Giants President and CEO John K. Mara**
Thanks for coming by today. Obviously I am very disappointed about this past season. Sick about it, as a matter of fact. Certainly not what I expected or what any of us expected. 6-10 is an embarrassment. With that being said, I do think there is some reason for optimism going forward. We had some young players really develop who we are excited about. We have had two pretty strong drafts in a row that we feel good about. We were still 6-10, so obviously we have a lot of work to do.
[Chairman & Executive Vice President] Steve Tisch and I still feel very strongly about Tom Coughlin as our head coach. That is why, as many of you have already reported, we have asked him back for next season. We still believe in him. I believe the players still feel very strongly about him and the one thing that struck me during the season, even as bad as things got during that seven-game losing streak, they still played hard for him. There was no lack of effort there. They were still very attentive during practice and on the sidelines and their effort never waned, even though the results were not what we had hoped for.
I think that one of the things that really hurt us this year, in addition to the injuries, which I will get to in a second, is we obviously have a couple draft classes here that have been largely unproductive for us. When you combine that with the number of injuries we had, particularly with certain key positions, that is a deadly combination in the National Football League. I am very frustrated about the number of injuries that we have had. It has been two years in a row now that we have led the league in putting players on [injured reserve] and number of games lost by starters. We spent so much time last offseason addressing that and talking about how we are going to fix that going forward. We made adjustments to what was being done in the weight room. We had the GPS tracking system. For some reason, here we are again leading the league in that category. We cut down the number of soft-tissue injuries and then, all of a sudden, we get all these broken bones and torn tendons and torn biceps. I just don't have an answer for that right now. Obviously we will spend a lot of time on it this offseason, talking about that and looking at ways that we can improve upon that.
I still believe, very strongly, in Jerry Reese and our organization. We have a lot of quality people working here. We have had two very strong drafts in a row. We need to have another one. I think with that and with another year under this new offense, we have a chance to be a good team next year. Obviously, that is a tough sell right now when you go 7-9 and 6-10, but I still have a very strong belief in this staff and in this organization. I think we are going to be a good team next year, but we need another strong draft. We need to make certain improvements on both sides of the ball, which we will address this offseason and then we will move forward.
It has been a very difficult year for our fans. It has been even more of a difficult year for me because I do not stomach this very well, as some of you may have noticed. It is going to be a long offseason. I do think there is reason for optimism. I think we will be a much better team next season, but we are going to have to prove that. Just talking about it is not very convincing right now, when you are coming off the season (at) 6-10. As I have said before, we still believe in this coach, this staff and in our organization. We are ready to move into this offseason and put the type of team back on the field that our fans deserve. So if you don't have any questions...
Re: anticipating any changes on the coaching staff?
A: That is a discussion we are going to have going forward, but that will be Tom's decision.
Q: Last year, you talked about fixing the offense… Is the defense something in your mind that has to get straightened out?
A: In my opinion, yes. That will be a discussion that we will have. Our defense did not play well this year. There is no secret about that when you finish 28th or 29th or wherever we finished. They had opportunities in a lot of games this year to make a key stop at the end of the game, and they didn't do it. There is no question that has to be a focus going into next season. You look at the number of players that we got hurt here. We had three or four corners hurt. We were playing in a lot of those games with guys we had signed off the street, which is not the ideal situation. Again, that is no excuse for going 6-10 and, believe me, I am not under any illusions about where we are right now. I am aware of what teams we have beaten over the last two years and what teams we have lost to. We have a lot of work to do.
Q: In the past, you have been reluctant to let a coach go into a lame duck season… What will you do with Tom and his contract?
A: I have to talk about that with him. I am not so sure that will be the situation anymore. I need to talk to him about that first. We haven't had that discussion yet. He is going to be back.
Q: The decision to bring Tom back, how much of that was based on the fact that a man has won two Super Bowls deserves the benefit of the doubt that other coaches don't earn?
A: There is no question that was a big part of the decision. More importantly than that, I still believe we can win with him. If I didn't believe that, then it wouldn't have mattered how many Super Bowls he won in the past. It would be senseless to go forward with him. I look at how hard the players played for him and how attentive they still are. I look at his energy level and how much he still wants to win and how driven he is. That is what convinced Steve and myself to move forward with him. We have some talent deficiencies at certain positions. There is no question about that and that needs to be addressed and we will address that going forward.
Q: What was your evaluation of [Offensive Coordinator] Ben McAdoo this season?
A: I thought he did a nice job for us. We had kind of a slow start where we didn't really move the ball very well. I thought towards the end of the season our offense started to come alive and I am excited about that going forward, but we still have some work to do there. No question that they made improvements this season. The quarterback certainly played better, especially towards the second half of the season.
Q: At the end of the Jacksonville game, I don't know if you consider that a low point, but could you walk us through what you were thinking in terms of Tom and if it reached a point where it was a lot closer to him not being back?
