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Jerry Reese, 12/30/14 Press Conference Transcript

Complete text of the GM's 2014 season-closing remarks.

Good Morning. Six and 10, obviously we are all disappointed. Like always, our goal is to come in the season, have a winning season, get into the tournament. Haven't done that in the last few years, that is not our standard. We want to apologize for that, number one, to our fans, who, no matter what, they come out and really give us their best. We want to apologize for that. Moving forward, I want to try and accentuate what the positive things are because there are plenty of people who can talk about what the negative things are. What disappoints me the most before I try to get to the positive things are that, during the season, we had plenty of chances to win some games. We were in a lot of games and we didn't close games out. That was the most disappointing thing for me. People like to throw the injury thing in there. Everybody has injuries, that is a part of the league.

We had chances to close games out as an offense, as a defense, even on special teams. We didn't close some games out, so that was disappointing. It is a learned behavior that I think when you have a chance to close teams out, you can step on their neck, you have to do that. If you don't, it's hard to win in this league. You can go back and look at our schedule and look at the second half of some games, we were ahead, or close, or leading in some games, and we didn't close games out. Again, we had all three phases of the game, we could've closed some games out and we didn't do that. The positive things are, I do think we are going in the right direction. I heard John Mara, I heard Tom Coughlin, I don't want to try to repeat everything they said, but I do think we are going in the right direction. I think we can have a really good football team going into next year. The draft class, I know there has been some personnel issues, and I am responsible for that. I take full responsibility for all of the personnel issues. We did have a few things that happened to set us back some...on our roster. Again, in spite of all of that, we had plenty of opportunities to win games, and we didn't close teams out, we had an opportunity to do that. You have to do that in this league.

Q: Any regrets about drafting Odell Beckham Jr.?
A: No, he's got a chance to be a good little player.

Q: How good can he be?

A: He is good. The best thing about him is he's got a gifted skill set. His number one trait that sets him apart from a lot people with a superior skill set like he has, he is what we call a ‘dog' around here. He's got that ‘dog' mentality, his passion, and as you can see, you almost have to calm him down a little bit with how he plays. He is a gifted young football player, he has the chance to be a really good player for us for a long time, we hope.

Q: Why do you believe next year could be different?

A: The reason I think that is because we were so close so many times during this season. Again, I say this every single year. When we win Super Bowls, or when we are 6-10, it is a really close margin between winning teams, teams that are in the playoffs, and teams that are not in the playoffs. It is a learned mentality, I think, a learned behavior that you have to close games out. We were so close so many times, our offense could've closed some games out, the defense could've closed some games out, special teams could've closed some games out. We have been really close. Again, teams that are not in the playoffs, it is not a big difference in those teams and those that are playing in the playoffs. The ball can bounce a certain way; I have said this plenty of times, the ball can bounce a certain way, you can get a call go your way, or a call not go your way. All of those things come into play, but at the end of the day, you have to good personnel, you have to have good coaches, you've got to have a little bit of luck. I say that every single year, and we had a little bad luck. We are still trying to research why can't we stay more healthy during the year and we will continue to sift through that and see how can correct that even more.

Q: When you look at the record this year, even though it was a little worse than it was last year, do you still feel that you need to make wholesale changes, or is it a matter of just tweaking things moving forward?
A: Well, not wholesale changes. Last year we had to turn the roster over and we are not going to go out and spend a huge amount like we did this past offseason in free agency. (Last year) the roster was getting a little older, so we did have to turn the roster around. There are some new faces. Offensively, I thought we would jell a little bit quicker than we did. We saw flashes later in the season of what we think the offense can be. Defensively, we had some new faces, we lost some players on defense. I do think that if we can get players back, we can have another good draft, we will definitely do some things in free agency, but we are always going to try to upgrade our roster at every position, every year.

Q: How do you look at the confidence that you and Tom Coughlin received from ownership?
A: I am grateful to be here, regardless. From being a young scout, I've been here for 20 years, from being a young scout to being where I am now. I am always grateful for this organization, they took a chance on me, and I can never repay them, and I am always going to give them my best, you can count on that.

