FEBRUARY 20, 2008
Our team, we came off the Super Bowl, we were challenged greatly as to how our team would accept winning the Super Bowl. Would we be a team that would be satisfied, would be complacent? We come out and play 11-1. We have an outstanding start to the season, we're playing very, very well.
That having been said we didn't finish the season the way we wanted to finish it. And I think that based on the way our team came off the Super Bowl year that this will be a great challenge for our team moving forward. This is what I really tried to make them understand in the last meeting that we had that we were in position, in great position, the table was set. We just didn't put forth the meal.
We didn't have the kind of finish we wanted to have. We thought that battling away, getting the home field advantage and winning the one game down the stretch we really had to win [vs. Carolina], I thought we were in pretty good shape. We discussed it that we really felt this year we need the bye to make sure that two or three of our key players got an opportunity to play.
That having been said we were really disappointed the way the season ended. I think this will provide a great motivator for us. We made a very strong pitch concerning the off-season program and what we need to do with our football team as we cycle back into a normal routine, our normal off-season and the challenge going forward to make our team a better football team and hopefully finish the season a better way than we did this year.
How has the Combine changed and has it changed for the better?
I think it definitely has. There's two ways of looking at that. It's much more efficient now, without a doubt. There is very little wasted time. The evenings are now established with set times for the interviews. It used to be a few short years ago you had to hustle around and scramble with your scouts to get guys to be interviewed. That's been completely worked out. Your hope is always that more and more of the outstanding players will participate so that this one aspect of the Combine is also completed. We do get tremendous medical information which may very well be the No. 1 reason for all of us collectively to be here. But to fill in all the aspects of the Combine, the work on the field, the research, the interviews, I definitely think that each year there has been an attempt to improve and it has improved.
In talking to the young players have you found the interviews have gotten more polished?
They are well prepared, let's put it that way. Part of the challenge for us is to try not to ask the right-down-the-middle questions. There aren't as many fastballs now as there are curves.
What kind of a head coach do you think Steve Spagnuolo will make?
Steve will be a good head coach. He's very smart, he's very capable, he's very direct. He's very personable, he's an excellent football coach. He's a communicator, he has great energy, he'll provide the kind of leadership that's necessary for his staff. He has the ability to have his finger on what's going well and what isn't and he will take responsibility for that which isn't. He'll be a head coach who will be very sincere and I think the players have enjoyed playing for Steve. They like the system that he brings, so I think he'll be an outstanding coach for the Rams.
In terms with the scouting evaluation on the collegiate level, are you just now catching up with the scouts?
That's how it goes. The first thing you do in a normal off-season is you evaluate yourself and you look at the UFA situation because it is coming up so quickly. When that phase is done you move on to the college game. Our scouts were in [for a week] so I had some preliminary information coming here. But the wealth of the information comes from this point as you move forward with the studying of the tapes, workouts, and what you get here.
How do you handle Plaxico Burress situation?
The one thing I will say about our players is they've done a really good job of handling that particular situation. They've shown real outstanding professionalism. I wouldn't expect that to be any different. Now, obviously, it'd be great to have a player if it's not Plaxico with Plaxico's magnitude on our football team and I think that's the thing that we've got to try to do for our team.
I think you do all of your preparation work. Like I said, the position that the New York Giants have taken is to let the legal process play itself out. So there's no more I can say about it.
How set up team to deal with headaches?
You try to anticipate. And what I've found, which has been a very good thing for me as the head coach, is with the initiation of our leadership council, I've found that going right to that group, explaining the situation to them, talking about the issues and so on and so forth, and then going to the team helped our players to, as best they could, minimize the distraction part of it. So again, it became the communication thing.
Don't you have to figure he's not going to be there?
You have to figure that … I don't know how you figure that. For me, that's not an easy thing to answer. To speculate is not a very smart move on my part. Obviously, we're going to do all the work with that position, etc., etc. We'll just see what happens at the end of March.
Wade Phillips said your offense was dramatically different without…
We heard that. He's not the only one to say that. You take a great player off the field. That's not the point, nor is it a hard thing to say. We've always counted on other people being able to step up and help us make plays and that still is there. But to say that player of that caliber is not out there and things are going to be the same, that's not logical.
Talk to him much?
I haven't, but (WR coach) Mike Sullivan and (director of player development) Charles Way, they've talked to him.
Players say he's changed. Do you get that feeling?
I haven't really had the … I know one aspect of it and Plaxico's been always solid about that. I know he has talked to Mike Sullivan about it – 'If I only can get back on the field, I want to be the kind of player that I can be.'
He wants to be with the Giants?
I really haven't asked that question, nor do I think anyone else has asked it.
Jacobs in long-term plans?
That's the hope of both parties. This opportunity obviously gives us a chance to work on that. That's the key thing.
Think he understands franchise tag isn't to stop him from making money and that you want him to be part of the team?
He understands that. And I think we did a pretty good job of (conveying that). Jerry (Reese) talked to him, (RB coach) Jerald Ingram talked to him, (director of PR) Peter John-Baptiste talked to him. So there were lots of opportunities to try to explain what was coming and why.
Asst. coaches involved in draft process?
They're involved. Everybody's involved. The final workup, if you will, a couple of weeks away from the draft, the assistant coaches have an opportunity to read their report, give their grade, the other grades are given and we come to a final grade in that process. We're all a part of the process.
All football questions in player interviews?
Some are. Some aren't. Some are very direct – 'Have you ever been suspended?' and those types of things. In most cases, the player is ready for that, too.
Ask questions you know the answer to see if the guy tells the truth?
Just to see in which way he's going to try to respond. A lot of times, the scouts have already prepared you for the character issues and all of those issues, but the question still has to be asked to see where the player is with regard to this. If there is an incident, is there remorse and is it sincere.
Your personality change easier to go from demanding to more lenient than vice versa?
If we're not even talking about me, we're just talking about anyone else coming in – a CEO coming in to a job – you're not going to start easy and then try to be hard. And it's not a matter of being hard and then making it easier. For me, it's a matter of really standing for something – what I believe in, how people are part of a team and a team is more important than the individual. And the principles, the values I believe in – the work ethic and that type of thing. And reinforcing it in another way and perhaps doing a better job of communicating. That is probably the biggest difference – taking some time to think about how the player is impacted by this and how can I better present it so that he understands it better, first of all, and then maximizes what the return is.
Concern about lack of depth at safety?
I think it's just like every position that doesn't have the numbers you think you need. As we always do in looking for the kind of player in that role that, if he is a backup, is an outstanding special-teamer, then that raises concern. We certainly feel that way about that spot.
You know what you're going to do with Mathias Kiwanuka?
He'll be down (at DE).