Just before we begin, I'd like to thank Pat Shurmur, Chris Mara, Chris Pettit, Kevin Abrams, the scouts, the coaches and all of the support staff that we have that are just doing a terrific job helping us put the whole board together. Everybody has done a great job adjusting to the different philosophy and methodology. We have gotten meaningful dialogue and collaboration, we've watched a ton of film together and the ensuing dialogue is going to be very insightful and meaningful and my hat is off to all of them. They just did a great job and with that being said, let the games begin.
Q: You mentioned the different philosophies. Can you explain the changes that you brought in?
A: Well, the college football game is so different from ours it is not even close. It is a very, very different game and in the old days we would grade, you would have critical factors and you have position specifics. In the old days you had kids that were on scholarship, a lot of them were five-year guys, there was no such thing as the 20-hour rule and when those guys were coming out, all you had to do was put a little polish on them and you had a player. The guys that are coming out now and I'm not criticizing anybody, they're not as fundamentally and technically as sound as those guys used to be. So, to grade them position specific and plus since the game has changed, the college game is different, it's hard for us to really decipher what each player is being asked to do, it's different. So, what I've tried to get everyone to understand is you have to grade the critical factors. You have to grade instincts, competitiveness, strength, explosion, athletic ability, and you've got to grade their play. I don't care what a guy runs on the watch in his underwear, I don't care. It's how fast can he play on the field, how does he carry his pads, that's what's important, so with this 20-hour rule and everything, you can't really knock it if we're going to take a linebacker. You have to be careful if you knock his grade down because he doesn't shed well. You don't know what he's being taught, you don't know what he's being told, you don't know how much time is being spent on that skill and it is a skill, but that is a skill that can be coached, that's something that we can improve, so that's why I don't grade on (?) I'm not as concerned much with the position specifics as I am with the critical factors, so that's a different way of looking at it. And then just the whole methodology of setting the board up. I learned a really unique way of looking at it when I went to Carolina. I had never seen it before and when I looked at it -- of course, I'm a little anxious because these guys got to understand that they are teaching me to a certain degree and they were very gentle (laughs). At the end of the day, it is a great way of looking at it and it really brings clarity to what you do and the other thing is the detail work, really knowing the player, digging deep – what kind of a guy is he? Is he trained? How important is football to him? I think in my opening presser I said I don't want guys that like to play football, I want guys that hate to lose, that's what I want. There isn't anybody in this room that would say, who likes to win and everybody raise their hand, we have gone through this exercise before, it's just the way it is. It's that detail work that's really important and everybody is getting it and it was really neat sitting around and watching film as a group. It's great from looking at a guy that's played in the Southeast Conference and it's great for the scouts that didn't get an opportunity to see them play. It's vice versa as you're looking at players around the country, so I thought it was a great exercise, it was a great teaching moment, we can all learn from each other and I thought that was very good. The scouts were excellent in terms of chiming in and telling me what they thought. I told them at our opening, the first time we all sat down, I said, 'Listen, you're getting paid for your opinion. You leave this room wishing you had said something but didn't, shame on you because you're not doing your job, you're thinking about it.' So it was great. We had a great time to prep, the scouts are home right now, we all got tired of looking at each other and it was time for them to see their families, so they're home. They will be back Sunday night, we'll take a good, hard look at the board again on Monday and Tuesday morning and then we'll be ready to roll.
Q: How close are you to making a final decision at this point or how close are you at narrowing it down to a couple guys?
A: How close? You can't close your mind. You can't close your mind. You don't know what is going to happen.
Q: Well it's a little easier at No. 2 isn't it?
A: Sure. Listen, we'll know when we know. I'm not making any decisions before that.
Q: How important is this pick to the future of this franchise?
A: Well, when you're picking this high, if you make a mistake, you're done. We talk that when you miss on a quarterback, you really hurt the franchise for probably five years. It's a five-year mistake. Yeah, it's a big decision, but as long as you've done your homework and turned all the rocks over, you will come to the right answer. You ask the right questions and you will get the right answers.
