What I thought I would start with this morning is to think back to last spring and last summer when all of your questions concerned how this team would respond to winning the Super Bowl. Would they be, for lack of a better word, satisfied? Would they be as hungry coming into training camp and beyond training camp as they were in working our way to a Super Bowl championship and, of course, I think that our team responded and answered that question. I think we came out, we transitioned, we bridged from the Super Bowl year to the next season very well. Our competitiveness was there, our fire, our attempt to take the success of the Super Bowl season on into the next season was very successful. We were 11-1 and we did come out of camp and play very, very well for a very long time. We, of course, played well and the record stood for that. We didn't finish the season as well as we would have liked to, but I think we answered the questions of what this team was about. I purposely continued to share with you the fact that this team was not a team that looked at yesterday, but rather looked ahead. I think that is an important thing to recognize in terms of how this group of young men played this particular season. I told the team this morning that we have been to the mountain top together and we had shared that great experience and it was a wonderful one and it was a tremendous way in which to be received by our great fans and the media as well. It was a great experience for all of us. Today we share in the disappointment and the sorrow of expectations lost, of remorse for opportunities that we let go astray, that we were not able to take advantage of. I think you can have all kinds of rationalization. This is what I told our team: We are not a team of excuses, we are not a team that rationalizes, we are not a team that tries to come up with reasons why, rather the fact that we did not accomplish what we set out to, and that is why we feel the way we do today. However, I did also tell them that while this day was not something in which I was going to spend a lot of time in the negative, I did want them to realize why we were not successful yesterday and to have great resolve going forward to come back again in the offseason program and to recommit ourselves to the goal of trying to be world champions. We cited a couple examples of teams that won Super Bowls, came back the next year sometimes and didn't even make the playoffs, and yet came back after that and were successful. Those things were all discussed today as we go through the normal process of our exit Monday. It is not a good day, it is not a happy day, it is a long day, it is a tough day, but we accomplished the Super Bowl championship a year ago by being one, by being the best team in football, the best group of young men supporting one another, loving one another, being there and believing in one another, and the same thing prevails today. In the disappointment of not winning, we are still one, we are still a team, and I believe that is where our strength is.
Does this put perspective in just how tough it is to win a Super Bowl?
I haven't even got to that, Bruce. Quite frankly, I told the guys I was really glad to see them this morning. You never think about an exit day. You just don't want to do it. So then when it is upon you, you sit there all night and you are miserable and you think about the opportunities that you had and why this didn't happen and why are we three for 13 on third down? Why didn't we have the ball more? Why didn't we score… all that stuff. Then you get in there in the morning and you see those guys again and it is something you have to go through. After the meeting I stood out in the hallway and every guy came through and we shook hands and got a little opportunity to embrace one another. You do get the feeling that this is a very, very good and very responsive group, they have always been, and it is difficult, no doubt, to repeat, but by the same token it has been done. It was done what? In 2003-4, it was done in the late nineties, it can be done and we are not going to shy away from that either. We know that it has been done. We didn't allow ourselves to think beyond obviously yesterday, but sitting there last night you can't help but think about that.
After being so successful over the first 12 games why do you think the success didn't continue?
I don't know. I told the team the same thing that you are asking me, but the key there is the one game that we had to win we went out and played an outstanding game. We won it in overtime. Now I am not going to tell you… our Minnesota game we played a lot of people and did a lot of things and still I felt we should have won the game. That is something that I told the team I am going to be thinking long and hard about myself because we didn't finish the way… one of our axioms is you have to be playing your best in December into January and quite frankly, we didn't. We have to spend some time, and again there are not going to be any excuses for it, that is what happened.
The week leading up to the game it seemed like everyone was focused and ready to go. Does that make the result yesterday even more difficult?
We were. All the things you described we were. When we came back in we were anxious, we were excited, we knew what the circumstances are. We were energetic in practice, we were enthusiastic, we followed our regimen to the T, we had great response in our meetings. Players responded to our Wednesday meeting, our Friday meeting, which is a lot of times more factual than it is emotional and inspirational, our team was very, very excited and inspired by our Friday meetings so all those things… Saturday night was a great meeting. But again, you have to do it on the field. The field is where you develop, where you carry-over or bridge-over, that inspiration and that fire is by play on the field and when you do make plays on the field you inspire your whole team and quite frankly, it just didn't happen. Now were there things we did? Yeah, we rushed for 138 yards, we held them to 59 yards rushing, it is very close statistically all the way along, but they are two for five (scoring touchdowns) in the red zone and we are 0 for three. That is where it had been for at least, I am not going to go back any further than Minnesota, the same thing in Minnesota. We got the ball there and what about the touchdowns? Where are they? That is what we have to look at. That is why we are where we are. At the end of the first half yesterday it could have been a couple of scores, a couple of touchdowns could have been on the board banked in that situation and they weren't.
Do you see any part of your team from last year in the Eagles of this year?
I am not going to talk about the Eagles. That is not what I… I am talking about our team today and I don't mean to be disrespectful or not answer your question. My day is not being spent on the Eagles, it is being spent on us.
Have you thought yet about players who may have played their last game here?
