Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: Starting on a positive, what's gotten into Zo (Linebacker Lorenzo Carter) the last couple of weeks?
A: I told him yesterday, I'm going to start calling him Mr. Carter. Mr. Carter showed up. Who knows the exact reason? I know he works hard; he works really hard during the week and I'm happy for him that it's starting to come together, having some success. He's playing pretty well, he's doing a good job in the run setting the edge, being able to transition especially on early downs getting some pass rush and stuff. You saw last week – we talked about flashing the long arm on like the third kick with that guy. Boom got it and it worked out perfectly. It's starting to come together for him. I'm just happy for him, but I refer to him as Mr. Carter. I might keep it going today, too.
Q: There might be some cynics who look at it saying the guy is in a contract year. Was he hurt before this?
A: Obviously, he got hurt last year. Again, injury questions you've got to ask (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) and all those guys, but sometimes it just takes a while to get it clicking. Maybe something in his mind is coming together. You really have to ask him. I can't speak for him. I'm just happy that he's playing better and he's having some success. Not that he was playing poorly before, but just getting the production because that's part of it. This is a production business, whether you're coaching, you're playing, whatever it may be. It's a production business and you want to reap the benefits of your hard work. Those sacks, the TFLs, being around the ball, all that stuff is part of it.
Q: Probably the last time we'll talk to you this season. We know last year you turned down an interview for a head coach. Will you take one this year if somebody calls and offers one?
A: It's so hard, those jobs. Obviously – I mean, not obviously, but the idea is to one day be a head coach. A lot of us that get in this business want to do that. Again, I can't really speak on it right now because whatever the situation is, if someone wants to talk to me, they want to talk to me. I'm sure I'll consider it, but right now my focus is so much on Washington, trying to figure out a way to win this game, get the guys in the right spot. I would be flattered to have an opportunity, but we'll see what comes of it later on.
Q: I know you just said you're focused on Washington, but since we won't get you again, how do you reflect on how the defense played overall this season when you look?
A: It starts with me. I don't think I did a good enough job. Obviously, when you don't get the wins that you wanted, you've got to do a better job. It starts with me. I've got a lot of stuff to reflect on this offseason to try to get it right – not to try, to get it right. I've got a list of stuff over by my desk on my righthand side of stuff I've got to get fixed. Behind my back, we use dry erase boards that slide, so that backboard has a lot of the stuff that I'm getting on myself about. It starts there. From there, then you look at the statistical stuff and the analytics stuff, maybe in terms of the calls and everything and what should work out here. The one thing I love about the offseason, especially when it starts next week, I love watching the playoff games. Unfortunately, for the last five years I haven't been in a playoff game, so that's not fun. But I get to watch the playoff games because a lot of situational football comes up, a lot of schemes that maybe you haven't seen, but the crossover tape will come up. Again, good for me. My wife, thankfully she likes to watch football, but it's still a workweek for me. The weekends I'm working. You talk to any coaches, tough to watch those games and not work, so you're working and trying to pick their brains. From there, I'll probably figure out what team I want to study, what coordinator's system I want to study. Got a lot to do a lot of studying this offseason, got to get it right, got to work on the slow start stuff like that, the two-minute obviously. Just a lot of stuff to work on, a lot of stuff to work on.
Q: You mentioned the two-minute. I lost track of – gave up a lot of points in the two-minute. Why do you think that is?
A: Again, it starts with me. That's part of evaluating. Again, we've got one more opportunity this week. I'm sure a two-minute before the half will come up and most games in this league come down to two-minute at the end of the game. Got another opportunity this week, but looking back at it, there's probably a number of things. I know it starts with me. I've got to get better in that situation, making sure I really emphasize attacking their weaknesses and emphasizing our strengths. But, a lot of room to grow on that. Learned my lesson this year and I'll work to improve it next year, but it starts pretty soon. Obviously, you've got to start this week because Washington, they got us in the two-minute twice last time, so that was good. They got down there in the low red, that third-and-three or whatever with 23 seconds, they ran the ball in, get the field goal. So, we got it to a fourth down, didn't capitalize on that, so just some situational football in there we've got to get fixed.
Q: If I could ask one big-picture coordinator question, what do you think is the hardest offense to stop? I'm not saying what team, I'm saying is it one that gets the ball out fast or one that runs more than it passes?
A: I can give you specifics. Over my 13-year career in the league, the guy who's given me – not me, I wasn't a coordinator, but just as a coach – (Gary) Kubiak. It didn't matter. It didn't matter what we did, they would go for 300, 400 yards. Combination of that zone stretch, play-action. They always did a good job, but they used to murder us (laughs). I'm not saying we would lose every game, but they used to murder us. I'm telling you if you get me drinking enough and I start talking, it's nightmares from those games (laughs). You want to talk about remembering plays? I can remember probably – you can point out gains of 25, like alright, 2012 Houston. Trust me, I've got some nightmares from Kubiak. He's pretty good, he's pretty good.