A: To be honest with you, when I am sitting on the bus after the Jacksonville game, I wanted to fire everybody, from the people in the equipment room through upstairs because that was a low point for me. We had that three-game streak there – San Francisco, the Dallas loss was a gut-wrenching one for me, and Jacksonville was an embarrassment. That is why I learned a long time ago that you don't make those judgments during the season. You try not to make stupid comments during the season or give votes of confidence or anything like that. I was just happy that none of you approached me in the locker room after the game because I may have said something that I would have regretted for a long time after that. That was a low point for me, but again, I learned a long time ago that you have to wait until the end of the season and look at the whole picture in a more rational frame of mind before you make decisions. That is what we try to do.
Q: When you talked about Ben before and the progress he made, how much did that play in the decision to keep Tom because of the fact that you didn't want to mess up what seemed to be growing with Eli [Manning] and the offense?
A: That's a factor, but I can't say that was the main factor. I still believe in Tom. I still believe in him as our leader going forward. Steve, I know, feels the same way and that was most important factor.
Q: What were you looking for after the Jacksonville game?
A: I wanted to see us win, number one. I am sitting on the bus after the Jacksonville game wondering if we were ever going to win a game again. I wanted to see how the players would respond to that because that certainly was a low point for this franchise for many, many years. They responded pretty well to it. They still had a lot of fight in them, as did Tom. I was pleased with how they responded. I am aware of who we played. I saw the intensity in practice and the intensity on the field and the fact that they stayed together. That was a big thing for me, too. You didn't see throughout the season, as bad as it got, you didn't see anonymous quotes coming out of the locker room complaining about the coaching staff. They stayed together pretty well all season. They did that last season, too, and I think a lot of that comes from the head coach.
Q: Can you clear up something that got misreported or misinterpreted… When Ben McAdoo came here, did you have any discussion with him about him being a coach-in-waiting?
A: Absolutely not. I laugh when some of you write some of that stuff. A year ago, I didn't know Ben McAdoo from Bob McAdoo. Some of you have written that we brought him in here and anointed him as the next head coach. The first time I met him was after Tom had hired him and I went down and introduced myself and welcomed him here. Tom interviewed a number of candidates last year for the offensive coordinator position, but the final decision was always going to be his. I think he made a good choice.
Q: Aside from the obvious emergence of Odell Beckham Jr., what are the reasons for optimism that you saw this season?
A: It is not just Odell. This last draft class, I thought, was pretty productive this season. I think [Weston] Richburg is going to be a good player. Andre Williams showed some great promise. Devon Kennard. I think [Jay] Bromley is going to be a good player and I am probably leaving guys out. The  draft class is going to be a very productive class for us, too. We've got some good, solid, younger players to build off of right now, and if we can have another strong draft and just get back half of the [unrestricted free-agents] that got hurt this year and make it through a season, I think we have something to build on. If we get all of them back, then we really have something to build on, but this is the NFL. People are going to get hurt. Why it happens to us in such extraordinary numbers, I don't know. I am just hoping that we are due to have a change in luck in that area, and hopefully that will happen next year.
Q: What did it mean to you to watch what Beckham became over the course of the season?
A: It was exciting to me. The energy and passion that he brought to our team was pretty startling. I was very frustrated for a while. He missed all of training camp and then he is missing the first four games of the season and we haven't even seen him on the field. I have no idea what we have. Then, all of sudden, he starts making plays and it was pretty exciting. For me, you would have to go back to 1981 before we were that excited about a rookie coming in and what he could possibly mean to this franchise. I hesitate to say that because I do not want to put that much pressure on him, but he certainly has brought a lot to this organization.
Q: You mentioned the talent deficiencies… Were the draft classes from the last couple of years what sold you on Jerry's plan to build a good future?
A: Jerry has been here a long time and I have watched him run our draft for many years. I always had that belief in him, but certainly there were a couple drafts in there, 2011 and 2012, where we didn't quite get the production that we want out of it. We needed to do well in 2013 and 2014. I think we did. We need to do it again, obviously, because when you are 6-10, you obviously have a lot of holes to fill.
Q: In retrospect, how do you view last offseason where you spent a lot of money and the success of that?
A: It is hard for me to give you a rational answer on that because they all got hurt. Those guys are some good players, but they all ended up getting hurt. Even Rashad Jennings, who I think is a very good back and was hurt for a good part of the year. It is hard to pass a final judgment on that just yet. As I said, if we can just get half of them back healthy next year, I think we will be a much better team.
Q: Last year, you said the offense was broken…
A: I know and I have come to regret that because that is all you ever write. I am trying not to come up with any headline-grabbing remarks.
Q: How would you describe the state of your defense right now?
A: We need to improve the defense. They did not play well. We were ranked where we were ranked. When you give up the number of game-winning drives that they gave up, we obviously have a lot of improvement to make there.
Q: It is up to Tom to make any coaching changes… Will you discuss it with him?
