Quotes (12/26): Shurmur, Manning, Shepard

Head Coach Pat Shurmur

Opening Remarks: Injuries, you can ask me about specifics. We’ve got some guys that got banged up a little bit in the last game, we’ll just see how they can make it through. Then we have some guys trying to work their way back, they’re all feeling better, but we’ll just see if they got enough time to make it to the game. If you have questions, I’ll answer them then, otherwise, Wednesday, Dallas, good walk thru and getting ready to go practice here in a little bit. I’ll try to answer your questions.

Q: Is there a chance Odell (Beckham) and (Alec) Ogletree, two starters that missed last week, will play in this game?

A: There’s a chance. We’ll just have to see where they’re at. They’re both feeling better than they did last week, we’ll just have to see.

Q: What do you expect from them today?

A: Odell will be out there, he’s not going to take part in practice – he’s been out there, but it won’t be much different than what he did last week. And then Ogletree won’t be out there.

Q: How are the Cowboys different with Amari Cooper since the last time you saw them?

A: Yeah, they’ve added a dynamic playmaker at receiver. Certainly their offense runs through their quarterback and their running back, they do an excellent job running the football, they’re committed to it and Dak Prescott, the offensive line does a great job. Ezekiel Elliott gets yards when he runs the ball and the play action feeds off of that, so when you add a dynamic playmaker on the outside, from a defensive standpoint, you have to defend everything. They’ve made big plays now with him in the lineup.

Q: They’re locked up already in the number four spot. What do you expect Jason (Garrett) will do and does that affect anything that you do?

A: I don’t think it affects anything that we’ll do. That’s certainly a better question for them and he may hold his cards all the way until the end. I expect them to come in and try to win a football game, that’s what I expect. And we’re going to try to do the same, try to beat them at their best and finish the year on a good note.

Q: Does it change the feeling a little bit? You obviously always play division rivals the last game, and the fact that they’ve clinched, they’re a first place team, and it gives your team in some ways something to shoot for – this is the best team in the division this year, and you get one last shot at them.

A:  No, I think it’s just one more weekly preparation and we play Dallas this week, and it’s a division rival. We understand the emotion that goes with playing a division rival. We’ll try to get a win in our last game.

Q: Since the last time you played them was back in Week 2, can you take much from that film?

A: Well, I think we’re a better team than we were back then. We’ve sustained some injuries the last couple of weeks, but I do think that all teams kind of morph a little bit as the season goes on. You start to do the things you do well more. Some of the things you didn’t do well early, you don’t do anymore. And again, for guys in their first year, getting the feel for the players, so you change certainly. There’s something to be gained by watching the film because schemes pretty much are the same, but I think we’re both different teams now.

*Q: You mentioned a couple times there is year-to-year momentum, and that carries over. Why is that? If you’re going to have 10, 15 new players, maybe some coaching assistant changes and what not, why do you believe it carries over through nine months and all that happens?      *

A: Yeah, unless you just change everybody out, what about the other 45 guys? What about the coaches that are still here? The systems are in place, you do what you can to improve the systems, and you do what you can to improve the players. Just like the second year that you were writing articles, you were better than you were the first year, right? Well, I’m assuming (laughter). Let’s assume that. Anything you do more than once, you improve, and so if you believe experience matters, that’s why everything carries over. I think it’s all connected.     

Q: You said you’re a better team than when you played them (Week 2)?

A: I think we’re a better team, yeah.  We function better.

*Q: Is there a specific part of your team that you look and say maybe this is the biggest gain we’ve made?  *

A: I don’t know, I just think it’s incremental improvements in areas that we weren’t quite as good earlier in the year, throughout the team.  

