Says Giants have “a lot of very talented players on this team”
First, I’d like to thank John Mara; I’d like to thank Steve Tisch. I just met Jon and Laurie. I’d like to thank Dave Gettleman, Kevin Abrams. It’s an honor and a privilege to be the head Coach of the New York Giants. As I mentioned recently, and I think it happened in one of the earlier articles, this is an iconic franchise. I understand most of the history. I walked by four Super Bowl trophies. As we go forward here, I’m looking forward to leading this organization, and I want to be the coach. I understand the responsibility that comes with being the coach.
I’m taking over a team that was 3‑13, so we’ve got to own that. There’s a lot of work to be done. There’s changes that need to be made. But running parallel with this press conference, I’m hiring a staff of guys that will help us get to where we need to be, and I think that’s the important piece.
I’d like to thank some other people. My wife Jennifer is here. We’ve been married for 27‑and‑a‑half years. She’s the strength of our family. She’s actually an East Coast girl. She grew up in Poughkeepsie. Her father was a Giants fan growing up in Waterbury, her mom was from New York, so this is somewhat of a homecoming, and she really is the strength of our family.
We have four children. Our daughters are here today. And they cry a lot. Anyway, so I have ‑‑ I’m crying because I’ve got three weddings on the horizon at some point, and they won’t be in a K of C hall.
Anyway, our three daughters are here today. We have four children: Allyson and Erica, who live in Philadelphia, so they’re going to fight our battles on away turf. They live in Philly and we are very proud of them. Our daughter Claire is here, as well. She’s a freshman, will be a sophomore next year, and then our son Kyle is back in Nashville. He plays quarterback at Vanderbilt. They’re terrific kids. They’ve made great choices. They’ve spent their senior years in different towns; give plenty of free advice. ‘Dad, if the quarterback played better, we’d have won; that play where you hand the ball off and run it up the center, I don’t like that play.’ A lot of free advice, but much more unconditional love.
I’d like to thank my mom back in Michigan. My mom and dad did a heck of a job raising us. They taught us how to compete. They taught us how to have compassion. They taught us how not to let anybody tell you that you can’t do something. And so, I appreciate them and love them.
I’d like to thank the Minnesota Vikings. We went there two years ago and quickly became very close to the people up there. Mark and Zygi Wilf, obviously Kevin Warren, Rob Brzezinski, George Paton, and then certainly along the way Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer. They are an outstanding organization. I want to thank the players, as well. They are an old‑school operation with an eye on the future, and they do it right. And if we’re going to get to where we need to be, at some point we’re going to have to play them and beat them. So that’ll be a challenge for us.
Now regarding me, you have hired a career coach. You’ve hired a guy that doesn’t know what he would do if he wasn’t doing this. You’ve hired a guy that wants every day to interact with the staff, the coaches, the players, and I really do feel like my role is to make everybody as good as they can be. And I think if we do that on a day‑to‑day basis, we’ll get to where we want to be, and that’s re-establish the winning tradition and put ourselves in a position to win championships. And I understand that’s a journey.
You’re going to try to all figure out who I am. Some would say I’m a little serious. Alright, I get that. But I do think this is a serious business. It’s played and coached by adults. We just happen to do it with a young person’s enthusiasm, and I think that’s important. Some will tell you I have a healthy sense of humor. Those are the people that know me. I’m okay laughing at myself, and I own all that. Most people will tell you that I’m competitive and gritty, and that’s the overachiever’s mindset in me. I feel like we don’t know it all, and I look forward to learning something new every day. Those of you that do know me, though, I have zero tolerance for people that don’t compete. I have zero tolerance for people that don’t give effort, and I have zero tolerance for people that show a lack of respect. And I think that’s something that you’ll know about me as we get to know each other better.
But the people and the players that know me know that I’m willing to give them a hug at the end of a hard day. That’s a little bit about me. I can’t wait to get going. As you know, we’re in the process of hiring a staff. Some of those names are public, so I have no problem commenting on that. As we put the staff together, we’ll try to get you that information in a timely way.
And I learned in my last shot at being a head coach, information travels off your thumbs very quickly, and we as coaches needed to learn ‑‑ in the old handbook it was, ‘Say nothing and be very guarded.’ I don’t feel like that’s necessary anymore. So I’ll try to answer your questions. Unfortunately, the answer to a question might be, ‘It’s between me and the player’, and then you can find out what the player thinks; know what I mean? So I get that. But I’ll try to be open. We’ll try to answer your questions in really any situation, except for those things that involve Giants’ business that make no sense to be public.
That being said, certainly thrilled to be here, and I’m certainly thrilled to lead our organization back to the path of winning. With that, I’ll take your questions.
Q: What did you learn in your first stop (as a head coach) that makes you feel you’re better equipped to be in this spot the second time around?
