The New York Giants have been something of a black hole since Tom Coughlin, Jerry Reese, and John Mara had their end of season press conferences. We haven't gotten much in the way of information since Mara declared that "The offense is broken" and Reese fired a shot across his quarterback's bow.
That changed today when Mara and Reese took a break from their internal meetings and interviewing potential offensive coordinators to talk to Mike Francesa.
Mara was first up.
After answering a couple questions about the impending Super Bowl (They have everything under control, by the way. The Jets have been great to work with, although Mara underestimated the complexities of working with the state governments of both New York and New Jersey), they launched into a discussion of this past season.
When asked what was so disappointing about the 2013 season, Mara responded "I thought this was as talented a team as we've had in recent years. Nobody saw 0-6 coming, least of all me". He continued "We overvalued some personnel, and need to get better players".
In his post-season press conference Mara remarked that he didn't know why it took three years for them to find out that Jerrel Jernigan is a player. He both clarified and expanded that statement "Well, I did say that, and it was a mystery to me. In fairness to our coaches he was hurt some the first couple of years and that slowed him down." He added "coaches want the players who make the least amount of mental errors and are hesitant to play younger players"
It would be an understatement to say that the Giants' offense underperformed last season, and Mara specifically pointed the offense out as an area that will be addressed in the offseason "We do need some help on offense, and we will address that in the draft and FA"
However, you can't fix a problem if you don't know what it is, and that has been a main topic in the meetings and evaluations that the Giants brain trust has been conducting. When asked what the main problem with the offense was, Mara cast a wide net
"It's all of the above. Everybody has different theories." He continued "The offensive line didn't play well, Eli didn't play well, there were a lot of injuries. Victor had a pretty good year but the receivers didn't play well. We know we need to make improvements on the offensive side of the ball".
Later in the interview he added "We need to get better players in here, particularly on the offensive line"
And while Mara stated that the Giants definitely need the 2014 draft class to be a strong one, he gave his support for the previous one "I do like our 2013 draft class, and I think those first three players will be very strong players for us for a long time"
With all the change that needs to happen on the roster and in the offensive coaching staff Mara is still confident in his head coach, despite the date on his birth certificate "There will come a time when we have to look at that (a new head coach). I don't think age is as much of a factor. He has the energy of a much, much younger man. He wants to win as much as anybody, and I think the players do listen to him".
He continued on the theme of continuity "I think it is (a good thing) if you have the right people in place, and I think we do."
"I do think there is a time when we will have to do that (clean house) but this isn't that time. We've had a lot of injuries and have missed on a couple draft picks and free agent signings in the past couple years, but we will turn it around"
Mara was also asked about Justin Tuck's future with the Giants "You do have to make tough decisions, and it's about allocation of resources" He said, adding "We'd love to have him back, but it has to be at the right number".
Mara was then asked about his views on free agent wide receiver Hakeem Nicks who is coming off of two straight down years. He said "A little bit of both (aberration versus alarm)", continuing to say "I think he (Nicks) can be a very good player in the NFL, hopefully it will be with us. This was a bad year for him, but he wasn't alone on the offensive side of the ball."
As a prominent owner and member of the NFL's competition committee, Mara was asked about his views regarding the proposed expansion of the play offs in addition to the expanded playoffs and a curtailed preseason. In response to expanding either the regular season or the playoffs, Mara said "I've always been against it." Adding "I'm willing to listen to the discussion".
With regard to shortening the preseason, Mara said "Preseason is necessary for improving your team. Maybe we can get to the point where we don't look at the bottom line (ticket sales) of those games." He added "We can get by with three games, maybe two if we have scrimmages."
Mara recognized the importance of the preseason in getting the younger players on the field and helping to develop them, specifically citing their rookie quarterback "I want to see Nassib play as much as possible next preseason. There's no replacement for game experience".
Mara finished the interview with a statement of confidence "I don't have to threaten anybody. They (Jerry Reese, Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning) are just as disappointed as I am. I still have a lot of confidence in all of them ...They didn't forget how to win. We have a lot of work to do, but I have a lot of confidence in the staff here"
After a quick break general manager Jerry Reese was on.
The discussion immediately went to Reese's assessment of what went wrong with the 2013 season "I come up with a combination of all those things (performance, injuries, and coaching). Here at the Giants we win together and lose together. With an 0-6 start there's personnel problems, but it's more than personnel reasons"
Obviously rebuilding the offensive line needs to be among the Giants' top priorities this offseason, and Reese was asked what their strategy will be
"We're going to do it (rebuild the offensive line) the best way we can. If we have the resources here we'll use them. There's always good linemen in the draft. There's personnel problems you need to address, but you have to be economical about it." On that last he remarked that they will spend money on the offensive line if they have cap room to spend.
With respect to the resources they have in-house, had something to say about several players.
On rookie Justin Pugh, Reese said "He can play anywhere. We thought he could play left tackle, right tackle, guard, or we even thought he could play center".
With regards to left tackle Will Beatty, Reese said "We do expect him to be back and to be a better player" (with respect to both his down season and the broken leg he suffered in the final game)
On the interior of the line Reese said "James Brewer is a big, massive guy. We expect him to come back and play better. Brandon Mosley is a guy we like, we need to see what we have there". He added that they also need to see what they have in rookie Eric Herman.
On David Wilson, who was announced earlier today to be undergoing vertebral fusion next week, Reese said "You have to look at him differently. ...He is planning to have surgery, our medical staff thinks he will be ready to play this fall. ...Those things can be tricky (back and neck injuries) ...He can be dynamic, but we're trying to get him healthy. That's the most important thing"
Reese's thoughts on Brandon Myers were much more pointed. The Giants expected more production from their free agent tight end acquisition.
"We brought Myers in, he caught a bunch of balls out in Oakland. We thought he'd be quarterback friendly. He gave us the same production we've had for the last couple years. We hoped he'd be an improvement for us, but that didn't happen for whatever reason. It's disappointing" said Reese. However he continued to say that it wasn't all Myers' fault, adding "He had to stay back and block more because of the problems on the offensive line."