*Tom Coughlin, Ernie Accorsi, and Justin Tuck will be honored Monday Night during Giants vs. Bengals: *
Q: Overall, what does it mean to be honored with this honor on Monday night?
A: It is a great honor. I am very appreciative of the fact that the New York Giants have chosen to add my family name to the Ring of Honor which is, as I mentioned historically and I do really appreciate history and understand where I came from and so on and so forth. But to have the family name along with the 42 great names of what is being recognized as the finest Giants of all-time is of real significance to me and I think back to my mother, God bless her when I was named the Head Coach of the New York Giants, she was very sick at the time and I had an opportunity to get up to central New York to see her on occasion and I can remember her saying, 'Thank God for the Giants.' That is kind of the way I think she would feel today and the way that our family will feel because we will have a great representation on Monday Night and we will look forward along with Ernie (Accorsi) and Justin (Tuck) to being recognized as most recent members of that prestigious group and I took a look at those 45 names. 25 of those people that are on that list, I have known personally and for me also to keep this in the family is a wonderful thing because as you know, Chris Snee was inducted in 2015, so it is another something in addition to two Super Bowls, having been at Boston College a couple of different times – nevertheless both having come from there, Kate (Snee) being involved, Judy (Coughlin) being involved and calling this certainly something that our family can be certainly proud of.
Q: Tom, we are halfway through the season now and I know it has been a big adjustment not coaching. Are you used to it at all? Are you liking this lifestyle at all and do you miss it to the point where you would consider coming back?
A: Well, the second question is that question and I really didn't expect anything along those lines, but am I missing the sideline? I would be less than honest if I had told you that I didn't miss the sideline. I love the game day situation (with the NFL League Office). I have been in the command room every Sunday, on Monday Night because I think that is the closest thing to the sideline and I have enjoyed that very much. Being in there with Dean Blandino and Al Riveron and all the great folks that work here in the league office that are a part of that day, that very special day and I have enjoyed that very much. So I do get a chance to be close to the game that way. I have had an opportunity to visit with of course Commissioner Goodell and his outstanding staff on a number of occasions and we are working on different things. I am involved in all of the committees. A number of committees; the competition committee being one, the Madden Coaches' subcommittee being the other, the General Managers committee is going to meet here in a conference call in a couple of minutes, so I will have an opportunity to join in on that as well. So being involved in the game is very important to me and I am glad and certainly I am again grateful to the National Football League and to Commissioner Goodell for giving me that opportunity. As far as the future holds, who knows. I wouldn't speculate on anything and I will just enjoy very much, this opportunity come Monday night to be at the Giants-Cincinnati game and to have a great number of family and friends around and to have a chance to celebrate with Ernie and Justin and their families and to be able to cast around at the names in the Ring of Honor in the stadium and just feel good about being a part of that.
Q: You are looking at the league now in a different capacity. Everyone knows that the ratings are down. Do you have any theories of why?
A: I haven't focused too much on that aspect of it. I have certainly picked up on it. As always, I am very much involved and being a part of the game, watching the game and shedding some knowledge on what happens from the Head Coaches point of view to any number of folks who want to stop by here and visit with me throughout the course of the week and that is the direction that I am in. There are lots of people who are focusing on it. I think you have to give it a little bit more time and I think that I would say that as we go through the second half of the season, things begin to shake out, you begin to recognize the teams that are strong and that are starting to make a run at things. You saw the other night how Oakland played so very well against the World Champions (Denver Broncos) and had a nice win at home. The job that Jack Del Rio is doing there. I think fans of football are fans of professional football and the greatest team sport that ever was and I really don't think that there is anything permanent about this. But again, I think time will tell and I think that as this second half of the season starts to shake out and you see people start to separate themselves, I think you will see greater interest in it.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Giants this year and what you have seen from them so far?