Q: You're pretty close with Joe. You're not oblivious to what's going on around that—
Q: What do you think of all the criticism that he's been getting, including for that press conference the other day?
A: I can't speak on the specifics or anything. I just know this, good leadership, being able to ignore the noise, and being able to focus. I talked about it before, the emotional stamina to be able to handle whatever comes their way. Again, I'm here because of Joe. I'm here because of Joe. I trust in Joe's vision. Again, leadership has to have vision and with vision, you can't be worried about the stuff that tries to sidetrack you from there. Again, I don't pay attention to the criticism. I'm sure my wife would want to tell me some stuff, but she keeps that away from me. People text me during the season, it's hard to get in touch with me during the season, so I can't really speak on it. I just know this, I know Joe's strong, he's a good leader, smart dude and he'll handle it how he needs to handle it, but to me, just ignore the noise. That's what you have to do. One-minute Pat Graham is the worst defensive coordinator ever in the history of football, one minute I'm going to be the head coach of whatever, now I'm the worst coordinator again. I don't listen to it. Again, obviously, I might have heard it, I just regurgitated it back to you (laughs), but I don't pay any attention to it. I know this, I've got a long way to go. I know that. I hope I'm not a finished product right now. I've got a long way to go, so we're just trained to just really ignore it. Really ignore it, focus on the players, focus on the opponent. Washington, the quarterback is playing well. I really like this guy. I remember seeing him in that game against Tampa Bay last year in the playoffs. When I talked about watching the playoff games, I was like, 'Who is this guy?' Just how he's done so well this year, we've got a tough opponent this week, so that's the main focus for me.
Q: Do you feel like this defense as a whole, big-picture at the end of this year going into next year, is really close to being – you guys are pretty good and you're good in stretches. Are you close to being a really high-end unit here?
A: I think this: the energy is good; the work ethic is good. I think I've got some improvements that I need to do as a coordinator, as a play-caller. I think sometimes – and again, it goes back to me, the finish. The finish. We've got to finish better. Again, it starts with me. I call the call, so it starts with me. I think that's one thing looking ahead that's something that will help us, the finish. Finish on opportunities, whether it's the right call in the third-down situation, whether to pressure, whether not to pressure, stuff like that. Are we close? I mean, next year is a whole new year. This is the last time we're going to have this group of guys out there. That's why we've got to enjoy every moment. This is the last Thursday meeting I'm going to have with the guys. Tomorrow is the last Friday meeting. Today's the last Thursday practice. You think about it, it gets kind of sad sometimes because you know you're not going to see the whole group again. Again, it's a business, we're playing football, we're coaching football, but I spend more time with them than I do my family, so you get close with these guys. I know me personally, I do this because of them. That's where I get my energy, I draw my energy from the players. I know I'm a pretty grumpy, cranky, miserable dude for the most part, aside from my family and these players. I just want success for them. That's why I get upset about stuff because I just want them to be successful. I want Leo (Defensive Lineman Leonard Williams) to win games, I want JB (Cornerback James Bradberry) to win games. All the work they put in out here, I want them to win games, I want them to reap the rewards of all their hard work, so that's when the disappointment sets in. Then, when you start to get towards the end of the year and we didn't get to where we wanted to get to, it gets a little sad. Are we close? Who knows? Next year is so different. I know this, I've got to get better and I'm sure they're thinking they've got to get better because it wasn't good enough, I'll tell you that much. Close, not good enough – you're either good and you hold that trophy at the end or it wasn't good enough. Again, I know there's in-between, but when you win the thing one time that's all that matters. All that matters.
Q: Do you sense any uncertainty on this staff about whether the plug is going to get pulled on this?
A: We coach football in the NFL. Since the moment I signed my first contract in 2009 when (Patriots Head Coach) Bill (Belichick) called me in the office and I signed my contract, I knew then 'Not for long,' all that stuff that coaches tell you, that's how it is. I can't speak about this particular situation or anything like that. I just know how I operate. I operate just hoping, boom, swipe my card, I get in, cool. I'm here for another day and I just work hard for that day. Again, I think when you learn to focus on the day, you're not worried about that stuff. I know there are stories written and there's stuff, I get it. I'm not trying to be disrespectful to the question or anything like that, but in terms of how I operate, and I know how a lot of the coaches operate, it's day-to-day. I'm focused on Washington right now, figuring out a way to stop 24 (Antonio Gibson), figuring out a way to limit 17 (Terry McLaurin) on Sunday, figure out a way to keep the quarterback from scrambling all over the place and throwing these passes behind his ear and whatever he's doing. This guy is completing a lot of balls. That's what's keeping me up right now.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: Okay, give us the rundown of that kickoff. Can you retell it?
