Nolan from the New York side

Here's what Mike Nolan, who was defensive coordinator with the New York Giants from 1993-1996, had to say while talking 49ers and Giants during his conference call Wednesday with New York writers:

Q: Can you tell us who your quarterback will be this week?

Nolan:
Yes. Cody Pickett will be our starter. The backup is unknown yet. We signed Jesse Palmer yesterday, who obviously used to be a Giant. We're still waiting to see Ken's (Dorsey) status and Alex's (Smith) status because both of those guys are still available in some capacity, but Cody will start.

Q: With Alex would it be an emergency situation only?

Nolan:
In our case, everything is an emergency.

Q: What can you tell us about Cody and how effective he might be able to be?

Nolan:
Cody, I think, should be effective. He's been with the team all along so he understands the language and the players know how he plays. Like I said, I think the biggest thing for a new guy coming on board, which we do not have, is that the new guy comes in and has to learn language, players, timing, and all that, whereas Cody has been here all along since training camp. So, he understands that. He just hasn't played much at the quarterback position with us in live reps because we've had the other three guys ahead of him. But, he's certainly very capable. He did well in the preseason when he went in and so now it's just a matter of getting his opportunity to play.

Q: Can you talk about his makeup? He sounds like a special kind of guy.

Nolan:
Well, he is from the standpoint that he'll do whatever it takes to help the team. That's probably what makes him more special than anything else. He's been covering kicks and punts and been on kickoff returns and punt returns and everything else since the season began. We kept four quarterbacks when the season began and Cody was one who at the time I knew could help us, not only in a quarterback role if we needed him, but also like I said in the special teams area. And he's also helped us a lot in practice. He plays wide receiver and defensive back. Now he certainly hasn't done that the last couple of weeks, but up to that point, he was running around doing whatever you could imagine. I don't think he kicks, but he does punt. So, he does do quite a few things.

Q: What was the biggest reason you kept him?

Nolan:
The biggest reason is because I believe he's going to be a very good quarterback in time. He's a young player, as all of our quarterbacks are. Even Tim Rattay before we let him go, he was one of the young guys. We had four young guys with potential to be good players and so I kept them all. Most teams obviously only keep three, but they got their structure just in place. They have a starter, they have an experienced backup, and then maybe have a developmental guy. In our case, we had four guys who are trying to develop and we didn't have an opportunity to change that situation. So, Cody was one of those guys we kept. I kept Cody, I think more than anything – I shouldn't say more than anything, but I kept him because I think he's going to be a quarterback down the road. But, in the meantime he gave us a guy who that could do a lot of things and he's done those things. He's helped us out of a jam several times. The other day, heck we didn't have anybody to be the personal protector to the punter, and Cody went in and did it and then followed it up by going down and making the tackle on the punt as well. So, he's a versatile guy that will be on the team a long time in my opinion.

Q: Is it the versatility that's the biggest thing with him or the want to do all these different things?

Nolan:
Well, I think it just all plays in the character and the type of person he is. Yeah, he wants to play quarterback. He wants to be the guy and he is that this week. But, when he doesn't have that role, he wants to do all the other things. As a matter of fact, when I let Tim Rattay go and I moved him into the third spot, he was asking me if he could still be active for the games. See, when he was the fourth quarterback I made him active in the game as a player, not as a quarterback. So, he did all the special teams stuff. When he became the third quarterback, he was concerned that he would have been that 46th inactive guy and not available to play in the game and there was a game or two that I had to do that with him. I think one game, but other than that, I made him one of the 45 (active players) so that he could play. It is his want to, it's his desire. He wants to play. He'll play whatever position it takes. He wants to get on the field.

Q: There's a perception that special teams guys have a certain mentality and that there is a certain personality maybe that goes with that. Do you see a little of that in him as a quarterback?

Nolan:
Yes, very much so. He's got the personality that a lot of the players attract to as well. In particular, the offensive line. But, we have that among our other quarterbacks as well. They all have a little craziness in them, which is kind of good I think. I like that. They are resilient. They are tough, hard working, they all show up all the time. They're physical. They have good mobility. Certainly, Alex and Cody both have the best mobility of the bunch. They gave us a lot. They give us a lot of presence in the locker room and not just on the field. So, they are the kind of guys you want on your football team. Just to find a place for Cody and his role, obviously now he's a quarterback, but up to this point, it was just trying to find a place where you could get him on the field because he could play.

Q: As a quarterback, what is his major strength?

Nolan:
I would say his playmaking ability. I think so because he's big, he's strong, he's fast, he's tough, he's athletic, and I think there's a belief by the other guys too that he'll get his first downs.

Q: Do you think he can win in this league?

Nolan:
Certainly I do.

Q: Talk about the progression of Alex Smith and how much the injury has hampered it?

Nolan:
Well, it certainly slows down his progress because he's not playing right now. But, I think guys learn a lot by being on the bench. I think guys learn a lot when they are injured. There's a way to be injured and work to get back on the field. There's a way to do everything. So, whether he's on the field or not, there's still an opportunity every day that he gets tested on doing the right thing. So, it may not be the football part that's on the field. But I'll say this, when we have injured players, I watch them to see how fast they try to get back because it tells me what kind of a guy we have. And I also watch to see what his work ethic is like, not only trying to get back, but to study the game plan to stay on top of what we're doing offensively. So, there are a lot of things that are important when you are injured that you don't have when you are not injured and you're playing. So, this isn't lost time overall. It certainly is not the exact kind of things you want him to spend his time on. You'd love him playing, but there's a lot of value in doing what he's doing right now.