A: I know what you know. Outstanding win last week against Philadelphia. Good to see on a couple of occasions that the defense has done well. They have come into ball games and had to be in position to make a strong contribution and they have done that. It is good to see that. Offensive production last weekend was good. Finding a way to win – watching Landon Collins make plays, starting with that great game that he had over in London, so I am just a bystander now and a fan and certainly very much aware of and of course last weekend was a big game with Philadelphia. I am happy that the Giants were able to prevail in that game against a good Philadelphia team, so that would be it for me. I am happy for them. Ben has done a nice job. The defense has done an outstanding job and Eli, again with four touchdown passes the other day is strong again, so I am looking forward to watching them down the stretch.
Q: What is it like watching Ben and your staff out there?
A: I text and wish people good luck. I congratulated Ben by text the other day, Steve by text the other day, Eli. I texted Odell and wished him good luck in the game. I have done it with Victor over the course of the year. That has been something that I have done. I am proud of Ben, proud of the job he is doing, proud of the coaches that I brought there, the players. Someone asked me at the beginning of the season that question about rooting for the Giants and the answer that I gave was an honest answer, I will always root for the Giants.
Q: Did you know that Josh Brown admitted to abusing his wife while you were still the Head Coach?
A: Of course not. Nope, nothing along those lines. Back when some of this first started out, it was reported that Josh and his wife – I am not sure if they were separated or what was going on at the time, but it didn't seem like they were going through some hard times, but it seemed like a marriage that had separated and they were trying to work it out and get back together. That was the extent of it at that time.
Q: Talk about what this honor means to you?
A: The first thing I think of is, 'How did Justin Tuck get up on the level with all those great names up there?' The first thing I think of is all the great players and coaches that helped me along the way. When I see Justin Tuck in the Ring of Honor, the first thing I'll always think about is all of those faces. All of those guys that went to battle every Sunday with me and helped me along the way. It's a tremendous honor. I'm very thankful to be thought of in the perspective of the Giant greats, considering the company that I'll be immortalized with. I never thought of it growing up that you'd walk in the stadium and see Justin Tuck's name up there. I'm still at a loss of words for it. I know that that night will obviously bring a lot of emotions and a lot of thoughts, considering the fact that I might be one of the only people that didn't think I'd ever be up there. Obviously, very humbled and thankful.
Q: What do you think about how the Giants are doing this year?
A: They're winning football games. They're finding out ways to win in the fourth quarter. That's been the Achilles heel the last few seasons. I think it reminds me a lot of some of my Super Bowl years. We weren't winning games in a great fashion, but for the majority of the year we were winning football games. You find out a lot about your team. A lot of character stuff comes with that. I think that bodes well when you come to playoff time. I'm excited about that fact. I think there's still things that they need work on. I think they'll continue to improve. I'm excited for this run here. They're 5-3 heading to the midway point in a league and a division where anything can happen. Everything is still up for grabs. I always say to myself that when you have a veteran quarterback like Eli that's been there, done that, you always have a chance. I'm excited for this second half of the season.
Q: You know JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) and have seen Olivier Vernon play. They only have about one or two sacks a piece. Does that number matter? Is it overrated or underrated?
A: It all depends. If I had numbers around me that talk about quarterback hits, quarterback pressures, how long the quarterback is holding the ball. You're not going to get sacks if they're throwing screens. You're not getting sacks if they're throwing three-step drops. You're not getting sacks if you're not stopping the run game and you can get into situations where they can play action pass you. Things of that nature. A lot of components come into sacks. I always thought that sacks were kind of an abbreviated number, just because everything that goes into it. There's been times where I've had crappy rushes and our secondary played really, really great, so I ended up getting a sack. There's been times where I beat my guy in a millisecond and he threw the ball quick enough so I didn't get a sack. The stat sheet never shows that. I would lean towards that not being important but I don't have the other materials at hand to prove it.
Q: Who of your contemporaries will be up there in the Ring of Honor in the years to come?