Q: The last year or two it seemed like this quarterback class was very anticipated. Now that you have done all of your pre-draft homework, how do you think this group stacks up against other groups of quarterbacks in previous drafts?
A: It's funny, it's a really a neat group to evaluate because they are all different players. With the second pick, I'm sitting at Ben and Jerry's and I've got a lot of flavors to look at and they're all different. I can't compare it to the '83 draft if that's what you're asking. The '83 draft you had (John) Elway, (Jim) Kelly, (Dan) Marino. C'mon Steve, help me. (Ken) O'Brien, (Tony) Eason at that time on my Patriots.
Q: What about 2004?
A: That was a heck of a group, too. Everything is different and, again, we're in a different time with college football being just different. It's funny, when I went to Carolina, at the opening presser they say, (?). I said listen, 'At the end of the day, I don't care what kind of quarterback you are, I don't care who you play for, if you can't make plays from the pocket, then you can't win. You can't win. You've got to be able to make plays from the pocket.' So they take that and they run with it and I am going to trade Cam. The bottom line is all of these guys are interesting, they're unique, there is depth there for sure and it's a heck of a group to watch. It's fun.
Q: When you talk about the quarterbacks in this class and the importance of the position, do you still apply your gold jacket standard?
A: I'm going to turn the question on you. My mother told me that it was never polite to answer a question with a question, but I'm going to do it anyway. If you think about all the quarterbacks that you've seen, who of them have made everybody better? That's what you're looking for. Does he make everybody around him better? That's what you're looking for.
Q: Is it naïve to think that the three days next week where you will see Davis Webb can change your board?
A: Nothing is going to totally change the top of the board. Seeing Davis next week is going to be fun for us because he's a great kid, he works his fanny off, he has been following Eli (Manning) around like a little puppy dog since he walked in the door and it will be a neat opportunity to see him play. Yeah, sure, everything affects the board. I'd be lying if I said no, but at the end of the day, I'm looking forward to it.
Q: Do you like the fact that there are so many opinions about what you're going to do at No. 2?
A: Like it? I love it. Are you kidding me? By the way, when you were on Sirius the other day, it was Saturday and I was in here holed up watching film, I was listening to you and it was hysterical what you were saying. I loved it. Yeah, I do.
Q: Was I correct?
A: Yeah, you were in the response that you made that Dave Gettleman doesn't care about what the media says. It's true.
Q: When people bring up smokescreens and information has leaked…
A: Let me tell you something – when I was a little kid, every time I lied, I got caught and when I was seven years old, my father kicked my butt and I haven't lied since then. To me it's silly, but that's me.
Q: So who are you picking?
A: I'm taking you, Steve.
Q: That's a five-year mistake.
A: (Laughs) What else have you got, kids?
Q: Is (Penn State RB) Saquon Barkley a generational talent?
A: I'm not going to lie. He's a tremendous talent. You put the film on of a defensive guy and if they're playing Penn State, then I'm watching Saquon. He's one of those guys that my mother could have scouted. She could have figured that one out.
Q: If a certain group is considered deep in the draft, do you stay away from that position due to the depth in the later rounds?
A: You've got to stay with the value. You have to stay with the value because you guys have heard a million stories, I've heard a million and one and you've probably heard half a million where a guy says, 'Don't worry, he'll be there in the next round.' Then the next round comes around and he ain't there. You have to stay with your board, you have to stay with value. You can't get too cute. Guys have kind of laughed around the league when we'd be on the clock in Carolina and I'd have my pick in in 28 seconds. If you know what you want, then go do it. Don't be shy. If you get too cute, you're going to lose. You're going to come up on the wrong end and it's about value. You can never have too many good players at one position.
Q: Along those lines how do you weigh the running back value in the NFL with the talent of a guy like Saquon also taking into account the value of the quarterback in the NFL?