A: Good question. I mentioned this one before, too. Everything Cleveland, I wish I knew then what I know now. I think when you’re doing anything for the first time, there’s things that happen that you adjust to that if you’ve done them before, and I’m being a little bit vague here. Some of it’s really not specific. But obviously once you’ve done it before, you have the resources, and you’ve made those decisions. You’ve made those calls. You’ve done the things that you say if I do that again, I’ll never do that again. And I think I learned that.
Q: What do you think your relationship with Eli Manning will be, and in the interview process how strongly were you saying, ‘I want this 37‑year‑old quarterback to be back here’?
A: Well, first off, I think the relationship is going to be very strong. I’ve watched him, competed against him, admired how he’s played over the years. Got to spend some time with him this summer in the Manning Academy setting. I’ve already spoken to him on the phone and he’s an outstanding football player, and I can’t wait to get to work with him. I’ve admired the way he’s handled things. I sort of like a calm approach to the position. Looking forward to getting to work with him.
Q: How do you win that locker room? How do you get that locker room playing for you, playing hard?
A: Yeah, with regard to the players, I really do believe it’s about the players. We used to have a thing we said in Philadelphia, and then certainly when we went to Minnesota that, ‘It’s not the plays, it’s the players.’ I think what’s important is we’re going to establish the right way to do things. We’re going to establish what we want as a New York Giants football team. And what we’re going to do is we’re going to inspire the players to see it our way, and I think that’s an important thing. There’s reasons why the Giants slipped to 3‑13, and we’re going to find out what some of those reasons are behind the scenes, and we’re going to try to get them fixed at the beginning. Now, I will say this: When it comes to coaching and playing, you work together, and I think what’s important is we establish at the very beginning the way we’re going to do things, what we expect, and then keep talking about why it’s important so that they believe it, as well.
Q: Are you planning to call the plays?
A: I do plan to call the plays, yes.
Q: What’s your plan offensive coordinator wise?
A: That’s a little bit behind the scenes right now. I’m not avoiding that. That’s a work in progress. But I’m going to hire ‑‑ with regard to all of our coaches ‑‑ here’s what I was looking for and some of them are here in the building. There’s not six or seven guys becoming head coaches every year, and I don’t think you need to sweep the whole place clean. There’s some really good coaches here, and I want to first keep them. There’s other guys we’re looking at outside the building that are, number one, career coaches, outstanding teachers, communicators, and so we’re looking for those type people. Some of them are currently not quite available, but we’ll make sure we get a staff full of guys that can inspire our players.
Q: I know you’ve been to Mobile, but how much have you looked at film of Eli Manning and Odell when he was healthy and really start studying this offense, and Davis Webb as well?
A: Yeah, I’m very familiar with the Offense, very familiar with the players, and again, I look forward to visiting with them. Certainly this time of year we can’t talk schematics, but I’m looking forward to once we get through today, really getting a chance to get to know the players. I think what’s important is, you know, we’re all sort of what we believe and what our experiences tell us, and so I think what’s important when you’re talking with players that have had success, sit down and start to communicate – here’s the things that they did well, here’s the things that I believe in, and let’s do the things that work best for us. And so that’s going to be the process as I go through with all the players.
Q: When you look at this team last year at 3‑13, do you still see a lot of talent there? A lot of the same players returning from the 11‑5 year the year before. Or a lack of talent, or was it other issues that caused it?
A: Well, I think we’ll get into whether there were other issues. There are a lot of very talented players on this team. I think every team has that. And then every team goes through seasons. A year ago in Minnesota we had a lot of injuries, and again, they didn’t become part of the daily conversation, but we found our way to be 8‑8, dealing with a lot of adversity. This year we won 14, and we made some changes, although they may not have seemed to be big changes, that can do that. Now, I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen in a year, but I do know this: Every year is different. Every year you have new players. You have new coaches. And the challenge is then when we get going here the first part of April is we work together to put together a team that has the chemistry to go out and compete and win, so that’s what we’re looking to do.
Q: What is your evaluation, following up on the Eli questions, about where Eli is at in his career, how much he might have left, and how that would factor into what might be done with the second pick in the draft?
A: Yeah, I think those are all questions for down the road. I’m sure we’ll talk about that up until the draft. You know, I watched Eli throw a little bit this summer, and I walked away saying, ‘He looked really, really good.’ He looked fit. He was throwing the ball well. The ball had good velocity coming off his hand. And again, I think he’s got years left. How much, I don’t know. But I think he has time left, and I look forward to working with him. With regard to who we’re going to draft, you know, I’m not ducking that question. I think that we’ve got to travel down that road of evaluation to see what happens there. But I think what’s important is we have a guy here that’s helped this organization win Super Bowls. He’s an outstanding player, and I’m really looking forward to working with him.
Q: I’m just wondering if you’ve given some thought to the type of identity, the type of culture you want to build within the locker room.
