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NFC Championship Game 2012: Kevin Gilbride Press Conference, 01.19.12

Q: How does Eli Manning’s arm strength allow you to call plays down the field?

A: Obviously, if you don’t have that arm strength, you can’t do certain things. Fortunately he has enough arm strength that he can make all of the throws. A lot of it is mechanically he does a good job using his body and involving his legs and all of the biomechanical things that you have to do. It would be very boring if I went through them for you here, but he does do those things well. He’s very efficient in his body movement and that enables him to throw the ball as well as he does.

Q: Did you have to limit him today?

A: He took great offense when I said he still looked pale to me. He said, ‘It’s the winter. It’s the winter, coach, of course I look pale.’ No, we did everything with him. We maybe slowed down a couple of the drills in between our work sessions where the defense is up and normally we’re doing a lot of drills. We did a couple. We didn’t do quite as many, but for the most part he participated in everything. He did everything that we normally do.

Q: What’s the most comforting thing about having Eli as your quarterback?

A: That’s a great question. The most comforting thing is the fact that I think he’s been through it with us, he knows what we’re looking for, he understands based on coverage where we would like the ball to go. He’s not going to be overwhelmed by what’s going on. He’s been through it enough times. We’ve had enough success with it that he plays very confidently. I don’t think the situation overwhelms him and I think he has a very profound understanding of what we’re trying to do offensively.

Q: How has he conducted himself this week?

A: It’s funny, you get asked all these things about have you seen this, that and the other thing. To be honest with you, he’s essentially the same. If there’s one defining characteristic since I’ve known him and this is our eighth year together is that he’s always going to be prepared, he’s always going to work hard. He never seems like the moment is too big for him whether it went well or it didn’t go well. I don’t see anything different in his preparation or in the way he acts or conducts himself on the practice field or the way he is when we point something out. He’s just kind of calm, very poised and very confident that things are going to turn out well. I think it’s based on the fact that we’ve been through a lot and the fact that he knows he’s done the preparation that’s necessary to give himself the best chance.

Q: Is the Baltimore game his rookie year the only time you’ve seen Eli upset?

A: No. I’ve seen him upset many times. I think he does a great job of masking and camouflaging and not allowing people to see that he’s disappointed in something – either something that we’ve done or something he has done himself. That game there is no question they frustrated him. He was very early on in his development and they were very good defensively. They got to a point where they were actually toying with him, trying to make him a bike decoration and they’re moving around and yelling out numbers and doing all of the things that a veteran defense can do to a young quarterback. They put him through the paces on that one. That’s part of the growth process. It’s painful while you’re going through it. It was painful for all of us. Then you saw Kurt Warner went in and went right down the field and we scored a couple of times. It’s all part of the growth that has taken place. He’s been through so much now and we’ve seen so much that it would take a lot to unnerve him now. That doesn’t mean that people are going to do something that surprises us – people always do things that are a little different than you prepared for. But he has a great grasp of what our concepts are. That’s what I always talk about with our players. Don’t just memorize the play, understand what the underlying concept is so when [the defense] makes an adjustment that we haven’t seen we can easily adapt to it and we know immediately what we want to do. He has that command. That’s the thing that you enjoy, but I think he has mentioned that a few times. We’ve been through so much that we can do things that weren’t in our game plan. ‘Hey, we’re going to do this’ and he has an immediate command and the receivers have been through enough – even though they’re young, they’ve heard it so many times – that they respond usually very quickly.

Q: Why do you think Jacobs gets labeled as ‘soft’?

A: I think it’s just because you see this big, powerful man and if he’s not running over somebody every snap then people are almost disappointed. Unfortunately, the people that he’s going against are big, strong men, powerful men as well. I think once he gets going, as you’ve seen, I’m not sure there’s many people that like to get in his way. It takes him, as it does any back, an opportunity to get his feet underneath him and get through the hole. But once he gets going he’s really, and I mean this in a positive way, a freak of nature. To be that big and powerful and to run as fast as he does, there are not many people that have that combination. So when he is in the open space you see people shying out of the way. Until you get by the line of scrimmage – those guys are 300-plus pounds, they’re bigger than he is, too. Plus he hasn’t had a chance to build up much momentum. But once he gets going he’s a powerful guy.

Q: What has been the consistency with so much change on the offensive line?

