The following is the transcript of General Manager Jerry Reese’s press conference on Monday, October 27, 2014. A video of the press conference is also available at Giants.com. The audio of Reese’s interview on ESPN Radio is also available.
Good Afternoon. We have nine games to go. It is a nine-game season for us now. Obviously we are not where we want to be at 3-4. We are not at the halfway point yet. We have the Colts coming here on Monday night. They are coming off of a tough loss. We have to be ready for a good football team. When we started out, we looked at the schedule at the beginning of the year and we thought right after the bye was kind of like murderers’ row, but in this league, every week is murderers’ row. You have to go out there and execute and we have to play more consistent football. That is what is important, is for us to go out there and play as a team. We have to win or tie the physical battle. You can’t beat yourself with bad fouls. Those are always the three things that stand out for me. We have to be more consistent. Play all three phases of the game better, prepare better, be more aggressive offensively and be more aggressive defensively.
We can get back in the race. It is not over right now. It is still early. There are still a lot of teams that have chance to get back in the picture. We think we are one of the teams that can do that. We have to start right here, right now, on Monday night and get ready to beat a good football team.
Q: What did you think about the implementation of the new offense and how do you think that has progressed?
A: I think it takes time when you implement any new offense. Any phase of your football team is going to take some time. Obviously we came out of the preseason with some ups and downs during the preseason. I thought we started really slow out of the gate with the first game and then with the second game we had some bad turnovers and we had the punt return that killed us. We have had some chances. We have played some pretty good football in all phases at times. At other times we look like an inconsistent football team and we have to clean those things up. It takes a little bit of time. We have a new play-caller, a lot of new faces and it takes some time for those things to gel a little bit. [During] the second half of the season, I expect us to play a lot better and be more comfortable in what we are trying to do.
Q: Mathias Kiwanuka said to us earlier that he believed that there is championship caliber talent in the locker room… Do you believe that?
A: We always think that. We try to go out in the offseason in the draft and free agency and try to rebuild our team in different ways. There are a lot of new faces in the locker room this year. I think we have some quality football players and we have some really good football players. The thing is you have to go out there and execute your game plan and Coach [Coughlin] said it today after practice that sometimes you have to play above the X’s and O’s. We expect our guys to do that. We have been around each other through the preseason now and almost half of a season, so it is time for us to gel and play like a good football team.
Q: For a number of reasons you are counting on a number of rookies on offense right now… That is somewhat unusual here. Does it speak to what you are doing in terms of re-tooling and altering this roster?
A: There are all kinds of ways to build a roster. Sometimes you can build your roster with rookies. Sometimes you can build it with free agency. However we build it is how we build it. We don’t try to pigeon hole ourselves with a template. Right now we have some rookies who are out there who have to make contributions. We expect them to make contributions. I always say your first three picks you want to come out and make contributions to your football team. Our guys are doing that and when you get some guys on the back end [of the draft] like the [Nat] Berhe types and the [Devon] Kennard types to come in and help your team as well, then that is a bonus if you can get someone on the back end who can help you. We expect everybody to play. In this day and age, you can’t bring rookies in and keep them out for a couple years and try to develop them. They have to come in and play right away.
Q: Is week-to-week inconsistency something that can come with [playing rookies more]?
A: I think that could be part of it. You can’t make excuses. Everybody is on the team. They go out and they practice. We expect those guys to come out and play at a high level. It is a little different for rookies at some times, but we expect rookies to come out and contribute and make plays for us.
Q: Eli was saying earlier he sees the same mistakes being made… Is there a common thread to why these mistakes are happening?
A: There are some young players and there are a lot of new faces, but still at this point in the season when you are going into the second half of your season, you expect those things to be cleaned up. We expect to play better, play more cohesive, play more as a unit, play as a team and gel a little better going into the second half of the season. And play a lot better football than we have played on the front half of the season.
Q: Did you expect it to take more time than usual [to be successful] with all the new faces and players?
