Opening Statement: Good morning. Happy holidays to everybody. I hope Santa made a visit or you got a Hanukkah visit. Whichever one that was. Wish you all a wonderful New Year. To begin with, I’d like to thank the Mara family, the Tisch family, Ernie (Accorsi) for helping me attain the position that, up until now, I had only dreamed about.
As most of you know, I’m from Boston. I’m a bit older, which some of you have made a point of writing and hurt my feelings, but be that as it may. When I was growing up in the ‘50s and really became enamored with the NFL, in Boston, you got to remember the Patriots weren’t even a thought yet. So, sitting and watching those 10-inch black and whites – I watched the New York Football Giants, and the Cleveland Browns were the other team that we got. To be standing here today as the general manager of the New York Football Giants is a moment that does not escape me, and as a family, we feel truly blessed.
Obviously, I want to thank my family – Joanne; Aaron and Melissa, who are here right now; Sam; and Ana for all their support. Without them, I certainly wouldn’t be standing here. Like I said, I truly feel blessed by the Lord.
In terms of building a team, my philosophy – I have a saying that I learned from – you’re going to look at me like I’m nuts – “All in the Family”, Archie Bunker – every man is my equal in that I may learn from him, and I’ve thought about that since the ‘60s when I first heard it. I’ve been with four different organizations and I’ve learned from one heck of a cast of NFL people. Bill Polian, Marv Levy, Bob Ferguson, Mike Shanahan, Ernie Accorsi, Jerry Reese. If you take those names and look at all the Super Bowls they’ve been to and then the ones that they’ve won, I certainly have had a heck of a group of teachers.
In terms of my managerial style, I believe in communication. I believe in collaboration. I believe in brutal honesty. There’s a management concept that says you’re not going to get to the right answer unless you ask the right question. We will do that. It will be done. I truly believe in collaboration. The more minds you can wrap around an issue and work at it, the better your answer is going to be and that’s something I believe in strongly. I think the biggest mistake general managers make is when they close their doors and just decide things on their own. So, I believe in that. I believe in communication. Everybody will know where they stand with me. Everybody will know what I expect and we’ll be moving forward. I’m going to invoke an old Tuna saying – don’t talk about the pain, just show me the baby. So, that’s the way it’s going to operate.
In terms of team building, I’m old fashioned. Offense scores points, defense wins championships. There’s been six matchups, I believe, in the Super Bowl of No. 1 offenses versus No. 1 defenses and the defenses have won five of the six. So, I truly believe in that. I’m going to say this right now, style of offense has changed; obviously there’s that college influence, so obviously the style of defense has changed to a certain degree. But, at the end of the day, it’s the same three things you had to do in ’35 that you got to do now in 2018. You got to run the ball. You got to stop the run. You got to pressure the passer. Everywhere I’ve been and with the great teams that I’ve been associated with – those were three very big staples. Another philosophy about team building, Tom said it to me. Tom Coughlin said it to me my first year, his first when he came in here. He said big men allow you to compete, and that’s really just so true. The o-line and the d-line, I believe in the hog mollies. We’ve had some great groups here, had great groups everywhere I’ve been, and we’re going to get back to that. They do allow you to compete.
In terms of building the entire roster, you’re going to use every avenue. You’re going to build through the draft. You’re going to use trades, waiver wire transactions. You’re going to use every avenue necessary. It’s just the way of the world. Building quality depth is critical. Is critical. Everybody plays today. Everybody. You start. You get your first cut down to 53. You got 63 guys on that field. I promise you, all 63 are going to have a varsity suit before the season is over unless you are stupid lucky, so you have to build quality depth. It’s critical.
I’m almost done.
The other thing that’s really important is culture. Football is the ultimate team game. You throw 11 guys out there on offense, one guy makes a mistake, you’re second and 15. You throw 11 guys out there on defense, one guy makes a mistake, the official is doing this (touchdown signal). It’s the ultimate team game. Culture is critical. These guys have to know when they step on the field that the guy right, the guy left, the guy behind, the guy in front has got their back and we’re going to build that kind of a culture. In ‘15, one of the greatest things I’ve ever had a player say to me. We had traded for Jared Allen in, I think, it was the second week in October. We traded for Jared. By this time, Jared had been around about 12-13 years. After two weeks, he came up to me. He said, ‘Dave, I’ve been in this league a long time. I have never been in a locker room like this.’ He said, ‘It’s a pleasure to come to work. Everybody is in this together and I’ve never seen this before.’ The proof was in the pudding. That team won a lot of games, so culture is critical.
Finally guys, I’ve been hired to win and the only promise I can make is I’m going to do everything in my power to lead this organization back to where it belongs. That’s my goal. That’s my intention. It’s going to get done.
