Greg Comella leans back, pops in the tape and hits play. Braveheart? Remember the Titans? How about Meet the Parents? Nope.
Today's featured presentation is Meet Jeremiah Trotter. Long after most of their teammates have headed home for the night, Comella and Tiki Barber stay behind in their office, one of the Giants film study rooms located right across from the locker room.
Barber asks Comella, "Co, what's the capital of Norway?" clearly figuring the sportswriter nearby wouldn't have a clue. We both answer "Oslo" at the same time. Barber, as he often does, is studiously working on a crossword puzzle. However, once the Eagles defense pops up on the screen, his attention is on finding an edge in Big Blue's upcoming game.
"Did you see that, the way he cheats toward the line?" Barber asks of Philly's Pro Bowl middle linebacker. "Oh yeah," Comella replies. "He's usually four to six yards behind the line [of scrimmage]. Now he's half that."
Clicker in hand, Comella goes over play after play, often rewinding the tape to watch a particular play several times. "You're just looking for any edge you can get," he says.
"Quick, Kenny, who's coming on this one?" Comella fires toward me.
Since I've already learned that Trotter likes to cheat toward the line before dogging, I sheepishly say "number 54." "You're right," he answers. "Good job."
Not bad for a first-timer, but nowhere near the level of this duo. During a normal mid-week workday, all Giants players will watch two to three hours of film. Barber and Comella stick around religiously for a couple more hours, just hoping to find something, anything that could help during the upcoming week's game.
"You do all these hours of studying to come up with one or two things," Comella says. "But if you find even one thing, it's all worth it."
Barber explains that Trotter is notorious for cheating toward the line, but that you have to watch how the other players around him respond and react. Barber and Comella then notice something. Whenever Trotter stays home, the Eagles usually dog with their other two linebackers. Similar to Trotter, those players also give away their intentions.
"It's easy to spot a lot of times," Barber says. "Where your head goes, your body follows." Barber also wants to clarify some football terminology. Despite the overuse of the word blitz, only defensive backs technically blitz. Defensive linemen rush and linebackers dog. Countless fans and media types often make that mistake.
Comella points out that a lot of times, Trotter's dogs are not designed for him to get to the ball-carrier, but rather to occupy space so someone else could make the play.
"That's how it is with [Keith Hamilton] and Michael Strahan," Comella says. "Hammer is so important to Michael because he usually takes up two guys."
In between conversing with the curious sportswriter, Comella continues using his remote-like clicker to fast forward and rewind plays. Several times, Barber will ask him to go back, perhaps because he thought he was on to something, other times to show the scribe an example of a certain play or tendency. Each tape shows two views of the each play, a sideline angle and an end zone look. The players will sometimes watch whole games, usually just from the same season, and other times will view cut-ups, which include particular scenarios like base dogs and blitzes, nickel dogs and blitzes, third-down plays, two-back runs and first-and-10 situations.
"There's a million different tapes here," Barber says. But the backfield duo warns that watching tape is only one key part of the winning equation. "It's really just about doing whatever you can to try to win on Sundays," Comella says. "But it's an inexact science. You can't turn this game into strictly Xs and Os. It deals with a lot more than that; like emotions." Said Barber, "The bottom line is that the game is not played in [the film] room."
Barber and Comella enjoy watching film together so they have someone to bounce thoughts and ideas off, not to mention a back-up when you get in a bind with your crossword puzzle.
Another famous film watcher on the Giants is Micheal Barrow. He also likes company while watching the opponent. However, he doesn't watch with any of his teammates, rather his wife, Shelley.
"Every now and then she may see something that I didn't notice," Barrow said. "It's really a big help." Shelley grew up on football in Columbus, Ohio watching the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Cleveland Browns. "Her father didn't have any boys," Barrow laughed. He'll look over tape after tape with Shelley at his side, pointing out offensive formations, shifts and every little movement. Barrow really appreciates Shelley's help on game day, when she'll challenge him beforehand and then give an honest critique afterward.
You may recall last season when Ron Dayne put more emphasis on lifting his feet through traffic. One guess who passed that advice along to him … Barrow, Mrs. that is. Also joining the Giants after hours club are Jason Garret and Lomas Brown, although Browns admits, "I don't watch as much tape as I should."
Obviously though, he's still able to pick things up. "You're looking for any tendencies on the guy you're going against," Brown said. "If a guy had a big game the week before, you look to see what the offensive lineman did wrong."
While Brown couldn't remember the names of the players involved (it's that old ago thing setting in), he recalled two instances when he gleaned something on film that was very helpful to him that Sunday.
"Years ago, I noticed when a guy had his legs spread real wide, I could tell they were going to run a stunt or game of some sort," Brown said. "When he was just coming with a straight rush, he would narrow his base. "When we played against Pittsburgh years ago, when they were still running the 3-4 defense, they had some strong tendencies. If the LB was outside the tackle, they would stunt every time and he would come inside. So whenever he was in that position I would just step up because I knew he was coming."
A 17-year veteran like Brown doesn't limit his homework to the preceding week. He's noticed tendencies during the course of a game that he's been able to capitalize on. "Even during the games, you can pick things up," he said. "If a guy's fingernails are white from pressing down real hard, you know he's coming. If he's more relaxed, then you don't see that."
As for Garrett, who certainly seems headed to a coaching career upon retirement, he's probably around more than anyone. According to Jim Fassel, "Garrett spends Wednesday and Thursday nights watching tape. He spends a couple extra hours." Needless to say, that impresses Fassel, who would love it if all his troops spent the extra time the way the aforementioned five players do.
"That's the most productive way to learn an opponent," he said. "If you sit in a meeting with the coach and he tells you everything, you usually don't learn as much as if you see it yourself. "I told them that if they want to be special, you have to watch the tapes."
Fassel will only go as far as suggesting that his team watch films. There's no real way to force them to or check on them. Or is there? "You don't ask the guys whether they watch or not, but every once in a while, I'll play a prank to see," Fassel said.
"You slip a dollar bill in the case and see if they take it or not. With the old tapes, we used to slip a 10 dollar bill in there, and so many times you'd get the tape back the next day and the money would still be sitting in there."