*Q: You’ve lost a number of games very close, do you take solace in that? Or what do you attribute that to and what needs to be done to kind of win those games?  *

A: Good point. No, I don’t take solace in that. Right is right, you’ve got to win the game. A game like last week, it’s right there, we’ve got to go take it. Nothing’s given to you, so you’re presented with…just talk about five or six games this year, a couple of them we finished out and won and there were a couple of them that we didn’t. We played the Eagles, right, it was 22-22, they had the ball at their 25 and they went down and kicked a field goal on us. Carolina, right? We do what we did to get ahead, they go down and kick the field goal. Then there were games that we closed out, like Tampa and Chicago, and even Houston early on where they were racing up and down the field at the end and we did what we had to do to get the ball turned over and win. Right is right, though, you’ve got to try and win these games. The fact that we’re competitive, that’s for somebody else to take solace in. The fact that we fight until the end is what I think is important. Now when there’s a victory to be had, we’ve got to go take it, and I think that’s part of learning and part of what we need to do better.

*Q: Will that be part of that carryover?  *

A: Sure. Oh, absolutely. That’s part of what the guys that remain, the guys that are here next year, they’re going to hear that. They’re going to remember when we’re in these moments again, they’re going to go take them.

Q: I know you’re not making any personnel decisions until the offseason, but you will assess the QB position after this going into the draft, etcetera. Is there any consideration on your part this week in preparation for Dallas that this could be Eli Manning’s last game as a Giant? Two-time Super Bowl winner, what he means to the franchise – because you haven’t made that decision yet, is that any consideration on your part this week as far as how you prepare for this game, how you prepare the team for the game?

A: No, not really. Eli’s our starter, Eli gives us the best chance to win, and he’s going to play on Sunday. That’s where we’re at. I think when the game is over and we start talking in depth about what’s going to happen moving forward, that’s when you worry about it. I’m not worried about that. Again, you’re talking to the coach. I’m worried about the game.

Q: Think back when you first took over this job, we talked to you at the Combine. I remember you saying you feel like you were just waiting for that moment to get the guys in the building and get your program together, spend time together. Now you’re on kind of the flipside, you have less than a week or about a week left with this group. Is there anything beyond the game that you’re looking at now over the last six, seven days that you need to accomplish before you send this team away and not seeing them for a while?

A: I have things I’m doing behind the scenes to direct as we move through the month of January, so yeah, I’m making those plans myself and then I’ll reveal them as the staff and players meet.  

Q: I just mean your connection with the players. I remember you talking about you’d see Eli in the cafeteria and you couldn’t talk football with him. You basically have a week left with the guys you’re viewing who you can count on for next year, is there anything you can do between now and next week to kind of button that up?

A: We’ll have longer conversations with all the players on Monday to talk about what our expectations are moving forward. I’m ready for that. We’ve done this long enough where there’s sort of a blueprint for that. And there’s certain things I expect to see from the younger players, and then I just expect that they’re going to be professional about what they do with their time and take it from there. I have a more detailed blueprint of where it’s going to go, I have an idea of what January, February, March needs to look like, but that’s not for anybody to know yet until after we play the next game.

Q: Would you consider, if the situation permitted, something that would allow the fans to acknowledge Eli, knowing it could be his last game as a starter? Is that something you would consider at all?

A: That’s an in-game thing that happens when it happens. We’re trying to win a game and Eli is our quarterback.

Q: What’s Rhett Ellison’s status?
A: He’s in the protocol, and he is working his way back.

Q: With Eli, barring any physical issues, do you expect him to finish the game?

A: Of course. Hopefully, what I expect him to do is lead us to victory. Nothing would be better than for him to assume the victory formation and take a knee, and beating the Cowboys. That’s what we’re looking to do.

QB Eli Manning

Q: Why is it important to you and the team to finish strong with this last game?

A: I think that’s just always the point. You want to finish strong. We’ve been doing some good things this last half of the season. You want to go out there and just kind of finish on a good note. Playing against a good team, and just want to go out there and execute, and just feel good about this last game.

Q: How much does that carry over to next season?

A: It can – I think when you have a bunch of new guys and new coaches, you got to figure out how to win late in the year. You got to figure out how to beat good teams. We just had a lot of games this year where we were close, and just couldn’t quite finish. We just got to learn how to finish games better, finish the season strong, and keep doing those things.

Q: What are some positive takeaways you take from this season going into this last game?

