Can you talk about being back at Giants Stadium in a really big game, something you're used to?
Well, it's important of course I think to both teams. But regardless of what happens, there are going to be important games to follow for both teams and I just feel like it'll be a big challenge for our team. I think the Giants are playing well and we had a close game with them the first time. I'm looking for a tough game. I think it'll be a tough game.
Do you think it'll be another close game?
I don't have a crystal ball. I don't know if you could tell me how many times we were going to fumble. We turned the ball over four times down here and I would venture to say if that happens up there, we won't do very well.
Coach, can you reflect on the time that Tom Coughlin spent on your staff and what you saw in him at that time?
Well, I said this several times that Tom was one of my favorite coaches that I've ever worked with. I think we have a lot in common in terms of what our interests are and our feeling about the game. I think the thing that I really respect most about Tom is that he has respect for the game and his predecessors and that's always been important to me as a coach as well. And I think he has a good background in football and he came up the hard way. No one handed him anything. He started his program at Rochester and he told me all about him lining the fields and doing the wash and that's kind of the way I started at Hastings. So, he's paid his dues and I think when given the opportunity, he's done a good job as a head coach at Boston College, Jacksonville, and now in New York.
How hard was it at first of not having your usual guys, coaches I mean?
I think any coach nowadays ' with the rules the way they are and the constraints on assistant coaches ' to put a staff together is a lot more difficult than it used to be. So, the guys that I grew up with that were in my crew have dispersed, some quite successfully obviously and I'm proud of that. But, all of us face that if you're fortunate enough to be able to stay in the business very long and that's just a by product of, quite frankly, some of the success that you've had. It's just a little more difficult so you have to try to keep your eye on young people and young coaches and things that I've always tried to do like the Charlie Weiss's of this world, that high school coach, and just look around and see if you can find some guys that you think would fit with you and I've tried to do that here some. It's difficult because the rules are quite constraining now.
Tom indicated that you had talked to him when you went down to Dallas. Was he just sort of intent on being a head coach at that time and maybe that's why it didn't work out?
Of course. I didn't try to talk Tom into anything. But I said, 'Look if I'm coaching as long as I'm alive, you would always have a job with me if you wanted it.' And that was just a reassuring thing to him that if things didn't go exactly the way he wanted them to, he knew he would have a place with me. I think that's all I was trying to convey. I wasn't trying to talk him into coaching or coming Dallas. I was just telling him that he could rely on that from me if he had to.
Do you think when you're standing on the sidelines there, at any point before the game, that some memories of the big games that you've coached in that stadium will recur?
Well, it's quite natural, but I have been back there. This is not the first time. So, one with New England there was for the division I believe in 1996 and of course the first time back with Dallas was a Monday night. So, it's not a place that doesn't have some nostalgia for me because it certainly does and it's my home county. I have family there. I started my coaching career there. It's been a very, very important place in my life and really when I think when I finish football and I reflect on anything, that will be a place that occupies a lot of that time.
Will it be any different though without Mr. Mara?
Well, certainly. He used to come to visit me even as the opponent every time I ever stepped in that stadium as a coach. He came to visit me whether I was coaching the Giants or I was coaching another team and he just was ' hey I can't say enough about the guy, I think all you there know how I feel about him. Some of his children are close friends of mine. He was a special person for me. He's the one that took a chance along with Tim (Mara) and George Young. They took the chance. So, Bill Parcells wouldn't have even existed if it hadn't been for them and I know that.
Have the emotions of everything that's happened this year made this a more trying year for you professionally?
Well, I want to tell you something. I told Dan Rooney, who I know was a good friend of Wellington's and happened to be sitting right in front of me at the funeral, right exactly in the pew in front of me. I tapped him on the shoulder and hold him when the funeral was over I said, 'You have the torch now,' because there are only a few people like Wellington Mara left in this league that have seen it from the beginning. And Dan Rooney is the closest thing to that that I can think of now. So, I said that to him and he nodded his head and knew exactly what I meant. Part of this league and part of the things that I have experienced ' things start to change as we all now and it's a different day and time. But, that doesn't mean that I don't look back on it and have an appreciation ' I mean that's the flagship franchise of the whole league.
When you got to Dallas, was there any doubt in your mind that you wouldn't get this thing turned around?
Yeah, absolutely. There's always doubt. There was always doubt everywhere. We're not turned around.
Can you assess the play of Drew Bledsoe?