A: You always hope you can bring new guys in and they can gel really quickly. We expected to come out and have a better record than we do right now. We always expect that. You always have to try to put that in the back of your head that we have some new faces, a new coordinator, a new play-caller and a new system with new terminology. All of that stuff comes into play, but we had the spring and the preseason. We had five preseason games. We have played seven games so far. It is time for us to stop talking about having new faces, new this and new this. It is time to play good football.
Q: When you sign guys like [Geoff] Schwartz, DRC [Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie] and [Rashad] Jennings, who end up getting injured, is that part of the risk that comes with signing guys who have played in the league longer and have more wear?
A: It is football. It is a physical contact sport. You always have injuries. That is really no excuse. We never make that excuse for injuries. Everybody has injuries. When you have injuries, you have to take what you have left and manufacture wins. These are the players we have on defense this week. What do we have to do to win the game defensively? These are the players we have offensively. What do we have to do? These are our special teams guys. You have to manufacture some wins that way because week to week, you have injuries. You don’t go into every week 100 percent like you would like to have. You have to make adjustments every week and you can’t make an excuse that somebody is hurt. That is a poor excuse.
Q: You went into the offseason and spent a lot of time working on the offensive line… Through seven games, that would still seem like an area that is inconsistent. What do you look at there and is there enough there to get better?
A: I think there is enough there to get better. At times we have played pretty well along the offensive line. For one little stretch there, I thought these guys have played together for a few games and they are finally getting what we are trying to do. Then we had a setback against Philadelphia where we didn’t play well at all along the offensive line. I thought we bounced back and played a little better. Down the road, this is where it all starts, in the front with your defensive and offensive line. Our offensive line is a prideful group. I think those guys will bounce back this second half of the season and be more cohesive. We should get (Geoff) Schwartz back here. I am not sure, but he is day-to-day. At least he is on the clock now, trying to get back and get some reps and in shape. We will see where he fits in as we move forward.
Q: You mentioned before that it is time to get back in the race… How disappointed are you that your team has to get back in the race and after the first half of the season, you put yourself in a hole?
A: Of course you want to go into your bye week with a winning record and have yourself in a good position, but there are a lot of teams saying the same thing right now. We are one of them. We have nine games to play. We feel like if we play good football down the stretch, we can claw our way back into this thing. We have to start right now. Monday night is a critical game for us, like every game. Starting Monday night, we will try to get back to .500 and try to get some momentum going into the second half of the season.
Q: Are there some specific things you saw in the last two games that give you encouragement that a turnaround in the second half is possible?
A: In every game there have been some good things and some bad things. You always try to accentuate what the positive things are. We have plenty of positive things. Having Odell [Beckham Jr.] come into the game and get some snaps the last couple of games has been a plus for us. You lose Victor Cruz, so you take one step forward and two steps back kind of a situation. You can’t use that as an excuse. We have Odell and Rueben Randle. We have Preston Parker, who is capable. We have a young Corey Washington. We brought in [Kevin] Ogletree. How can we win with that set of receivers? That is what we have to do. We have some tight ends that have made a few plays. The running back is hurt. Who is the next guy up? The young runner is doing a good job in there. Peyton [Hillis] has to help him. [Michael] Cox has to contribute. Every time you get an injury, the next man up has to step in and make contributions to your football team.
Q: In the preseason, you said JPP [Jason Pierre-Paul] and Eli [Manning] were two key players. What have you seen from them?
A: They have played pretty well, but they can play better. I really believe that. I think they can play better, and I believe they think they can play better. JPP has looked like his old self so far this season, but I think he is a better player than he is playing right now. The same with Eli. Eli is not turning the ball over with the interceptions like we saw the first half of last season, but I think Eli can play better than he is playing.
Q: When you look at their futures, is it something you would consider taking care of now or is that something you would prefer to handle after the season?
A: We’re just trying to win the game Monday night. Those things will take care of themselves after the season. Right now we’re focused on trying to get back in this race and trying to get to .500, trying to beat a good football team that’s coming in here on Monday night and get some momentum going down the stretch. That’s really what we’re focused on right now.
Q: What would you like to see Eli do better?