A: I think we just got off to a slow start. Just the way the team responded. We kept fighting, we kept looking for ways to improve and get better. We’ve improved, we’ve become a better team, we’ve become a more efficient offense, and scoring points, and kind of finding our style. We’ve dealt with ups and downs, and losing some players, and this and that. Still haven’t played as well as we wanted to, and not well enough to win enough games, but have made improvements.

Q: Have you thought about the possibility that this could be your last game with the Giants?

A: No, just worried about this game, and finishing this season, and going out there and playing hard.

Q: Have you had any talks in the front office about your contract? Either re-working it or extending it?

A: No.

Q: Would you consider that if that’s what it took to come back next year?

A: We’ll handle all of that after the season.

Q: Do you view this game….

A: I view it as the last game of this season, and that’s it.

Q: Do you view this game as a way to create momentum into 2019?

A: Every season is going to be different. Every year is going to be different. I think this is just an opportunity to go out there and play a good team, and try to go finish this season strong.

Q: Do you believe that it carries over, year-to-year momentum?

A: I can’t remember how the last game of every season worked out. I think we are building something. I think when you have new players, and a new team, and a bunch of new guys coming from one year that hopefully will be here next year, I think you are building kind of the character and a winning attitude. So, I think those things can carry over.

Q: How difficult is it to know it’s the last game of the season, and you don’t have the playoffs to look forward to?

A: Obviously, it’s not the circumstances you want, but you got to just deal with what you’ve got in front of us. We want to go out there and play a rival team. I don’t know if they’re playing everybody or not, but I’ve been in that situation before, and you want to go out and win, and carry a little momentum going into the playoffs, and it’s our job to put a little doubt in their mind, and go beat a good team.

Q: Do you expect to be here next season as the starting quarterback?

A: I don’t know. I have not gotten into that, or thought much about that. Just worried about doing my job and finishing this season.

Q: That’s a different reaction from you than in the past. In past years, you would’ve said, of course, you’ll be back. This time, you really aren’t sure?

A: I didn’t know last year, either. So, we’ll figure it out.

Q: Does that uncertainty you experienced last year help prepare you for another offseason where things can go a number of different directions?

A: We’ll see.

Q: Last year was your first time through it, is what I’m saying.

A: Yeah, when you get to year 15, these things come up.

Q: There’s going to be changes on this team with the roster. How does that fit with the emotion of the final home game?

A: I think that’s kind of the mindset. This is the last game this team will play. It’s an opportunity for us, young guys and new guys, to get playing time, and for guys to grow. We all have our job to go out there and play well, and play hard, and try to get a win. We’ll have fans there, we’ll have people watching and people rooting for us, and want to go do our job for them.

WR Sterling Shepard

Q: Just the emotions going into this last game – it’s home, it’s against the Cowboys, they’ve taken the NFC East. What do you want to prove, either as a team or as a person, as you guys close this out?

A: We want to just go into the next season with a little bit of momentum and I feel like wins at the end of the season help with that, so guys are pretty much – everybody’s locked in. we’re going out there with the mindset of getting a W. We got to prepare the right way and, like I said, guy’s heads are in the right direction.

Q: I was going to say you’ve already had that good feeling now that things are better.

A: Yeah I mean – wait, what?

Q: In a sense that you’ve won more games than last year –

A: It’s been a good feeling at times in this season. We know the feeling of winning so we’re going to do whatever we can to get that feeling back.

Q: How different does this feel compared to the last week of last season? You know your head coach, you know most of your team. Does it feel much different than the uncertainty you felt at this time last year?

A: Yeah, it’s a completely different team in a bunch of different ways, so yeah I guess it is a little bit different than last year.

Q: Does playing a – this is a division rival that’s clinched first place. Do you think ending the season matching up against them will kind of give you a little more indication of well, we’re far away, we’re not far away here?

A: Yeah, even last week, that was a playoff team, so we’re going into another playoff situation and that’s the way we’re going to treat it, like a playoff game, so I feel like it’s important for the guys to get that feeling and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go in and try to beat a playoff team.

