EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The Coughlin Corner, Giants.com's exclusive weekly interview with head coach Tom Coughlin:
Q: You're in the middle of a playoff race in December – is this your favorite time of year?
Coughlin: "This is it. This is what you work for. You work to get in this position and be excited about the opportunity that is there. It pulls together everything you talk about for the entire season where it all falls into one – less than a month, to be honest with you, at this point in time. I think when we met Wednesday, we told the team it was 26 days, something like that, and this entire thing is settled and called upon once again all the energy, all the focus, all the concentration, all the excitement, everyone being on the same page, everyone understanding exactly what it takes to win, everyone understanding that there is no margin for error here, that it's the time of the year when the really strong teams get stronger, those that execute well execute at the top of the game right now."
Q: You mentioned no margin for error. The attention to detail at this time has to be greater, the study, the focus - do you emphasize to the players that no matter what has been done to this point, everything has to be done at a different level at this time of year?
Coughlin: "The normal message is that the intensity level goes up. If a guy, just to quote as an example, if a guy normally comes to work an hour early, then now it's an hour-and-15 (minutes). Everything is done at a little bit more intense pace, just understanding again that as all the pieces of a puzzle fit, each individual has the responsibility of doing his job to the best of his ability. And you want to leave absolutely no stone unturned at this time of the year. All the details must be considered extremely important. Nothing is minute right now."
Q: In the last two weeks you've won games in which Eli Manning completed no more than 15 passes. Earlier this season, you won games in which the passing attack played a much larger role. Do you feel good going into this stretch run that you have demonstrated you can do different things to win games?
Coughlin: "Well, the idea is to be in position where you have enough weapons to be able to call upon whatever is needed, and balance has always been the key for us and it will continue to be. That's always been the way in which we've operated. It's kind of the way the game is today. You have to be able to do certain things. We have had some ability, for example running the ball into the eight- or nine-man fronts, but by and large you need to be able to have a good mix."
Q: Last year at this time you were losing players to injury or not getting them back because they were on injured reserve. Now you're getting some players back, which is unusual at this time of year. How important is that?
Coughlin: "Obviously, to accomplish all that you set out to accomplish, you want to have your team as close to full strength as you can. It doesn't always work that way. Every team in this league has been struck by some form of injury, which causes a team to be perhaps less than what they were at one time. But, nevertheless, you battle your way through that and when you've had players that have been injured and out and you start to get them back, obviously your concern right away is how fast can we get him back to being as productive as we know they can be when they were in stride. So that's where we are."
Q: Early in the season one of the questions about the Giants was the offensive line depth. David Diehl said he will play Sunday in Minnesota. But now that Kevin Boothe and Will Beatty and even Shawn Andrews and Adam Koets when they were healthy have shown they can contribute, do you feel better about the depth on the line?
Coughlin: "Oh, sure. Once again, we need everybody. Everybody that's on our roster has been needed, have been needed to perform in various functions. And when called upon, guys have been able to go into the game and help us somehow find a way to win. So that's what you're trying to do, knowing full well what the course of 16 games normally does to your roster, that every guy that's in a position that makes your 53, or even in a position where Boothe was – PUP (physically unable to perform). You know that at some point in time they're going to have to help you, contribute to help you win. And that's the thing you feel good about. But, yes, you build so that everybody has a role and everybody knows that at one point they're really going to be counted on."
Q: This is Eli's 100th consecutive regular season start. When you played Green Bay in 2007, I asked you about Brett Favre's streak (now at 297 games) and the term you used was "accumulative coaching." To have Eli out there for every game and every practice, preparing a game plan knowing he's going to be there every week, knowing you can depend on him, how important is that for him to be in there for his 100th straight game?
Coughlin: "It gives you a starting point for every game plan. You start off knowing full well that you have the capacity at quarterback to perform whatever you want. Whatever you like to do and feature as a game plan, you can do it. There are no limitations on what you can stress, and because of the way he's been developed, you know that the running game, checks and balances can all be put on his plate, that the protections can all be placed on his plate, and of course the passing game. So from a standpoint of getting started on how you approach someone as you study, you do not have to feel in any way that there are things you can't do because at that spot you're not allowed to or not capable of."
Q: When Brandon Jacobs was not starting early in the season he expressed some frustration about his role. Last week he had eight carries and was one of the happiest guys in the room. Are you pleased with where he is now?
Coughlin: "Just to be honest with you, it's a matter of seeing the big picture, of understanding how this game works, of how, again, the depth and the opportunities that present themselves over 16 games, everybody basically is going to have that chance to perform. When you're talking about the running back situation, we've featured two and three around here at different times and everybody has had to contribute. So to see it go full circle, have the players understand that regardless of at what point in time you want to talk about it is if you see the season unfold, you know that I wouldn't waste a whole lot of time worrying about who's this and who's that. It's going to be accumulative. It's going to be a situation where everybody is going to have to perform and contribute. And as the season goes along and you start to have issues and injuries and that type of thing, you're called upon more than ever. Some of that distribution throughout the course of the year is the idea of being able to share the load so that you can have people healthy."
Q: Terrell Thomas is a guy that hasn't gotten a lot of attention this year, but he seems to be in the middle of everything. He's third on the team in tackles, he leads in interceptions, pass defensed. Is he playing as well as the numbers indicate?
Coughlin: "He's playing well and he's working hard at it and he's serious in his approach. I like the way he practices and prepares. He helps us on special teams. So it's nice to see a guy work as hard as he does and have some success."
Q: You've played in the dome in Minneapolis three times since you've been here, including each of the previous two seasons. Is that a tough place to play simply because of the noise?
Coughlin: "Yes, but the team you're playing against has a little more to do with it than the noise. Certainly they do have the home crowd advantage. It is a loud place. We all know all of those things, but you've got to go in there, you've got to perform and play at a very high level against a good football team, a talented football team."
Q: Their quarterback situation gets the most attention, but doesn't that mask the fact that they prefer to run the ball?
Coughlin: "The last two games they've averaged 39 carries a game. Sixty-one or 62 percent of their offense is runs. So they run the play-action pass, the naked bootlegs. The skill level when they do throw the ball to big play possibilities that they do have on their offensive roster, whether it's the return of (Sidney) Rice or Percy Harvin – whoever you want to feature – (Visanthe) Shiancoe down the middle of the field, they're talented. They have a massive offensive line. They have not only Peterson, but they've got the young kid from Stanford, (Toby) Gerhart. So they're a good team. They're eighth in the league in rushing, fourth defending the run."
Q: Defensively, is this as good a front seven as you'll face this year?
Coughlin: "A very good front seven and they're playing very well. They do have veteran players manning all positions. They have played together for a long time. They're playing well."