A: Yeah, I think what’s important, and I alluded to it, we need to have a tough, gritty team that knows how to compete. I think what’s important is when we put the roster together, we want to first accumulate 90 players that love to play football. Now, certainly they’re going to have to have the skill and ability to do it, but we want to put together a group of 90 and then eventually get to 53. I think sometimes the good answer for a young player is, ‘I really don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have this game.’ And I think it’s the absolute greatest game in the world. And so we need to find guys that love to play the game, and then we’ll decide whether they’re good enough, and then we’ll take it from there.
Q: I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about your defensive coordinator James Bettcher and what you think he’s going to bring to the team.
A: Yeah, I’ve known James for a while, and I think he’s a rising star in the profession. He’s played ‑‑ they’ve played outstanding defense in Arizona for a very long time. He’s a little bit multiple in his scheme, which I think is good. Everyone I’ve talked to, he inspires the player. He’s got a great presence, and we’re really, really fortunate to have him be with us. Very hard to score against. They find a way to put pressure on the quarterback. They do a good job in their coverage schemes, and they’ve been good at stopping the run. He’s had a top‑six defense the last three years, and for whatever reason on the teams I’ve been on, I’ve crossed over against them.
Q: You say he’s multiple in his schemes. Do you envision more of a three‑man front here?
A: I think that’s talked about often, three‑man front, five on the line, four‑man front. I think all defenses play a version of that throughout the game. Even teams that play five on the line, you know, they’re in nickel 60 percent of the time, so it’s a four‑man front. So the ability to be multiple in my opinion, as long as you can still remain fundamental, is something that’s hard on an offense, and I’ve faced that through the years.
Q: What would you say to a Giants’ fan base that isn’t disappointed with the past season, it’s furious and expects a quick turnaround?
A: I get furious. I get quick turnaround. I do know that what’s important is we get better every day. With regard to players, if each player swaps, so to speak, makes us incrementally better, that’s what we’re looking to do. You know, you eat an elephant one bite at a time. So we’re going to do that. And I think what’s important is we just every day work toward where we need to be. Then it won’t be a three‑pointer at the buzzer. Then we will have established a team that can sustain that over time.
Q: Do you have a philosophy at all in dealing with a locker room where probably a result of the losing was the in‑fighting, the back‑biting, the players not getting along and that becoming public here?
A: Yeah, I think ‑‑ well, first off, I admire how resourceful people are at getting information, so I don’t really believe there’s any secrets. Okay, so I think what you do is you start initially with the locker room by developing relationships with those guys that love to play football, and you’re constantly talking to them about what it means to be a good pro. For a receiver to be a good pro sometimes is even though you’re frustrated that you didn’t get the ball, you’ve got to make sure you keep that in check. Or for whatever reason. Maybe you’re a defensive lineman that’s not getting as many sacks. They need to understand that the pressure you’re putting on the quarterback, even though you didn’t sack him, is just as important. Two quick examples of being able to just constantly communicate with the players. We as coaches are educators. We work with the players, and it’s important that we inspire them to play their very best. And some of that is going and talking about those types of issues.
Q: We talk about Odell Beckham Jr., here, and the role he has in this offense. I know you have a previous relationship with Eli. Do you have a previous relationship with Odell? Have you had a chance to talk to him yet, and what do you envision for him in your offense?
A: Well, he’s a tremendous player. I went through the evaluation process at the time I was in Philadelphia and he was high on our draft board. We loved him as a player, and really pre‑draft stuff, we loved everything about him. I’ve watched him play and compete, and when you throw all the other stuff out and you watch him on the field, he’s outstanding. So it makes sense to throw him the football. I’m just going to say that right away. If I didn’t acknowledge that, then you’ve definitely got the wrong guy up here. But I think what needs to happen now is I need to get to know him. I need to get to know what makes him tick, and I get to ‑‑ I need to talk to him about what it is that we’re looking for for a guy that plays for the New York Giants. And I think those are the things that go back to relationship building that need to happen very, very soon.
Q: John Mara mentioned that you and Dave Gettleman have kind of a similar philosophy how to build a team, and when you were sitting in that interview, as the Giants were saying, ‘This could be our guy’, what were you saying, specifically talking to Gettleman about building a team, what made you say, ‘This is for me’?
A: As soon as he said, ‘Everything starts with the offensive line.’ And I think there’s a great example of that, what we went through in Minnesota. We didn’t change the oil up there, we changed the transmission. We went and got two free agent offensive linemen, we drafted a center that played like a veteran, and we transformed the offensive line that helped us do the things that helped us win 14 games. And so I think it’s very important, no matter how good your offensive line is and your defensive line, you have to address those issues constantly because if you can’t block them and you can’t pressure the quarterback, this game gets really, really, really hard. I know that about Dave. I know we have a serious mindset when it comes to doing what we can to upgrade in those areas. And some of it may be just inspiring a player on the roster to play better than he’s played, you know, and that comes back to coaching. And then we all know that every once in a while, you need to get some new players.