A: I have to vote now? From my vantage point, it's a lot of names. I would take anyone with the likes of a David Diehl who played ten plus seasons with the Giants and won two Super Bowls with the Giants. You had a guy that just retired yesterday, Antrel Rolle. The leadership that he provided was very similar to the leadership that I provided. Those guys that I played with, especially at a time when the Giants were really, really successful. You think about the timeslot of two Super Bowls. I haven't really thought about it, but I'm sure there are names from the '86 and '90 years of guys that may not be up there yet. If Mr. Mara came to me and said, 'vote on one player to go up next,' I don't know if I'd have an answer right now. I would have to look at who isn't up there and who deserves to be up there. Add weight to the years they played and things of that nature. I don't know. I don't necessarily know the right answer. I gave you two and they'd probably be up there at some point. I'm fine with those two names being up there but I'm also recognizing there is probably a lot of other names that can go up there as well.
Q: You said a few minutes ago that you didn't deserve it. Is that just being humble? Come Monday night, do you feel like you'll deserve it?
A: I always say it in this regard - to think that I don't think I deserve to be up there, I'm just recognizing that there was a lot of people that helped me get up there. I do say that I don't think I deserve to be up there but I also say it in the way of saying, look, as of Monday night my name will be up there. Every time I look up there I'll never really think of myself in that same category as Michael Strahan or LT (Lawrence Taylor), so on and so fourth. What I'll always think of when I look up in those rafters is guys like Dave Tollefson, Corey Webster, Rich Seubert, all the names of guys that helped me along the way. I don't make plays; you don't make plays in football by yourself. You could be the best athlete in the world. You have ten guys that create opportunities for you to do what you do. You're just another guy. I'll always look at Justin Tuck in those rafters and think of all the other names of guys that helped me along the way. That's what I mean by I don't necessarily deserve to be up there.
Q: How do players on a team, who might have different views or beliefs, manage to put all the outside distractions and disagreements aside and to go out on Sundays and win?
A: Once you step in that locker room, everyone's goal is the common goal. When you're outside of the locker room there is a lot of other factors that go into it. When you step in that locker room, everyone's goals should be helping the guy next to him get a win on Sunday. Then, when that's not the common goal of the guys, that's when you see the dislike happen inside the locker room. There's a lot of guys I played with that we're not going to vote for the same people today, on election day. Being outside of football, I vote or look differently than they do. That's fine, that's the democracy that we live in. Our kids might not be on a playdate, or our wives and us may not go out and have dinner every Saturday night. That's fine. In the locker room sense, I think we all come together for the same common goals. We were able to take those differences and put them aside for the common goal. That was to be able to win football games.
Q: Given how much of a historian you are, what does this induction mean to you, and thinking back to your roots in Hershey, how improbable has this all been?
A: It's not something I ever really thought was possible. The Eagles trained in Hershey my whole life, so I kind of took that for granted as a kid and in those days, with six preseason games, Hershey had a stadium that seated 20,000 people. They played three or four preseason games a year there, so I saw the Giants when I was 10 years-old, in 1951, in a preseason game. To think that I could ever work for them was a pipe dream at that point. I've been around a million stadiums, and have seen those names there, and their immortal players and coaches, and to be up there with that kind of group of people is overwhelming, it's not something I ever dreamed.
Q: In looking back on the trade that you made for Eli Manning, could you have envisioned it would be so franchise-changing as it turned out to be?
A: You hope that, especially at that position. I still feel that it's the most influential position in football, and probably in sports. Maybe the Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russel, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar era, when the center dominated so much, was just as important. You make that trade, you do something like that, to win championships. That's the only reason you make a trade like that, and you're in a position so many times that you have to get a get-by guy, or you have to wait and do the best you can and pick up people to stay competitive. But, the blessing for us, which was not a blessing when we went through it, was the 2003 season. If we wouldn't have gotten to the fourth spot (in the draft), God only knows what we would have had to give up to get up there. There were three quarterbacks up there, so we could have had a shot at one of the other ones besides Eli. If we didn't make the trade, I felt fairly confident that we would have been able to get Ben Roethlisberger, but you never know. When we picked Eli, we picked him to win championships. That's what you hope for and to see it happen, of course, just makes you feel great. I remember my son was a coach, he coached at Virginia and Maryland, and he sat with me at that first Super Bowl and I remember I said, 'Well if he is what we thought he was going to be, he's going to do it right now.' Because you never know, because maybe you're never going to get that position again and he did it. He had some help, but he did it.