Q: How difficult has the quarterback situation been with the injuries?

Nolan:
It's been difficult. But, on the other hand it's just the way it is. People suffer injuries. We've certainly had our share. But, we're not using it as an excuse by any means. It's just part of the league and part of what happens. To some degree, it's made us a better football team. So, at our developing kind of stage and with the things we're trying to get in place in building a foundation, it's actually worked to our favor a few times. So, it's certainly not what you wish for. But, we approach it in a positive way, not a negative.

Q: Does the signing of Jesse Palmer help you prepare in any way for this game?

Nolan:
I don't like to put too much stock in that because I'll give you an example. Last week, Tim Rattay came in here with Tampa Bay to play us and I was asked the same question, ‘Do you think Tampa Bay has an advantage more so than they would normally have because they have Tim Rattay on their team?' They talked about secrets and I said at 1-5 we don't have a lot of secrets. So, with the Giants at 5-2, I don't believe there's a lot we can get from Jesse. We'll talk to him, as everyone does, but ultimately it gets down to players on players in the game and some of our players may be able to take advantage in talking to Jesse about it. But, the little bit on Jesse, I think what he would just say would be positive about all the guys. He seems to be an upbeat guy that is intelligent. I'm kind of excited to see what he does out on the field today to be honest with you. But, I don't know how much we can gather from him. I don't think it's a difference maker in the game.

Q: Does he have any shot of playing this week?

Nolan:
Sure does. The way our quarterbacks go down, hell who knows when it (will) be? I hope not. I'll say that, not because of Jesse, but just because I'm tired of looking at guys go down. If it does, we'll go in and we'll expect him to operate under the conditions we've set forth for him in play calling and things.

Q: The Giants defense has had the propensity to give up yards early, but last week they shut out the Redskins and only gave up 125 yards of total offense. What defense do you expect this week?

Nolan:
I expect to get the Giants' best.

Q: What impresses you about Eli Manning?

Nolan:
His maturity from a year ago. He's matured quite a bit. You can tell that he spent an offseason getting better. He certainly learned a lot last year, but he's gotten a lot better. I know the time he spends with his brother is extremely helpful because his brother has got a lot of wisdom in the way he plays. He shows better poise in the pocket. I would have to say that in his eyes, the game has slowed down, which is – I haven't heard him say it, but I would guess that's something. And that's a great thing when a quarterback can say the game is slowing down a little bit for me and it's an easier game. He's always had talent and he comes from great pedigree as well. He's a good quarterback. He's just going to get better with time.

Q: Can you share some of the memories you had in New York?

Nolan:
Yeah, I have great memories in New York. As a matter of fact, it's interesting you ask, because obviously with Well's passing away, some of the first memories I have are meeting Well when I went there because my father had played for Well for about eight years as a Giant all through the ‘50s and when they won that World Championship. I had heard about Well growing up. So when I went there, he was the guy I was anxious to meet and talk to and Well was certainly a unique man in that he treated everyone the same. He was just a very humble individual. In some of my memories, obviously as I said, are just in meeting him. Outside of that, the four years I was there, shoot I really enjoyed it. We had pretty good defenses. We just went to the playoffs the first year I was there (the one year) and after that we struggled as far as going to the playoffs. But, we had some great defensive teams and I enjoyed coaching players with the likes of Lawrence Taylor for a year and Phil Simms and people like that. A lot of great people in the organization and getting to know the people in New York (was great). I love New York. New York is a great place. I have a lot of fondness for it and have an awful lot of family that live there as well. So, I have a tremendous amount of memories as well as respect for the organization. It was a good time. It was certainly, like I said, a positive memory in my mind.

Q: Picking up Jesse Palmer, it's probably overrated when you pick up a guy who was with the other team for so long, but can you salvage any additional help from him?

Nolan:
As far as playing the Giants, I really don't think so. The thing that I think teams get out of it is when the players ask (in terms of Jesse) what kind of guy is this guy that I'm going up against. And Jesse can say to him, ‘hey look, he's a tough guy or he's a good athlete or he's this or that.' Just give him little things that kind of give him personality tricks. If you put yourself in a player's world when he goes on the field, he's got a one-on-one battle with players and of the most important parts is how tough or how far a player will go. Those are the battles that players really get into. As far as scheme and things like that, everything is on tape. He might give some calls and stuff like that, but the most important thing I think a team gains is where players can kind of get a feel for who they are going against and what the personality of the guy is. But like I said a little while ago, Jesse seems to be very intelligent and positive type of a person. I don't know how much we'll get. Like I said, I don't think it'll be a difference maker, but I'm certainly glad he's on our football team because we need a quarterback in that role and he seems like he's going to fit the role pretty good for us.

Q: If Pickett gets hurt, does he play?

Nolan:
I won't know that until the end of the week because the status of Ken Dorsey and Alex Smith is still questionable. And there's a chance that one of them would still be in that second role. And if they are healthy enough to do it, I would just make Jesse the third. But, if they are not, then Jesse would be number two and he could get in the game, yeah.


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