A: That is a great question because there has been a lot of flux. I’d say Pat Flaherty, our offensive line coach, is the thing I count on and depend on because he’s done a terrific job of melting together all of the different components through the starting point where we had two different starters playing different positions and then through injuries – the William Beatty and what have you – I think he’s done a great job of getting a couple of guys ready to play that maybe people didn’t think were going to be good enough. And he’s done a terrific job with that. Plus I think there’s a residual work ethic or character about that group in and of themselves – the Chris Snees. They’re just blue collar, hardnosed, let‘s go to work and they’re never looking to be quoted or standing up here at the podium, but they’re just going to work and rolling up their sleeves every day. That rubs off on everybody and I think that becomes characteristic of the group that’s in there. If not, you kind of get weeded out. You see a guy like Kevin Boothe that’s playing tremendous football for us. I’m not sure how many people thought that he could be a starter, much less a very, very good starter, which he’s become for us. I think there’s a work ethic that defines them. I think it’s rubbed off on a lot of the guys. I think if there’s one quality that I would say has been the catalyst to those guys – with all of the changing parts – it’s probably that one.

Q: During preseason, what were your realistic expectations of Victor Cruz?

A: As we’ve talked about before, I always thought that he had the chance to be an effective slot. I thought that there was enough quickness, there was enough strength. I thought he, obviously, ran the ball after the catch pretty well. So you were hopeful. You were hopeful. What was realistic? I was hoping that he would be good enough that we could continue to perform as an offense. That position for us has been an integral part, an indispensable part. When Steve Smith went down last year we went from a five or six game stretch where we were as good as we’ve ever been to all of a sudden we were floundering and struggling a little bit. So I thought [Victor Cruz] could come in and give us a viable contributor at that spot. Did I think he could become a dominant player one year out? There are so many things that happen in that slot as opposed to being an outside receiver – no. Anybody that says they projected that is lying to you. No one knew that was going to happen. But he’s played above and beyond what we thought he could do – not that physically he couldn’t, but could he mentally absorb that quickly? But he’s in there all of the time. Sean Ryan did a tremendous job. People don’t realize that before the lockout happened last year [Victor] made up every day, every day he was in there an hour, hour-and-a-half with Sean Ryan – working with him, trying to make up for the fact that he was on injured reserve and didn’t get any of that preparation a year before. Really he was a rookie. I think his hard work, the quality of the job done by Sean and the continued work that we’ve done as coaches that the guy has progressed and now you get a chance to showcase his physical ability, which we knew he could run and catch the ball and do some things for us. Of course he’s made some great plays.

Q: How often is Tom Coughlin in the meetings with you guys?

A: He’s more of a listener. He’s there to make sure I don’t veer too far off of the reservation and throw the ball 65 times in a game or something like that. He’s there to listen. He’ll sit in on all of our meetings as we’re presenting stuff. He’s not there on first and second-down, but when I come in on third-down and we organize what we’re going to do on that he’ll come in and sit-in on that. He’s a great listener and he’s a good football coach. So if there is something that is totally out of bounds he’ll voice a concern and we’ll look at it and see if it is a concern that needs to be adjusted or addressed. If we think it’s going to work, we go with it.

Q: Do you think this is the best job you’ve ever done as an offensive coordinator?

A: I’d rather let you answer that than me. Let me just say that I’m very proud of the guys that I work with. There’s no question. We started with five new guys and then we had all of the injuries and the youth and the guys who haven’t played and some of the things that we ask them to do. You don’t just – in our offense – go out and run a 12-yard curl or a 10-yard in-cut. We ask them to read a lot of things. We put a lot of pressure on receivers to see things as a quarterback would. It’s very difficult as a coach to get those things coordinated. So to see them grow like that – obviously what are you? You’re a teacher. When you’re a teacher and you can see your pupils getting better and feel like you contributed you’re very proud of their growth and development, so you feel, ‘Maybe I helped them a little bit.’ So yeah, I’m very proud of the job our coaching staff has done.

Q: Given how good the 49ers are against the run, what do you tell your guys?

A: I think our guys recognize that they’re a terrific group, especially, I would be minimizing the quality of the secondary, which I think is excellent too, but they are an unbelievable front. They do a great job. I think our guys are looking forward to the challenge. We just say, ‘Hey, if we’re as good as we think we are, then we’re going to have an opportunity to prove and we’re going to prove it against an unbelievable defensive unit.’ I think, to be quite candid, our guys are looking forward to it.