EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Coughlin Corner, an exclusive weekly interview with head coach Tom Coughlin:
Q: Do you sometimes feel like you're coaching a team that has nine lives? It seems like every time you're going to be in trouble you get another chance.
Coughlin: "No, I don't feel that way at all. You look at the schedule and you know the opposition and you know who's playing who. And when you're looking at your own division, you see the tough games and you know they're tough games.
Historically, the Redskins and the Cowboys - even at the end of last year, the Redskin team, not having a very good year, beat Philadelphia, knocks them right out of there. But, anyway, no. I just think we're a team that is striving to put four quarters together, to take anything that we feel is not being done the way it should be done, and impress upon our players and impress on our coaches and anybody that wants to listen exactly what we need to do to deserve to win. You have to deserve to win. Maybe you'll get a gift once in a while when somebody doesn't do something, but by and large, you have to beat the other guy.
And when you're the one responsible for not performing in that capacity, then you have to look at that, too. You've got to own up to what it is. There's no way around it. We're up 10 with 8:55 seconds to go and a four-minute opportunity in between there that we did nothing with (last week vs. the Jets), and we punt the ball back and they go down and score. They win the toss, they go kick a field goal, we run the kickoff back to the 43 and we don't tie the game at least?"
Q: There's a lot of negativity from the outside directed at the team. Do you have to tell the players, "Just worry about what's in here"?
Coughlin: "That's what we say every day. Take care of the things you can control, okay? Criticism comes with the territory. Win games, they're pumping your butt up, beyond what it should be most of the time. Lose games, you're going to get blamed. And I always tell them this, 'Send all the criticism right to me, I can handle it. You guys have to be about the business of performing, of doing extra, because that's what we talk about this time of the year.' We always talk about doing more, doing extra, doing all the things, the little things, because you're going to write the script on this team right here in the next four weeks. You're going to write what this team is really about. Do they perform under pressure? Can they finish a ball game? You're going to be writing that."
Q: You've said and you just said it again, "I'm responsible." You said downstairs yesterday that every player has to examine his conscience. You've said many times you're not reflective by nature, but as this season goes on, and after a game like last week, do you step back and ask what you could have done differently?
Coughlin: "I always do that."
Q: Do you do that on a game-by-game basis?
Coughlin: "Oh yeah, absolutely. However you want to talk about make-up, my make-up has always been, 'If we lose, it's my fault. It's always my fault, no matter what.' That's just way I was raised, just the way my conscience and my mind operates. It's overboard in that direction. That's not about being reflective, that's about examining as to why. Why in the world didn't this work? And the problem that we've had this year, quite frankly again, is that I made some very aggressive key decisions, which I know are the right decisions that have not paid off. Therefore, all the experts out there simply think it's the wrong decision. It's not the wrong decision. What I was doing (in going for a touchdown instead of a short field goal late in the game last week) is giving us a three-touchdown lead, which with eight minutes to go would be very difficult to overcome. But it didn't work."
Q: One captain, Jon Beason, has been on IR for weeks, and now you've lost another captain this week in Zak DeOssie. Do you have enough leadership on this team right now?
Coughlin: "Well, Cullen (Jenkins) has been really serving in that capacity, because he was the second vote getter (among the defensive players). He's been serving in that capacity for most of the season, to be honest with you, (because) of Jon's injuries. On special teams, it really has been Zak always, so there will be a little void there. I'm sure (Mark) Herzlich can pick up the void there. He will be the guy that will step in."
Q: Zak didn't miss a game for almost nine full seasons. Can you talk about your appreciation for him?
Coughlin: "He's a football player, first and foremost. He's always wanted to cover kicks, kickoffs, play linebacker on scout team, and do all those kinds of things. His first couple of years in the league, he did it, he would play tight end. As the years go by, you realize how important that individual and that player is and how difficult it is to try to replace somebody like that. So therefore, there was less and less for him other than just special teams. But he works his ever-loving off, he always has. He comes out every day fully-padded, snaps the ball fully-padded, because he wants that feel, he wants to know what it feels like. The specialists thought that if his wrist injury wasn't corrected now, it could have a lifelong effect, so there you go."
Q: You have a new snapper in Danny Aiken. Is it difficult to have a new snapper-holder-kicker battery this late in the season?
Coughlin: "Danny Aiken has snapped in 63 games, so it's not like he hasn't played. He does know what he's up against. This (the Miami Dolphins, who the Giants visit Monday night) is a good special teams outfit that will put pressure right there. That's what you do when you have this situation. We've worked hard on that, and hopefully, that's going to be the answer."
Q: Justin Pugh played every game of his rookie season at right tackle. Weston Richburg played left guard. Now you have a rookie lineman in Bobby Hart, a seventh rounder, you moved him around to different positions. How valuable is it to have a young, versatile lineman"
Coughlin: "It's very valuable. And it doesn't have to be young, it could anybody. But when you have a young guy who has it all in front of him, who has the wherewithal to learn multiple positions, which is not easy, and be called upon under the present circumstances every week, it's a very, very good sign for our team and for Bobby Hart."
Q: Odell Beckham is consistently productive game after game. Do you ever get concerned that the offense is becoming, for lack of a better term, too Odell-centric?
Coughlin: "That was obvious last week. The ball has to be spread around. You have to have other people contributing, because at key times in the game, you have to be in a position where your progression is the key, not just looking for one individual. And throughout the course of a game, even under the circumstances, there are multiple opportunities. And I'm not saying that isn't where the ball should go - you always know who your playmakers are, and the ball has to go to those guys to win. But other people have to contribute, and we're very much aware of that."
Q: The Dolphins have two running backs, Lamar Miller and Jay Ajayi, who are powerful and average a combined 5.0 yards per carry.
Coughlin: "Miller is the number one yards-after-contact guy in the league at two-point-something. He's extremely fast. Whew, I mean incredibly fast. You have a team with a quarterback that can run; (Ryan) Tannehill runs the option, he runs the quarterback sweep. He's dangerous if he pulls the ball down. And you have a runner that has that kind of speed and skill, you can't make any mistakes trying to figure out how to tackle him. You have to be an exceptional tackling team. The one thing we always talk about is don't let him get started. You're not going to see that speed if he can't get started."
Q: Speaking of speed that gets started, how about Odell's close friend, Jarvis Landry?
Coughlin: "We have great respect for Landry. It's amazing they both have the same number of catches (78). Landry is also a very dangerous punt returner."
Q: Defensively, their tackles, Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips, are very good at batting down balls at the line of scrimmage…
Coughlin: "Last weekend, unbelievable. Both of their scores were both set up by, first of all, protection errors, let's put it that way. Nobody blocked the end, the end comes right at the quarterback. But they're very good at going up, blocking the ball, and then one was caught by (Reshad) Jones, the safety, and the other one was caught right by the rusher (by defensive end Derrick Shelby), and he runs into the end zone for a touchdown. Those are their two scores. How about that?"
Q: Is another one of their ends, Olivier Vernon, underrated?
Coughlin: "He's a good player, he's as good as there is that we've seen as a defensive end rushing the passer. He's long-armed, fast. They have 25 total sacks since Dan Campbell became the head coach; they had one before he took over. So yeah, he's a good player."
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face Miami this Monday Night