Q: You spoke about being close in games, some bad breaks, and the injuries, but you have had two losing seasons in a row.
A: You can make stats say what you want to say. You can say, well, we had a bunch of winning seasons before we even had a losing season. You can say that if you want to. You can say we won a couple of Super Bowls in the last few years. You can make stats say whatever you want to say. Do we want to be here right where we are right now? Absolutely not. We are going to try everything under our power to make a difference going into next season. I know the people upstairs, I know they work their behinds off, I know our coaches work their behinds off, I know our personnel people work their behinds off, and we are going to continue to try to make a difference going into next year. I don't think we are that far away because I do think we have a nice mix of young players along with some veteran players that we can get to where we want to go.

RE: On improving next season.

A: We are trying to upgrade at every position on the team. Offense, defense, special teams, we are trying to upgrade everywhere.

Q: How much discussions have you had with Jason Pierre- Paul and his agent?

A: I sat down with all of the unrestricted free agents yesterday and that is the only conversation I have had. I haven't talked to Jason Pierre-Paul's agent yet at all.

Q: Why did you decide not to try and negotiate something before the season was over?
A: It wasn't the right time for us to do that.

Q: What do you think of Jason Pierre-Paul ‘s season this year?

A: I think at the beginning of the season he wasn't playing like he played at the end of the season. The second half of the season, he came on really strong and played like we thought he should play. The guy has some ability to be a game changer. We didn't see enough of that in the first half of the season.

Q: How important was it for him to stay healthy for a whole season after the last two years?
A: It is a combination of all of those things. He has had some injury problems and we've seen the guy be a dynamic player, and he still is a young player. We know that ability is there. What we have to do is sit down and have a conversation with his agent. I know you guys talked to John Mara and Tom Coughlin about these things already, but it has to make sense for us, it has to make sense for him, like any free agent.

Q: Will you consider restructuring Eli Manning's contract?
A: We will keep all of our options open.

Q: Do you have any problem with him playing out the last year of his deal?
A: We will keep all of our options open.

Q: Do you anticipate any changes on your staff and have you received any requests from other teams to talk to anyone for other jobs around the league?

A: No, I haven't had anybody call about our staff, no. Everything is evaluated at the end of the year, personnel staff, everything is evaluated.

Q: How much longer can Eli Manning play at a high level, do you think?
A: I don't know. Who knows? Eli Manning is not a baby, I don't think he is an old man, but he is not a baby anymore. I do think he can still play at a high level. For how long? Who knows how long?

Q: Technically, Tom Coughlin is in charge of his staff. You are in charge of yours. When does it get a little blurry? If you really want somebody in the draft, and Tom Coughlin really wants somebody else. Do you pull rank?
A: No, what we try to do in our draft room, and all of our decisions around here, we try to come together as a staff. We want everybody to be on board and sometimes it doesn't happen that way. We talk about it and the final decisions we make, we live with it. We don't look back and we just live with it. It is our decision, it is not my decision, it is not Tom Coughlin's decision, it is our decision.

Q: Has there been a time when you say "this is our pick and I don't care who wants anybody else?"
A: No, we try not to do that. I don't think it is like that around here. Everybody has an opinion, personnel, our coaches write reports. Of course, our personnel staff, myself, we come to a consensus on who we like and it is rarely a situation where somebody gets on the floor and we are going to pick this guy and that's it.

Q: When John Mara stood up there last year, he talked about making changes in the draft and taking less risk on guys. Have you made adjustments and did you see that this year?
A: In personnel, it is like I just said. We always talk about taking risks, and we talk about personnel. Everybody is involved, and sometimes we take risks, we know we are taking risks on some guys. We took a risk on Mario Manningham and he turned out to be a pretty good player for us. We took a risk on Ahmad Bradshaw. Sometimes, it is just a part of personnel. You don't bat 1.000 in personnel. You want to get more right than you get wrong. When you pick late in the draft, we picked late a couple times in the draft, that is why call it "row" (instead of round). I have said this to you guys before, I am not trying to make any excuses why some personnel didn't work out. It is just part of personnel. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don't. We call them ‘rows' because the 32 guys in the first row, they are all not first round picks, so if you are picking 32, most likely those guys down at 32, some guys you would like to have in the second, third round. It is a privilege to pick down there. It is a lot easier to pick 12 and above than it is when you are picking at 32.

Q: Have you taken less risks now in the last couple of years?

A: The less risks, I am not sure what you are saying when say, "take less risks." All players are risks. Sometimes it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and you get it out there on Sunday, it is not a duck. It is all a risk.