A: Simple mistake. It was an honest mistake by Coop (Wide Receiver Pharoh Cooper) and it's unfortunate. It's unfortunate it happened. He knows it was a mistake. That's football. I can promise you this, you wouldn't have a better guy as far as just work ethic, doing the right things, being in meetings. He just made an honest mistake. The wind was tricky, and it was typical Chicago in January – really, really cold, really, really windy – hence, 'the Windy City.' But he made an honest mistake.
Q: Do you coach him to go back there and catch it no matter what? Because he did kind of the same thing, but it was on the other side on the one early.
A: Right, and the wind took it. The exact instructions – put your heels on the three-yard line. Unfortunately, it happened. Again, you live and you learn and onto the next play.
Q: Who's your returner this week?
A: That's a good question. We'll see.
Q: You guys did one of those punts with (Punter) Riley (Dixon) where he kind of like rolled out. What was the thought process behind that?
A: Any time you have an extremely dangerous returner, you can't just shoot it out of a jugs machine to him. Any way strategically or schematically you can make him get uncomfortable and not just catch the ball or catch a 60-yard five-whatever hang punt. If you have to make him move off the spot and make him feel uncomfortable, that's kind of the whole premise. If you watch us the whole year, that's just kind of what we do. We try not to just, 'Hey, here's a 45-yard, 4.8 ball. Let's have you return it because you're faster than everybody on the frickin' field, other than maybe (Defensive Back) Keion (Crossen).' We don't want to do that. Any time we get a dangerous guy, we're going to try and do our best to negate him.
Q: Does the Washington guy fit into that category?
A: Yes, he's very, very dangerous. He already has a touchdown this year on a kickoff return, 101 yards against Atlanta. I literally just got out of the meeting and telling them, 'That guy will run through the smoke,' and he's super, super talented. He's fearless and he's a guy you've just got to deal with.
Q: Why did you put (Wide Receiver Alex) Bachman back there as like kind of the double return? I don't think you guys have done pretty much of that.
A: Wind. Wind. It's just again, any time you can have more ball handlers on the field, it's a windy situation. The ball could come off the tee and it could be headed in one direction and all of a sudden it ends up on the other side of the field. Any time it's windy outside, you want to have as many ball handlers back there as you can.
Q: I assume this might be the last time we talk to you this season. How do you look at what your special teams unit did this year as a whole?
A: Obviously, looking back, there are a lot of plays we would like to have back. I think we've done some good things. We're developing a young core. We've had a ton of injuries with our core. Again, we've talked about this before, you're talking about continuity, and this is on all sides of the ball and every unit. When you've got a great o-line, you've got the same guys playing that are playing every snap together. Defensive line, same thing. You've got the same four or five guys rotating in. You've got the same punt team every week. You've got the same kickoff team. When you can develop that continuity, that helps breed consistency. If you've got a lot of changes, constant changes, and big changes, it's just hard to get that continuity. It's not an excuse, it's just the reality of the situation. Again, if we could have more continuity, I think that would help with the consistency, which would help with the performance. I think we've been okay, to be honest with you. I think we've been okay. We haven't made enough game-changing plays to help our football team. Sometimes that's the reality of a season. You want to make as many plays as you can. But again, you want to make sure you're sound too because I've seen it the other way where you don't have continuity and you give up a bunch of big plays because of that. We haven't done that, knock on wood. We've just got to stay consistent with the guys that we have out on the field, coach them up, get them better and if it's three right tackles three weeks in a row on the punt team and they're different, so be it. That's why they call you coach. That's why we get paid to do a job. That's our job to coach them up and we've got to make sure that they're able to perform on game day.
Q: In retrospect, how much were you hoping to get (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney) at some point as your returner?
A: You know what, I don't worry about players in particular. Obviously, you want a game-changer back there and a guy that can make a play, but I'm going to coach whoever's out there. Whoever's out there, it doesn't matter. It could be Kadarius. It could be (Wide Receiver) Darius Slayton. It could be Alex Bachman. It could be whoever. Our job as coaches is when (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) tells me, 'Okay, this guy is returning punts this week,' or 'This guy, you've got him available this week,' he'll play. I don't worry about who I don't have. I just worry about who I have, and I focus on him, and we focus on him and just make sure whoever that person is, is able to do the job.
Q: Is there any nervousness from you or the staff about job security going into this game?
A: Never. Not me. I can't speak for the staff. I'm just telling you for me, look, I just do my job. Whatever happens after that, it happens. I promise you and I want you to hear this clearly, I will never lay my head down on the pillow and worry about job security because I do the best I can, like I leave it all out on the table. I try and do everything I can possibly do to do my job the best I can do. I promise you I'm not worried about job security.
