New General in charge

On Jan. 7, 2004, Tom Coughlin was introduced as New York's head coach, succeeding Jim Fassel. Coughlin, nicknamed "The General," comes to the Big Apple with a reputation as a stern taskmaster who's here to whip the Giants into shape. Here's Coughlin's opening statement and highlights from his initial gathering with the Giants media. <BR><BR>

Opening statement: It is an honor to be selected as the 16th head football coach of the New York Giants. I am very happy to be here. My family is very excited about being here and I look forward to accepting the challenge that lies ahead. Mr. Mara said to me a few minutes ago 'welcome home' and that was the first time that I think it really struck me from an emotional standpoint how very deep my emotions go towards this position and this particular franchise, the New York Giants. I had a wonderful experience here as you well know back in the late '80s and 1990 when we won the Super Bowl. I was fortunate to be an assistant coach here.

I want to thank Mr. Mara and Mr. Tisch for the opportunity that they have presented to me. I am very anxious to begin the process.

What we must be all about right now, immediately, is the restoration of pride; self pride, team pride, the restoration of our professionalism and the dignity of which we conduct our business. We must restore our belief in the process by which we will win. We must replace despair with hope and return the energy and the passion to New York Giant football.

From a technical standpoint we must begin to focus immediately on the basic axioms which determine winning in the National Football League. Effort is the key to success. Consistent application of each individual, each individual's best in the task at hand. Outstanding effort must exist on many levels. It starts with the offseason program. It starts in the spring, carries through the summer to the practice field and training camp and of course to game day. Football is fundamentally a physical game. It is a tough game played by tough people. We must win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. We must run the ball and we must be able to defend the run. The year off that I have experienced allowed me to make many observations, one of which is – more games are lost in this league than are won. We must eliminate turnovers. You are not going to beat anybody with a minus-16 (turnover ratio). That stat has to radically change. We must eliminate costly penalties. You can't shoot yourself in the foot and expect to win the hundred meter dash. Special teams and winning the battle of field position must become our catalyst for victory and not our Achilles' heel.

I believe that the young men who represent the New York Giants want strong leadership. They want clear and stated objectives. They want superb detail and organization. And (they want) discipline which provides us all with the courage and the confidence to win in this league in the fourth quarter.

My job is to convince these young men that with the parity that exists in this league today, the difference is in the preparation and that our formula will earn us the right to win. I look forward to working with the great people here in the New York Giant organization, with our football team and with the loyal fans of the New York Giants.

Q: Do you think that this is a team in need of discipline?

A: I think there is a starting point, a foundation which has to be built and it starts there. I believe that if you put all of the blocks in order it provides you with the opportunity and the confidence to know that you have paid the price, you've earned the right to win and you therefore have the confidence in the fourth quarter. I would like to have an opportunity to look with greater detail at this football team; to study the tape, to interview some of the players at the proper time – to make my own decisions about that.

Q: Is there any one major difference in your coaching philosophy now compared to when you were beginning your job in Jacksonville?

A: One big difference in me? I am older, that is about it to be honest with you. We all grow, we adapt, we study, we learn, we spend our lives at this game. I mean this is what I do. My wife wants me out of the house. I have been trespassing for a year. But this is what I do. You learn and you adjust and you adapt and the process of educating yourself is a lifetime process. There is no one thing that I am stuck on. I believe in certain basic fundamental values which I will not compromise, but I also understand the young men of today and I am flexible – within certain limits – in order to accommodate what needs to be done. Let's face it, on a daily basis in this league there are challenges and you have got to be prepared to answer those challenges.

Q: Why (take Giants job) now and not 11 years ago?

A: Eleven years ago was a whole different situation for me. I had taken the job at Boston College. I had been at Boston College as an assistant coach earlier in my career. Our first year was kind of a 'find your way around and create these fundamentals and these basic values' that I am talking about today. The second year we had a pretty good football team to be honest with you. We won some good games, but we got beaten badly in a bowl game. Tennessee beat us badly and I looked at that as an indication that this team was nowhere near where I wanted it to be. I did not feel that I could leave under those circumstances.

Q: Do you have any initial feelings about the roster that you have just inherited?

A: No, I don't. I am very aware of this football team and what has transpired over the years. I am – to some degree – aware of the roster, although I need to study this team. I am also aware of the injury factor; the number of IRs and those kinds of things, which is a cancer let's face it. It is something that has to be corrected. It is a mental thing I believe as much as it is anything else. But I need to delve into that roster to study it in conjunction with our personnel people, with Ernie (Accorsi), with John (Mara) to try to come up with some ideas about my thoughts about what has to be done.

