Giants President John Mara
Opening Statement: Good afternoon, everybody. I thought in light of the events that have taken place over the last couple of days that I would give you the opportunity to ask some questions, so let's get it right into it and get started.
Q: You made two big changes this week – changes again. Why should Giants fans believe you will get it right this time?
A: Well, I haven't given them any reason to believe that. It's up to (Chairman and Executive Vice President) Steve (Tisch) and me to make the right choices going forward to earn back their trust. That is not going to be an overnight process. That's going to take some time, but it starts with getting the general manager pick done correctly and then with hiring the right head coach. That's going to be a process that we're going to have to earn their trust again. As I said, that's not going to happen overnight.
Q: How much do you look at these interviews for general managers and head coaches as package deals, as bringing one guy in with his coach?
A: There are no package deals. We want to get the general manager ideally done first and, obviously, we'll talk about the candidates for head coach, but it's not going to be a package deal. I want to go through a complete process here, interview as many people as possible. I don't want to rush into anything – we made that mistake in the past. I want to make sure we get to see as many candidates as possible, ideally.
Q: Do you feel like you guys have made bad choices and you've identified wrong candidates or in some ways is this a failure of your process that you've gone through?
A: It's probably all of the above. We haven't necessarily made the right choices. I think looking back on our process, I wish it had been a little more extensive, that we had seen more people and maybe taken our time a little bit more with it. We're going to try not to make that mistake this time.
Q: What is your confidence level in your ability to make the right choice? A lot of these choices the last few years have not been proven to be successful. Everything starts and stops with you. Do you feel you're capable of making the right choice this time around?
A: I do and, obviously, I don't expect a lot of people to believe that given what's happened over the last few years and I'm going to have to earn their trust again. But I feel very good about the group of candidates for the general manager position that we have scheduled right now. I think any one of a number of them would make an excellent general manager, so I am confident that we have the resources to make the right choice here.
Q: I'm just curious your reaction to being in your building watching the Cowboys game where a lot of Cowboys fans showed up. Then, against Washington not a lot of fans showed up, period. How much did that impact you? As kind of a corollary, you said you rushed it a little bit last time. Do you think that there was a little bit of comfort in that it had been so long since there was a succession of front office stability since 1979?
A: Obviously, you don't like to see visiting team fans in your building, but that's just the way the NFL is right now. We had a lot of fans in Miami, a lot of fans in Tampa. Now, certainly it's exacerbated by the fact that we had a poor record this year, but certainly it's not a pleasant sight that you want to see. And, yes, we've gone through this process far too often in recent years after having a lot of years of stability and it's not a fun process at all. There is nothing more painful to me than making that long walk down the hallway to tell somebody, particularly a good person like Joe (Judge), that we're making a change. It's gut-wrenching for me. It's been gut-wrenching every time I've had to do it. Obviously, I've had to do it far too often lately. That's why we're in this process again and we're going to get it right this time.
Q: I'm curious if there was a last straw for Joe Judge and where – if anywhere – does that 11-minute address where, as you well know, he took some veiled shots at your former coach and also a division opponent, obviously?
A: Obviously, I wasn't thrilled with that particular press conference, but I can't say there was one specific act that was the last straw. It was just a culmination of things. We just got to a point where I thought we had dug ourselves a hole so deep that I didn't see a clear path to getting out of it unless we completely blew it up and started all over again with a new general manager and a new head coach. I still think that there is a really good head coach inside of Joe Judge. I just felt like given where we are right now on the verge of bringing in a new general manager, we have to give that person the flexibility to bring in the head coach that he wants. I think that was a large part of the decision here in making a change. I just felt like we really needed to just start from the ground up again.
Q: It seemed when you hired Joe, he came in and gave you a presentation which wowed you. In 20/20 hindsight, do you need to take a step after you listen to these guys and look at more closely what they're saying?
A: Well, I think that's a fair comment, but we did here. We did a lot of research on him as we do with all of our candidates. He did do an excellent job in that interview. Sometimes, some people interview well, some people don't, but you have to do more research than that. I thought our process at that time was pretty thorough. We had spoken to a number of people about Joe. Listen, I still believe that there is a good head coach inside of him, but I just felt like given where we are at the moment – and certainly, certainly that is not all due to him – given where we are right now, I felt like we needed a clean sweep.
Q: For those of us old enough to remember, the back-to-back quarterback sneaks sort of brought back the memories of the (Former Giants Quarterback Joe) Pisarcik fumble and that period of time, which is obviously not a pleasant memory for you. Did that sequence really make this situation, as far as bringing him back, completely untenable? How much did that play into it?
A: Obviously, those weren't my favorite play calls in the world. I wish we had run that back when Pisarcik was here, but that was just one minor factor in the overall scheme of things. Obviously, not what I was looking for watching the game, but you can point to any number of play calls that any of us could have second-guessed. That was a bit of a surprise, let's put it that way.
Q: As a reference, you've fired a lot of people over the last couple of years, but what do you say to the fact that your brother is still Senior Vice President of Player Personnel, your nephew is Co-Director of Player Personnel and there's a perception that there isn't really accountability for family members who have had prominent roles during this stretch?