Q: It seems like last year you made it a point of emphasis to draft team captains and that paid off for you this year. Is that something you anticipate, you might consider?
A: We are not cavalier here; we try to whatever is best for this organization. We try to pick the best players available, and whatever it takes. if it takes a conscious effort of taking captains or taking whatever, we are willing to do that. We just want to get this team back in good position to be a playoff team, win our division, be a playoff team, and win Super Bowls. That is really what our goal is and never changes.

Q: Do you have an idea if you are going to have enough room to bring back Jason Pierre-Paul, Antrel Rolle and Eli Manning?
A: We will do what we have to do. The evaluation process is ongoing right now. We will do what we have to do and everybody will be evaluated and we will make it work.

Q: Is using the Franchise Tag on Jason Pierre-Paul something you will consider?
A: We will keep all of our options open.

Q: Do you express your opinion to Tom Coughlin about the coaching staff?
A: I have my opinion. Tom Coughlin and I talk every Monday. As you all know, we talk every Monday and we don't sugar coat talk, we talk about the good, we talk about the bad, we talk about the ugly. I think that is why we have a great relationship because we don't try to BS each other in our Monday conversations. We talk about what really happened and I think is a great conversation and I give my opinion about everything.

Q: Are comfortable with the fact he has the final call?
A: Am I comfortable? Yeah, of course, I am comfortable. John Mara said this, when a coach has been as successful as Tom Coughlin and has been in the National Football League as long as he has been in the National Football League, he should have the right to pick his coaches. He should have the right to do that. He has been able to do that. I give him my opinion on what I think, I believe John Mara gives his opinion, Steve Tisch gives his opinion on what he thinks, but the head coach with the caliber head coach Tom Coughlin has been and still is, he has the right to pick his coaches.

Q: Why is Tom Coughlin still the right man to coach this team?
A: Again, John Mara said it and we talked about it, he knows how to coach. He is a teacher, you have to coach the players and you have to coach the person when you are coaching in the National Football League. Tom Coughlin knows how to do that. John Mara said it as clearly as you can say it, during the bad time of the season, the players kept playing, they played all the way through. You can tell quickly if a team is not going to play for a coach, you can tell, and that never happened.

Q: How much will fixing the offensive and defensive lines be a priority this off season?
A: Everything is a priority. We are going to try to upgrade every component.

Q: How do you look at Victor Cruz, especially for next season? Do you think the injury will take a while? Or do you expect to have the old Victor back?
A: It is a significant injury that he has. You never know how he is going to come back from that. We are hoping that he is definitely going to come back and be the Victor Cruz that we know. You never know with the significant injury he had. We are hopeful that he will come back and be the Victor Cruz that we like, but you never know.

Q: Do you approach it like you did David Wilson, where you were prepared in case he didn't make it back?
A: (You do that with) any guy that has a significant injury. That was a significant injury, just like David Wilson had a significant injury. You've got to prepare as if, "what if Victor Cruz doesn't come back?" That is always in the back of your head. If you are a personnel guy, or a General Manager, that is always in the back of your head. What if this guy doesn't come back and be the player that we think he is?

Q: There was probably some discussion of selecting an offensive lineman in the first round last year. What was it about Odell Beckham that you put him over the top in terms of being the choice?
A: I think I said this back during the draft. In this league, you have to have weapons. I said we think this guy is a weapon. That was pretty apparent. In the SEC, you see this guy line up and you saw those good players in the SEC, they back up when this guy lines up to their side of the field. We thought he was a game-changing kind of weapon and it is hard to pass those guys up. He was the highest guy on the board when we picked.

Q: Do you look at next season being a win-or-else season?
A: Every year. Tom Coughlin said the same thing. When you win Super Bowls, it is what have you done for me lately? You have to continue to win, it is hard to do it in this business because the league is built on a cycle. If you win, you are penalized for winning, so you have to fall back and pick last in the draft, you lose some coaches. That is how the cycle goes, but our job is to beat the system. That is what we pride ourselves on, beating the system, staying on top, staying relevant. I heard someone ask Tom about every four years, you should start to be able to build your team back up after you have had some down time. We should be at a point where our team is being built back up because we are going to have a top 10 pick this season, last year we had a top 12 pick. You get better players, it's a little bit easier to pick up front in the draft than it is to pick in the back of the draft, but you would much rather be picking in the back of the draft, obviously.

