EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Joe Schoen believes constructing a Giants roster that will have long-term success does not preclude the possibility of short-term achievement.
"I'm not a big tear it up, rebuild – I think you can truly build a roster when you can compete for today and build for tomorrow," the Giants' new senior vice president and general manager said today. "We're going to do the draft, free agency. Whatever avenue we can, we're going to continue to build a competitive roster and we want to see progress. We're going to continue to build with the long-term in mind as we build it, but I think you can compete today and still build for tomorrow."
Five days after he was hired, Schoen was formally introduced at a news conference in the fieldhouse at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
"I don't take this job lightly," he said. "I fully understand the responsibility that comes with being the general manager of the New York Football Giants. I would tell you this, throughout the interview process it became very clear early on (team president) John (Mara's) and chairman Steve (Tisch's) passion for bringing a winning football program to the tri-state area. I was assured that I would be given every resource I needed in order to do that, and I promise you that I will do everything in my power to build a team that will make you proud on the field and off the field. We will look at every avenue to upgrade the roster, add depth, competition and bring the right type of people into the organization."
Job one is to identify and hire the Giants' next coach. Patrick Graham, the team's defensive coordinator the last two seasons, today became the fifth candidate to interview for the position. Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores will be here tomorrow to speak to the Giants' front office. Buffalo defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will interview in person on Friday.
Schoen said the first quality he seeks in a coach is leadership ability.
"You've got to be able to lead the team," he said. "I think you have to be able to put together a good staff. I think it's imperative that you have coaches that have coached in the NFL that have a proven track record. I think you've got to be able to develop players. We have (nine) draft picks. It's going to be important that some of those young players may have to be major contributors for us in 2022, so the willingness to play young players. I think intelligence is important. I think being progressive in your approach to coaching, whether it's with analytics, when to go, when not to go, when to punt. I think you've got be open to all that stuff. You've got to be open to sports performance, strength and conditioning. You've got to listen to the experts in their field. Those are some of the major qualities that I'm looking for as we move forward.
"All of our candidates bring a different skillset to the table. I'm not concerned if they've been a head coach before or if they haven't. I'm concerned with getting the best head coach for the New York Giants. If they've had previous coaching experience, fine. If they don't, that's fine. … It's going to be imperative that it's somebody that's in lockstep with me that I can work with, we can have constant communication and we're going to be aligned in our vision as we build a football team."
Schoen spent the previous five seasons as the Buffalo Bills' assistant general manager. Buffalo G.M. Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott were among the long list of people Schoen thanked in his opening statement. They were joined by Mara and Steve Tisch, his immediate and extended family and everyone from his fifth-grade basketball coach (Dan Randolph), to the late Nick Mourouzis, his coach at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, to former Giants Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, with whom he worked for three years with the Miami Dolphins.
Schoen has 20 years of scouting and executive experience in the NFL with the Bills, Dolphins and Carolina Panthers.
"In the end, it was Joe's body of work, having started his career on the ground floor in the NFL and working his way up through the ranks to become the assistant general manager of the Bills, while helping to build one of the best teams in the league that made him the right choice for us," Mara said. "Joe's work ethic, evaluation skills, leadership traits and his ability to communicate with everyone in the building make him just what we need to build this team back into one that our fans can once again be proud of. "
Schoen, 42, inherits a team that has endured five consecutive double-digit loss seasons, finished 31st in the league in scoring each of the last two years and has virtually no current wiggle room under the salary cap.
"It's a concern and it's real," Schoen said of the cap constraints. "(Vice president of football operations/assistant general manager) Kevin Abrams and I haven't talked about it yet. We looked at it, we're going to get together at the end of the week or first of next week to start formulating a plan, but we're going to have to get below the salary cap. Obviously, we're going to have to clear some money, but when the new head coach gets in here, the new staff, we're going to get together, we're going to watch the film, we're going to evaluate everybody, we're going to talk to the support staff. Who are the guys that kind of fit the vision that we're looking for? Who are the guys that are going to buy into the program? Then, we'll make educated decisions once we have more information. There are going to be difficult decisions that are going to have to be made."
He's apparently made at least one significant decision: Daniel Jones will almost certainly continue as the team's starting quarterback. Jones missed the final six games of the 2021 season with a neck injury but expressed confidence he will be fully healthy this year.
"I've looked at Daniel and once the new staff gets in here, we're going to get together – offensive coordinator, head coach, the entire staff – dive into the film as a group and look at what Daniel does best and we're going to try to allow him to put his best foot forward," Schoen said. "I wasn't here in the past, so I don't exactly know what he was told to do. I know he's a great kid, he's been in this building the last two days, I've talked to him. There's not anybody in this building that's said a bad word about his work ethic, passion, desire to win. I think you've got to have those traits as a quarterback, and the kid has physical ability, he's got arm strength, he's athletic, he can run. I'm really excited to work with Daniel and, again, when the new staff gets in here, we'll build an offense around Daniel to accentuate what he does best."
Mara was asked if Schoen's support of Jones is shared by the rest of the organization's hierarchy.
"I want Joe and the new head coach to make that evaluation," he said. "We do feel that Daniel can play. We've done everything possible to screw this kid up since he's been here. We keep changing coaches, keep changing offensive coordinators, keep changing offensive line coaches. I take a lot of responsibility for that. But let's bring in the right group of coaches now and give him some continuity and try to rebuild the offensive line and then be able to make an intelligent evaluation of whether he can be the franchise quarterback or not. I have a lot of hope in Daniel, and I know how badly he wants it. I know how the players feel about him. We are certainly not giving up on him by any stretch of the imagination."
Schoen was not as specific when evaluating the rest of the roster.
"I think when everybody was on the field together, I think there are some pieces," he said. "You watch that New Orleans game (a 27-21 overtime victory), that's a game I reflected upon where some of their better players made good plays down the stretch. I do think there are pieces in place. I think you add a young foundation through the draft. I want to see progress. Obviously, there are some positions that are a little bit more devoid of talent than others. So again, we're going to look to add talent across the board, and just to see progress and put a competitive team on the field next year is very important."
Both Mara and Schoen said the new G.M. does not have a return-to-the-postseason timeline that must be met.
"I'm looking at this as a process," Mara said. "I haven't told him, 'Joe, we better make the playoffs next year otherwise you're out of here.' I'm not making any statements like that. I want him to build the thing the right way and give us a chance for sustained success. I'm not giving him any specific demands for next year. Just build the team the right way."
"It's really just about progress," Schoen said. "We need to see progress, we need to see the team getting better, we need to see competition, we need to see the offense get better, we need to see the defense get better. We want to see progress throughout the entire football operation is what we're looking for. We're not going to make any playoff statements or anything like that. We just want to see progress and see that we're building to something in the future and we're going to build the foundation as soon as we can."
View photos from Joe Schoen's first days on the job as the new general manager of the Giants.