Q: What do you think the best case is for this staff coming back and continuing to coach what you've built?
A: The best case is building on the things that we've done. I know sometimes it's always easy to second guess and critique and say, 'Oh, they don't do this.' You don't see a lot of stuff that's going on behind the scenes. There are some good things that are happening, and we've just got to keep building and stay to the process. A lot of times when you're building on swamp ground, you've got to go 10 times deeper before you start going up. We're all on swamp ground if you haven't figured it out and it's a little harder here. It's not Cleveland. It's not other places. It's New York City and it's harder to build here because you've got a lot of things that you're working against. It's hard. You come get your head beat in. You're going to get your teeth kicked in. You're going to get booed in the stadium. If you're not strong mentally, you're not going to be able to make it here. That's the reason why they say, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. It is hard here and you've just got to stay the course, keep pounding, keep grinding and eventually you'll get to where you want to be, right? Because you'll have some success and it'll happen here. When we've seen this city flip, we already know what it is. We've seen one week, 'Eli (Manning) sucks.' We've seen that, right? Now, his freaking name's up in the rafters after two Super Bowls. We've seen it here. We know what it is. The guys that have been here, we understand it and we know exactly what it is. Again, you've just got to keep your head down, keep working, keep grinding and eventually get to where you want.
Q: What do you mean is more working against you here than maybe other places?
A: Don't act brand new (laughs). You know it's tough here. This is New York City, like it's tough. This is the hardest place to have success, so when you have success here, that's why the franchises are iconic. New York Yankees, New York Knicks, New York Giants, like when you have success here it goes all over the world. So if it's worldwide success, it's not going to be easy. We understand that and you've got to know that walking in the front door. You know what it is. You see these logos all around the world. You get off a plane in Germany and you'll see a Giants logo. You'll see a Yankees logo. That's what it is, right? We're talking about the best of the best, the elite of the elite. It's hard here. It's not easy. We've just got to make sure we just keep our head down and keep working.
Wide Receivers Coach Tyke Tolbert
Q: What does (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney) need to do this offseason to make sure year two is healthier and more productive than his year one?
A: Yeah, I think a lot goes into that, I think as a rookie sometimes these guys don't know, they really don't know how long the season is. Most guys in college at the end of the season was like half the season in the NFL. In college when they have 11 to 12 games, for us that's probably our eighth game or ninth game, something like that counting the preseason. I think for the long haul, it's knowing what to do and take care of your body because obviously, no one knows your body more than you. He has to take care of his body a little more, learn from other guys, what kind of routine they have and pray and stay healthy. It's a tough business, it's a physical business and it's collision on every snap. So, you have to do the best you can to be able to maintain your body whether it's nutrition, whether it's being with the trainers, whether it's massages, whatever. Just do whatever you can to make sure your body is in the best possible condition to go out there and play.
Q: What about with (Wide Receiver) Kenny (Golladay)? Obviously, this season maybe didn't go as he expected. What needs to improve there – whether it's getting the ball more to him, doing something different or anything like that?
A: Yeah, I think with Kenny, working with Kenny has really been good this year first of all. He's really taken well to coaching. There are some things he can improve on, there are some things I can help him with, but the thing Kenny's been doing really is staying the course and hasn't really been concerned about who's doing what because he knows he has his job to do. That's the main thing with Kenny, just keep doing your job and doing it better. I can help him more with that, so he'll be much better next year than he was this year. Now, no one can control who gets the ball, when they get the ball, that kind of stuff. The only thing he can do is go out there and do his job to the best of his ability every snap and see what happens.
Q: He's never been a big separation guy, at least according to the analytics. Does that take time with the same quarterback over and over to realize, he might not look open, but you have to throw the ball to Kenny or you're never going to throw the ball to Kenny because he's never going to be wide open?
A: You know what, you raise a good point. There's probably some validity to that. It's having guys feel more comfortable and throwing it to a guy when he doesn't quote unquote see him open. Like I tell a lot of people all the time, Kenny is 6'4, so a lot of times he's open when he's not open because of his catch radius. If a quarterback or whoever is not used to throwing to guys like that, then that might take some time. So yeah, there's some validity to that.
Q: How do you make sense of (Wide Receiver) Dante Pettis being the last receiver to score a touchdown for you guys – which was before Halloween? How do you make sense of that long a stretch without a receiver getting a touchdown?
A: It's hard to make sense of that, but we can only control what we can control. When I go out there and try to coach my guys, I try to coach them to the best of my ability to do their responsibility on every play whether it's a run game play or a passing game play and be as productive as possible. We only have one job to do as a receiver. I say one job, but we only can control one person to do their job and that's what we try to do to the best of our ability. Whatever happens after that happens. Everybody has a job to do, we have to do it all on the same page at the same time and hopefully have the best results.