Q: What is your relationship with Eli Manning and how do you view handling the quarterback situation going forward?
A: There’s only three guys on this team that were here when I left. It’s Eli, JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) and Zak DeOssie and I know a couple other guys that are here now. One of them – Robert Thomas. In regards to Eli, the bottom line is I’m an inveterate film watcher. That’s what I do, OK? I haven’t had access to tape and I’m not avoiding the question, but obviously you got to look at the film. You got to see what’s cooking, and listen, Eli has won a lot of games. He’s a great competitor. He’s very intelligent and he and I are going to talk and if what I saw (against) Philadelphia was not a mirage, and I don’t believe it was, then we’ll just keep moving.
Q: Can you explain what happened at Carolina and even if you don’t, what did you learn as far as the general manager’s job?
A: OK, that’s a fair question. As far as what happened there, give Mr. (Jerry) Richardson a call. As far as what I learned there, No. 1, I learned about how critical culture was. I learned that. I learned that winning in the NFL on Sunday’s is hard. I don’t care how good you are. It’s hard and like I said before, it’s the ultimate team game, so I learned how critical the locker room is. The locker room culture. So, I learned that. I had things that were reinforced to me about, like I said before in my opener, rushing the passer, stopping the run, running the ball. I learned some of those things. Another thing I learned – it is critical that the makeup of your coaching staff is you have quality teachers as well as quality tacticians. The player that we’re getting from college. When I first got in the league 30 years ago, basically when you drafted a player, you were just taking a little polish and rubbing him up and getting him good. Now, it’s different now. Those college rules are very different in terms of we’re not getting as polished a player. We’re getting younger players. In Carolina, drafted two guys who were 20 years old. So, you’re getting that and as a general manager, I learned that I’m walking a tight rope. I’m walking a tight rope. I got ownership right here that wants to have a sustainability, wants to obviously win games and my responsibility is for the sustainable success. On the other hand, I got coaches that their butts are on the line every Sunday. They got to win. So, you’ve got to walk that fine line with both groups and you have to understand that the coaching staff needs to be teachers, they need to be sound tacticians, they have to know how to develop players. When we were in Carolina, we had practice squad guys taking reps with the ones. I banged on Ron (Rivera) all the time because those practice squad guys are going to play now. They’re going to be on your varsity. It’s only a matter of time. That old saying, you’re only one breath away from going from backup to starter. You’re only one hit away from being a practice squad guy to being on the 46. So, I learned that. The other thing I really learned – it’s my responsibility to protect this franchise. That’s my job. There’s a variety of ways that I have to protect it. I learned that in Carolina. It’s my job. I have no issue doing it. I’ll make the tough decisions and I’ll stand by them and we’ll see what happens.
Q: What did you learn as far as dealing with agents or players that you didn’t have to do as a personnel guy?
A: It’s really kind of interesting. You talk to players – it’s funny – when players first come into your building as young kids and you talk to them about becoming a pro and you’ve got a finite career and you talk about those things and they develop and then all of the sudden, they’re ready to hit their, you know, they want the big contract and they throw it right back in your face. ‘Well, Dave, I got a finite career, Jack, I got to make it now.’ So, you get that. At the end of the day, that’s something I got to do. You got to manage a (salary) cap. But, really and truly before that, it’s what players don’t want to hear. They don’t want to hear the value you put on them because it hurts their feelings. They’re sad. This is a big boy league. You got to put your big boy pants on now. Nobody feels sorry for you. Nobody cares about your injuries. Nobody cares what you make, what you don’t make. So, I’ve learned that you have to be consistent. You got to be fair and if the player is upset, so be it. So be it.
Q: What is your feeling on why this team is 2-13?
A: That’s a really hard question to answer because think about it this way – let’s just think about it this way. You guys cover the Giants. You cover the league. You’re looking at all the teams. So, somebody does something and you’re going ‘what?’ You’re giving them one of those. The fact of the matter is, teams make decisions based on the information they have at hand at that time. Shame on me to open up my big mouth when I don’t have all the information. When I don’t have all the information. In time I will and then I might be able to share my opinion. But, if you don’t have all the information, if you weren’t in the room, don’t feel the emotion of what’s going on, don’t understand what’s really going on, it is not fair of me to make any judgements or have any opinion on it.
Q: What kind of qualities are you looking for in a head coach?
