EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Giants.com sat down with new general manager Joe Schoen on Friday to discuss his first week on the job and to get his thoughts on several Giants-related topics. The conversation occurred prior to the selection of Brian Daboll as the team's new head coach.
Q: You were hired a week ago. What has it been like coming to the big city for a new job, having to move your family while preparing for the Senior Bowl and the scouting combine while trying to learn about the players on your roster?
Schoen: "I tell everybody it's like drinking out of a fire hydrant. I just can't come up for air and I'm getting hit from every which way. Luckily, my time with (Bills general manager) Brandon Beane and getting to watch him and (coach) Sean (McDermott) and the way they did things when we got to Buffalo, that really prepared me for this. I have been running around like my head is chopped off, but I'm prepared for it. There's nothing that has overwhelmed me so far. It's just about managing my time right now, which I'm doing a good job of it this far. There's not enough hours in the day."
Q: Are you a guy who makes lists? How do you stay organized?
Schoen: "I'm a big checklist guy. It makes me feel like I'm accomplishing things and getting things done. I think you have to stay organized in this position because there are so many distractions throughout the day. Coach (Bill) Parcells used to always tell me to go to work. There's going to be three three-alarm fires, maybe a five-alarm fire every time you go to the office and there's going to be a lot of things that you don't expect that happen during the day. I definitely keep it – right here is my list on my desk here. I keep track of what's going on in the day, what I need to accomplish, and I've got a calendar back here, too, weeks, months and what I need to accomplish."
Q: I've got to say, I expected a longer list.
Schoen: "Well, there's three pages back here. You're only seeing the top page. That's what I didn't finish yesterday (laughs)."
Q: At what point in your career did you first aspire to be a general manager?
Schoen: "Each step along the way, whether it was an area scout, and I was like, 'OK, how can I become a national scout?' A national scout, 'How can I become a college director?' College director, 'How can I become a director of player personnel?' So probably in 2014 when I became a director of player personnel (for the Miami Dolphins). I didn't really know exactly what all the job entailed, but after I did it for a year, so it was about 2015, I'm like, 'OK, I've got a good grasp of pro free agency, the draft. I'm learning the building dynamics, the leadership part, the day-to-day operations of a football organization.' That's probably when I thought, 'You know what? I might be able to do this at some point in my career. I've just got to keep watching, listening and learning, so if I'm ever in the chair, I'm ready for it.' This is a job if you're not prepared for it, it can be very overwhelming, so I wanted to make sure that I was ready when the opportunity arose."
View photos from Joe Schoen's first days on the job as the new general manager of the Giants.
Q: When you were playing at DePauw University, I assume you knew you wouldn't play in the NFL. Did you think, "I'd like to remain in football or athletics or work in the NFL?"
Schoen: "That was always something that I was trying to figure out, how can I stay in sports? I had a job offer for a sales company and I had done a couple internships, one with the Panthers and one with the Charlotte Hornets. I knew I wanted to stay in football, and that's kind of when I realized either I wanted to coach or, again, I didn't really know much about scouting at the time. NFL scouting as a Division III player, it's not like scouts were coming through DePauw to look at anybody."
Q: They didn't come look at you?
Schoen: "No, they didn't come looking at me. So, I didn't know much about it, but as soon as I got offered the job and I kind of learned what scouting was about, I fell in love with it. It was a passion of mine. I graduated on a Saturday, and I started on a Monday. It's all I've known since I graduated from college."
Q: You interviewed last year for the Carolina G.M. job. Did you sense that this was the cycle that you were going to get one?
A: "I thought it would happen at some point with our success in Buffalo. We're one of three teams that won 10 games three years straight. I think people look at the way it was built – Sean, Brandon, the Pegulas (who own the team) – the way it was from the ground up. It started off making the playoffs for the first time in 17 years, took the cap hit in 2018, drafted a young quarterback and kind of built it the right way. I think a lot of the league probably looks at Buffalo and the way we did it."