A: I think that the devaluing of the running back is really a myth. If you have a great running back, he immediately makes your quarterback better, your offensive line better and your passing game. So I don't believe in it. It's how you evaluate the players, how we value them, how we rate them and then you go on from there.
Q: How much does shelf life come into consideration?
A: That's dangerous. It's dangerous to look at it that way. Anthony Munoz failed everybody's physical and he only played 15 years and went to the Hall of Fame. Thurman Thomas had no ACL – I think he had a pretty long career. You make yourself crazy. You just can't get into that. It's the value, it's the player – does he fit your scheme? If he fits your scheme and the value is there, pull the trigger and keep moving.
Q: What about the value of having the No. 2 pick helps you now as opposed to picking a quarterback helping the franchise in the future?
A: It's a consideration. It's a consideration. You think about stuff.
Q: How many good years do you think Eli Manning has left?
A: Well, you know we've talked about it. There is no ability to predict that. Eli takes great care of his body, he's very fit. We watched the film and he still has plenty of arm. Who knows? Did anybody know that, I'm drawing a blank on his name; he played quarterback at the age of 45. Who knows? I know the Oakland kicker Blanda played a game late, right Steve? You played a game late and there was another quarterback, he played for Atlanta. But anyhow, like I said, Eli takes great care of himself, he's very fit and he still has plenty of arm.
Q: How much does he factor into the equation of what you're going to do at No. 2?
A: Everybody factors in. Your team factors into the equation, everybody does. Here is the deal – as the G.M., I walk a tight line. I have to look at the short term and I have to look at the long term and that's the tight rope that I walk and I have to take all that into consideration in making decisions, whether it's the draft, whether it's unrestricted free agency, whether it's trading for an Alec Ogletree. Whatever it is, making claims – you have to think about it. So I'm on that tight rope doing the best I can with the information that I have and we move forward.
Q: What do you say to the idea of picking at No. 2 means you have to take a quarterback?
A: I say hogwash. How is that?
Q: You never traded back in the five drafts in Carolina? Is that philosophical?
A: No, I never did, did I? It just kind of never happened, I guess. I traded up a bunch, I know that. It just kind of never happened. There was nothing ever meaningful enough that would keep me from a player that we had that was there for us to take. I guess that's what it is. Like I said, you can outsmart yourself and you can have a player there that you like, but someone wants to trade and you go, 'Alright, I can get extra draft picks.' Woo and you get into that. Nobody ever offered us – you know what, in Carolina I never got a meaningful enough offer to trade back.
Q: Are you open to it if a meaningful enough offer came your way?
A: Sure. It depends on what's on the board and who is still on the board. I'm open to it. Listen, you have to be open to everything. You have to listen. You can't be afraid of conversation. You have to be open.
Q: Do you get more offers and calls because of your position?
A: We've had calls. I'll admit to that.
Q: What do you think the likelihood is of you making a move?
A: I'm not going to put a percentage on that. If I had the answer to that, I wouldn't be sitting here and I would be in Vegas.
Q: Are you adamant that you have to get a great player in this draft?
A: Sometimes you have to look at it this way and I'm not saying this is the way I always look at it, but sometimes you have to look at it this way – we're all in school, do I want to get an A and four C's or do we want an A-, a couple of B+'s and a couple of B's? Winning requires depth. If you don't have depth – I've seen teams that had great defenses that folded in the fourth quarter because they had no depth and now you've got guys on the field for 95-98 percent playing time. You can't win that way, guys wear down, so there is obviously different ways of looking at it depending upon what the A looks like. But, if you get a chance to accumulate quality, you put yourself in a position to potentially accumulate picks and have a lot of very solid players, there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with that.
Q: There is a report that you are releasing Brandon Marshall. Can you comment on that?
A: Really? Yes, we have.
Q: Why now?
A: We're releasing him – failed physical.
Q: Does that mean that you guys have interest in Dez Bryant?