Q: What’s your first priority here, first couple priorities once you’re done here today?
A: Well, there’s a lot kind of running parallel right now. I certainly want to get a feel for the passion in the building. I came in yesterday, and I had an opportunity to walk around the building. There’s a lot of people here that when you shake their hand, you know that they’re fully committed to us winning. So keep that going. We’re certainly in the process of putting our staff together, and then we’re also running parallel with that. The player evaluation phase as well as the player acquisition phase, which is free agency and the draft. All that runs parallel. Once I get the full staff in place, then we’ll start talking about our scheme behind the scenes, and believe it or not, there’s a lot that goes on, and we’re just a few weeks behind that.
Q: Did you look at this as inevitable becoming a head coach again, or did something spark interest again this season?
A: What I learned about life is nothing is inevitable, and there’s no use planning for it. But I’m thrilled to be here. I feel much more prepared to do this than the first time around. And again, I try to learn something new every day, and I’m learning something about this situation that will help me as we get our team ready to play.
Q: Am I correct that in Cleveland you called the plays the first year and turned it over the second year?
A: Yeah, but I was still involved the second year, as well.
Q. Is there anything concern about the head coach with this look (holding play sheet in front of face), not seeing?
A: What look is that?
Q.You know, having that play sheet in front of you and not being involved with the whole thing.
A: No, not at all. I think when you put a staff together, there’s people upstairs ‑‑ there’s constant communication ‑‑ the reason we wear headsets is we’re talking to each other, and if it was just the head coach and nobody else, then I would say, yeah, that’s tough. But the way that we’re going to put the staff together, there’s constant communication, and we’ll have experienced people in all the roles necessary. It’s been done before. You see teams around the league doing it. Why guys do it and then eventually give it up or whatever, that’s their decision. You know, it’s football.
Q: Is there anything that intimidates you about coaching this hallowed franchise or working in this number 1 media market?
A: No, I’m not intimidated. I’m only ‑‑ I would say this: The only thing that frightens me is anything that affects the health and welfare of my kids and family. Other than that, have at it. I’m ready to go.
Q: Most people when they look at the Giants, all they care about is ‘Are they getting back to the playoffs, when is it happening’, or are you just going into this year saying, ‘Let’s be competitive again and we’ll take it from there’?
A: Like I said, we’re going to do what we can to get better each day, and how fast that happens, I’m as impatient as the fans, and I understand that. But we’re going to try to get better each day. As I mentioned, we have a lot of really good players on this team. We’re going to get some new ones, and we’re going to try to put together a team that can go out next year and win games.
Q: You mentioned throwing out all the other stuff. When it comes to Odell that hasn’t been easy. How will you handle a player whose behavior hasn’t always reflected positively on the organization?
A: Yeah, well, this is sort of a clean slate deal right now. As I mentioned, we need to sit down and talk. When things happen, there’s typically reasons for it. I learned that by coaching the quarterback. You know, I was ‑‑ I’ve said this, I’m at peace with a wide range of emotions, and so when you coach other positions, you can kind of fly off the handle and that sort of works. With a quarterback you’ve got to constantly keep saying to him, and this helped me when I started coaching quarterbacks, what did you see, why did you do that; all right, let’s talk about it. And I think with all things Odell, we just need to start talking and find out why things happened, and if they’re not what is by our standards, then we’ve got to find a way to get him fixed.
Q: How do you envision the offense that ‑‑ how would you describe the offense that you’re bringing in? You have a West Coast background, but you’ve obviously ‑‑ how would you describe your own offense?
A: I don’t know, we were a top‑10 offense this year. I think we have an offense that we’re going to constantly try to do the things that our players can do well. So once we quickly learn what our players are good at, then we’ll ‑‑ but I do have a West Coast background. My last three years in Philadelphia, I was with Chip Kelly, and so the tempo and being able to play fast, there’s advantages to using that strategically. When you can run the ball like we did this year, and we developed a core set of runs, then the play actions are meaningful and that’s how you can drive the ball down the field. So try to use all those things. And then when they’re trying to destroy our quarterback, certainly the screen game is something that’s very important. So I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s a label for it. We want to play good offense. We want to play New York Giants offense.
Q: You seem to be smitten with Eli. What were your thoughts about Davis Webb when he was eligible?
A: Yeah, good question, Davis Webb. We went through the process on Davis Webb, and we thought he was an outstanding player. We liked how competitive he was. He’s got size. He’s got good arm strength. We felt like he was a guy worthy of being drafted and having a chance to be a starter someday. Again, beyond that, I don’t know much about him. There isn’t much tape out there on him that I was able to see, and so he’s another player that I’m looking forward to getting to know.