Q: You have to review everyone on the roster. Are you going to watch all 17 games?
Schoen: "I've already done four or five before the interview (with the Giants) just to make sure I knew the roster the best I could. There were a lot of injuries this year, so this interview took me a lot longer to prepare for because I had to watch a lot more players and try to figure out who they are. Once the new head coach gets here and the new staff, we'll really dive into the film some more and then we'll get with the support staff, the entire football operation, get their opinions on the players that were here last year – who's been injured, any security issues, who's coming off surgeries, who the good workers are, who the leaders are and then kind of map out the offseason plan from there."
Q: When you watched the Bills tape, you knew the coaches, the scheme and what each player was supposed to do. Is it a little different when you watch another team and you're not as familiar with every player's assignment?
Schoen: "Definitely. You can watch it and you can see the traits. You can see the physical traits – how quick somebody is, how fast they are, how tough they are, are they good tacklers. But until you get in the building and find out what they were being coached to do, it's really hard to have a true feel. I'm in the building with the Bills and sometimes after games, there are some plays and I'm like, 'What were we doing?' And then you find out the next morning, somebody made the wrong call. Somebody didn't run the right route. Somebody missed their block, and that's when you really find out what the issues were. I think the same thing evaluating the roster. I could look at the players individually, but until we get in here and find out who was really doing what they were supposed to do, who's doing what they're asked to execute, that's when you get a better feel for the players."
Q: Are you, for lack of a better term, an incurable tape watcher – "I got 10 minutes, let me watch some tape" kind of guy?
Schoen: "I need to find time to do tape. I've realized that really quick. So, this morning I actually got in here early and I was able to watch a player that's going to be at the Senior Bowl before I started to interview. I've got to find that time. It's going to be early in the morning and that's probably when I'm going to come and do as much film as I can and then late at night and everything in between. General manager means general managing, so there's a lot of things and a lot of people need answers around the building and there's going to be a lot of stuff that comes across your desk and that's going to take away from watching a lot of film. Luckily, I'm in good shape from my time in Buffalo. I had already seen rounds one through four, so I'm ahead of the game in terms of my typical college evaluations."
Q: You mentioned working with Bill Parcells in Miami prominently in your news conference. Bill often said if a team has a strong defense, it always has a chance. This has become such an offensive league. Does that change how you think about roster-building or do you adhere to the cliché that defense wins championships?
Schoen: "I still believe in defense. In Buffalo, we had the number one defense in the league this year and led the league in seven or eight categories, so I definitely still believe in defense, and we didn't have a Pro Bowler, right or wrong. Number one defense in the league and we didn't have a Pro Bowler. Offense is important. You've got to be able to score points. Obviously, if there's a good balance there, if you've got a good defense and you can score points, you're going to win a lot of games."
Q: When you got to Buffalo, the Patriots were the team you had to beat (having won 11 straight division titles before the Bills ended the streak in 2020). In the NFC East, no team has repeated as champion since Philadelphia's four-year run from 2001-04. How cognizant do you have to be of the other teams in the NFC East as you build the team?
Schoen: "Absolutely, that's where it starts. It starts with winning the division and then the rest will take care of itself. That's what we always said in Buffalo, just start there. If you can win the division, you're in the playoffs, it's a new season and you've got a chance. It's about matchups. Those are teams you're going to play twice a year, so you've got to be conscious of that. When I was in the AFC East, when it was (Aaron) Hernandez and Gronk (Rob Gronkowski), you knew you had to find a way to cover those tight ends and, obviously, defend Tom Brady. It starts with winning the division. That's the most important thing each year and then if you can do that, the rest will take care of itself."
Q: Regarding the head coach, do you prefer a CEO-type of head coach who doesn't call the offensive plays or defensive plays. Parcells always said his job as head coach was to manage the game. Do you prefer that type of head coach?