Q: How much do you stay in contact with Eli Manning?
A: I don't really. I never was one who bothered players or called them. I always had a great respect for them and obviously was indebted to them. But, even with Michael Strahan, I was pretty close to him. We had some long, drawn-out, contract sessions when we kept him there. But, I always had a pretty good bond with him and when he went to the Hall of Fame, I contacted him, and if I bumped into him. But, I don't stay really in contact with players. I really never had. When I was younger I did because I was closer to their age, but, I don't bother them. Their great relationship and their close bond is with the coach and I've always understood that, I always understood that you have to step back and have your satisfaction from within. I will say that after both Super Bowls, Eli and Archie called me and that meant a lot, the next morning they called me, and that was very meaningful for me.
Q: He's the last player that you brought to this team that's still around. Does that have any significance to you?
A: It does. First of all, I'm a Giants fan for life so it doesn't really matter if there were no players. But, when it's the quarterback, it obviously has more impact in your connection. I still get nervous watching the team. It was a lot worse a couple of years ago after I retired. But, I remember the first year when they won the Super Bowl, I couldn't even watch mostly. I did watch the Super Bowl but the Dallas playoff game I couldn't watch. I went to Mass and peeked at scores while I was in Church which was not very smart. I couldn't really watch then, but I still get very nervous. For example, Sunday, when he threw the interception, I switched, I couldn't watch it because I was afraid that they had put themselves in a position to beat us. So, I still have jitters. If my last player was a backup guard, it wouldn't be quite the same.
Q: Are you following today's team closely and if so, what do you think of them?
A: Yeah I do. I think they have a lot of young, exciting players. I think they're really in good shape right now. They came through a period with some close games and clutch wins. I like the team and I think they have a chance to be really an explosive offense and obviously, the defense is much better. I think with what they did on Sunday, the defense in particular, those are the kind of things that happen that take you to another level. To stop a team that kind of had gotten hot the second half and a quarterback that threw for a lot of yards, they just shut them down. There wasn't even a play, they didn't get close. I think they're going to be good, I like them. I don't know Ben McAdoo really well. I got to know him a little bit last week. I sat down with him for a while and I really like him.
Q: You watch a lot of the games now as a fan, do you have any theory as to why the ratings are so low in the NFL?
A: I don't have an answer. If I wasn't watching for some reason, I would tell you why. Of course I'm not a good person to use as a barometer because I worked in this for 45 years. I don't know the answer. I've heard all the things: the election, Red Zone channel, which is very seductive. I even go to Red Zone. If the Giants aren't playing, I usually go to Red Zone. I don't know with that the officiating; we've always had penalties. I can't put my finger on it, no. I don't know what it is. I'm not turned off by it but I don't know what the masses think, I don't understand it. I really don't.
Q: Given the scrutiny in today's game. The explosion of social media, the fish bowl that people live in and work in, in the NFL, are you glad that you worked in the era that you did and would you find it tough being a GM today?
A: Yes (laughs). A resounding yes. Today, every person that you come in contact with is basically a reporter and they're walking around with a camera and you have to be very, very careful. I mean, the first couple of years after I retired, if the team went through a losing streak, people would stop me on the street and verbally attack me, 'what kind of job...,' they weren't even sure I was retired, but, you can't react because anything you say is going to be put on Twitter or whatever they were using. It's going to get out there, you guys are going to read it and somehow you're going to follow up on it. And, you know how many times players have gotten into difficulty by using Twitter. I don't even have that; I don't know what it is. Yes, I would have a lot more trouble today. Look at the difference between what I did during my time where I talked to you guys every day, which I thought was great. George Young did it, I just followed-up on it. Pete Rozelle, when he was Commissioner took every call. That's the way it was and that way, to talk to you guys didn't turn out to be an event. It was just a daily conversation. I liked it better that way. It was a much better situation for me, it was a situation I grew up in and I liked it. I would have trouble today. I remember Carl Peterson, before a game we played with Kansas City in one of my last couple of years said to me, 'Can I come to New York, talk to you about how you deal with the media?' I said, 'Carl, you have one newspaper. You better go talk to someone else in another city. We have 50 media outlets, at least, we don't live on the same planet.' Things were different. But, I enjoyed it. I'm glad I worked when I worked.
