A Conversation with offensive coordinator John Huf

On Oct. 10, Tom Coughlin took the wraps off his assistant coaches for the first time since the first day of training camp. It was great to be able to spend some time chatting with and learning from Coughlin's stable of coaches. TGI was able to pull offensive coordinator John Hufnagel aside for a few minutes. Here's what Hufnagel, calling plays in the pros from the start of the season for the first time, had to say. <BR><BR>

Q: How has your first year calling the plays gone so far?

A: Well, I called plays in Cleveland for a couple games in my first year there (1999) and then for the last part of the season the second year. It's exciting. I've enjoyed it. Obviously the winning helps and that's been a big part of it. Hopefully the hard work that our staff does will continue to allow us to put the players in position to get it done.

Q: How do you think you've developed as a play caller? Are you getting more comfortable in that role?

A: Yeah, I'd have to say I'm getting more comfortable with it. There is lots of room for improvement there also, but I think as a team we recognize what our strong points are and we're trying to stay within that scope.

Q: How has it been working for Tom Coughlin?

A: It's fine. I was with Tom for a year down in Jacksonville (2002). I don't have any problems with it. I've enjoyed the experience. Tom has good communication with me on the sidelines and he's been very supportive.

Q: Does Tom overrule a lot?

A: I don't think he does. He may have a different impression on it but no, it's basically…if it's a critical situation, we probably would have time to talk about it either throughout the week or before it occurred, so I can't say that there has been a lot of overruling.

Q: What are the plusses and minuses of being the offensive coordinator for an offensive minded head coach?

A: I think that number one, you gain the wealth of his experience that he has within the league and he's on top of things and making sure that everything is right, fine-tuning things. So it's an added bonus as far as the head coach being in the offensive room. With his expertise on the offense, it has helped us with the plan and all that.

Q: What's the most important aspect of play calling?

A: The biggest thing is getting the play into (the QB) fast enough and then him getting it to the line of scrimmage early enough to make any adjustments that might need to be made. Sometimes that can be more difficult when we're playing in crowd noise.

Q: How much freedom does Kurt Warner have to call an audible?

A: We have plays where if they do certain things, we need to get ourselves into a better play. There are other plays where we just have to run the play. Not every play is it required for him to do something before the play. But when it's required, we expect him to do it and he's done a fine job with that aspect of the game.

Q: Has Kurt surprised you at all with his play?

A: I won't say that he exceeded my expectations. I take my hat off to how hard he prepares himself. He studies, he's courageous, he's a competitor and he's done a lot of very good things for us to help us win games.

Q: How much does a player's input factor into play calling, like if a player says he likes a specific play?

A: If a player comes off the field and says, "I can do this or I can do that"…you're going to go look at the picture and look at it and if he firmly believes in it, we'll try to get it done.

Q: Have any guys in particular come to you more often with suggestions and opinions?

A: There have been a lot. Usually there are one or two players that it affected them. But we have really good communication. I can't say that there are any one or two particular players that come to me more often than others. But there definitely are instances of that happening.

Q: How much do you prepare before the game and how much do you have to make calls on the fly?

A: You do have a game plan for the different situations. Whether or not those things you plan for during the week happen or not you don't know until the game. They might change things up defensively and then your adjustments have to come in. That's where your communication has to be heard, understood and processed quickly. It has been good communication throughout the staff. I've enjoyed the aspect that we've been able to change on the fly as well as we have.

Q: Any major surprises so far?

A: I've been very pleased with how our offensive line has played in the run game. It's been very, very good. I'm very pleased with the way our receivers are blocking downfield and finishing every play. Tiki has had an outstanding year and a lot of that success is because the wide receivers are working their butts off down the field. Now the 8- or 9-yard play has become a big play. I can't say enough about that part of our football team right now.

Q: What needs to improve?

A: We need to be more synchronized in our pass game. We need to become a better passing football team. I'm not satisfied at this time with that part of our game. We need to concentrate hard on that. Once we pick up our pass game a little bit, our third down situation will get better as well.

Q: Obviously you want things to keep going the way they are with Kurt, but what can you do to make sure that this is not a complete lost year for Eli at the same time?

A: I think right now we're concerned about winning football games. Eli works hard each and every day preparing himself to play because he knows that he is one play away from being on the field. He's a diligent worker both in the meeting rooms, on the field, after practice. His development right now is coming through film study, being on the practice field and the opportunities that he gets when he is on the field.

Q: Tom has said that he wanted to get Eli in as much as possible. Do you feel like you would rather have had him get more game experience by now?

A: No, I'm interested in winning football games and with what we're trying to build. Eli will be a factor at whatever time that comes and I don't know when that is. I just know that number 13 is doing the things necessary for us to win football games and I know number 10 is getting ready to play to win football games for us and that's a good situation to have.

Q: Is Eli's development, even without the field time, at a point where you would feel comfortable with him stepping in if something did happen to Kurt?

A: I would have to be comfortable and truthfully that's his job. Obviously he's a young quarterback and we have to deal with that part of it, but Eli, I think, has grown from the very first day he came here and his growth is still continuing even though he's not playing on Sundays at this time.

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