Q: Last week Kenny seemed to be the only veteran and experienced guy you had out there. Can he expect others this week with maybe (Wide Receiver) Darius (Slayton) and Toney coming back?
A: I certainly hope so. I think some other guys have been working with the trainers and they've been working with us in the walk-through yesterday – and there will be some guys that are working more individual today and maybe carry onto teams. Hopefully we get a couple of those guys back to help us out because we were a little short this past week, but nobody cares. We've got to attend to a job, and we'll go out there and do our job to the best of our abilities to who's available. We expect the same results. We expect to go out there and have great results and try to win this game, this last game.
Q: Did Chicago double him a lot?
A: I wouldn't say they doubled him a lot, no. I just think they played their defense. I think they pressured more than they have shown in recent past, and it was just unfortunate we couldn't do a lot of things we wanted to do on offense because they were doing a couple things that was different than they've shown on film. We have to go out there and adjust and make the plays when they come our way. Be it in the run game or pass game and see what happens.
Q: Why do you think from a big picture perspective that the last two years have been such a struggle offensively?
A: I don't know – I can't answer that question and be right because there are a lot of things that factor in. Health factors in, having guys healthy. Experience factors in. We've got some inexperienced guys mixed with some experienced guys. There are a lot of things that can factor in there, but I can't really pinpoint one thing. There are several things we need to improve on as a team and as an offense to be better next year. If I pinpointed one thing, that wouldn't be fair to the other things that could be wrong.
Q: I know like you said it's a lot of things, I'm just curious some of the first things that came to your mind. You mentioned injuries there, how big of an impact has that been for you guys?
A: That's the biggest thing. It's been huge, huge. The injury/COVID stuff, everybody deals with that, but it hit us pretty hard this year. When you have that many guys going in and out of the lineup, it's hard to get chemistry, whether it's the line, the quarterback, receivers, running backs. It's hard to get chemistry that way. I think health is the number one thing that gives you the best chance to have success. You look at the teams that are really good, they've probably been the team that's been the most healthy throughout the course of the year.
Q: Kind of similar question I guess, but kind of asked the opposite way. You've been in a lot of systems. You've been on offenses that have had a lot of success, I just asked (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Pat Graham what makes the best offense from a defensive perspective, like what gives him the hardest time. He actually said (Former NFL Head Coach) Gary Kubiak's offense, which I know you were in. I'm just curious, what makes the best offense? Do you have to have fast receivers? Do you have to get the ball out quick? If you were designing an offense, like what makes the best offense?
A: I think if I were designing an offense and I had a magic wand (laughs), I'd make sure all the guys are healthy first of all, because all of the NFL players are good players. That's why they're in the NFL. So, when you have healthy guys that are smart and tough and physical, you can have a good offense, a good defense, a good special teams, whatever. But it starts with the health of all your guys. I believe that.
Q: Does (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney) not know how to be a professional yet?
A: I think he's working on that. I think he's working on it, like all rookies are. You could ask that about any rookie in the NFL, and they'll say well they're working on that. He's no different than any other rookie. He's working on it. He's learning from some vets. He's learning from the coaches of how to do things, from the trainers – it's a work in progress. You can't come into the NFL as a rookie and say, 'Okay, I'm a pro.' You could say that, but it's a process you have to go through in order to, 'be a pro,' and I think he's working through that. I think he's going in the right direction. The needle is pointing up in that situation.
Running Back Saquon Barkley
Q: How much are you looking forward to this offseason and just getting back to a regular offseason? Obviously, you didn't have that last year, you were rehabbing all the way up to training camp.
A: Obviously, we've got to take care of business this week. That's what's the most important thing is right now, finishing off on a high note. Only one more opportunity with this group of men in this building, so finish off on a high note. But I do believe the offseason definitely is going to be helpful for me, just coming off an ACL, having to rehab and getting ready for the season. Now I can get back to the training and how I want to train and get my body in shape to get my body ready for a 17-game season and then some. Not saying I'm looking forward to it, but I know how helpful it's going to be for my body and for the rest of my career.
Q: I don't want to put words in your mouth, but were you surprised by how exhausting the process was to come back from the ACL and to do it right up against the season like that?
A: No, I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I prepared myself for this, even though I couldn't train the way I wanted to train last offseason. I attacked rehab, I tried to attack it to come back even better. Obviously, there were some things that are just out of your control that happened throughout the season that kind of pushes you back, a little adversity. You can't plan for that, but I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I'm just thankful that I'm still here, I'm still able to play the game that I love. I know that the ACL and the tough times through this year that that adversity will help mold me and build me into the man and the player that I'm going to be in the future.