A: I just think, as an offense, we have to be more aggressive. I think at times we’re a little bit almost too cautious with what we’re doing offensively. This is the National Football League. You’ve got to go out there and you have to win the game. You can’t think something’s going to fall into your lap. You’ve got to go out and take the games. I think we have to be more aggressive offensively. I appreciate Eli taking care of the ball and not turning it over because that correlates to wins a lot of the time, but you can’t be too cautious. You’ve got to throw the ball down the field. You’ve got to score points in this league to win.
Q: Is that part of the evolution of this offense?
A: It may be. I’m not a coach, but I think that’s probably part of it. I would like to see us be more aggressive going down the stretch here in the second half of the season. Again, if you don’t score points, it’s hard to win in this league.
Q: When we asked your head coach that question he seemed content with the ‘prevent turnovers’ mantra. He said, ‘We’ll take opportunities downfield if they present themselves,’ but he doesn’t seem to be looking for that.
A: I think it’s a combination of both things. I think Coach [Coughlin] thinks that, as well. You can’t turn the ball over. If you turn the ball over, you’re going to lose in this league. You still can’t be too careful. You have to throw the ball down the field, you have to be more aggressive, you’ve got to give your receivers a chance to make plays, you’ve got to trust in your receivers, you’ve got to trust in your running back, so you’ve got to score points. If you don’t score points, it’s hard to win.
Q: Is this a conversation that you’ve had with the coaching staff?
A: I’m not a coach. You’re asking what my opinion is. I’m just giving you what my opinion is.
Q: The [coaches] will hear this [though]…
A: Coach [Coughlin] and I, we talk every day about how we win the next game, what’s the personnel situation and what’s going on. We don’t sugarcoat anything. We go in and we talk real talk – how do we win the next game. We’ve had conversations about all of this, yes.
Q: You guys lost Jon [Beason] for the year. Do you have enough there in-house to sustain that or do you have to go outside? How likely are you to make a move?
A: We’re always trying to improve our football team. Every single day we’re trying to look at the waiver wire and what the trade possibilities are. The trade deadline is tomorrow. We’ve made calls and we’ve taken calls. But Jameel McClain has done (a good job). Right out of the gate, he was a backup playing at middle linebacker and he did a pretty nice job in there, so we expect him to get back in that role and pull the defense together and play better defense. We have to play better defense down the road as well. Talk about the offense, we have to play better defense as well. We had some long drives against us in that last game. We’ve got to make some stops somewhere in a game. We weren’t able to make some stops. We got some turnovers. We’ve got the 12 interceptions right there, but we still need to turn the ball over more and be more aggressive on defense.
Q: Would you consider it unlikely that you would do anything to that position?
A: We keep all of our options open. You never know. I’ve been taking calls today, been making calls today. We keep all of our options open. We’ll see what happens by four o’clock tomorrow.
Q: What is it about the defense? It just seems to be very inconsistent.
A: Well, I don’t know. That’s what we need to clean up. During this bye week, we had a lot of conversations about what’s going on with our defense, why we can’t make some stops in some big spots that we need to make. Hopefully we got those things ironed out and we will be able to make those stops down the stretch because you’ve got to stop somebody at some point. At times the defense had played spotty, but that last game, there were some times we needed to make a stop and weren’t able to do that.
Q: Do you have the personnel to do that now that your starting defensive tackle, cornerback and middle linebacker [are injured]? Do you have enough there in those spots?
A: I think so. I think, again, Jameel’s done a nice job. [Johnathan] Hankins is doing a nice job. We have some more players in there that we like. Jason Pierre-Paul is playing pretty good out there. What we have to play better, the secondary has to play better. We lost some guys in the secondary but the secondary has to play better. We need DRC, he’s day-to-day now, but hopefully he can come back and stay out there on the field for us. When he’s not out there, it’s a little bit more different of a scheme that you have to play out there.
Q: When Linval [Joseph] left in free agency, did you envision this from Hankins?
A: You always… coaches think what’s going to happen today. As a GM, you try to think what’s going to happen two years from now. I’m always trying to think down the road, ‘OK, this guy is coming up, can we pay this guy? What’s our next move if we can’t pay the next guy?’ Hankins was part of the plan.