Q: How much different is this situation to when you were in Jacksonville and had complete control over the personnel?

A: Well you have defined it. That is difference to me. I am one spoke in the wheel in the area of personnel – one voice. This system is very well established. It has been that way for an awful lot of years. There is a division of labor. Certainly I have worked within it for most of my life. In Jacksonville I had the opportunity to have all of that responsibility. But I understand it. I understand what my job is. I am the coach and I also have one voice among many in terms of trying to decide on the direction we will go in on personnel issues.

Q: What is your impression of Kerry Collins?

A: I have not studied this year. I have watched Kerry over the years and he has obviously had some great, great seasons. I would like to study the tape and talk with him and then we will make some decisions.

Q: But there is a chance that he might not be your quarterback?

A: I don't know. I am not going to say anything like that. I don't even want to – that is not the point today. The point today is that I really need to study rather than speak.

Q: Do you anticipate having enough control in areas like the draft and free agency?

A: It is a cooperative venture, it always is. When I was here as an assistant coach I watched as Bill Parcells and George Young and Tom Boisture and Mr. Mara and the scouts decided on how the players would come off the board. I really understand the process, the procedure and I will do whatever I am asked to do in that regard.

Q: What did you mean when you mentioned the injury situation of this past year?

A: I think it can be a part of the situation you find your team in when you are losing. I think that has to be stated right up front and I think it has to be addressed. Hopefully we can correct that. You have to go through the healing process first.

Q: Do you think that your year off will be beneficial?

A: I think that quite frankly that it will be. I was told that by many people that I respect: you will step away from the game, you will have a broader vision, you'll see the entire league and you will appreciate the National Football League even greater – which I do. It is the greatest league in the world. As I looked at that and as I watched different teams and I put some thoughts together about the ongoing process, I think I have drawn some very strong impressions, particularly about winning in this league.

Q: You think that this image of you that has been portrayed in the media is accurate?

A: I don't know. I didn't read anything about it. I don't notice it. I will say this in all honesty, there was a stamp put on me in '95 and nobody seems to be able to write any current articles. Those same impressions carried all the way though. You don't stay the same, nobody stays the same. You adjust and you move on. I've always talked about the trust factor. If players prove to me that they can be trusted that's a whole different ball game. I think it would be foolish to think that I am the same as in '95.

Q: How have you changed?

A: I think I have grown and I've learned and I have experience that has been paid for with hard work.

Q: Do you anticipate the mini-camps and training camp being an open competition or will you leave most of the vets in their prospective positions?

A: I think competition is great and I think the more you have of it, the better your football team is going to be. Hopefully it will be highly competitive.

Q: Do you feel like you are about to send an organization into shock?

A: I hope so. I hope it is a vitality check for everybody.

Q: Have you given any thought to changing some of the strict rules that you had in Jacksonville?

A: I will evaluate all of those as I have done each year in the process at Jacksonville. I don't know what you are referring to.

Q: At one point the coaches couldn't wear sunglasses at practice?

A: I did change that the last year.

Q: Keeping both feet on the floor during meetings.

A: That I believe in. I have spent a lifetime trying to improve concentration and focus. I don't know how a guy who's slouching can pay attention to what is going on. That will be something that is always a part of the main meeting – my meeting.

Q: How do you think you will handle Jeremy Shockey?

A: I am not going to – let me talk to Jeremy Shockey before we talk about how I would handle Jeremy Shockey. I will tell you one thing, the kid has a heart and a spirit and you want to captivate that in every way you can. He is a very talented guy. I think what is important is that he recognizes that he is a pro and how other people are perceiving him.

Q: What is your philosophy on how you will rectify the turnover situation?

A: Well I think you have to pound on it right away. We worked on that very hard. We were plus-12 in 2002. There were three teams in the history of the National Football League in 2002 that had fewer turnovers than games played; the 1990 New York Giants, the Kansas City Chiefs in 2002 and the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2002. I think you drill it right away. A lot of it has to do with the fundamentals of how you secure the ball. A lot of it has to do with engaging your defensive people from day one – Strip! Come on! The idea is you drill the defense to strip the ball and you drill the offense to protect the ball. By and large by putting great focus and emphasis on it you expect that people will put the ball in the proper position, especially in the contact zone. They will know how to take care of the ball.

Q: Is it possible to coach that?

A: Absolutely. I've spent all kinds of time. Frank Ganz was my special teams coach for a couple of years in Jacksonville and we had multiple discussions about ball security because the terminology from the different coaches was different and we wanted it to be one. Exactly what does it mean to be high and tight for example? We were able to solidify so that everyone was on the same page speaking with the same language.

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