*Transcriptions from Wednesday's practice: *
Interim Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo
Opening Statement: Before I get going, if I can, I'm just going to say a couple things, then I'll let you fire away. It's been a rough 60 hours since we left Oakland. Needless to say, it's been real emotional. Everybody has kind of felt it. The first thing I want to say or convey is how much respect I have for Ben (McAdoo) and what he did here as the head football coach. I feel personally I'm one of the guys that let him down. We failed as a team, but part of that failure was me. So, it's really hard – it's hard for me to stand here in the position I'm in right now and I want to publicly thank Ben for two years ago sticking with me as the defensive coordinator here. I greatly appreciated that. He's a great man. He's a great coach. He'll be a head coach again in this league in my opinion and a really good one. Having said that, I do want to say I'm honored that ownership asked me to do this. I will give it every ounce of energy that I have out of respect for this organization and I'll give every ounce of energy to help unite, restore and win football games. That'll be the goal. So, a couple of things I know you're going to be interested in. The first one is Eli Manning will be the quarterback for this football team in this game. Okay, the 'why Eli?' All I can tell you is this. When John Mara and I talked, one of the first things he asked was about the quarterback situation and I said, 'John, my gut right now is that Eli should be the starter.' What you have to understand is when I was coaching just the defense, I had the blinders on and all I'm worried about is the defense. I stay in my lane. So, I didn't have my eyes around what was going on on offense – who was playing what. None of that. So, I took my gut and visited with the offensive coaches and together with that and my gut, Eli Manning is going to be our quarterback. Had a conversation with Geno (Smith), which was a tremendous conversation. I have a great deal of respect for Geno Smith in the way he reacted. He was a man. He obviously didn't agree with the decision, but he is a team player and he told me that he was going to go forward and wants to be a part of this and I just have a great deal of respect for him. It's not an easy thing to do. The other thing I know you're going to ask about is the defensive side of the ball. So, for right now, I'm staying heavily involved with the defense and the game planning. Obviously with some new duties here, I'll be in and out of there. So, when I'm not there and somebody has to cover, Dave Merritt will do that. We'll worry about calling the game on Sunday when we get to Sunday. We'll figure that out as we go. I know probably one of the other questions is going to be what was said in the team meeting. I'll keep most of that to the team, but I will tell you this: one of the main focuses was asking the guys that when they come into the building, when they come to work, come to work expecting to win. That's how they should function. Forget about what has happened prior. Let's just go forward coming in the building ready to work every day and expecting to win. Okay, having said that, I'll open it up for questions.
Q: What are some of the things you learned from your time at St. Louis and how have you grown as a head coach?
A: I've got a – I want to say it's six pages – typed out list -- I'm not a good typer -- that has all of the 'what would I do next time', 'what did I think I did wrong' and I've already reviewed that. I'm not going to reveal them all. It's too long of a list, but sometimes you learn more from failure than you do from success. I think everybody understands that. So, there are many things. This is a little different. It's boom. It's not OTAs and training camp, so we're going to kind of improvise and adjust as we go. But, I'm hoping all of that will help.
Q: Do you expect to still play Davis Webb?
A: Well, Mike (Sullivan) and I and the offensive coaches will talk about that as we go. The number one focus right now is to figure out a way to beat the Dallas Cowboys. I can tell you that. And, each week we'll talk about those other things, but right now, in the midst of everything that's going on with the changes and what not, little tweaks here and there, the focus is still going to be to beat the Dallas Cowboys.
Q: What was your discussion with John Mara and do you look at this as an interim or something that you could possibly turn into being the head coach here?
A: I'll be honest with you, I'm not focused at all on that and I would say this to everybody and I mean this sincerely, I leave that in God's hands. I'll be where He wants me to be and right now he wants me to be here for this game and that's how I'll function. And that's as honest as I can get.
Q: What's your message to Giants fans at this point?
A: Yeah. It's our hope to unite, restore and find a way to win football games. When I mean restore, you know, restore Giant pride. It's hard to be real prideful when you don't win a lot of football games. But, I think the guys feel that. They understand it and we'll function that way going forward.
Q: Geno will be the No. 2 quarterback this Sunday?
A: Right now. Right now.
Q: Does Davis Webb's workload increase or how will you handle that moving forward?
A: It has been increased. There has been an ongoing plan. You don't see it behind the works, but there have been efforts there. I'll call it drills where Davis has done things where he would do as he prepared to be a one or a two. So, that's ongoing. Where we go with whoever the two is, we'll just take it week-to-week.
Q: Davis Webb will handle scout team this week and isn't going to split duties?
A: Probably not this week.