I think Drew's done a pretty good job for us. He's prepared well. He's worked hard at his job. He's a much more mature player now. You can ask anybody in this league whoever had a quarterback; they all make mistakes, everyone of them. So, you just have to try and keep it to a minimum if you can and he's done a pretty good job trying to do that.
You guys probably more than anybody else have been sort of bitten with the field goal kicker issue. The playoffs look like they're going to come down to which teams make the kicks because all of these games are so close.
Well, actually I don't think we've been bitten. We've been bitten and it's cost us two games. Okay. So, that's a pretty bad bite. But, percentage wise, we're kicking better than we kicked the first two years I was here.
They kind of consider you an old school coach, to have games decided ' potentially playoff decided ' by a kicker, do you have any issue with that?
Well, all you have to do is look at the league stats every week and examine scores. Like last week ' Week 12 in the NFL ' nine of the games were seven points or less. The week before that six of the games were three points or less in Week 11. So, this is not something new. This is not something new. This is the way it is.
But the frustration potentially I guess of having all your game plans work out for however many minutes of the game and then having it come down to a kick?
Well, I've been there twice this year and I know Tom went through it Sunday. So, that's part of the game and Tom had a lot of company on Sunday around the league because there were three or four other games that came down to that and that's part of the game. I've always been an advocate of keeping the foot in football, I really have. I'm for the accent on the kicking game. I think you see how important it is now. It's not something new.
Given your teams record in the standings, why do you say that you haven't turned it around yet in Dallas?
Well, because maybe I have my idea of turning it around that might be different than somebody else's.
Can you tell us your idea then?
Well, Vinny (DiTrani from the Bergen Record) can tell you. He's there. Isn't he' I've always said when you get your team in the playoffs two or three years in a row, that would be something that I think could be considered turning a program around. Now, we've been competitive in every game we've played this year without question. We've been very competitive in every game. But, as with most teams, if you get in these close games ' too many of these close games ' you're going to lose some of them because that's the way the proposition goes. And in real close games this year, we're 4-4 (record wise). We've won some on the last play and we've lost some on the last play. And if you keep playing in them, that's probably what's going to happen over the course of time. If you get into too many shootout games where it's 38-37 or one of those deals, you're going to loose some of those.
You mentioned seeing Mr. Mara before games, I was curious if you had a similar routine where you would see your brother when you came in visiting other teams?
No, no. My brother and I were close. I really talked enough about it, but that's the guy I slept in bed with when we were young. We used to go in the ocean at 7:30 in the morning and come out at 5:30 at night. That was the guy I was doing all that with when I was a kid. You don't have any of those. I have another brother and I love him very much, but by the time he was six years old, I was off to college. So, I didn't quite have the same kind of relationship, although I have a very good relationship with him, it's not the same kind that I had with Don. So, it was a different deal and that was hard on me I have to tell you, very hard.
Will his family be at the game on Sunday?
There will be some of them there.
Keyshawn (Johnson) earlier was pretty plain about the fact that he thought the Giants at this point are a better football team than yours. Do you agree with him?
Well, I didn't hear him say that. Keyshawn's kind of like the sage that we have here in Dallas like you have in New York, he's an all learn it, all know it. Whatever he says, I'll go ahead and go along with it.
You've seen your share of linemen, what do you think of Chris Snee?
I think he's a good, young player. Actually, if you want to know the truth, I told Tom this, we were looking to draft him right there where they picked him. We were just a little bit lower if I'm not mistaken. That's the pick we took Julius Jones with down lower. Snee was one of the only maybe one or two guys that we were even considering. Julius was one, Snee was one, and then the Giants took Snee. So, it became a non issue.
Are your feelings still year to year on thinking how much longer you want to do this?
Well, sure. I'm 64 (years old) you know' This is not like coaching college football. This is different. This is a more demanding job than coaching college football.
Has this stop in your career here kind of energized you that you think you might want to do this for a few more years?
Well, we'll see. We'll wait for that when the season is over.
What do you see out of the defensive line of the Giants?
I think they have a pretty good active defensive line. I'm impressed recently with number 72, I don't know that I can say his name properly so I'm not going to mention on how to say it. But, I think he's a good young player. And of course (Michael) Strahan has been a stalwart for them for a very long time. You have to be concerned with him. And I think you get pretty good play out of their inside people. I really do. I think they're defense has done a pretty good job up front.
Is their defensive line the key to their run stopping?
Oh yeah, I think so. Yep, they move around quite a bit. They're doing okay. We had a hard time with them the first time, but like I said, we turned the ball over four times. But, we did manage to control the clock enough to win the game. So, it wasn't easy.