A: We will discuss that with him. I will give him my opinion, but it has always been the case in this organization that the head coach makes the final call on assistant coaches and whether he needs to make any changes, contrary to popular belief. I am glad you brought that up. Tom was not forced to part ways with Kevin Gilbride last year. That was a discussion that Tom and Kevin had. The first discussion that Jerry and I had with Tom after the season, we walked into Jerry's office and Tom came in and said to us that Kevin was going to be retiring. Before we said anything to him. This notion that we forced him to fire Kevin Gilbride is absolutely not true.
Q: Do you have any preference in terms of what you would want to see?
A: I will express that to Tom first, and again he will make the final call. You don't tell a head coach that has been around as long as he has and has had the success that he has and who has the respect around the league that he has to make certain position changes. He knows better than we do.
Q: What kind of confidence do you have in your franchise quarterback and what do you see for the future?
A: He certainly had a much better year this year. I think he can still get better with another year under this new offense and we need to give him a little bit of help, particularly on the offensive line, I believe. I still think we can win a championship with Eli. There were some games where he didn't play as well, but by in large, his body of work over the course of the season, I thought, was pretty good. He gives us some reason for optimism next year.
Q: How much do you think about the head coach positon long-term and is it hard to balance that against the year-to-year…?
A: I think about that all the time. Listen, I am certainly aware of who is out there, but right now, I think Tom gives us the best chance to win going forward. How long that is going to last for, I don't know. He is going to be our coach next year.
Q: You might let [Coach Coughlin] coach under a one-year [contract] or you might not?
A: That has been our policy in the past, but that is not set in stone. I will talk to him about that.
Q: Has he expressed to you how much longer he does want to coach or is he taking it year-by-year?
A: He has not expressed to me a certain time period. I just know that he wants to coach next year. Knowing him as I do, I would have to assume that he wants to coach longer than that, too. We really haven't had that discussion.
Q: If Tom decides to keep his staff in tact the way it is now, how do you as an owner justify that when you went 6-10 and had a strong finish at the end to get to that point?
A: I don't know that I need to justify that to anybody. Tom is a Super Bowl-winning, potential Hall of Fame head coach. It shouldn't be up to me to tell him that he needs to change position coaches or coordinators. I think he is more qualified to make that judgment than I am. He knows that his legacy is kind of on the line here now. He doesn't want to have three losing seasons in a row. If he thinks he needs to make a change and he thinks there is somebody better out there, then he will go do it.
Q: I am talking more as a whole though. You had the losing season and you didn't make any significant changes to the organization at all.
A: You are assuming that we are not going to make any changes, and I don't know whether we are or not. If we don't, then we will go forward with the staff that we have and try to provide them with some better players.
Q: When you look at the defensive shortcomings, do you have a sense of how much of it was personnel, injuries or coaching?
A: That is hard to say. That is really hard to say. We lost some of our best defensive players during the course of the year. There is no question about that. Some guys may be getting a little older that need to be replaced. We certainly need to put some better players out there. I am not going to say our schemes were unsound or anything. It looked to me like we were prepared to play every week. I think if you ask the players that, they felt like they were prepared to play every week, but the results weren't there for a number of different reasons. We are going to have to have that discussion going forward.
Q: In a situation like this, do you individually sit down with [Defensive Coordinator] Perry [Fewell]?
A: No, I would sit with Tom and Jerry Reese.
Q: Do you have a sense of how you want to proceed with Jason Pierre-Paul as far as his contract?
A: We would certainly like him back, but it would have to be at the right price, something that makes sense for us. He certainly had a great finish to the season and showed the type of player that he can be and that he will be going forward. I would be very surprised if he was not a Giant next year.
Q: What about Antrel Rolle?
A: We would like to have him back, but again, at the right price. I could say that about anybody. We would like them all back at the right price. What that is, depends on the circumstances.
Q: You have talked about the fan base being disappointed, but what about the boss? What does your mom say about all this?
A: She is not very happy with me right now, believe me. She suffers through this probably even more so than I do. I am on notice as well.
Q: After the Jacksonville game, did she want you fired?
A: Not just after the Jacksonville game.
Q: With JPP, would you consider using the franchise tag?
A: That is certainly one of our options and we really haven't fully discussed that yet. I have no idea what his agent is going to do. Actually, I do I have a pretty good idea of what his agent is going to be asking for and whether we want to do that or franchise him is something we will have to fully discuss.
Q: Is there anything in the works with Eli's contract?
A: He has another year left and I assume we will have a discussion with his agent at some point. Again, it would have to be at the right price for us.
Q: But you would like for him to extend?
A: Yeah, we would like him to retire as a Giant. That is where he should be. We still think we can win a championship with him and he is still playing at a high level. Of course, we would like to keep him.
Q: Would you describe next year as a win-or-else proposition for a lot of people in this franchise?
A: I do not think that is an unfair statement.