Schoen: "Manage the game, lead and develop your staff. I think the ability to hire a coaching staff is very important. I'm looking for a leader of the team. He's also got to have knowledge of X's and O's because you've got to be able to problem-solve. There are going to be problems throughout the year, whether we're not running the ball or we're not stopping the run. As a head coach, you've got to be able to come in and try to address those problems with your offensive staff or defensive staff. I think the ability to motivate the players, be able to motivate them through good times and bad times and kind of have some emotional intelligence, that even-keeled attitude throughout the season. To me, it's about being able to lead the team, knowledge of X's and O's and the ability to hire a good staff."
Q: Are you a believer that you build your team primarily through the draft?
Schoen: "I would prefer to build through the draft. Those players are mostly cost-controlled for the first four or five years. They're cheaper than what you're going to be able to get on the street in free agency. You get to do the most research on them. You get to go to the schools, you get to see them play live in a game, you get to talk to their coaches, you get to work them out, you get to do a medical on them. So, I think you have a better feeling for the college guys when you turn in the card, who they are as players, medically what you're getting, where in free agency a lot of times you're paying a lot of money and you don't necessarily always know what you're getting, you don't know the injury history, necessarily. You don't know their practice habits. You don't know what type of workers they are, what they're like off the field. I'd prefer to build through the draft, develop those players and retain our own."
Q: You mentioned the other day that the salary cap is a real concern. Will it be easier for you to make the hard decisions because you didn't bring these players in? Some general managers are reluctant to get rid of players that they acquired or drafted.
Schoen: "It's never easy to do that and some of those players that are at the higher salaries, they're making that money because they're good players. It's maybe not because they're not good players anymore, but it's the reality of the situation. We have to get below the salary cap. It's not going to be easy, and you've got to make sure you're making the right decision for the franchise, but it's never easy."
Q: You spoke highly of (quarterback) Daniel Jones the other day. Do you remember what you thought of him prior to the (2019) draft?
Schoen: "That was the year after we took (Bills quarterback) Josh (Allen), so we didn't spend a lot of time on the quarterbacks. But in 2018, I went to see (Northwestern quarterback) Clayton Thorson. He was going to be in that draft and it was Northwestern versus Duke, it was like an academic bowl. I was actually the only scout there, and Daniel Jones played really well that day. I remember going back to Brandon Beane and saying, 'Hey, the best quarterback in that game yesterday was this young kid from Duke, he's from Charlotte,' and that was my first exposure to him. We had good grades on him in Buffalo when he came out, but I think that position is a little bit different than the rest and you've got to do a lot of homework and spend time with those guys. We liked the physical ability and liked the type of kid he is."
Q: You have the fifth and the seventh selections in the draft. What are your thoughts about keeping them as opposed to trading down and accumulating more picks? Are you flexible about that?
Schoen: "We'll set it up as if we're going to stay at five and seven, but I'm always open to doing what's best for the organization. If we have a trade partner and it's too good to pass up, then I'm willing to move back. If there's a guy that falls that we love, let's go up and get him. I'm all about, I call them 'sleep good at night' picks. You're going to sleep good at night. You're happy you got a good player and you're going to sleep good at night. I'm open to moving. I'll always be open to trading. I'll listen if anybody calls or wants to make any moves or inquire on our players. We'll be active calling other teams to make potential moves, too. We've got to look at every avenue to upgrade this roster, whether that's getting more draft picks, staying where we are, trading. We'll explore everything."
Q: Parcells' most oft-repeated quote is, "you are what your record says you are."
Schoen: "He's right, he's right. That's the reality of the situation. Coach Parcells was integral in my career and development, and he still cares dearly about the New York Giants. You can hear it in his voice. He was excited for me to get this job, but he also told me this franchise is still near and dear to his heart. Not only do you have the weight of the fans, you want to do what's right for the Mara and Tisch families, you want to get the organization back to where it should be, but also coach Parcells. I want to do well for him, too. That's obviously motivation to get this thing going in the right direction."