships. That’s my only goal here, guys, is to help build this team, help Coach Coughlin (and) to win championships. That’s my goal.

Q: Is Chris Mara going to have the same role he’s in now as Vice President of Player Evaluation?

A: (Mara) No, he will have an expanded role, and that’s something that will be the subject of further discussion with Jerry and with Jon as well.

Q: But nothing is official yet?

A: (Mara) There’s nothing official yet. He has an important role right now and he will probably have a more important role going forward.

Q: To get this job, you beat out three guys in the organization who obviously wanted the job, too. Have you talked to them and is it awkward to have them still working under you?

A: (Reese) They’ve all been very supportive of me through the whole process. I was quoted as being the front-runner from the beginning. I don’t know about that, but I just know that all of the guys that were interviewed here, all of those guys are very qualified to be sitting here. Again, I feel like we could easily…We could have four general managers here. We’re going to be a terrific team. We already work together and we’re going to be a terrific team.

Q: General Manager is traditionally a long-term position. Was that part of the thinking with this?

A: (Mara) Well, yeah, we’d like to have continuity, obviously. We’ve only had two general managers dating back to since 1979, so that was part of the thinking also. We hope we have somebody here and we’re very confident we have somebody here in Jerry that is going to lead us for many years to come.

Q: In the second half of the season when things started going downhill, did you start to think you needed more of a change?

A: (Mara) Not really. I mean, there were a lot of factors that went into the second half of the season and the lack of success that we had there, but I always felt we had a pretty good core nucleus of players and I was very confident that we had a very solid organization that Ernie had built up over the years, so I’m not really sure that that had very much to do with the final decision here.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Public Reaction to Jerry Reese Being Named General Manager: The following is the transcript of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s media Q&A following General Manager Jerry Reese’s inaugural press conference:

Coughlin: When I first came here it was January and we were moving on into the draft. I was very impressed with the way that Jerry ran the draft – the efficiency, the leadership, the way in which the room was organized. The ability to move on – sometimes you get in there and if you get swayed one way or the other, you can waste an awful lot of time on something that in the long run is not that critical. Jerry never let that happen. Things were always on track. You got things accomplished that were stated were going to be accomplished. Everyone was in complete cooperation in the room. Otherwise, Jerry quickly would jump on an individual that might be getting off track. That was extremely impressive.

I’ve been on the road with Jerry many times when we’ve worked a player out and have always been very impressed by that aspect of it. Some of the things you don’t see – the director reports, the way in which he has the ability to encapsulate a player, to take 15 write-ups and put them into one write-up and incorporate all the strengths and weaknesses of that particular player. It’s a unique ability, I think, to get the (draft) board right, to make sure the grades the correct and get the board set up correctly, so the values you place on a player are reflected by the board. The middle of that second round is a critical, critical time, for example, and those players that are in that spot need to be deserving of that spot, because of the way they impact your entire draft. Jerry has a very unique ability in that area as well.

It certainly is a great day for Jerry, for Gwen, for their family. It’s a tremendous honor. I do join in whatever everyone else has said in recognizing the way in which Jerry came about this position and the hard work that has gone into this, the fact that he’s earned every spot along the way. Because of that he’s developed a great level of confidence, a great platform from which to work. There’s nothing he’s afraid to tackle. And I think as he looked at this particular opportunity, that was pretty obvious.

Q: RE: Hot spots on team. Are Jerry and you on the same page?

Coughlin: We will be on the same page in all areas. We’ve just gotten into that. That’s something that will go forward. We’ve always had these discussions at the end of the season in which management and Jerry and pro personnel have all been together in these discussions. As we go through it, we get a singleness of purpose with regard to priorities and the direction you have to take out of free agency and out of the draft. We’ve always been able to do that and I look forward to this.

Q: Any ideas what you’ll ask for first?

Coughlin: I have a lot of ideas, but they’ll remain with me until we’ve had a chance to talk.

Q: New defensive coordinator?

Coughlin: That’s going forward, but let’s let this be Jerry’s day today.

Q: Will there be an adjustment working with Jerry?

Coughlin: I don’t think so. We know each other and we’ve spent an awful lot of time together in training camp, obviously, as the new players are evaluated and the old players are evaluated. I don’t think that will be a major factor. The other thing to recognize is the tremendous support unit that Jerry has right here, based on the people that were qualified to have an opportunity to be interviewed for the position. All those things considered and having been here and having been in this system as long as Jerry has, this process, I think, will move along very smoothly. I’m looking forward very much to working with him. Our relationship has obviously grown since I’ve been here since much of our year is spent on the draft and being involved in evaluating players and working players out, that type of thing.