Q: Is the gut feeling that Eli Manning gives you the best chance to win?
A: Yeah. That would be a pretty good assessment because the first thing you focus on and think about is how are we going to find a way to win the football game and I think you all know how I feel about Eli and what happened happened and in the long run hopefully it's a really good thing. He walked in my office – I will tell you this – and as a coach, you want every player to walk in your office with intent, resolve and the determination that he has. So, I respect that.
Q: About two or three weeks ago John Mara told us that he had mentioned to Jerry Reese that he wanted Geno Smith and Davis Webb to get a chance to play. Has that plan been scratched now?
A: Well, first of all, I'm not privy to what you just said, to be honest with you, because, again, my blinders were on trying to figure out the other part of it. I'm not sure I can assess or answer that question right now. What I hope you all can appreciate is the last 60 hours and putting together some changes and tweaks and getting ready for today's team meeting. So, there's things that will be talked about ongoing that we haven't really gotten to that point yet.
Q: John Mara didn't express that to you as a priority when you met?
A: No. That wasn't the top priority. No. That wasn't.
Q: As a coordinator, are there things that you don't say out of respect for a head coach that now that you're in the position you will point out?
A: I think I know where you're going with it. I can't think of anything specific that way. I would say this, in the middle of what we were going through, if I felt that there was something that could have changed or helped, I would have said that. Ben and I had a great relationship. One of the finest qualities that Ben had was he was a great listener. So, had I felt that, I would have said something. He was more than willing to adjust and I thought he did everything and anything he could under the circumstances and sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't.
Q: Is there something about being behind that podium and being the Giants' head coach right now?
A: I don't know that it's all caught up to me yet. I'll be honest with you. I'm not going to lie, in the past, I had thought about this. But, because of how fast it all happened, I don't know that. I haven't thought that way. It really was, you know, it came. I prayed Monday morning that it wouldn't happen. I'll be honest with you. But, that's okay. This is where we're at. I'm honored to do it. But, as soon as that happened, it was 'boom!' You shift gears. Let's figure out what we got to do for Wednesday. Everything was just focused on today. The players, the practice, etc.
Q: Can you talk about the support that you've gotten from the organization, your assistant coaches, the players, etc.?
A: It's been great. It's good to have that. The guys I've been working side-by-side with, you know, rubbing elbows. We'll go to war, do the same thing. People in the building are great. I've always felt that way about them. That's part of being a Giant and a family atmosphere.
Q: You appeared to tweak the schedule.
A: Found that out already?
Q: Well they gave it to us. Is Tuesday now the player's day off and can you talk about your reasoning?
A: We might do that. Not 100 percent sure on it. The reasoning on the Friday deal was we just felt at this time of the season, really third down and red zone are really, really important – winning those areas, and you got to win them both offensively and defensively. So, what that schedule does is gives us an opportunity to do more third down on Thursday and then extend more red zone on Friday and it's a schedule I'm real familiar with and I think it'll help us in the upcoming games.
Q: Can you talk about the tone of the meeting this morning?
A: Attentive. Everybody was great. That's probably the best way I would say it. They were tuned in. I thought they responded well. You know, practice today was good. I told them I didn't think it was great. It was good. I think we can get better at that. We'll try to work at that and it's about getting the football right. That's what we were doing out on the field today.
Q: Have you spoken to Ben McAdoo yet and what was that conversation like?
A: A hard conversation. I mean, I saw Ben Monday. I'm not going to share the whole thing. I have a great deal of respect for him. I told him what I just told you that I think he did a heck of a job and I do believe that he will be a head football coach in this league going forward.
Q: How much of a boost would it be for this team to win at home and end a division rival's playoff chances?
A: I haven't focused on that yet because to us, it doesn't matter what the other team has got in front of them. It's what we can do to win football games. So, it is just a focus on the team that we're playing, the game that we're going to play in MetLife on Sunday. See if we can get it figured out, putting our best foot forward and win a football game.
Q: Did you look to change your role today out at practice? You had the Sinatra blaring.
A: You noticed the Sinatra song. I did it just to see if the players would know who that was. Some didn't. Some did not. My dad used to play Frank Sinatra every Sunday morning when we got back from church. It was great. So, I enjoy it. It shifted real quick, didn't it? I forgot what the question was.
Q: Talk about what you were doing practice.
A: Again, the defensive football in me is not going to change. I've already been down this road and will figure out exactly how we're going to do it, but I like doing the tackling drill that I did. I like doing the walk through with the defense. I want to be a part of it. I want the guys to feel me there and hopefully we can – we need to get better. So, that's what we're going to do at practice.
