I have a special treat for you today Giants' fans. Mike Garafolo, Giants' beat reporter for the Star-Ledger, has graciously taken the time to answer our questions.
If you aren't familiar with Garafolo's work -- and why wouldn't you be -- check out his Ledger on Giants blog.
Anyway, here are my questions and Mike's answers.
Big Blue View: When the playoffs started nobody gave the Giants a realistic shot to reach the Super Bowl. What, in your mind, is the most surprising thing about this football team?
Mike Garafolo: I’d have to say the most surprising thing to me is the play of CB Corey Webster. He had an interception in the 2005 preseason when he wrestled the ball away from Steve Smith and I said, "Wow, this kid can really be a ball hawk." But in the two-plus years after that play, I didn’t see many aggressive plays from him. In fact, in Washington earlier this year, he came across the field on a deep ball to Santana Moss and was in perfect position to make the play only to stand by and watch as Moss made an incredible catch. Where was the aggressiveness? Where was the ball hawk I saw in the ’05 preseason and the one the Giants saw in college? Well, he was still there – somewhere. And this coaching staff has done a tremendous job in tapping into that play-making ability once again. Suddenly, Webster looks like a future starter once again.
BBV: The Eli question. After the way he has played since the New England game, can we now call Manning an upper-echelon quarterback? Or, do you believe he's still a question mark?
MG: I wouldn’t say upper echelon just yet. To me, there are only a few guys on that top shelf. But he’s right there knocking on the door and the best way to get in is to flash the secret sign: The Super Bowl ring. Certainly, he’s come a long way and has shown he’s making progress and not just getting bogged down by the same old mistakes. And the fact that he’s now thrown 101 passes in the postseason without an INT is a sign he’s becoming the kind of big-game quarterback you’re looking for.
BBV: Did the Giants already hit the Patriots with their best shot, or do you think they have a legitimate chance to knock off New England in the Super Bowl?
MG: I give them more than a puncher’s chance here. They absolutely hit them with their best shot in the first three quarters, but the way they closed that game wasn’t the way they’ve finished the last three. I see a team that now has that extra gear and has made all the right defensive adjustments late in the game. Given the same situation as Week 17 – up 28-16 in the third quarter – I have much more faith in the Giants now than I did back then.
BBV: Is there something to this whole 'Giants play better away from home' thing? Ten straight road wins is pretty incredible.
MG: My theory is that, when the Giants are on the road, they’re totally under the control of Tom Coughlin. He says when they eat, when they meet, when they travel, etc. And for Coughlin, that’s when he’s at his best – when he has total control. If you buy that theory, then you subscribe to the belief that this team has bought into Coughlin’s philosophy and has taken on his personality. They’re now a Coughlin team if there ever was one.
BBV: The hiring of Steve Spagnuolo might be the best move of the Tom Coughlin era. We know Spags has been linked to the Atlanta head coaching job. Are the Giants going to be able to lock up Spagnuolo long-term, or do you see him moving on either this off-season or in the near future?
MG: My sense is that Spagnuolo has a good sense of when he’s ready for the jump to the next level. And my gut says he knows he’s not ready. Plus, who wants to go down to Atlanta to clean that mess up? I know I wouldn’t and there will always be opportunities to be a head coach in the future. I can’t say for sure, but I’m guessing Spags is here for at least one more year – after a pay raise of course.
BONUS QUESTION FROM BBV: You are one of a growing number of sports writers who are writing for their newspaper as well as blogging. Which format do you enjoy most, and why?
MG: I might be young and new to the business, but I’m old-fashioned in that I like a well-written, fully researched story in the paper over a snappy blog entry. With the 24/7 nature of the blog, it’s become a race to get news posted on the internet and sometimes that can be detrimental to our credibility as a whole. We often have to weigh whether to pull the trigger on a story and be first rather than wait until we have all the facts and make sure we’re right. It’s a tough dilemma because everybody wants to be first. But we always have to remember the reader primarily wants us to be right. At least with the slow nature of the newspaper, we used to take our time a lot more than we do now. Of course, there are benefits to having a blog and one of them is that there’s unlimited space on the Internet in an age when papers are downsizing to save costs.
Thanks again for the insights, Mike! Be sure to check out Ledger on Giants frequently the next couple of weeks -- after stopping here, of course.