A: I really believe that the head coaching job is a CEO position. It really is. You look at the great head coaches and I’ll tell you right now, there ain’t a dumb one in the group. There’s not a dumb one in the group. They’re all leaders. They all know how to lead men. And, that’s what you need. You need intelligence. You need leadership and on the assumption that you hire an intelligent guy, you’re going to have a guy with vision. Those are critical components you’re looking for. There’s a million pieces to it because it is, you know, you think about a head coach. You think of all the things he’s got to juggle. I mean, there’s a ton of stuff going on. I’m sure that they all once a week probably say, ‘Gosh, I wish I could be the offensive coordinator.’ Whatever it is. Just pick the position he loves to coach. ‘Man, I’d just love to get with my linebackers. Just for a week.’ It’s a load. It’s a load. You got to be able to handle that load.
Q: Is this a care-taker position you’re taking or are you looking 10 years down the road?
A: My plan is to come in here every day and kick ass. That’s my plan, OK? And I’m going to keep doing it until they either take my key card or the Lord calls me home.
Q: Do you have a sequence of what jobs you want to do starting right now?
A: John (Mara) and I are going to sit down and talk this afternoon. Don’t cry a violin. I drove 10 hours last night and got up here at 10 o’clock at night and let me tell you something – 14 degrees. I mean, I only came from 34, so it wasn’t like a big, huge, but you know, it was a little breezy when I got my fanny out of the car. The bottom line is, there’s a whole laundry list of things. Have I prioritized them? Not yet. But, obviously, there’s things to do.
Q: Did you watch Eli Manning’s tape from the Philadelphia game?
A: No. I didn’t get the tape. I actually – that was one of the few games I was able to see from start to finish.
Q: Just to clarify, as of now, you intend to move forward with Eli Manning as the starting quarterback next year?
A: Well, as of now, yeah.
Q: You have the No. 2 pick potentially in the draft.
A: I’ll address that right now. Let me tell you something. I don’t care what position it is. You can never have too many great players at one position. I mean, you think about us – we got (Michael) Strahan and Osi (Umenyiora) and we’re drafting (Justin) Tuck and we’re drafting (Mathias) Kiwanuka and people are looking at us like we have brain damage. You can never have too many great players at one position. So, I’ll get into that much, much later, but let’s see where we end up and which pick we have and we’ll go from there.
Q: What are your thoughts on Odell Beckham Jr. and his long term future? You talked a bit about contracts.
A: Well, No. 1, who doesn’t want a lot of money? Anybody in here not want a lot of money? Everybody wants a lot of money, guys. OK? I don’t know Odell. I never met him. I’m looking forward to it. Obviously, he’s an extremely talented kid and makes stuff happen. We’ll have that, what’s that song? ‘Getting to know you, getting to know you.’ We’ll do that and we’ll get to know each other and we’ll go from there. He’s rehabbing an injury and we’ll get to know each other and we’ll go from there. He’s rehabbing an injury. I haven’t had an opportunity to talk to Ronnie (Barnes) about how far along he is. So, we’ll see.
Q: You were here for the situation with Josh Norman and Odell Beckham a few years ago. Does that give you a different perspective on Odell that you watched him melt down for three hours against your team?
A: It’s really funny. I’m going to give you an analogy. When we look at players, when you look at players, obviously, you see things on film. You see things on tape. For example, I’m going to talk about a defensive back. So, people will say he can’t cover man. So, I look at him and say, ‘OK, tell me why.’ Don’t just make a blanket statement. Tell me why. I want to know why. I want you to break it down. Well, as far as – I have no idea what was going on in Odell’s head in that game. I have no idea why all that happened. So, I would want to sit down with Odell and say, ‘Why?’ The bottom line is shame on me if I have any preconceived notions about guys as people because there’s no way in God’s green earth. I don’t know these guys. Shame on me if I do. Everybody is going to get a fair shake. Believe it.
Q: As the new general manager, would you like to see Davis Webb play on Sunday to get some sort of idea of who he is in a game or does that not matter to you?
A: It’s Friday. We’re playing Sunday. I don’t mean to be a smartass. It’s Friday. We play the game on Sunday. What these guys decided, they decided. It is what it is. It is what it is.
Q: Do you feel that changes are needed in this front office or are you OK with the status quo?
A: It’s one of those deals – I’m in a different situation than I was when I got to Carolina. When I got to Carolina, I knew a couple of scouts a little bit. I knew nobody. Let me back up. Cheese and crackers. My first year in the league, I’m working for the Bills. I hope you’re laughing with me not at me. I’m working for the Bills and I’m an intern and Hank Bullough was the head coach. It was ’86, I believe, and midseason Hank gets fired, Marv (Levy) comes in. Marv Levy. Marv comes in and at the end of the season, he let the entire staff go. That’s his prerogative. That’s absolutely his prerogative. There were three really good coaches on that staff. Three quality teachers, guys, fundamentalists. Guys that could really flat coach. He didn’t even talk to them about staying. So, the point I’m trying to make is I promised that if I was ever the king that everybody would get an opportunity. Again, I haven’t been here for five years. People change. I’m not the same guy I was five years ago and my wife is very thankful for that, by the way, and people change. So, let me get in here. Let me get to work. Let me talk. Let me find out what’s cooking and then we’ll make decisions as we go.
