Q: How has the tight end position developed?
A: There have obviously been some great tight ends to play in this league going back to John Mackey. You can say that Tony Gonzalez has revolutionized the position. You just see some of the best athletes on the field right now that are tight ends. I would say guys like Jermichael Finley in Green Bay and I think our guy, Jimmy Graham, just these physical specimens at 6'6", 260 [pounds], but can run like deer and jump out of the gym and catch everything you throw at them. They're just a matchup nightmare. I just think maybe in the past where you kind of had either one or the other. You were either a big, blocking tight end or you were more of a hybrid pass-catching type of tight end. Now there just seems like there are some guys out there that are just such big, physical, strong specimens. They can do everything. Like a Gronkowski in New England. They can block with leverage. They can run routes. They can catch. They can outrun defenders. You do see some of these athletes now at the tight end position and just kind of shake your head.
Q: How has that changed the way you play as a quarterback?
A: I think those are definite matchup advantages. You can move the tight end around a lot. He's not always in the end-line position. You can split him out. You open him up, you split him out, you motion him, you just do different stuff with him where you try to create matchups and do different things to help get him open and also just to create those matchups.
Q: What was more fun, Jay Leno or Ellen Degeneres?
A: They were both fun. That's the third time we've been on Ellen and I guess the second or third with Jay. Each show is really kind of different. With Ellen, I've brought my family each time. My wife and my son have been on there at one point, actually both boys and my wife the time before. And then we went there right after we won the Super Bowl back in 2010 and brought the Super Bowl trophy. Ellen's from New Orleans so there is such a strong connection between her and the city. I think she has done so much for the community here and obviously she's such a great personality and such a great person. I don't know. I just feel like we have a great kind of bond. She surprised our team at training camp this year, when we went to Oxnard for a week. Each one of them has their uniqueness, but definitely Ellen with her strong New Orleans connection, that's a special trip.
Q: If you are the adopted son of New Orleans and Eli is from New Orleans, does that mean you're the favorite son of New Orleans?
A: I'll leave that up to you guys do give the labels and all that other stuff. When I first got to town you learn very quickly that this is the city that the Mannings are from. Archie, obviously having played here and lived here ever since and being very involved with the community and Eli and Peyton both, with everything that they've accomplished. People definitely take a lot of pride in saying those guys are from New Orleans.
Q: You said that you and Archie had a relationship, but it died down when you were facing Peyton in the Super Bowl. Have you maintained contact with him?
A: Archie will text me every now and then just to check in and say hello and wish me luck and that kind of thing. He's always been very nice and always there if I need anything, the whole family. Cooper Manning, the other brother, and his wife Ellen and three kids live like two minutes away from where we live so we'll see them every now and then. It's always good hanging out with them or catching up. The funny story is that back when we played the Giants in 2006, Archie would text me every Saturday before each game, back in 2006, which was my first year here in New Orleans. Like I said, just really trying to reach out and make sure that I knew that he was thinking about me, thinking about [the team] and wishing us luck and that kind of thing. He would always say 'good luck, go get them' and that kind of stuff. When we played Eli I was wondering if he was going to text me or what he was going to say. So he texted me before we played the Giants, this was Christmas Eve in '06, up there in New York. And his text was 'you're on your own this week, buddy.' It was kind of funny. But Archie has always been great.
Q: What has changed in the NFL to make it such a passing game?
A: I don't know. You can make a lot of arguments. You can say the rule changes are in favor of the passing game. The illegal hits, the defenseless players, both the quarterback in the pocket and receivers down the field. That benefits the passing game. The five-yard chuck rule, that benefits the passing game. Being able to throw the ball away outside of the pocket benefits the passing game. Just some of those little things. But then again, this year it seems like there's more interceptions than I've ever seen. I guess the more teams are throwing the ball, the more yards you're going to put up and the more touchdowns and maybe more punts, but also the more turnovers. That can also lead to more points, but unfortunately, it's points for the other team. That's the only thing that I can think of and I just think that there are some offenses that are really throwing the ball well and really have a great offensive scheme, great offensive personnel and they've been doing it for a long time. I'd say the Giants have always had a really strong running game, but always the ability to throw the ball down the field and have the ability to throw it a lot at times, when they want to. The Packers, obviously, are a great offense with great skill position players and a great quarterback. The New England Patriots are the same way. There are teams out there that have always done it, but maybe this year they're taking it to the next level.
Q: Do you feel like the passing game in the league has leveled off since the season has gone on?