Q: I'm curious, you've had two head coaches, two running back coaches, four offensive line coaches, which obviously plays into what you do, three offensive coordinators. How much does that constant change affect players? I'm not just talking about (Head Coach) Joe (Judge), I'm talking about the assistant coaches. How much does constant coaching staff change affect productivity and development and all those kinds of things?
A: You can't go into that situation looking at it like that. You only can control what you can control. In this game, we get paid to go out there and play football, but like you said, there have been a couple changes these last four or five years or whatever and different coaches not just for myself, but for a lot of players in this building. Is that a big difference? I don't know. For me, like I said, my mindset – everyone attacks it differently, but my mindset is control what you can control, whatever it is, go out there and go to work. I would say through that you get to meet a lot of different personalities, be coached by a lot of different coaches, grab a little bit from everyone and improve your game, but it does impact a little bit, to be completely honest, just as players. But it's all about how you attack it, it's all about your approach with it. I think my mindset is just control what you can control and that's going out there every single day and trying to get better, and take coaching, listen to the details, and try to improve as a player.
Q: You were in this spot two years ago where late in the season – you've probably been asked this exact question – do you feel like you guys are playing to save some of your coaches' jobs? Like a win, a dominant performance, improvement could save some jobs? You were probably asked that in 2019. Do you carry that, or do you not worry about that?
A: You can't look at it like that. To be honest, the only point of view that I can speak from is a player's point of view. All of that decision-making and stuff like that is out of our control. We don't make those decisions. We get paid to go out there and play the sport that we love. That's the mindset that we've got to have to be professionals, to go out there knowing that we only have one more opportunity left as a team, try to go out there and finish strong with a win just so we can for ourselves. Like I said, you can't really worry about that too much or having that mindset too much. You've got to control what you can control and that's how you go out there, in your effort and how you play.
Q: You talked after the game, but what did you make of all the criticism that your coach, Joe Judge, took for the emotional things that he said after the game? Do you think it's deserved? Do you think he flew off the handle? Are you proud that he said it? What's your reaction as a player?
A: To be completely honest, I'm not really aware of the criticism that came behind it. Like you said, I talked right after him. He got up there – Coach is a passionate coach. He said things that he felt and that he believed in, and that a lot of players in the locker room believe in, too. What I took from it was the message that this place is going in the right direction. It may not look like it right now from the outside looking in, but internally we know what we have here, we know what we're doing in the locker room, meaning the characters that we have, the personalities that we have, the work ethic that we have. Sometimes, it doesn't automatically transfer to the football field, but like I said after I talked after him, I believe it's the only way I know how to get stuff done, how to improve and how to get better is to continue to work and continue to trust the process. Obviously, we know it's frustrating as players. Obviously, we know fans get upset when we go out there and we lose or lose by a large amount of numbers, for players too it's frustrating. You've got to keep your head down and you've got to keep working and have belief and have faith. That's the message that I took from it. I don't know the criticism that came behind it. I try my best to stay out of the media, stay out of 'he said, she said' things. Obviously, I'm active with social media, so some stuff comes to my attention, but this week that hasn't come to my attention. But the message I got from it was the belief that he has in this locker room, the belief that the has internally and I think all the players would come out and agree with that.
Q: Looking back throughout the entire year on overcoming this injury, do you feel like the Giants made it harder for you to get on the field in the sense that the medical restrictions were such that they weren't going to force you to get out there before you were ready?
A: No. I don't look at it like that at all, to be honest. I can't speak for other places, I've only been here. One thing that I can wholeheartedly say is that we have an amazing training staff, amazing medical staff, amazing everything in this building. When you first come here and you're not hurt, you don't get to spend that much time with everyone in the training room. You only go in there for prehab and make sure you don't get hurt, but I've had to spend a lot of quality time with a lot of those guys in that training room. They're unbelievable people and helped me as much as they can to get me back on the football field. There were a lot of challenges that came throughout the way with camp, with the passing of my great aunt, with joint practices, how comfortable do you feel going out there against another team, so there were some delays in there, but the medical staff did nothing but help me and prepare me to get me ready for the season. Even when adversity hit with the ankle, to prepare my body and get me out there as quick as I can and as healthy as I can to go out there and be able to produce.
Q: I wonder how you would describe this season for yourself. Also, in your mind, is it just a matter of you being healthy for you to get back to the player that you were and that you want to be?