Q: Giants fans are furious about this season.
A: I thought you were going to say they’re furious about me. I’d say, ‘Well, gosh I just got here.’
Q: How quickly do you think you can turn this team around?
A: First of all, you can’t make promises, right? Number one, there are some really good players on this roster. It’s funny, when I was in Carolina, I’m a first time GM, the first three weeks were a blur. So finally Friday of my third week, I get my clicker in my hand, and I have the DTs, and I watched film for two weeks, my eyes were bleeding. They finished the season fairly strong and in my estimation, it wasn’t fool’s gold. So I have to look at this team, look at the players on this team with that same eye. I’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to all sit down together, personnel department, and figure it out. And I know from watching, there are some quality players on this roster. We’ve got to fix the o-line, let’s be honest. Let’s not kid each other. I told you at the top, big men allow you to compete and that’s what we’ve got to fix.
Q: Does it only make sense to you to have Odell Beckham Jr. be a part of the solution here, knowing his talent level?
A: It makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? Ernie [Accorsi] taught me something a long time ago: don’t quit on talent. Don’t quit on talent. Two years ago, my last year, we were just decimated on the o-line down in Carolina. So, we ended up signing Ryan Wendell, who had played for the Patriots for seven years. We don’t make the playoffs, so baggy day, I grab Ryan and say, ‘Ryan, when are you out of here,’ and he’s a west coast guy and he said to me, ‘Dave, I’m here until tomorrow afternoon.’ I said, ‘Would you mind having lunch with me tomorrow?’ So, Ryan came in. And I said, ‘Ryan, listen, I’m not interested in inside gossip, backstories, I really don’t care, but I want you to talk to me about the process there.’ And he looked at me and he said, ‘Dave, at the end of the season last year we beat the Chargers and we beat Washington in that Monday Night game down there.’ And Ryan said, ‘Dave, those are New England Patriot wins. That’s what it looked like.’ And I said, ‘Okay, so tell me the steps.’ He said, ‘The one thing that we all know from the moment we walk in the door is we are expected to be pros today.’ There’s two kinds of players in this league, folks. There are guys that play professional football and there are professional football players. And the professional football players are the guys we want. I don’t want guys that want to win. I want guys that hate to lose. That’s the professional football player. That’s what you want. So, it’s important.
Q: Have you had any communication with your predecessor, Jerry Reese, and what ways do your philosophies overlap and what ways are they different?
A: Well, again, I’ve been gone for five years. Jerry is a very classy guy and he’s a dear friend and I hated what happened. He sent me a text yesterday that was just really special. But, we’re different people. Maybe you couldn’t get much more different [laughs]. So, listen, we taught each other. We worked together for a long time, we learned from each other, I learned from him just as much as he learned from me. I enjoyed working under him as my boss, my GM.
Q: What do you mean when you say you two couldn’t be more different?
A: We’re just different people, you know? You say potato, I say potahto. Jerry’s as honorable and as ethical as anybody. But no, just a good man. He’s a good man.
Q: Would you plan to give your head coach the authority to get rid of the entire staff?
A: Through conversation. I mean, who knows? That’s part of the process. There are good coaches on this staff, I’m telling you right now. And I certainly would encourage whoever becomes the next head coach to talk to these guys, absolutely. Philosophically, I wouldn’t force a coach on a coach, I wouldn’t force a player on a coach because it doesn’t work out.
Q: What qualities are you looking for in a coach?
A: I don’t mean to be a wise guy, [but] they asked it earlier. I’m looking for intelligence, I’m looking for vision, I’m looking for leadership.
Q: How difficult is it going to be to rebuild this offensive line?
A: Well, again, you can’t put a timeframe on anything, you really can’t. I’m not going to sit up here and tell you I’m going to fix it in two years because John is going to run me out of the building, okay? No, the bottom line is, you go to work. You go to work, it’s that simple. You have no idea what’s going to happen. You have no idea who’s going to be available. People get cut all the time, you say, ‘Whoa!’ you know? The bottom line is, there are people available on the street that – the bad habit that people have is, well what’s wrong with him? Wait a minute, don’t look at the negative. What’s right with him? Can he help us? Now let’s see if we can dig around, find out why he got dumped. But no. you can’t put a timetable on it. We’re going to work our fannies off and we’re going to get it fixed.