So seeing the Giants, reflect on Coughlin and what he's all about?
Obviously, a team does reflect your head coach. I'm not positive that Tom's been there long enough to really, totally stamp it the way that he wants to. For example, I know he made some comments about the penalties last week. I know that's not what he coaches and he doesn't want things like that happen. Hey I went through that myself down here my first year. So, we finally got that part of it a little bit under control here (the penalties) ourselves. But, I do think the Giants are improving as a team and they have a good young prospect at quarterback and they've got an excellent running back in Tiki Barber. I think he's one of the best players in the league and so, that's why they are where they are.
How much of an impact has (Justin) Ferguson been able to make behind La'Roi (Glover)?
Well, we have two good players at the postion, La'Roi Glover and Jason. I think if we were playing a different style of defense, he would have played more, but he's done a good job for us and Jason is a player that I think can play for several more years. Anyway, he's just a guy who's given us some good help, yeah.
A lot of people up here are kind of blaming the loss of him for a lot of the Jets problems on defense here. Can you see that?
Well, no, I couldn't venture to say that. That's what happens these days in free agency. You're going to lose some players and you're going to try and replace some of them the best you can. Sometimes, the economics of the game gets prohibited and it's not always the team that's winning now that manages the (salary) cap the best, there are some far reaching affects on everything you do and then there is a cyclical nature to this I think. But, I couldn't say that. I mean I think the quarterback position would affect the Jets a lot more than their loss of Ferguson.
Do you feel like you're visiting down there or do you feel a little bit like a Texan now?
Well, I like it down here. It's nice. The weather is very good. I am close to my office. It's very convenient. So, I'm doing I think well in that respect.
I know in each one of your stops after you left the Giants, you've always managed to bring some of your former players, does that make you feel comfortable' Does it help you in the locker room to have guys who can kind of spread your word around?
Well, only if their good players. It doesn't help me if their not good players. But, you're talking about three or four of them that are here that are former number one draft choices. Somebody thought highly of them in the past at some point in time and that's one of the reasons why we signed Marc Colombo too from Chicago is because somebody thought highly of him at one point in time so I want to see for myself. Those kids are good kids that I've had before. I don't know how many I have. But, Aaron (Glenn) ' they're very professional and they work hard. So, that's good for your team.
Who does Eli Manning remind you of as a young quarterback' Anybody come to mind?
Well, I've seen every film the Giants have played this year ' a couple of them two or three times because of the mutual opponents. You know I can't ' I think I would be just a little out of sorts to compare him with anybody right now because the obvious comparison is that you say, 'Well, he looks a little bit like his brother.' And physically, he does a little bit. His demeanor is a little bit like his. But, I don't know that that's going to turn out to be the case. He looks like some things that are a little bit different. But, he's doing well and I think he's done a fine job and I think he'll continue to play well.
You talked about the pressures of coaching, what is it about coaching that keeps your competitive fire lit and do you ever stop and think you almost wish you could be satisfied at some point and you know what you wouldn't have to do it anymore?
That's a very difficult thing to explain to anyone. You like the game so much (that) sometimes it eventually becomes you. I don't know how to explain it, but I'm at the age now where there are a lot of things that are starting to become more important to me. I don't say more important than football, but I think about other things a lot more than I used to and the events of this fall have certainly made me cognizant of things. So, you just feel fortunate that you've been ' I feel very fortunate that I've been able to do something that I like very much for as long as I've been able to do it. Not many people in this world get to do that and I feel very fortunate in that regard. It's a great game. I know I'm part of the assembly line. I knew that a long time ago and the game is going on and it's going to be a great game in the future. They'll be new coaches and just hopefully it was worthwhile for me and I think it certainly was and hopefully for the people that I've worked with.
What's the status of Anthony Henry this week?
He didn't practice today and I couldn't give you a definitive. I list him as questionable.
Will Aaron Glenn start at cornerback?
I have to find out if Henry is going to play or not yet. I still think there's a chance that that could happen.
We haven't heard a peep basically about you and Jerry other than you get along great?
There's not going to be a peep.
Why do you think it works so well?
I don't know. He's just been a very good owner and he's been very supportive of me and I've tried to be as candid and honest with him about things and we've had some good, hard discussions about things. But, he's been good. I have been fortunate in that regard.
Getting back to an earlier question, what is the loudest you remember Giants Stadium being when you coached for the Giants?
I would say probably that NFC Championship Game in '86. That's the loudest I can remember because now the wind was blowing around too, but that's probably a pretty vivid memory.
Parcells On Returning to New York
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