With Monday being the day for the league’s general managers to give their midseason “State of the Union” speech, there was plenty for Jerry Reese to talk about at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. One of the busiest men this offseason, Reese took time to reflect on what he has seen so far from his new-look Giants team and what he expects going forward.
Reese opened the press conference by acknowledging that the team isn’t where they want to be at 3-4, but expressed confidence in what he called the “nine-game season” ahead of the Giants where they still have all to play for.
“We can get back in the race,” Reese said of his expectations for the second half of the schedule. “It is not over right now. It is still early. There are still a lot of teams that have chance to get back in the picture. We think we are one of the teams that can do that. We have to start right here, right now, on Monday night and get ready to beat a good football team.”
Reese’s press conference at times came off more as a public challenge to the team’s roster then it was a general address of the team’s status. The integration of many new faces and a new offensive system was a big talking point for Reese, but he refused to make excuses for shortcomings, saying that the time to “gel” was over.
“We expect our guys to [execute the game plan],” Reese said of his second half expectations. “We have been around each other through the preseason now and almost half of a season, so it is time for us to gel and play like a good football team.”
It was not just the newcomers or the underperformers that Reese called out. Big Blue’s general manager made it a point to single out veterans like Manning and Jason Pierre-Paul that have been playing well and challenged them to play even better.
“They have played pretty well, but they can play better. I really believe that,” Reese said of his two franchise cornerstones. “I think they can play better, and I believe they think they can play better. JPP has looked like his old self so far this season, but I think he is a better player than he is playing right now. The same with Eli. Eli is not turning the ball over with the interceptions like we saw the first half of last season, but I think Eli can play better than he is playing.”
Manning has certainly been one of the biggest positives of the season, successfully reinventing himself as an efficient and accurate West Coast Offense style quarterback after being a downfield passer and having bouts with the turnover bug for most of his career. If there can be one knock on New York’s passing game however it would be that the focus on efficiency has put a dent into the passing game’s number of big plays. Reese made his solution clear: he wants to see the offense and defense play more aggressively.
Referencing a desire for more aggressive play in his opening statement, he would later go on to discuss the offense in greater detail: “I just think, as an offense, we have to be more aggressive. I think at times we’re a little bit almost too cautious with what we’re doing offensively. This is the National Football League. You’ve got to go out there and you have to win the game. You can’t think something’s going to fall into your lap. You’ve got to go out and take the games. I think we have to be more aggressive offensively. I appreciate Eli taking care of the ball and not turning it over because that correlates to wins a lot of the time, but you can’t be too cautious. You’ve got to throw the ball down the field. You’ve got to score points in this league to win.” Reese’s call-to-arms comes at a strategic point in the season, as the Giants face a four-game stretch that will likely define how this season will be remembered. Featuring an away visit to the defending Super Bowl champions, a Monday night visit from the likely AFC South champions, a tough matchup against the recent NFC powerhouse 49ers and a rematch against the 6-2 Cowboys, Reese admittedly said he saw this stretch as a “murderers row” of games when he saw the schedule for the first time. The games also represent a massive opportunity, as three of the four opponents are NFC playoff competitors. As Reese said himself, the Giants can get back in the race, but it starts right now.