A: I have interest in everybody. We do our film work and you never know.
Q: Now that we're closer to the draft, are you able to say for sure that Odell Beckham Jr. is not going to be traded?
A: I'm not going to say. He's on our team, he's a valued member of our football team.
Q: Is No. 2 too high to draft a lineman?
A: It was really funny, we did some background work and there has only been one interior guy taken with the second pick of the draft and it was in (1966) and it was (Tom Mack) of the Rams. Brandon Scherff was taken at No. 5. In the old days, people would shoot you in the head. You were considered brain dead and they'd drag you out by your toes. Is it ever too early to take a great player? You know my philosophy – big men allow you to compete and you have to build your lines. I'm going to build this team from the inside out. You look at the teams that go deep in the playoffs, you turn around and you take a look at how (Eagles General Manager) Howie (Roseman) has built Philly – both fronts, let's go. Because again, those three truths don't change, you've got to run the ball, you've got to defend the run and rush the passer. So, everyone else wants to talk about skill guys and I want to talk about hog mollies.
Q: You said that you've traded up a lot. Do you have enough assets to trade up in this draft and would you dip into future drafts to trade up?
A: I'm not going to do that. I'm going to tell you that right now. Right now, I have no intention of dipping into future drafts. None.
Q: Can you explain how you set up your draft board?
A: It's a combination of vertical – by position, you set it up vertically and then once you've set your values on the players vertically, then you start working horizontally. So, let's say that I've got Russ Salzberg at a 7.4 and I've got Art Stapleton at a 7.4 and I've got Paul Schwartz at a 7.4 and Russ is the running back, Art is the tackle and Paul is a pass rusher, I'll give him something. What you're going to do now is if they all have the same value, they're all in the same conversation, so when the pick comes up and those three characters are all 7.4's, you talk about what it is and if there is a need at one of those positions, then you take the need. If there is not a need, then you take the best guy, but that's the conversation. We're not talking about 25 guys, we're talking about three guys. Does that make sense to you guys?
Q: I know you laid out the process. If you had to make the pick right now, in your mind and your heart, do you know who you want to take at No. 2?
A: No. I'm being honest.
Q: Is all the information that you got during the visits overkill?
A: It's not overkill at all, it really isn't because what is interesting is seeing a guy out of his own element because there is a little less comfort and you can't know too much about a guy. Remember, you're bringing him into your locker room, how is he going to handle that, do you want him in your locker room? Who is he coming here with? Is he living alone, does he know how to boil water? How is he going to handle New York City? It is all that stuff and we have to find that out because when you come into the National Football League and so many of these guys are 21, 20 years old when they get out there for the first time and there is some 28, 29 year-old man staring them in the face, they better be ready for that because it's going to be a rude awakening, and if you don't bring in the kinds of guys that you know are going to be able to stand up to that, then you're making a mistake. The 30 visits are not overkill. The amount of contact that we have with these guys over the draft process, all star games, Indianapolis and then their Pro Days workouts and then the 30 guys we can bring in here, it's very, very meaningful and it's important.
Q: When you talk about the quarterbacks about being in Ben and Jerry's and having a lot of different flavors, does that also translate to there is no one that has it all?
A: Not necessarily. They are four different, distinct personalities. But no, not necessarily.
Q: Do you know in your mind right now if you will take a quarterback?
A: Time will tell.
Q: By your own barometer of envisioning the player you take at No. 2 wearing a gold jacket some day, is there a chance that that player is out there, he can help you win now and it's actually not that hard of a decision?
Q: You took Christian McCaffrey at No. 8 last year and you described the pick as a no brainer. Could you argue at No. 2 that Saquon is a no brainer to help this team?
A: You could argue that either way.
Q: One of the things that you need from a player is that they have to love football. There are reports that Josh Rosen maybe lacks a desire to play the game. You met with him. What was your impression of him?
A: He wants to play football. He came off as bright, insightful and he wants to play football.