A: No, I don't think so. My mind is just going out there, producing, continuing to play the sport that I love. When you have an ankle injury like I said before previously, it's something that's just going to nag. I had probably one of my better games in recent time last week and it wasn't like the ankle just went away. It was something that I was able to get a flow in the game. O-line did an amazing job opening holes and I was able to get back in a rhythm. There has just been so much – I hate talking about this to be completely honest because anytime I kind of talk and defend myself it sounds like I'm just making up excuses. I never want to be viewed as that person or that type of player. That's not my motto, making excuses, but there have just been a lot of uphill battles, a lot of adversities that came throughout the season and you've just got to take your punches and roll with it. For me, getting back to that player – you're never going to be 100 percent healthy. You don't even come to the first game 100 percent healthy to be honest because you've got the grind and wear and tear of camp. Every week, everybody is battling something new. There are going to be more battles I'm going to have to face and hopefully it's nothing season-ending or anything that I would have to sit out for multiple weeks, but for me it's just getting out there, getting in a rhythm, going back to just being confident, just getting back there and believe that every time I'm back there that I'm him. That's what I'm getting back to and that's what I feel like I got back to last week, and I'm going to continue to go through the rest of my career.
Safety Xavier McKinney
Q: What do you make individually – I know teamwise it wasn't what you wanted – but individually of your second year do you feel like you've solidified yourself as a rising star in this league?
A: No, I don't. I think I've got a lot more that I want to get accomplished. There was some stuff that was going on earlier in the season, but I've still got a lot more to prove and I know that. Going into next year, it'll be good to work on those things and get back to it.
Q: There were some things going on early in the season? Do you want to share on what you mean by that?
A: I wasn't getting as many reps and stuff, so just being out there more on the field and getting that chemistry with the guys. Earlier in the season I wasn't getting as much, so I feel like it kind of hindered it slightly. When I got out there, I made the plays, I still missed a lot that I could have made, and I know that. Just go back to work and when opportunities present themselves next time that I get them done.
Q: In a player's shoes this weekend, does it feel like you're playing to save your coaches job like your head coach, your assistant coaches? Does that come into a players' mind as extra motivation, we have to play to help out our coaches, because you know that there's a lot of speculation about what is going on here after the season?
A: We're trying to win games. I think that's the main goal. Nobody is trying to get anybody fired, nobody is trying to help anybody keep a job. We're all just trying to win games at the end of the day. I think as players and as coaches, we know that, the coaches, they know that. We just try to go out there and do our jobs and be able to come out victorious at the end of it.
Q: What has (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Patrick Graham meant to your development as a player this year? We know that he had interviewed for some head coaching jobs last year. Do you see him maybe someday becoming a head coach?
A: I do, I do. I'm hopeful that he comes back. Obviously, this is my second year having him as the DC and I like what he's building with us as a defensive unit. I like what he preaches and like I said, I hope he comes back, we want him to come back so we can keep building. Obviously, the year didn't go how we wanted it to go this year or last year, but I think small steps and it takes time, but I think we'll get there to that dominant defense that we want to have.
Q: As far as you having a breakout year, what has he meant to your career so far in the NFL?
A: Yeah, he's been a big help for me. We make sure I do the little things from just having any side meetings, just trying to help me more as far as my development. Just seeing different things, asking him what he sees, he's telling me what he sees and what he thinks I can do in certain situations. I definitely think that he's been a big help to my development as a player this year.
Defensive Back Logan Ryan
Q: (Head Coach) Joe Judge has taken a lot of heat this week especially after his comments after the game the other day and given how the season's gone to this point. What can you best say in the defense of him and of your guys' program that it should continue and that you believe this is going in the right direction as he said the other day?
A: I would just say that Joe's been consistent in his demeanor and his approach with us. I think as a professional, he's treated us all well with respect in terms of players and listening to the veterans on this team and welcoming any insight that we might have. I just think he's been a coach and a man who's been willing to listen to his players and still requires the same week in and week out from his players. To me, he's just been consistent since they hired him in terms of his approach with us and he's treated us professionally. It's been respectable, he's been a respectful head coach in my opinion.
Q: I know this is all new to you having been where you've been but do players shoulder that going into this game like, 'we need to win, we need to put a good performance out there,' to save not just Joe, assistant coaches, all these guys who are coaching you. Do you shoulder that responsibility of we need to play well to save our coaches basically?
A: I just shoulder the responsibility of I need to play well because it's what I get paid to do because this game means a lot to us as players and our families and this building. There's a lot of people I've highlighted throughout my career that do a lot of work behind the scenes that want to contribute to a winning product. I just think as a professional athlete when there's a scoreboard, you want to win that game. We're all competitive. We're very competitive in everything we do, and I think we're trying to be competitive on the football field. I just shoulder the same weight every week and try to get a win.
Q: (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Patrick Graham was talking earlier about defensive struggles this year, how he has to get better. How much can the players and what can the players do to kind of help him along as he evolves in that job?