Q: You were obviously involved in the hiring of Tom Coughlin, when you look back, how would you describe his tenure?
A: He's had a great career, first of all. I always kept a research notebook on all coaches. Actually, I did for almost every job. Even if it was an equipment job, I always kept a depth chart. I didn't know him as an assistant coach but I saw his first game, this may not have been his first game but one of his first games, against Michigan. I scouted that game and he almost beat them. I always remember how competitive he made them at Boston College. My son's words, the night before the Bowl game against Virginia. Now, Virginia had a bunch of draft choices, a couple of number ones, Darren Sharper and some of those guys, James Farrior on the field, and BC did not have a lot of high draft choices. They had Glenn Foley as a quarterback, they had Pete Mitchell, who we eventually had (at the Giants). My son told me the night before the game, he was a grad assistant, but he said, 'We're not going to be able to stop Coughlin's passing game.' George Welsh is a Hall of Fame coach, but they hadn't figured it out yet, and they killed Virginia. I had my eye on him all those years and when this came up, John Mara and I assembled a group and we interviewed all four, and you know who they are. I also felt that it was my responsibility to make contact with Nick Saban, which I did. I had worked with Saban and I knew him pretty well. We essentially offered him the job in 1997. So, I called him and it looked like it was going to get complicated again and we had heard rumors that there were some clubs that were talking to Coughlin and that's when we decided not to wait any more. But, Tom Coughlin has been a winner every place he's coached and we felt he was the guy. I said this at his press conference when we hired him, he's the guy George Young wanted and he's the guy we wanted.
Q: And in retrospect, how do you look at his 12 years as coach?
A: He won two championships. For me, having been through five straight playoffs, three championship games in four years in Cleveland and we never won the championship. I don't like that. It's nice to win every year, to be at the doorstep every year. The business is to win championships, he won two championships. That puts him in the Hall of Fame in my opinion. I don't have a vote but he's a Hall of Fame coach.
EA: I want to say one other thing about this honor. It means a lot to me and it means even more that I'll be up there with George Young. Without George Young, I'd never come to New York. He brought me here and I have a great feeling of respect and gratitude for George and I just wanted to mention that. * *
Q: How exactly did George bring you here? I don't think we ever knew that story.
A: You guys that knew him, and most of you did, it's so classic George. We were at the bottom rung with Baltimore. He came in '68 and I came in '70 and we hit it off right away. From the first night I was there, I ran into him at a Rustler's Steakhouse ($1.99 steaks) and we talked that night and became very close. We would talk every night in this old wooden row house that our offices were in and then when I went to Cleveland, we would talk three or four times a week after hours, that's how close we were. So, now, I leave and go to the expansion effort, it fails and the Orioles hire me. So, you all know Joel Bussert, who was close to me and to George. I get a call from Joel, and I'm only with the Orioles about six months, and I knew George had gone through a tough physical period and lost all that weight and Joel said, 'George wanted me to call you to see if you'd be interested in coming up as Assistant General Manager,' I said, 'George didn't call me? Why wouldn't he call me?' he said, 'Well, he asked me to call.' Well, I said, 'I'd be interested in talking to him, I've talked to him 8 million times in the last 25 years, sure.' So, George calls me and I said, 'Why didn't you call me directly, George?' and he said, 'I did not want to ruin your life.'' Either he knew I loved baseball and he figured I'd really be happy in that job forever, and I was happy. But, that was George. It was really pretty much to do contracts and he said, 'I can't make any promises, I don't own this team,' and I understood that. I completely understood that. I didn't know Bob Tisch, I knew Wellington Mara for years. I didn't know John Mara really well at that point so if they didn't like me, I wasn't going to get the job anyway. So, I left and took it and I don't know if I would have left that Orioles job, at my age at that point, if wouldn't have been the Giants and it wouldn't have been George. That's how it happened and I took over little-by-little with the contracts.