EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.** – A month ago today, John Mara was ready to purge the Giants organization of…well, everybody.
The Giants had just wasted a 21-3 halftime lead and lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 25-24, their seventh consecutive defeat. Mara, the Giants' president and chief executive office, takes all losses hard, especially one to a team that was then 1-10 and doing nothing right for much of the game. It was perhaps the most disappointing defeat in a 6-10 season that included a seven-game losing streak.
"To be honest with you, when I am sitting on the bus after the Jacksonville game, I wanted to fire everybody, from the people in the equipment room through upstairs, because that was a low point for me," Mara said at a news conference today. "We had that three-game streak there – San Francisco, the Dallas loss was a gut-wrenching one for me, and Jacksonville was an embarrassment. That is why I learned a long time ago that you don't make those judgments during the season. You try not to make stupid comments during the season or give votes of confidence or anything like that. I was just happy that none of you (reporters) approached me in the locker room after the game because I may have said something that I would have regretted for a long time after that. That was a low point for me. But again, I learned a long time ago that you have to wait until the end of the season and look at the whole picture in a more rational frame of mind before you make decisions. That is what we try to do."
Mara did that today, when he expressed his continued confidence in general manager Jerry Reese and head coach Tom Coughlin while confirming they would remain in their jobs for the 2015 season.
Coughlin's take on the Jacksonville game? "We stopped the bus on that bridge and we were all going to jump in the water, anyway," he said.
Mara's dismay at what occurred in Jacksonville coincided with the comments Reese made a short time later at the same podium in the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
"What disappoints me the most … during the season, we had plenty of chances to win some games," Reese said. "We were in a lot of games and we didn't close games out. That was the most disappointing thing for me, in spite of people who like to throw the injury thing in there. Everybody has injuries, that is a part of the league. We had chances to close games out as an offense, as a defense, even on special teams. We didn't close some games out, so that was disappointing."
Jason Pierre-Paul, who led the Giants with 12.5 sacks, will be a free agent. Mara, Reese and Coughlin all said they would like JPP to return, but they won't break the bank to make it happen.
"It would have to be at the right price, something that makes sense for us," Mara said. "He certainly had a great finish to the season and showed the type of player that he can be and that he will be going forward. I would be very surprised if he was not a Giant next year."
Pierre-Paul had 3.5 sacks in the first 11 games and 9.0 in the last five.
"I think at the beginning of the season, he wasn't playing like he played at the end of the season," Reese said. "The second half of the season, he came on really strong and played like we thought he should play. They guy has some ability to be a game changer. We didn't see enough of that in the first half of the season.
"He has had some injury problems and we have seen the guy be a dynamic player, and he still is a young player. We know that ability is there. What we have to do is sit down and have a conversation with his agent. It has to make sense for us (financially), it has to make sense for him, like any free agent."
Mara and Reese left open the possibility of using the franchise tag on Pierre-Paul
- Safety and defensive captain Antrel Rolle is also a free agent.
"We would like to have him back, but again, at the right price," Mara said. "I could say that about anybody. We would like them all back at the right price. What that is, depends on the circumstances."
Eli Manning is not a free agent, but he is entering the final season on his contract.
"He has another year left and I assume we will have a discussion with his agent at some point," Mara said. "Again, it would have to be at the right price for us."
Manning will turn 34 on Saturday.
"Eli Manning is not a baby," Reese said. "I don't think he is an old man, but he is not a baby anymore. I do think he can still play at a high level. For how long? Who knows how long?
- Wide receiver Victor Cruz missed the last 10 games after tearing his patellar tendon in Philadelphia on Oct. 12. Last week, Cruz expressed optimism that he will return at full strength, but Reese remains cautious.
"It is a significant injury that he has," Reese said. "You never know how he is going to come back from that. We are hoping that he is definitely going to come back and be the Victor Cruz that we know. You never know with the significant injury he had. We are hopeful that he will come back and be the Victor Cruz that we like, but you never know.
"That was a significant injury, just like David Wilson (who was forced to retire with a neck injury) had a significant injury. You've got to prepare as if, 'What if Victor Cruz doesn't come back?' That is always in the back of your head. If you are a personnel guy, or a general manager, that is always in the back of your head. What if this guy doesn't come back and be the player that we think he is?"
Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants' first-round draft choice this year, set team rookie records with 91 receptions, 1305 yards and 12 touchdowns in just 12 games.
How good can he be?
"He is good," Reese said. "The best thing about him is he's got a gifted skill set. His number one trait that sets him apart from a lot people with a superior skill set like he has, he is what we call a 'dog' around here. He's got that 'dog' mentality, his passion, and as you can see, you almost have to calm him down a little bit how he plays. He is a gifted young football player, he has the chance to be a really good player for us for a long time, we hope."
- Quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf left the Giants after just one season to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Nebraska. Langsdorf worked for many seasons at Oregon State under new Nebraska coach Mike Riley.
"He is leaving," Coughlin said. "It's his choice. You don't expect someone to be here for a year, but that's his decision. Wish him well. Let's go."
Wide receivers coach Sean Ryan mentored Manning and the quarterbacks in 2012-13. Might Ryan return to that position?
"I don't know," Coughlin said. "I'll think about that. Sean did a very good job this year. Very good job. And he is a very good football coach. Matter of fact, he had a lot to do with third down. We were 43 percent on third down. I need to look around and get a sense for where we are."