Good afternoon. I will start off by saying that our 8-8 record is certainly not what we envisioned or expected this year. We are greatly disappointed by this in all areas. I think this has been expressed to you today by our players and, of course, by me at this particular time.
The excitement of following the Washington game was quickly diminished by the two games, back to back, in which, one, we did not play well at all against Carolina, did not stop the run. Then the following week against Minnesota where the big play was a key factor in that game. Now what I would say to you is this, I think the real issue right now for our football team is a lack of identity. We have lost our identity in terms of who we are. We are a football team that has always prided itself on the physical aspect of the game, which is running the ball and stopping the run. I think with that comes the realization in the last couple of weeks, for sure, that we are having difficulty running it, we are having difficulty stopping the run.
Our season in the beginning, to go 5-0 right off the bat, was a major accomplishment and there is no changing that. So no matter what anyone says, we are not going to make that into a negative. That was a very, very strong start and we were especially pleased by the win in Dallas. However, we did give up 250 yards rushing that night and I was concerned because in those first five games I did not feel like anyone had really tested us in the air. Of course, that came quickly to an end as New Orleans big-played us, made a lot of plays and Philadelphia did as well. I think there was a loss of confidence with those two ball games and the amount of points that were put on the board and the way in which people moved the ball and scored on us. So those were things that set us back and, of course, greatly disappointed us. We came home with the San Diego loss, which was something very difficult for us because we thought we were in position to win.
I pointed out any number of times that I thought at home we should have beaten Arizona, we should have beaten San Diego and we did not do that. We had the overtime win against Atlanta which was a good win and then we set forth with one of the real disappointments of the season, our Thanksgiving game in Denver where we did not play well at all. They played well, we did not play well and we came home very, very disappointed, very much shocked by the way in which we had played coming back from there. Then we had three divisional games in a row, two of which we won and even in the battle against Philadelphia, an awful lot of points were scored and we just came out on the short end of that one. We were very much in the hunt and, as you know, this year we beat Dallas twice, we beat Washington twice, we lost twice to Philadelphia. Dallas, in the last regular season game, became the NFC East divisional champion for this year. Following the Washington game everyone was excited; it was a Monday night win. Then to have the disappointment in the way in which our season ended was very, very difficult for us to deal with.
I mentioned disappointment; I mentioned frustration in a lot of ways. As I told our team today, as I went over the season with them, there is no one looking to point the blame at any one area. This is a team, we talk about ourselves as a team, we talk about ourselves as one. There is a lot of frustration as far as trying to put your finger on the answers, and we are going to try and solve some of that. We are going to evaluate everything, we have begun to do that at this point in time. We certainly will look at the injury factors that we’ll evaluate, we’ll look at personnel, we’ll look at our coaching. We’ll look at everything to attempt to take all of those things apart and to task. Of course, we’ll have Jerry Reese involved with that, we’ll have ownership involved in all of that as well. While it is a disappointing end to our season, we are 8-8. It is only because of the fact that we have been in four straight playoffs, and this is the first time we have not qualified for the playoffs that it makes it that much more difficult. As I told the players this morning, I hope that on their shaving mirror or however they do it, that they post up some type of a reference to the way in which our season ended and the disappointment and the feelings that you have, the misery of finishing the season the way we did, and that it becomes a motivating factor for us going forward.
I think we do have the nucleus, the ingredients here. Certainly we do need some help, but as we approached the season, some of the questions that were asked at that point in time, I think we answered. I think the young receivers played well. It’s unfortunate that we were not able to take advantage of the type of year Eli was having. We do have the turnovers to deal with, however. It was a strong performance on his part. So in some ways, we did move forward and we did have some accomplishments; in others, we did not. We didn't rush the passer well; we didn’t have the numbers that we have normally had there. It certainly gave reference to some of the inabilities that we had in the secondary. We didn’t necessarily match up well with some of the great skilled receivers that we were against, gave up some big plays. I think that the running game on paper, as you see it, did not accomplish what we would have liked to have accomplished. I think going forward we can do some things hopefully to fix that and to regain the identity that has been ours and re-establish ourselves.
