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Giants take center stage at 2023 Town Hall

NEW YORK – The walls behind the stage at the famed Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side of Manhattan are adorned with photographs and commemorations of dozens of the musical and comedic icons that have entertained crowds there. The list includes Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Seinfeld, James Brown, Jackson Browne, Paul Simon, and the Allman Brothers.

Stars of a different kind were the headliners at the Beacon on May 17. The Giants held a Town Hall there for season ticket holders, who had the opportunity to ask questions of the team's most important figures.

The evening was divided into three segments. The first featured Giants president and chief executive officer John Mara, general manager Joe Schoen, and head coach Brian Daboll. They were followed by the team's first two 2023 draft choices, cornerback Deonte Banks and center John Michael Schmitz. The final act included six veteran players: quarterback Daniel Jones, tackle Andrew Thomas, safety Xavier McKinney, edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and two offseason additions in tight end Darren Waller and linebacker Bobby Okereke.

The event was moderated by the longtime voice of the Giants, Bob Papa, and former center Shaun O'Hara, a member of the Super Bowl XLII championship team.

The attending fans were loud and excited. Many of them wore Giants jerseys, with Jones' No. 8 and Thibodeaux's No. 5 particularly popular.

The questions and answers covered a wide range of subjects, a sampling of which follows.

View photos from the 2023 Giants Town Hall presented by Verizon at the Beacon Theatre in NYC.

*The Giants were 9-7-1, earned their first postseason berth in six years and won an NFC Wild Card Game in 2022, the first season of the Schoen/Daboll regime. Mara was asked what convinced him they could move the Giants in the right direction.

"I think the thing that makes them work is their communication with one another," Mara said. "They're on the same page. There is mutual respect there. They don't always agree on everything, but when they walk out of the room it's the Giants decision, and you have to have that.

"I have so much trust in them now and I've been with them for a year. But that to me is the most essential part of your organization, is the communication between the general manager and the head coach. Without that, you just don't have a chance. Joe has put together a great staff in our football department; Dabs has put together a really terrific coaching staff. That's what makes me optimistic going forward."

*Daboll, who gives a broad response to most questions about individuals, was asked which "one or two players from last year" he is looking to step up a level this season.

"This is not a just a general answer, but it's the truth - everybody has to step up," Daboll said. "They really do. Look, you can't just go from the end of the season and anticipate it's going to be the way it was last year.

"That's the nature of the business we're in. Joe and I talk about this all the time. Thirty to 40% of our roster is new, so it's a little bit different this year. The last two weeks or three weeks we been going through some phase two stuff (in the offseason conditioning program). The rookies now are a little bit further away from where our veterans are because last year we just got here. Everyone was kind of on even footing. This year, our veterans have been with us, and all those guys have to improve, and it starts with me. I got to do a better job in a lot of areas as well, and that's why we're doing what we're doing right now. We're a long way from the season, and we certainly got a lot of the work to do, and that's what we're trying to do." 

*Soon after their arrival last year, Schoen and Daboll declined to give Jones the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. With a new contract on the line, Jones had his finest season and recently signed a four-year extension. What did Schoen see to convince him Jones – a player he did not draft - was the Giants' long-term quarterback?

"Daniel is an unbelievable person," Schoen said. "We'll start with that. He is a wonderful person, and he works harder than anybody in the building. He is the first one in, last one to leave.

And then he has the physical skills. He's athletic. He can run, throw. He can do everything we ask him to do within the offense.

"He was a little upset that Dabs and I had a conversation with him. (We said), 'Hey, we're not going to exercise your fifth-year option.' He didn't blink an eye. Came to work the next day and put his head down and went to work. Dabs and his staff, credit to them, they did a great job with him.

"Listen, we don't have egos. Our job is to win games - build the best team and go win games. So, whoever drafted him, wherever they came from, whatever it may be, however much they're making, wherever they were drafted, it's going to be a competitive environment year in and year out, and we're going to play the best players."