A: I think there were like six quarterbacks on pace for Marino's record after four or five weeks. Now there's, I don't even know how many there are now, but there's not six. I don't know. I think there were some pretty crazy numbers being thrown out in the first four weeks. Cam Newton has two 400-yard passing games to start his career. Obviously it's nearly impossible to keep that pace. We had a string of games where we were five consecutive games over 350 [passing yards]. It's hard to do that stuff. You might be able to do it for a period of time, but I think in the end, for us I know, the emphasis has really become, if we want to be as a good of an offense as we know we can be, we want to be able to run the ball better. We want to be even more efficient in the passing game. So by becoming more complimentary, typically the passing numbers go down and the rushing numbers go up, but what might also go up is time-of-possession and maybe even third-down efficiency because you're getting into more third and manageable situations because you're running the ball better, red zone efficiency, therefore more points. There's a lot of things that come along with rushing the ball better, but the first thing that happens is your passing stats go down. There's nothing wrong with that as long as we're winning games.
Q: Does your coach make sure you get a passing touchdown each week, that you're getting your yardage?
A: No. It's all about winning. It doesn't matter how we do it, as long as we do it. I think we're in an offense, we spread it out a lot, we throw it a lot, but we also have the ability to run it out of a lot of formations, a lot of different personnel groups with multiple running backs. I feel like we're very diverse in what we do. In the end it's all about doing whatever it takes to win, if that means rushing it 50 times or throwing it 50 times, that's what we're going to do. We don't care who scores as long as we're the ones scoring.
Q: What about the Giants pass rush?
A: I think they're one of the most talented groups in the NFL, especially with their ability to get pressure with just their front four. I also think they do a great job run defending with just their front four. They're a pretty diverse group, extremely athletic, big, physical. I think it's going to be our toughest test of the year, for sure.
Q: How did the lockout affect your ability as a passer?
A: I don't know. I mean the way the season, obviously it was kind of an offensive juggernaut at the beginning with passing yardage and points scored and just all of those things. I understand you're always looking for reasons why and so immediately you think maybe the offenses just had the advantage in the lockout over the defenses. I don't know, but I think there's always kind of a point that it reaches where you're back to equilibrium. Maybe we're back at that point, but I don't think we take much concern with that. I felt like we had a great plan during lockout to bring our team together, both offense and defense. Get the work done that we would otherwise have gotten done had we not been locked out, that way we were the most prepared team going into training camp. I felt like we did as good of a job as we could have done.
Q: When you said that this is going to be your toughest test of the year were you specifically talking about the pass rush or is there something about this Giants defense that worries you?
A: There are always things that worry me. There are always things that you have to be concerned with, whether it's players or team or matchups and that kind of thing. They're number one in the league in sacks. They have gotten a turnover in something like 21 consecutive games – 26, 27 consecutive games. They have the [longest streak in the NFL]. What I see is a defense that does a great job of getting after the quarterback, that does a great job taking the ball away and taking advantage of those opportunities when they have it. You have to play extremely smart against them. You can't be one dimensional. You have to be able to run the ball as well as throw it, take advantage of the opportunities when you do happen to have big plays, try to find matchups wherever you can find them and hope for a little bit of luck along the way too.
Q: Do you know Eli?
A: Whenever I see Eli, like at the Pro Bowl a few years ago or I saw him at a golf tournament out here at one time, we'll see each other maybe a couple of times a year just at different events and stuff. It's obviously very cordial. I have a lot of respect for Eli and what he's been able to accomplish. I think that all quarterbacks kind of have this relationship just because you know what each one of us goes through and you all kind of get together. I guess when we're around each other everything's fine. I don't text or call Eli all of the time or anything, but I definitely have respect for him and consider him a friend.
Q: The Giants rushing attack has been its worst since the '40s. Do you have any empathy or comment on what Eli's been able to do with no running game?
A: That's tough. I talked about it earlier in the conversation, the more balanced you are, the better you're running the football, typically that opens up a lot of opportunities in the passing game and allows you to be more balanced and have more success. I think the Giants have always had a great reputation of being able to rush the football. I'm not looking at their offensive stats. I'm looking at their defense, trying to figure out a way to beat those guys. Just from afar, watching some of the games on film when we play similar opponents and that kind of thing, I think Eli's had a great season. I think he's playing very well.
Q: Do you feel more comfortable throwing balls that you didn't used to throw because of the defenseless receiver rule?
A: It doesn't change my view at all. I'm not throwing balls now that I wouldn't have thrown two or three years ago. In other words, it doesn't enter my thought process at all. Despite the fact that a free safety can't hit my guy in the head or else he's going to get a penalty doesn't meant that I'm just going to throw one up across the middle and hope that my guy doesn't get hit in the head. I'm always trying to protect my guys and do that kind of thing. I can tell you're the one writing the article about why offenses, passing numbers and stats are higher this year than they ever have been in some cases for teams. That's not something I think about. If he's open, he gets the ball thrown to him. If he's not, he doesn't.
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