Q. Pretty much every week the players said, ‘We have to Giants football, running the ball and stopping the run.’ They obviously knew what they wanted to be. Why couldn’t they get there?
A. Well, we didn’t stop the run, that is the first thing you are asking. The second thing is we didn’t run the ball as effectively as we have in other years. There are a lot of reasons for that, I think that the last couple of weeks the reason is relatively obvious. We went into the game thinking we could be balanced and, of course, the other night it would have been great to stay balanced because we would have kept the ball out of their hands. It was what I was trying to say after the game but was so poorly put by me that there was a method to the madness there, but we just didn’t get that done .
Q. Have you been assured that you will return next season and will Bill Sheridan?
A. Well, everything is being evaluated. We haven’t had time to really sit and talk about anything.
Q. Are you unhappy with the effort from the players?
A. Not yesterday, no. The week before I was, I just didn’t think we played with great purpose, but yesterday, I can’t say that was the issue. The issue was a lack of performance, a lack of execution, a lack of the ability to perform the way we wanted to perform and it’s unacceptable.
Q. I know you don’t want to use injuries as an excuse, but they did pretty much decimate your defense. Are you able to give a fair evaluation of Bill Sheridan knowing how many players he was missing? How much does that have to be taken into account?
A. We have to account for everything, we have to look at everything. You are right, that we will never use injuries as an excuse. Injuries are a part of pro football, injuries are a part of the adverse conditions that you do have to overcome. Some teams are struck more than others, but nevertheless, they are a part of it and you have to be able to play your way through it, overcome it. We weren’t able to do that.
Q. In the analysis of your coaching staff is it your decision alone to make changes?
A. Well, as I am looking at it right now, it will be my decision. I will share it with Jerry (Reese) and ownership, but it will end up being my decision.Q. When we go back to the 2006 season we asked a million questions about how you were going to change. We wrote about your personal changes affecting the Super Bowl season. Are there things like that where you can change again?
A. I think you always have to change and adjust and after I evaluate everything, if I think some change is in order, then I will adapt that myself. There is no ego here, okay. I am here to serve. I have to find the best way that I can do that. I think that the adjustments that were made from my standpoint I thought at that point in time really helped our football team come together and whatever my thoughts are about how to continue to build on that going forward, I will do. Who knows what that may be? We definitely have to regain some of our hard-nosed toughness, physical aspect of the game and that will be accomplished.
Q. We asked you a few weeks ago about Bill Sheridan and your confidence in him. You didn’t hesitate and said you believed in him and he was your guy. What made you stand up for him without hesitation and does it still stand up?
A. I said it the way I am going to say it. You can re-phrase it all you want. We are in the process of evaluating everything and we will look just as hard at that as every other circumstance.
Q. When you talk about finding the identity, how much was the leadership a factor in that identity?
A. I don’t know if that is number one. I think some of it is a confidence issue just as much as anything else. I think it’s very difficult when you can’t exactly pin-point the issue and then solve it. Certainly we weren’t able to solve it. It didn’t go away.
Q. Is the toughness a physical thing or a mental thing?
A. It’s both. There isn’t any question of the physical toughness of these men. It’s just not demonstrated, you know what I am saying? I am old school to the point where all that was said last winter about our team and our depth, etc., I still want you to prove it, the ‘don’t tell me, show me’ philosophy and I think our veteran guys understand that.
Q. How do you regain confidence, swagger?
A. Execution, production, play well. It’s within us. That part of it has to re-emerge. The part that was asked earlier is one part of it. The other part of it is the football part of it. Yeah, we need a little help here and there, there’s no question, but every team does, but that’s the execution part and we have to regain it. We will get that back, but that is not easy. We are not just standing here talking about it, you have to go do it.
Q. Do you think your younger players need to learn how tenuous the NFL life is? Some guys today said that maybe they don’t really get that you play for your job every week in this league.