Q: You’ve liked what you’ve seen?
A: Hank has played pretty good in there. He’s played well.
Q: How do you assess Damontre Moore’s progress?
A: I think, first of all, I think he needs to play a few more snaps. I think he needs to be more of a contributor with the amount of snaps that he plays. It seems like when he gets in the game, he makes something happen. I think he’s progressing, but I think he needs to play a little bit more.
Q: Have you had that conversation about why he isn’t playing more?
A: We have conversations about everything. We don’t sugarcoat anything about that, but I don’t coach the game. It’s the heat of the moment and those guys [the coaching staff], they’ve been coaching a long time. They know who to play and who not to play.
Q: What about [Coach Coughlin’s] willingness to change and install a new offense and do what’s necessary and how do you see him handling this second half of the season?
A: We’ll see. I think Coach has been able to evolve in a lot of ways ever since he’s been here. One thing I’ll never do – I’ll never bet against Tom Coughlin. He always seems to, when his back is against the wall the most, that’s when he seems to come out swinging and get his football team ready to go. I expect him to do the same right here going down the stretch. This is a big moment for all of us, the second half of this season. It starts one game at a time, one play at a time. I think Coach will get it done.
Q: The special teams have been inconsistent not just this year but going back a year or two. Is it a common thread? Is it the constant shuffling of the personnel? The inexperience?
A: First of all, you’d like for your punter and kicker to be consistent and our guys have been pretty consistent. Josh [Brown], I don’t think he’s missed a kick so far this season, and the punter [Steve Weatherford], in light of having the ankle situation he has, he’s punting the ball pretty well and the cover teams have played pretty well except the one big return we had against Arizona. As far as return specialists are concerned, you go into the offseason, ‘We’ll get this guy, we’ll get this guy,’ and you have four guys lined up and you open your season with your fifth option as your returner. That happens in football, that’s no excuse. We do have Odell (Beckham) back and we brought (Michael) Cox up so he’s returning some kicks. Odell can help us with the punt returns, but we had some guys lined up that tried to help our return game, but it just didn’t happen that way, so you have to make do with what you have until you can get better.
Q: You mentioned the murderers row that you guys had before the season. At 3-4, does it look more daunting now because of what you need to get accomplished?
A: I wouldn’t say it looks more daunting because all of those teams have had some tough battles and some tough losse,s but we do know that they’re all good football teams going down the stretch. I think we have the Colts, then Seattle, then we have San Francisco and Dallas again. That’s a tough stretch but we seem to play better when it’s like that. When odds are against us like that, we seem to play better and I expect us to play better, regardless of who we’re playing. The second half of the season; all of the new faces are not new faces anymore. It’s time for us to gel and play good football and look like a good football team. Again, win the physical battle, play as a team and don’t beat ourselves with bad fouls. If we do those things, we’ll have a chance to win a lot of games.
Q: The division has kind of gotten out with Dallas and Philly. Is it frustrating or upsetting that you’re going to have to pick up a lot of ground just to get back in the division?
A: Well, that’s just the way it is. This division, like every year, I think it will be close at the end with who’s going to win the division. I think there are some teams that are going to be battling to get back in it, some teams might come back to the pack, but it’s always, always, since I’ve been around, the NFC East, there are always a couple games at the end of the season that determine who is going to be the winner of that division.
Q: You mentioned you always have to look a couple years ahead as a general manager. Has anything that’s happened these last couple years changed your thoughts on that plan on how long it might take to get back to contention?
A: Not really. Every year is a different year. You never know how things are going to unfold. It’s the National Football League. It’s men against men. If you go out there and you don’t play well and you make mistakes, you’re going to lose the game. Sometimes the ball bounces your way and you win the game. You never know. Out of the gate, everyone said Dallas had the worst team in the National Football League and they’re winning our division. It’s men against men. You can never predict what’s going to happen. That’s why I’m saying that I believe by the end of the season that it will be a close race in our division and there will be two or three teams battling for that division.
Q: You’ll be one of them?
A: We believe we’ll be one of them.