A: I think the players need to execute the plays that are being called. Just because something doesn't go right on a play doesn't mean its Patrick Graham's fault. Sometimes it's the players fault and it means that you shoulder that part of the game because we're playing the game and he allows some of us to be free as well and use some of our expertise and some of our knowledge and skillset and let those guys play free. That's what Pat allows us to do. So, it's our job to make those plays when we are and when we don't, you just chalk it up to a good play on offense and you keep going. I just think Pat's again consistent in his approach and I've known Pat for a lot of years. He's a very good coach and he's a player's coach who believes in his guys and puts his guys in a position to make the plays and whether we make them or not, that comes down to the players at the end of the day. It's a good mix between the player and the coach. It's a good relationship that we have with Pat, and we'll continue to grow under him and continue to improve as a defense.
Q: You've seen those qualities in him, and he has interviewed for head coaching jobs in the past. Do you see him maybe making that leap any time in the future, possibly next year?
A: Definitely. If your coach is being interviewed for head coaching jobs, then that means that your unit did a good job. It means your unit did a really good job and people liked how you're playing, and your coach puts you in a good position. Pat's definitely a great coach and I'm pulling for him and hope that that comes his way. I'll let him speak on that, but that means that I did my job as a leader on that defense and our unit performed high enough for our coach to get that attention that he definitely deserves because he's definitely put the work in behind the scenes and is willing to adapt with this ever-changing game of offense which changes so much and Pat's willing to adapt. He's one of the more innovative coordinators that I've worked with.
Q: One of the things that kind of got pushed out into the forefront in football today was players being forced to play while hurt. Does that still happen?
A: Not at the New York Giants it doesn't. (Senior Vice President, Medical Services/Head Athletic Trainer) Ronnie Barnes is the best in the business. Again, I've advocated with the (Assistant Athletic Trainer/Physical Therapist) Justin Maher story and my wife and how much of a great job these guys do with us and our families medically. I think we've got the top of the top in those terms. I can't speak for any organization, but for this one, I think they do it the right way and I think the only way to do it. I think the Giants are the model standard when it comes to the medical side of it.
Q: You hear what's going on and Joe's postgame press conference and everything, and just the noise that's surrounding him, a lot of critics out there of him. What do you make of all that noise about your head coach?
A: We haven't been winning in New York and that's just a big spotlight. It's a tough job and a tough place when you're not winning because of the passion and the amount of support that we have for this organization. I just think Joe's a passionate guy and I think he's an honest guy and a truthful guy. I just think that was some of that coming out there. I'll let Joe speak for himself on his comments, but in terms of the feedback and all that, this is a certain place when you go to sign up to play you understand the good and bad that comes from it and that's just part of competition, winning and losing. It's kind of the spotlight here and the mecca of New York.
Q: Also, we've seen a lot of good from the defense over the last two years. How close do you think you are to getting to be that really top unit?
A: I think we can be that. We strive to be that. I don't think our expectation is to be wherever we're at this year. I think our expectation is to close out games like we were unable to do at the beginning of the year to win games. I think that we need to learn from this season. It hasn't gone as planned, obviously. I believe we put a lot of work in, but collectively I think the execution hasn't been to what we would like. They'll be changes on this team I'm sure, so we'll see what those changes are and get some of our guys back who missed a year medically and see what we have and go work at it again. We've got to give another crack at it just because it didn't turn out how we wanted, but our expectation is to be very dominant and very good on defense. I just think it's the culture here in this team and this history of this franchise and I think we have the potential to be built that way. I think the players have taken ownership, myself included, that it hasn't been the top of the league regardless of what's going on the other side of the ball, what's going on in the organization. Our standards are our standards, and we haven't met them this year. We're going to keep going at it and get there.
Q: I know there's been a lot of frustration, disappointment this season. As you come down to the final week though, it seems like there's a little bit of – just talking to Pat and Joe – a little bit of melancholy, a little bit of sadness just the last Thursday meeting, last Friday practice. Were you prepared for that at all? This is your first time going through something like that.
A: It's my first time, so I'm kind of taking it as is. I've realized how fortunate I've been in my career that other players have to experience this, and I don't like experiencing this honestly. I'd like to play a lot more football than this. But this is what you're guaranteed to play if you're healthy on your contract. It's what you signed up for and extra, so to me, we're just approaching it all, it's the last week let's make it a good one. I don't want to go into the offseason with too much regret. There's stuff I wish I could've changed. There are plays I wish I could've made. There's stuff I wish I said sooner, but that's all Monday morning quarterback. It's after the result. I try to prepare my best and play and I'm going to try to prepare my best this week and go out there and let the chips fall where they may and see where that leads us. I just think it's been great energy this week and guys have really been hanging out a lot more knowing that we don't have another week together. Guys have really been embracing this and hanging in the building longer and putting the work in to make the last performance a good one.
View rare photos of the all-time series between the New York Giants and the Washington Commanders.