Q: What have been the things you thought have improved the most, especially the second half of the season?

A: Scoring in the red zone has been huge for us and putting more points on the board and also getting off to fast starts. I feel like at the beginning of the season we kind of struggled getting off to fast starts and that’s some of the things we stressed after the break, so I feel like we fixed a lot of things and we’re pretty close. We just got to get over that hump.

Q: Probably a lot like last year, there will be changes to the roster again in the offseason, but you know a guy like (Saquon) Barkley will be back. What was that experience like watching his rookie year and what he was able to produce?

A: It was amazing. Things that guy can do on the field, like I said, they’re amazing and it’s only going to go up from here. I felt like the game slowed down a lot for me my second year and I expect the same thing from him and he’s going to keep lighting it up.

Q: Eli’s (Manning) entering, he’ll be 16 years next year. Does he still have it in him because a lot of people are wondering if this is going to be it for him?

A: He still has it in him, in my eyes. Smartest guy I ever played with and he’s still making all the throws. You can see last week, he made a lot of great throws, made great decisions with the ball, so I don’t see why not.

Q: Do you want to see him back as your quarterback in 2019?

A: Yeah, I’d love to. You never know what you’re getting in the draft or whatever and he’s proven he can play in this league. He’s been in this league for a long time doing his thing, so I’d love for him to be my QB.

Q: Does a quarterback who supposedly doesn’t have a future, a long term future, make the throw that he made to you on that long one against the Colts – in other words, it takes kind of a special quarterback to make that throw under pressure, no?

A: Yeah, it does. He did a great job moving around in the pocket as well and was able to get the ball – hit me pretty much right in stride. He can still make the throws and I don’t see where a lot of people come from when they say that.

S Michael Thomas

Q: Last game at home. What are the emotions on the final game of the year and the way that things have worked out as you take on the team that won the NFC East?

A: For us, it’s another opportunity. Season didn’t go the way we wanted it to go, but we got one last game, we want to end the season with a win. Regardless of who we’re playing, we’re going to go out there and try to put something good on tape.

Q: It’s impressive offensively what Dak (Prescott) can do with (Ezekiel) Elliott and (Amari) Cooper. How are you guys preparing to slow them?

A: Just executing game plan (James) Bettcher has. Like you said they got weapons, but we got some guys that play with a lot of pride, we play hard, we play hard every single game so we’re going to go out there and challenge them, that’s it.

Q: What have you seen – despite injuries, what have you seen on the defensive side of the ball? You guys have improved this second half of the season.

A: Just guys doing their job. Eliminating error, trusting the game plan, going out there trying to execute the game plan. Obviously it’s unfortunate we got some injuries to some key guys, but that just means next man up and we got a lot of young guys that get some opportunities and just got to take advantage of it.

Q: How would you evaluate the second half of the season?

A: We’ve grown, we’ve learned from a lot of mistakes we’ve had. Guys have had a lot of opportunities and we try to take advantage of it. Obviously we didn’t convert a lot of those games into wins and been in them, competed, but there’s no prize for almost. We got to get better with that, we got to learn how to win, learn how to finish games, but that’s what this last game is for. We’re going to continue to work with each other, continue to go hard, and we’re going to improve, that’s it.

Q: What do you expect from Dallas in the sense that they probably could rest guys if they wanted to?

A: I expect them to play their game. We’re going to go out here, we’re going to execute. Whoever lines up out there we’re going to go out there and try to put something good on tape. I don’t know what to expect from them. Like you said, they already won the division, they’re in the playoffs, but whoever plays we’re going to be ready for them.

Q: It’s your last chance to put your stuff on tape. Does that give you a little extra buzz going into the season finale?

A: It really doesn’t matter when we playing or how many games left, it’s the opportunity we have and like you said, all our names are on this tape. The tape is your resume, so anytime you get a chance to go play a game, you want to put something great on it because everybody gets the chance to see it. The last one, it’s the last game everybody remembers – pretty much the last thing you do. What have you done for us lately? So it’s the last one, you want to end the season with a win.

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