A. I would think that after this season they will get it. I think sometimes you get young guys that are just so concerned about their role that they don’t even have time to understand everything else. But I think they will get it.
Q. You talked about how you will regain this toughness. In your experience, how do you do that? Do you have to get tougher with them?
A. First of all, I think they understand it. That’s the way we play and there is only one way to get to it. I think you can do some things to encourage that and I think it will start at, whether it’s training camp or OTAs or mentally applying that to everything we do in the spring. That will be an emphasis.
Q. So it has to come from you. It’s some type of tangible thing that you have to encourage?
A. You have to go do it. There is no doubt, you have to go do it. That’s how you win back that identity. Not only do you have understand it, you have to be good enough, obviously, but then you have to go do it.
Q. Do you think that you have to be tougher?
A. I don’t know about that, but you still have to be smart because the bottom line is still going to be you have x amount of players and you have to as strong as you can be for each game. You have to be smart no matter what you do.
Q. Do you feel that you were too soft on these guys this year?
A. No, I didn’t say it that way.
Q. Are you confident that the way the leadership council is set up that it's still working like you want it to? Would you tweak that at all?
A. That will be part of the things that I evaluate and think about. How to get them even more involved, rather than just listening. A lot of it is me, I think, perhaps more has to come.
Q. When you look at the big picture of the team you mentioned you need some help. Do you think that most of pieces are there for a competitive championship contending team?
A. I think we have to look at it and evaluate it. I think there certainly are some pieces in place, and we would need to have others.
Q. How much did a lack of pressure defensively snowball the whole thing?
A. The lack of pressure on the quarterback leads to overexposure in the secondary, too much time for the quarterback to stand back there and make his decisions. So it all works together, it all comes together.
Q. Was Brandon Jacobs’ knee injury the primary reason for his diminished performance or were there other factors such as focus and motivation?
A. No. Brandon has had an issue, some weeks he can’t practice as fast as you would like him to practice. Normally on Sunday he was ready, but that will not be an excuse.
Q. Is this as tough an end to a season as you’ve had as the Giants coach?
Well yeah, as any coach, at any time. To end two weeks in a row like this is very, very difficult.
Q. Are there any injured players that you are concerned about with their recovery or procedures?
A. There are a bunch of guys who are going to have some surgery. As far as I can tell you right now, they should all be correctible.
Q. Any reason to be concerned about the long term recovery of Kenny Phillips?
A. I believe there is another medical examination soon. The last one he was doing very well. We are on schedule right now.
Q. Has he done anything lately?
A. He wasn’t supposed to. He is coming along. They are not going to let him overdo it. It’s a slow process.
Q. He said when it first happened it was going to be a couple months that he was not going to be able to do anything. Does that sound right?
A. I know he is doing stuff now because he is here and is working.
Q. In '07 your team went on an unbelievable roll at the end of the year. This year it went in a different direction. Do you really know exactly what happened with this team or are you searching for answers after the last two weeks?
A. It’s performance oriented, that’s not that big of a mystery. That will be a part of what we are trying to figure out. There are a bunch of things I am not going to tell you, but I would say the performance part of it is the thing that will be evaluated right away.
Q. Where does your confidence come from that you will rediscover what it is your team is missing?
A. I believe we will. For me, it comes from experience. We have to revitalize, we have good people. They do want to be as good as they can be. We may have lost sight here or there of the direct course as to how to get there, but we will be sure to bring that to their attention.
Q. Have you spoken with John Mara yet?
A. I have spoken to John, but only briefly this morning.
Q. Do you anticipate a sit down?
A. We are always involved. That’s normal.
Q. Some of the players said that you didn't want to beat them up too much in the meeting this morning?
A. Well, naturally. I do try and take the position where it’s an honest assessment, but they get beaten up by the world outside. There is always going to be a form of encouragement from me. Now this was a little bit more lengthy and specific than my normal exit lecture with the players at the end of the year, but it was called for.
Q. They said you encouraged them that your door is open?
A. That’s how I want to see them. After the body of work, I want to see them one on one.