Q: Did you coach defense in St. Louis?
A: In different years. The first year, I did and then slowly turned it over to Ken Flajole at the time.
Q: Is it any different than somebody trying to call offense at the same time, but did you find that difficult?
A: It was the first time. When you do something for the first time, there's bumps along the way. Certainly things I could have done better and I think I learned from that. But, I'm not sure exactly how we'll do it this Sunday. We'll figure out something for us.
Q: Can you talk about the level of disappointment you had two years ago after Tom Coughlin left and you interviewed for the job and didn't get it?
A: Yeah, I don't know if I want to go back there. Where we are today, not exactly how anyone intended. But, again, I'm honored to be doing it and I'm going to give it everything I got.
Q: What happened to Jason Pierre-Paul and Sterling Shepard?
A: Jason is a finger. Sterling is a hamstring right now. We'll know more when I get back in there and talk about it, but that's all we know right now and they did not practice today.
Q: How much sleep have you gotten?
A: Not a lot. I need to hydrate.
T Justin Pugh
Q: What was your reaction to the changes?
A: I felt bad, obviously. Been through a lot with coach (Ben) McAdoo. He was the offensive coordinator most of my time here. Definitely a tough situation. I realize from an organization standpoint, you know, 2-10. But, that's on everybody in this building. That's not just on one man and it's an unfortunate situation and the more I've been in this business, the more I see how much of a business it is and I realize things like that happen. I just wish we could have won some more games for him.
Q: What was your reaction to seeing Eli Manning back out there today?
A: Great to see 10 out there. I feel bad for Geno (Smith) too. He didn't ask to get put in the situation and a lot of disrespect and hate were thrown his way and it's just uncalled for.vI get everyone wants to support Eli, but by supporting one man to put another man down is just not the way to do it. At the end of the day, things in the building and the competition will work itself out and obviously Eli at quarterback. Obviously, he's been the (my) only quarterback and I've obviously supported him throughout. I just hate to see everyone bash another guy for a coach making a decision to put him in the game.
Q: How did you think Eli Manning handled everything over the last nine days?
A: Like a pro. Like Eli Manning. I'm proud to call him a teammate. I'm proud to be associated with the way he handles himself and like I said last week when he was backing up and he came over to me and was asking about the offensive line, how we can help the offense be better. Just the type of guy he is and obviously he wants to be the quarterback and I said, he's not done playing and a week later I'm a prophecy.
Q: What stuck with you about what Steve Spagnuolo said to the team today?
A: Just focus on getting one win. Right now, all we can focus in on is the short term. Going out and getting a win against Dallas. We have all three of our divisional opponents back at home. So, go out and get a win against Dallas and go from there because really there's a lot up in the air when you have an interim coach, interim GM. We know changes are looming. We have to go out there and stick together. There's so much adversity. Pulls us closer and we got to be our best.
Q: What can be different about a defensive minded guy as your lead voice now?
A: Yeah, tables have turned because we had (Ben) McAdoo as our offensive coordinator. Then he became the head coach and now the defensive coordinator becomes the head coach. I haven't really talked to Spags (Steve Spagnuolo) that much. Yesterday, I sat in his office and I talked with him just to kind of get a feel for what he wanted from me and the offensive side of the ball and how things have been going and what not. It's refreshing to see how he sees it and what he wants to do going forward. The schedule, a lot of it kind of resembles what we did with coach (Tom) Coughlin. So, I was used to most of the things.
Q: What's it like to have so much uncertainty within the organization and how does that affect you?
A: I'm actually in a good spot. I kind of get to sit back and see everything unfold and I guess that's what happens when you're a looming free agent. You have the ability to see what's going on and see what's in front of you and see what your options are. I've never had that in my life. It's always been this where you're going. This is what you're doing. Even in college, I wasn't highly recruited. So, I never got to choose what situation I put myself in.
Q: How are you for this weekend?
A: I'm feeling good. Went out there and practiced today. We're going to see. We're going to see how – it's kind of progressing as the week goes. We built off of last week and that's good, but we kind of have to keep pushing it and making sure I'm at a level where I can play.
Q: When Eli Manning got in the huddle for the first time, it looked like the lineman were giving him some grief.
A: Yeah. We reintroduced ourselves to him. Especially me. I've been out for a little while, so I wanted to go and tell him who I was. Even though we shared the scout team huddle last week. It was good to see 10 in there. Like I said, he's been my quarterback ever since I got into the league. He was the first call I got after Coughlin. After they drafted me, the first call I got was Eli Manning. So, obviously it's a tough situation, but I'm happy to see 10 out there.