The Coughlin Corner: Eliminating turnovers

Posted Sep 19, 2014

The Coughlin Corner,’s exclusive weekly interview with head coach Tom Coughlin

Q: As you prepare this week for Houston, do you think you have more to build on than you did after the Detroit game? You had a lot more positive plays last week against Arizona.
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Coughlin: “From that standpoint, there were some good things, there were some bad things, there were some bizarre things. But we’re trying to continue to work on the idea of… we played an entire preseason and did not lose a game, did not give a game away and I understand all of that, but we didn’t wrap the game up, put a bow on it and hand it to the opponent, the opponent had to earn it. Well now, guess what, we did a pretty good job of giving two away and these count. We’re trying to pull all these things together. The list was long and extended about the things that have to be improved and we’re not alone. The Patriots had 15 penalties last week. We’re trying to take some of the small gains, the slight degree of progress, and build on it. If we don’t have the two interceptions, we really have a very, very good game from our quarterback.”

Q: There was so much speculation whether Eli Manning could thrive in this offense. I don’t know if you ever had questioned if he could, nor do I expect you to admit it if you ever did. Last week, his statistics would have been outstanding if not for five drops by his receivers. Do you think he can thrive in this offense? Is this a good offense for Eli?

Coughlin: “Absolutely, absolutely. We wouldn’t be featuring this if I didn’t think he could thrive and excel. Excel is my word. He’s very smart, he’s very capable of great decisions. He understands coverages, he understands the progressions. There’s a lot of terminology. He’s working his way through that and he’s handling it very well. He gets better at it and communicating it week in and week out.”
Q: They continue to be a problem, so I feel like I should ask a question about turnovers because they’re so important, but frankly at this point, I don’t even know how to phrase the question for you.

Coughlin: “Nor do I know what a good answer is, to be honest with you. Because nobody preaches it, teaches it more than we do. My Thursdays have now been totally dedicated to ball security, takeaways, giveaways and what it means. If you can believe this, I’ve never seen this stat – I’ve been in this league and in this chair for a long time, but last week in the National Football League teams that won the turnover battle, home or away, were 13-0, 100 percent. Home teams that won the turnover battle, obviously, were 7-0, 100 percent. Teams with three or more takeaways (won) 100 percent. Teams with no giveaways (won) 92 percent. Win, win, I’m talking about. There is just no refuting the incredible value of being a team that takes care of the ball and has a defense that takes the ball away or special teams that take the ball away. There are points for and points against and then this. There’s no refuting it, there’s no discussion. So you say to yourself, ‘Why do they occur and how does it happen?’ Well, some of the teams that are the best at it are those that play in front, play with the lead. This team we’re going to play this week, six of their eight quarters they’ve been in the lead. They have one turnover – a fumble. The quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick) has a 118 quarterback rating.”

Q: This problem goes back to last season. This must be exasperating, frustrating, whatever you want to call it. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but you keep preaching it and it isn’t improving.

Coughlin: “That’s the point. And I’ll tell you this, the team we’re playing this weekend is a ball-stripping team. We have had a campaign unlike any other about information being shared, visual, verbal. You can never let up. Washington was inside the plus-10 twice and lost the game because of fumbles. And they were lucky to get another one back when Alfred Morris put it on the ground and they said he was down. That was a very close call.”

Q: You didn’t have a takeaway in your first two games. Without the takeaways, the offense never gets to work on a short field.

Coughlin: “It all goes hand-in-hand. Look at this team we played last weekend, the gift horse they got. You run a punt back and they get the ball back on what, the 21? There you go. Line up and go from here. It’s exhilarating to a team. You watch people that come on the field after a turnover. Defenses can’t control themselves with joy, the offense is coming out there, there’s a little spring in their run and they’re excited to be back out there. They’re excited to have the field position, if you get that as well.”

Q: When the media was in the locker room on Wednesday, many of the players were asked, “Is this a must-win?” Isn’t every game a must-win to you?

Coughlin: “All of them. What’s the difference about one versus the other? Each has incredible significance. There’s no game that isn’t a must-win. There are 16 of them.”

Q: You have three players on your team who sat out entire seasons because they were released and no one picked them up. Preston Parker and Daniel Fells sat out last year, Trumaine McBride sat out 2012. They’re all contributing now. What does that say about a) the players, and b) the system for finding personnel?

Coughlin: “It’s a constant search. The research never stops with finding players that can contribute and when you do find guys that have been out for a year, for whatever the reason, they’ve been out for a year, they come back in and they’re hungry. Let’s face it, they have a serious mindset. That’s very, very noticeable. They’re very serious about their business. They’ve been out, they know what it’s like not to be on a team. So I think they capture a little bit of that motivation to a stronger, more personal intent. Wherever you have to go to find players that can help and contribute, that’s the name of the game.”

Q: Parker seemed to catch everything in training camp. Did he first catch your eye during the spring?

Coughlin: “He certainly did. He’s very competitive and he’s a tough guy. He doesn’t miss anything, he wants to be involved. You see him out there cheering his teammates on. I hope he can give us a little shot in the arm here this week (when he replaces the injured Jerrel Jernigan as the third wide receiver).”

Q: You probably didn’t think Larry Donnell would be your leading receiver after two games. There were so many questions about the tight end position, but he seems to have made a lot of strides.

Coughlin: “He has. He’s made good progress, he’s got more to go. We’ve always liked his talent and potential and he’s taking full advantage of it. He’s done some good things, but we need him and everybody else out there to play at another level. Because obviously, it’s not good enough yet.”

Q: Defensively, Jameel McClain has come in and had to play different positions. Has he impressed you with his attitude and versatility?

Coughlin: “He certainly can handle a lot of roles, because he’s been able to play in the middle, he’s been able to play on the outside, he’s been able to play in the nickel package, he plays on special teams. So that’s been very, thank goodness, that’s been a very good thing for us, because he has contributed in a lot of ways and now he has to contribute even more.”

Q: When you have a punter with an injury, as Steve Weatherford currently has, is it different trying to manage that, because you don’t have a backup at that position. If a linebacker or a guard goes down, you have a backup, but not at punter.

Coughlin: “You can, for a short amount of time, compensate for it with different types of material. For example, your Aussie type punts, your kicker can do that. For the deep ball, you can use the JUGS machine. You don’t want to do it always, but for a short amount of time, you can. So you can make those types of adjustments. But you certainly want the touch to toe to catching the ball being done by your people from the punter so that all of the elements that go along with it can be practiced and worked on.”

Q: Are the Texans a bit of an anomaly in the league because they like to run the ball so much? Do you see any other team that is so dedicated to the run?

Coughlin: “Well, they’re very good at it. You do what you do best. They have an exceptional runner (in Arian Foster). Their offensive line does a nice job with their running game scheme. They’ve been able to control their entire game by virtue of a very good defensive team and a running game. You’ll notice their third down percentage is very high, they keep third downs to a minimum. Because of that, they also don’t put themselves in high-risk circumstances with their offensive team. They do throw the ball, they do open up and play from the empty set and they expect the ball to come out of the quarterback’s hands very quickly. But by in large, the sound defense, they have an outstanding kicking game in terms of their punter (Shane Lechler) and their kicker (Randy Bullock) and they can run the football. That’s a good combination. As I said, they’ve been in the lead for six of the eight quarters.”

Q: If you just put on a random game tape and you didn’t know what team or which players you were watching, would J.J. Watt still jump out at you right away?

Coughlin: “No doubt, in a lot of ways. The effort is tremendous. You can’t miss it. The effort, the energy, the quality of his play. You can’t miss it. You’d be asking who that number 99 was no matter if you knew who he was or not.”