*Schoen on trading up one spot in the first round of the draft, to No. 24, to select Banks, the cornerback from Maryland.

"Banks was our guy," Schoen said. "We were happy to get him. Again, when get there late and somebody is there that you covet, you don't want to lose (him). I've done that before. … We had four players going into the night, and I told both these guys, if we get one of these four I'm going to be fired up. I'm going to get one of them before we go home. People are calling me throughout the draft behind me saying, hey, we would be interested in moving up to 25. Well, if they're calling me, they're probably calling 24 and 23 as well, so you know there is somebody that is still on the board that they want as well.

"You don't know what they're doing in 31 other draft rooms, but you know they want somebody and they're calling. There are a lot of phone calls being had, and you just got to see if the value, if it's not too rich for you and you're going to be happy with what you get and what you might lose out on later in the draft giving up a fifth round pick for a player that you covet, you got to be okay with that, and we were okay with that. 

"There was a lot of movement around us, and, again, the players that we were interested in, Banks was a guy we really wanted. It also fit a position of need and a good player, so we are ecstatic." 

*As they did last season, the Giants will have two Legacy Games in 2023 – Oct. 22 vs. Washington and Dec. 11 vs. Green Bay, a Monday night game.

The Giants will wear their late-1980s uniforms, the end zones will be painted red and the stadium will look like the team's home when they won Super Bowls XXI and XXV.

"We got so many positive responses to doing that," Mara said. "People love that uniform that we wore in the late '80s. And the way that we did the end zones and the wall coverings, it's like Giants Stadium back in the late '80s. We got such a positive reaction we decided to do it again this year." 

*Banks, who is from Baltimore, and Schmitz, an Illinois native, were asked how they are adjusting to living in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.

"I feel like I'm adjusting real cool," Banks said. "I feel like everybody real cool with me. And I'm a good dude, so..."

"I feel like I'm adjusting well," Schmitz said. "Growing up in a south suburb of Chicago area, going into the city, got that city life still, so I feel like I'm adjusting. I'll adjust pretty well."

*Jones was asked what he expects from himself this season.

"I think we all have really, really high expectations," Jones said. "I think me, the whole offense, the whole defense, as a team, we have tremendously high expectations.

"But I think we understand the way we're going to get there is focusing on what's immediately in front of us and what we're doing day to day. I think we can be a great team. I know we can be a great team. We're putting in the work now to get there." 

*Thibodeaux, the fifth overall selection in the 2022 draft, was asked what his post-rookie offseason has been like.

"Man, I finally got an offseason," Thibodeaux said. "This is the first time that I got to enjoy it. Coming off of college, it's a circus, right? You come from the college season, you got the combine, pro day, you're training, and you come to OTAs, it's nonstop. 

"This has been the first kind of offseason I've had, and now being able to train and really be in it, in the NFL and see what it's about, I can hone in on things I need to get better. It's been a blessing."

*The soft-spoken Thomas, who is 6-5 and 315 pounds, responded surprisingly when asked for his favorite childhood football moment.

"When I used to play youth football, I used to play linebacker, a little running back, you know what I'm saying? Come on now, you know what I'm sayin? Athletic."

"But I would say scoring my first touchdown at running back. I was probably like nine or 10 years old, but it was the best feeling. Can't do it like that anymore, so that was a good time." 

*Jones, on what he learned from his predecessor, Eli Manning.

"I think it was just the example he set every day and how he kind of went about his work, how you treated everyone in the building," Jones said. "How he treated teammates, how he communicated with people, how important every little detail was for him still. 

"As long as he had played, as successful as he had been, he was still in there all day watching film, talk to the offensive line, talking to receivers, staying after practice, throwing. Every detail was extremely important to him, even late in the career with how much success he had had. That made a big impression on me as a young guy. He's helped me a ton through the example he set and just being able to go to him for advice here and there."



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