A: Well, that perception has been created by you and others and the reality is that, in terms of my brother, my brother spends most of his time doing evaluation of college players. His grades go into our system and he participates in the draft. All personnel decisions in this building – and this has always been the case – have been made by the general manager and the head coach. When they agree on a personnel decision, they come to me with it and as long as they're both in agreement, I okay it. The only times I would possibly not do that is if there was an off the field conduct issue. (Senior Vice President of Player Personnel) Chris (Mara) is a very skilled evaluator, but he does not have any authority here other than the fact that I will go to him on occasion and ask him about players. (Co-Director of Player Personnel) Tim (McDonnell) is probably the most respected guy we have in this building. The coaches, front office staff, the general manager go to him and ask his advice on players because he is a good evaluator. He's worked his way up from the bottom and he's earned his stripes. He does not have any authority here. The personnel decisions have always been made and will always be made by the general manager and the head coach. If they agree on a draft pick, on a UFA, then I'm going to okay it 99.99 percent of the time. The only time I will raise an issue about it is if there is a conduct issue. I'll question them about it, I'll make them defend their positions and I'll make sure that they're on the same page, but at the end of the day if they're in agreement, then that's the decision we're going with.
Q: You've done one interview; you have all these other ones you've lined up. How desirable is the Giants GM job when there's no cap space, the offensive line needs work, the pass rush needs work? What is the feedback you've gotten? Do you feel like your job is desirable, especially at quarterback – I didn't even mention quarterback. The quarterback situation is not solidified. How desirable is the job do you feel?
A: All I can tell you is based on the number of inquiries that I have had from prospective candidates; we're not going to be able to interview even 20 percent of all them. This is a very desirable job. We happen to have a lot of draft capital coming up. I think this is an organization that people want to work for, so I've been heartened by the fact that so many people have expressed an interest and including people who are very talented and who have a legitimate shot at getting the job. We haven't been turned down by anybody yet.
Q: If I can just follow up on your answer before about Chris and Tim and everyone, and also then ask you how you guys came up with the list of GM candidates – but I'm curious, do you think that them being part of ownership doesn't though hold maybe more sway than if it was somebody else?
A: More sway in terms of what?
Q: In regard to when they make a recommendation on a player. I know it just goes into the system like everyone else, but they're not anybody else. They're actually part of ownership.
A: I do not think it holds any more sway. That has not been my experience here. I listen to them, but there are many voices in this building. But the only two voices at the end of the day that matter are the head coach and the general manager. They make the final determination. They listen to them because they recognize their evaluation skills, but there are other people in the building who have evaluation skills as well and who have voices as well. But they do not have undue influence on the final decisions that are made here. They absolutely do not.
Q: How did you come up with the list for GM candidates and who is involved in that process?
A: I mean, that's something that – I've said this before – I'm always conscious of personnel around the league. I always keep a list of possible head coaches, possible general managers. I look at the successful teams, at what they're doing. I have a lot of people around the league that I talk to whose opinions I respect. At the end of the day, Steve and I put together the list.
Q: Is this your lowest moment in your [inaudible] with the Giants? Is this as embarrassed as you've been about the franchise?
A: Honestly, I would have to say yes. Yes, it is. I kept thinking during the season that we had hit rock bottom and then each week it got a little worse. Honestly, I'm not proud of saying this, but if I'm going to be 100 percent honest, I would have to say the answer is yes.
Q: You say Chris doesn't have any authority, but he was one of only three people along with yourself and Steve interviewing your first GM candidate. Do you think you, Chris and other family members need to take a step back from the football operations and dramatically change the way you operate on a daily basis in order to see this fixed?
A: Well, what we need to do is hire the right general manager to oversee the football operations and that's what this process is about. You make it sound like we're having undue influence on the football operations here. I've said this repeatedly, for whatever reason you guys keep asking me about it, it's the general manager and the head coach that are the most important people in this building in terms of making personnel decisions. Chris is in those interviews because he's part of ownership and I value his opinion; I value his skills and I want him in there. At the end of the day, I'll listen to him, but it will be Steve Tisch and myself who make the final decision.
Q: In the past, you've admitted that there were some mistakes made in the 2018 and 2019 off-seasons. I'm curious if you regret bringing Dave (Gettleman) back these last two years and why you feel that it was the right decision to let him close out the season as your general manager as opposed to getting a head start on things.
A: Well, listen, I thought that at the end of last season, we finished 5-3, I thought that the arrow was pointing up, I thought we were moving in the right direction. I thought that the communication at that end of the building was good and for whatever reason, things went haywire this year. Everybody got hurt between training camp and the early part of the season and things just went downhill from there. We reached a point where I just think we need to hit the reset button and get a fresh start. That's why we made the decision that we did.
Q: You said in the past that stability is always a goal for you and your franchise, which obviously hasn't been the case over the last few years. I'm wondering if you think that that will be a concern among the candidates for coach and GM about how much you really are willing to commit to their plan? Also, if you feel like you need to force yourself to be a little bit more patient this time around and endure the down parts a little bit better?
A: I certainly think that it will be a factor that some of these candidates will consider and that's something that we're going to have to overcome in these interviews. In terms of forcing myself, I wanted to do that very badly this year, but I just didn't see any end in sight. I just thought that we had reached a point where I didn't see a clear path to making significant progress and just thought, as I said before, that we needed to hit the reset button.
Q: Will the new general manager have full authority to hire whichever head coach he wants without any say from you? And will he have full authority to do whatever he wants with (Quarterback) Daniel Jones without any say from you?
A: He will lead the search for head coach, but those decisions always are subject to final approval by ownership. In terms of Daniel or (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) or anyone else you want to ask me, that's going to be between the general manager and the head coach.
Q: Why did you let Dave Gettleman retire instead of firing him later in the season to get a head start on the general manager search?
A: Well, it would not necessarily have given me a head start. The only people I would have been allowed to speak to would be people who are on the street right now. Quite frankly, our top candidates are people who are all employed right now, so it really would not have given us any advantage. I didn't see any need to do that earlier than when he announced his retirement.