Q: Your favorite phrase has been "best available." When you're drafting higher, does that become less significant because they're all great athletes?
A: We're always conscious of where we think our need is. But we always try to pick the best player available. If you can get a combination of your need and what the value is, it's an easy pick for you.

Q:... it's either a need or a best available?
A: Maybe some people though we try to pick the best player available on our board.

Q: When you're 6-10 and you compare it to the Super Bowl rosters, do you see a dramatic difference in talent, preparation, or play? And if so, is there a specific part of the team?
A: I'm not sure what you're asking me. I think you're saying is the personnel on a 6-10 team close to the 2011 team or the 2007 team? I don't think there's a huge difference. Our two championship teams, I don't think that was the best personnel we had. Our two championship teams, if that means anything, I don't think that was the best personnel we had.

Q: Other than Victor Cruz, is there anyone that's on injured reserve that you're concerned about moving forward?
A: Well, all the guys on IR, we're concerned about. Geoff Schwartz, Jon Beason, I can go on. There's so many, I can't think of them off the top of my head right now. We had a bunch of corners to go down. Prince...

Q: Anybody you think might not be ready to start OTAs or training camp?
A: We're hopeful for all of the players. We'll have a medical meeting here in the next day; actually, today we're having a medical meeting to see what the status is on all of our players. We're hopeful. I heard John say "half the guys back." But injuries are just part of it, guys. That's no excuse. Again, we had plenty of opportunities during the season in spite of all the injuries. We had plenty of opportunities to close teams out. With our offense, to close some teams out. With our defense, to close some teams out. Even with our special teams. Josh (Brown) had a tremendous year, but he still missed a field goal in Jacksonville. If he makes the field goal, we win that game. Our second Dallas game, we're inside the 30 right there and we miss a pass and it's intercepted and goes the other way. Our defense during the Dallas games, all you have to do is pick up a stop right there, we're going to win. It's a learned behavior, that's what bugs me the most about our season last year. We had some chances to close some teams out and we didn't do it. I think that's something we'll talk about in this offseason. We had a chance to close teams out because we were there in spite of all the injuries and attrition that happened to roster. We were there. That can be attributed to our coaching staff and our players. They're fighting and trying to put themselves in position to win games. We had some opportunities to do that and we just didn't do it.

Q: What do you think is lacking that the learned behavior hasn't been acquired?

A: This is part of it. When you turn your roster over, you have a lot of new faces on your roster. Some teams that we had under Coach Coughlin had been here for some years and we had a pretty tight roster. We didn't have to make a lot of changes. We get a new group of guys, they have to learn that. They have to learn how to play together and have that mentality with each other. Somebody's got to rise up right here, right now, on defense: "We have to make this stop right here." I don't know if we had enough players to do that. Offensively, on special teams: "I'm going to make a play right here on special teams. A big play right here." I think it's a thing that grows when players are together longer and most of these players on the roster will be back next year. I think it's something we have to learn and grow as a team.

Q: When you assess the roster, personnel-wise, obviously you want to upgrade in every spot. Are there any spots you look at and say, "You know what, we're good there," where you don't have to worry about that?
A: You're an injury away from not being good anywhere. That's why I say we try to continue to upgrade every chance we get at every position possible.

Q: Does that make the challenge of rebuilding even more difficult?
A: Obviously, if we think we have some issues on the offensive line, but we're not going ignore our offensive line, then ignore our running back position or our safety position, or our defensive line position, or our tight end position. That's why, as a personnel person, you try to upgrade in as many places as you can, as often as you can. Injuries happen, attrition happens and you want your roster to be as deep as possible.

Q: What is the importance of continuity, when you talked about guys learning to play together? Are you more inclined to keep the core of this group together heading into next year, especially getting some of the guys back from injury, to see what they can do and what they can actually be?
A: I think it's going to be a good core of guys here, regardless, coming back. There'll be some changes, like always. There are always changes every year and there will be some this time. We definitely want to keep a good core of players because you can't turn your roster over every single year. You have to try to keep a core of guys that you can build around.

Q: There were a bunch of guys maybe at the end of the roster last year, that were draft picks that didn't really play much. How long do you hold out hope those guys will work out? Is there fine line there?

A: We try to give guys a chance to fail. If you give them a chance to fail and they fail, that's fine, we made a mistake. But you have to give guys a chance to fail first before you push them out the door.