No, I really haven't. I didn't want to go down that road just yet. We have some other emotional issues to try to take care of today and I wasn't going to have them walk out of here feeling like they hadn't accomplished anything because they did, they did. I think it would be wrong for every one of us here to just simply look at yesterday and say, 'well that was a lousy deal and that should be the story of the season,' no, no that shouldn't be the story of the season. As I told you yesterday when you look at teams and you look at the way seasons end and you look at momentum you say to yourself, 'well, jeez, maybe you should have kept playing.' That wouldn't have been the answer for our team this year. Just take two players, we got two players to play the game that we probably wouldn't have if we didn't get the bye week, so from that standpoint alone we needed that week.
The slide this season started right around the Plaxico Burress issue. Do you think that had any effect on it?
I don't think so. I think our team rose above that. It all happened on the Washington weekend and we played very well in a very emotional setting down there. There is a drain, there is no doubt about it, but our guys have been good about rising above those kinds of things. We don't want distractions. Don't get me wrong, distractions are not good for a team. They are not, unless they are created by the head coach.
With that said, would you welcome Plaxico back next year?
I am not talking about that issue. I haven't even thought about that one. The answer to yesterday's question was you can ask me all you want, but Burress is not on the field.
We haven't been able to talk to Antonio Pierce yesterday or today. What is his state of mind and how is he taking this?
I can't answer why you haven't been able to talk to him, but my response to that is he is sorrowful, disappointed, probably a little bit discouraged. I saw him earlier this morning in the breakfast room and he had his head up and he acknowledged and so on and so forth, but he is disappointed, just like we all are. You have these opportunities, that is really what I wanted our team to understand. The opportunity that was there for us. I mean how many times are you the number one seed and you get to have the bye and you get to have people come to you to play and so that is what I really wanted them to understand and I am sure he is reflecting on that today.
Does this exit day differ from any other?
I think I answered that. Yes, it sure does hurt. Is it different than any other day when you are disappointed? Probably not, but if you allow yourself to think about it, yeah, certainly it is.
Because you won last year does it make today harder?
I think I can answer Paul and I think I can answer you at the same time. Yes, because of the experience of last year and winning it and going through this process. All you think about is just win one game, that is what we talked about, let's keep playing. Win one game and let us keep playing. Give us another chance to keep playing and then when that is denied, when it is taken away from you, it hurts and it hurts a lot. It hurts a lot, but you know what? That is the expectation you want. You want that. You want everybody in the building, every Giant everywhere to feel the same way and you can understand their frustration because of that. That is what we want. We want to play and play to the finish and win the whole thing. It was denied so therefore we are disappointed and frustrated and it does hurt and maybe it hurts more than it ever has hurt because of what happened last year, but you have to be a man about it. It is over and there is nothing I can do about it now. It should have been done yesterday.
How much might have you been helped the last few weeks if you had Plaxico out there?
You just have to be a realist. He wasn't there; therefore, you move on. We have other players. We have other guys that can make plays, it is not just one guy.
The last two minutes of the first half yesterday with settling for the field goal and leaving enough time for the Eagles to drive down and get one of their own, was that a particularly important two minutes that will stick with you?
Sure, because no question we left time on the clock, but you are not going to turn the three points down then. You have to kick the field goal. It is foolish to think that you are not going to take the points. Obviously that hurt.
Do you think the three straight pass plays on the first-and-five…?
I am not second-guessing anything today. I am not doing that. If we score, if the ball goes in the end zone, everybody is happy about that. We ended up with our distribution of run and pass right on the money. Everybody was disappointed in that. Even if you go to the go-screen, we thought we had that, that has been a big play for us, but we didn't make the first down on that play.
Does Eli still have room to improve his mechanics and technique?
Certainly he does. Everybody improves. You don't stay the same. You either get worse or better, I don't care how old you are.
Do you have any more news on Steve Spagnuolo?
No, I don't have any news.
Justin Tuck had a lower leg injury for the past month. Can you define what that is now and will he need surgery or anything like that?
I don't think so. I think it takes time. It is going to need to be rested. Again, I am not a doctor and I couldn't even quote you the way in which they categorized the injury. Painful, but it will take some time and I don't believe right now, although one of the things we say to the players, of course, in that last meeting is if there are some surgeries required they have to be done right away so as to not interfere, but I don't think this is a surgical procedure. I think they expect that with some time that it will heal.
Is Osi Umenyiora on track to return on time?
Looking at the core of this team going forward how strongly do you feel about this group?
I think the nucleus is in place. I think that obviously we have to pursue the avenues as best we can, whether it be draft or whatever, to make our team a better football team, but the nucleus of people is here. We have experienced the opportunity to win it all and of course the disappointment here and I hope that this group again can come back with greater resolve than ever.
Did Eli's last five games or so this season where he was inconsistent in spots worry you at all?
Well you just take game by game and you always evaluate it that way. You would like to be as good as you possibly can be all the time and Eli feels the exact same way. Am I concerned? Sure, you would like to have it be a lights out day every time we play, but we will take care of that. It will get better and he will get better.
Are there any candidates on the team for surgery?
I wouldn't even be able to say. They are all doing their physicals now, so we will see.