Q. You have been with your club for a few years, but now taking on a new role and leading that team, what has that adjustment been like?
A. I don’t think it’s been really an adjustment at this point. It is what it is, and we are rolling. It is just like coaching a big defensive back room, the way I see it. I treat those guys the same. I treat it like it’s just a bigger defensive back room. I try to give them as much honesty, as much truth, be direct with them, and do everything I can do. The same way I did with my defensive backs room. Now it’s just being a head coach and having control of the whole unit.
Q. Being a defensive coach, what has it been like to see your defense struggle this season? Is that more due to personnel changes or the performance on the field?
A. That is what happens when you get some adjustment. You get a bunch of new guys starting to gel together, starting to play fast, starting to play together. You got a bunch of young guys on our defense. It happened to the Giants a couple of years ago, in ’07, I believe. They started off the season, everybody wrote them off. Everybody said how bad they were on defense. I believe, Antonio Pierce had the big horn sitting out there with the media. They turned out to be a really good defense and to go on to win the Super Bowl that year. Came down here and actually beat us in the playoffs and went on to the Super Bowl. That is how it happens. It is a long season, guys get better and better as they play together. The thing that you learn from the Giants in that situation, what they did well was they stayed together, no matter who tried to tear them apart. It is a great learning experience for us; it’s something for us to go through right now. No matter what’s happening, no matter what the stats say, no matter how hard you are doing, you have to believe in what you are doing, believe in each other, go out there and play hard.
Q. When you approach the Giants defensively in a game like this, conventional wisdom seems to be you stop their run first. But their run game has struggled, while their passing game has thrived. Do the first two games change your mind at all about how to approach them?
A. No. You talk about a really good football team. You are talking about Eli Manning, one of the elite quarterbacks in this league. You talk about the two running backs they have, actually three, Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, those guys coming downhill, you always have to be prepared for those guys. If you don’t, then they will hurt you. I am sure everybody has approached this season, hey, let’s stop the run, let’s pile up on the run, so the passing game has thrived. The two young receivers, Mario Manningham and Steve Smith, have been outstanding. They have been great. Eli has found ways to get them the ball. He has been getting the ball to them, particularly, along with the tight end (Kevin) Boss. Another pleasant surprise, I believe, coming up as a seventh-rounder. I am talking about a dynamic offense that is just well-rounded, well-coached. Their offensive line is one of the best in the league, whether it is talent or whether it is technique, or whatever you want to call it, those guys are all on the same page. They know exactly what they are doing, they know exactly what they want to get done, as far as protection and running ball. They do a great job.
Q. What did Byron Leftwich show you in training camp to win that quarterback job?
A. Exactly what he is doing right now in the season. He led this offense to the fourth ranked offense in the National Football League. He is doing a great job of keeping the ball. Last week he had two turnovers that you want to take away, that you don’t want to have. One was his fault, the other wasn’t. You like to limit that, you like to control this offense, you like to move the ball down the field, like we have done. We try to get the ball in the end zone more consistently. We have to have the ability to stop people more consistently on defense, come out and play a little faster and get better and better every week. He is a leader, a team leader. He is one of our guys, he is the guy that (says), ‘I’m absolutely taking control of this team, I am taking control of the people’ around him, and we are liking what we are seeing.
Q. Derrick Ward has a pretty intimate knowledge of the Giants defense. How much will that help your offense and your other backs?
A. I don’t know how much it is going to help anybody. Maybe Derrick Ward plays a little more fired up than he would normally, I don’t know. I doubt it, he is a pretty high intensity guy, as you guys well know. He brings a nice package to us that you guys had in New York for the last couple of years. Playing a bunch of backs, now we are kind of following that formula. I’ve got a lot of respect for the Giants organization and what Tom Coughlin did with all of those backs and getting all of those guys to work together, run together and to believe in that system. That no one man has to carry the show. Derrick Ward has brought that down here to help us out. I don’t know about the intimate knowledge of running against that defense. You talk about a really good defensive line with great linebackers, with great leadership with Antonio Pierce there in the middle, and a young secondary that is really starting to gel and play well. Kenny Phillips and the left corner that just came out of nowhere, the free agent young man, that is just playing well for you. It is an unbelievable sight to see. We look at those guys and see what we want to become and what we hope to become one day. The young man is Bruce Johnson I am talking about there.
Q. As a former DB coach, you kind of must like what you are seeing there?
A. I guess I have to say I have been unfortunate enough to coach the Senior Bowl a couple of times. I had the ability to coach Corey Webster being on the other side from Aaron Ross and see those guys play in the Senior Bowl along with Terrell Thomas and some of those other guys as they came up through the ranks. You have a bunch of young secondary members there, a bunch of guys that are playing at a high level, a bunch of guys that are talented. Secretly, when they are not playing against us, I cheer for them, because I know them well and I know all about them. Michael Johnson from Arizona and all of those guys. Being a former DB coach, I got the ability to meet all those guys and be around those guys and see what kind of good guys they were. It’s no shock to me that they are playing as well as they are.
Q. Can you explain your running back rotation?
A. We usually go Cadillac (Williams), a little Derrick (Ward), a little Earnest (Graham). 2-2-1. That is kind of what their role spots out at. But, as you guys know, it depends on the hot man. I know New York sometimes goes by quarters, some times they do it a little bit differently than we do it. It will change up by the game, change up by the feel, what the players are feeling, what the coaches are feeling. I have a play preferred to Derrick, I may have another play I prefer to Cadillac. These guys are starting to pick up that gel. My running back room is becoming one of the most special rooms in the building. I told them last week, I wish I could clone them all and spread them throughout the building and just change the body types.
Q. Going back to that Giants defense, you saw how effective the Cowboys were running the ball on Sunday night. Do you think you will be able to do the same with Williams and Ward?
A. You can never go off based on what they did the week before. The other thing that is important to most guys and most teams is their next game, their next opportunity. I am sure maybe they had a plan to give up a little more running yards than they wanted to. Give up more running yards because maybe they are stopping the pass. They did a great job of stopping the pass, limiting (Tony) Romo and getting three interceptions. All of that stuff is planned, all that stuff is dictated by coaches, some of the stuff people earn it. Maybe Dallas came out that day and really ran the ball and did a great job against them. You never know what is going to happen as far as that is concerned. You can’t look at the opponent and what they did, because that means nothing. It is about the two teams that are about to play. It is about the two teams and their matchup. What we do well, what they do well and we just go out and see if we can do anything better than the Giants.
Q. What is it like to coach Ronde Barber? He is a couple of years older than you are, but you have been around him for a few years now.
A. You guys had Tiki (Barber) out there for years and I am sure he was a team leader, vocal guy. Kind of a quiet, humble, stays away from the scene type of guy. My relationship with Ronde is a little more special because I had the ability to coach him as a secondary member. I had the ability to watch him grow and to watch him become who he is today and watch him become a special player in this league. Now, he is in a veteran leadership role and he is trying to teach younger guys to be that way and to be a professional, to be a consummate pro, which is what I need right now. I got a bunch of young guys on defense, the Geno Hayes’, the Quincy Blacks’, all of those guys. They need that pro to look at to learn how to be a pro in this league and to know what a pro is in this league and what it is about. He has shown them that and it’s been special, it’s been great.