Notes and Quotes: Giants’ President/CEO John Mara said that the Giants will not seek to fill the director of player personnel vacancy that was caused by the promotion of Jerry Reese until after the 2007 NFL Draft. Mara also said that Vice President of Player Evaluation Chris Mara, his brother, will have his role expanded within the organization. The details will likely be made public soon. “Chris has had an important role here. I anticipate his role will be even more important going forward,” John Mara said. “I trust his evaluation of players as much as anybody in the organization.”

John Mara said he has not been asked by the Carolina Panthers for permission to interview Tight Ends Coach Mike Pope. Mara also said he had not been informed that Special Teams Coach Mike Sweatman is ready to retire.

John Mara on General Manager Jerry Reese: “It has not been an easy eight or nine weeks, believe me. With all the speculation going on about the coach, and GM candidates, it is a relief. More than that, I feel really good about someone who will be a good GM. He’s someone I noticed early on. I think he will energize the whole organization, and I think we could use a little bit of that right now.”

John Mara on Head Coach Tom Coughlin: “Any coach in this league can be considered a lame duck, to a certain extent. You have to prove yourself every year. Jerry is very supportive of Tom. GM is a position where we’ve had a lot of continuity here and we hope to continue that.”

John Mara on Patriots’ Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli: “I was disappointed, but I can’t say that it was a major disappointment because I felt really good about the people we had in-house. There were some interesting people out there, but at the end of the day, I like the people we have in-house a heck of a lot more than what was out there. Would I have liked to have spoken to Scott? Yeah, but that’s because I don’t know him that well. I would have liked to have heard what he was all about, but it was not to be.”

John Mara on the Giants’ scouting: “I think our system is sound, I don’t think we need any major changes in that area. We need to bring in some better players. I think, on the second day of the draft, we’ve gotten some good players, we’ve missed on some…We can improve in that area. You look at the teams playing now, they’ve got guys from the second day of the draft that are contributing. They’re not sitting on the bench, they’re not inactive. That’s something we can do a little bit better on.”

Reese on the Giants’ scouting: “For the most part, we do a good job. But there are some new ideas I’m going to present to our personnel staff to see if we can get to a different level on the type of players we bring in – what their history is with injuries, how productive they’ve been. We’ve got to be mindful of not just getting a name, we’ve got to get guys who can contribute right away, especially with free agency.”

Reese on QB Eli Manning: “Obviously we need to get our quarterback playing at a high level, because in this league most of the time it’s your quarterback that gets you to that Super Bowl and ultimately helps you win it…I don’t think Ernie (Accorsi) drafted him. We drafted him. We targeted Eli, we wanted Eli, everybody was on board with Eli. If I were in that seat and we as a group targeted Eli, I would have done the same thing. I think people kill him because he’s got that Manning name and everybody expects him to be Peyton. He’s not Peyton, he’s Eli. I really believe he’s going to be the leader to take us to a different level…Next year the young tag is gone.”

Reese on possibly luring HB Tiki Barber out of retirement: “You never know until you talk to him. I hope that at some point I can have a conversation with Tiki and see…Who knows? Tiki might say at some point, ‘You know what? I want to come back,’ after he rests and gets his body healed up. You never know until you talk to him. After he rests and recharges his battery, you never know what can happen. You know pro athletes always think they want to retire, then all of a sudden they miss being out there. So after awhile, when Tiki’s got his battery recharged and he’s been away, relaxed and got his strength back from being beat-up, he’ll be feeling good. Then all of a sudden he may say, ‘You know what? I can go one more (year). Jerome Bettis did it.'”

Jan 162007
 

New York Giants Officially Name Jerry Reese the New General Manager: The New York Giants have officially announced that Jerry Reese is the team’s new general manager, replacing Ernie Accorsi. The 43-year old Reese served as the Giants’ director of player personnel for the past four years. His new official title will be vice president and general manager.

Accorsi retired yesterday as his contract expired. He had served as the Giants’ general manager for the past nine seasons. Accorsi has been lobbying ownership to promote Reese as his replacement. Reese has received interest from other teams, including the Buccaneers in 2003, the Dolphins in 2004, and very recently from the Titans.

Reese joined the Giants scouting department in December 1994.

The Giants will hold a 10:30AM press conference today to introduce Reese as the team’s new general manager.

The Giants only interviewed one external candidate for the position – ex-Texans and ex-Redskins general manager Charlie Casserly.

Miami Dolphins Blocking the Giants: According to The New York Times, the Giants asked the Miami Dolphins for permission to interview their defensive coordinator, Dom Capers, and their quarterbacks coach, ex-Giant Jason Garrett. The Dolphins turned down both requests. As reported this past weekend, Capers signed a new 3-year deal with the Dolphins. The Dolphins may still name Capers their new head coach.