What is the difference in this team and the 1998 team?
I think we are a lot closer. The only parallels I look at is the year before (in 1997) we did something that was very unusual or that nobody thought we could do, by winning our division and going from last to first. We got the first place schedule and we played a first place schedule and we got hammered a number of times. We weren't as competitive and it hurt me because if we are going to get into that, we had to build a better team to do that. This team we went further the year before and we still did something nobody expected us to do. We came back with a first place schedule and I thought we were a lot more competitive.
This morning I went down and played every game in my mind and I am seeing us lose by one point and give it up in the fourth quarter and I am thinking it tears your gut out. You come up with a season that we thought we could have done a lot better. Then you say we were a lot more competitive. Now that is not much solace to me, but I evaluate everything, the good and the bad parts and everything else.
If you beat St. Louis, does the final two-thirds of the season turnout differently?
That's a question that I don't think anybody can answer. I try to answer the question, but I don't really know. I guess if somebody told me to get off the fence, I would say that it did effect us. I'm a firm believer in a team of momentum, and you've seen our team do it. Most of the time, any team that has a really good season hits a five-game winning streak. They pick up momentum and go. We never got that. At 3-1, I don't think we felt really good about ourselves. Then when we got hit in the teeth two games in a row with one point games, it took our momentum and shook us for a while.
Are you disappointed about the coverage of Farve taking a dive?
I don't know how to answer that. It's a play in football. People question a lot of things. I don't know anything about it. They are accusing him of that, but I don't know anything about it. I saw the play just the way you saw it. My statement before was they ran the same play two plays later to the left. It's a play people run in those situations. It's a run-pass option. That gets the quarterback out.
Why didn't you use a timeout at the end of the game?
I didn't comment last night because I was angry and frustrated. Sometimes I feel I don't have to explain myself. The reason I didn't use the timeouts was that I wanted to keep my guys healthy. My first couple of years, what got us was the injuries. The last two years, we've kept the team very healthy. What was going through my mind at 2:40 to go in the game is I just had Ronnie Barnes (team doctor) walk down to me four times and tell me that different players had torn MCLs, a separated shoulder, and he's got this, and he's got that. I will always, to a degree, if we have a reasonable chance to win that game, I will go to extreme measures to win a game.
I looked at the game and came to the conclusion that our chances were going to be reasonably slim. I could extend this game, but I have to worry about Kerry. I have my third down back out. I don't want to have my quarterback tear his ACL. That was the first thing that went through my mind. I didn't want my quarterback to tear his ACL and ask myself later, what were we going to get out of this game. What were our real chances. I could get it to the two-minute and get the ball deep in our territory because at that time, they had the ball at their 40-yard line. If we stop it and they punt, we had a full field to go. Then we had to do that with no timeouts. We had to score, then onside kick, get it back and move down the field again and kick a field goal at the end.
I say that I never want to give up, but I have to be smart in the game. I don't need to have my quarterback go down with an ACL or Ike Hilliard tear an ACL or somebody else get hurt. That was a very limited opportunity to win.
What players were hurt?
Shaun Williams, Keith Hamilton and Tiki Barber. Tiki had an AC joint in his shoulder. Shaun and Hammer have the MCLs and they are going for MRI's today. I had Ronnie Barnes come down to me and tell me about different players' injuries, and I'm saying, 'If this is the way this game is going, how many more guys do I have.' The first guy that flashed through my mind was Kerry Collins. If Kerry goes out with an ACL while I'm trying to salvage something that we have a very small chance of winning and he misses the first 10 weeks, I'm not only wiping out this season, I'm wiping out next season. That's what I have to do. I have to weigh risk and reward. I looked at so many tapes this year where the game is basically done, and a guy goes down and he's done for the season. You can't start pulling guys. I know you can't do that.
Who has to have surgery in the off-season?
I talked with Ronnie Barnes, and we're not looking at anything major. There are lots of clean up type surgeries.
Re: Sehorn's surgery The down time on that is much greater than the procedure. They pick the bone a little bit so they can get a small covering over the bone again. While doing that, which isn't as dramatic as fixing ligaments, you can't be on the knee. You have to be non-weight bearing. You might be on crutches for six weeks. You're not fixing an MCL, an ACL or a broken bone. It's a very reasonable procedure that puts you off your feet for a while.
Did you think of pulling Kerry at 34-10?
It crossed my mind, but I wasn't going to do it.
Did you leave him in to set the team records?
Very rarely have I looked at trying to get a guy a record. You win the game, then worry about everything else. I've had good news and bad news on that.
Did you give your team a message for the off season?
I said lots of things. I told them that on March 25, the off season training starts and I expect everyone to be here, no exceptions. The way this league is played today, and we're no exception along with a number of other teams, there is no correlation between one year to the next. There's not a natural progression. There's not an natural failure. Look at us through the past couple of years. What we did a year ago, obviously, didn't correlate to this year. What's going to happen to us next year is not a result of what happened to us this year. We have to go to work. There is nothing we can do about the past. I'm going to start working on it this week, an overall structure, including coaching, players and how we play the game that I can improve. That's what I told them.
Will there have to be lots of changes?
No I don't think so. The bottom line with me is whatever changes we make will be driven primarily by the fact that I only want guys in here that are competitive and love to play the game. I want guys here that love to play the game of football. I don't care what else happens. I don't care what his cap number, what our need is or how good he is. If he's not a guy that wants to compete, I don't want him here, period. There are going to be cap situations. There will be injury situations. There will be lots of considerations into the re structuring of our team.
What is the tone of the off-season?
That's hard to say right now. That's why right now I'm not going to make any decisions. I told Ernie (Accorsi, team GM) I want him to give me some thoughts and general views about our cap and where we need to go. There will be no decisions made, just some things on his mind, and what is on my mind.
I'm not ready to make any decisions right now with the season just finishing yesterday. With the coaches right now, your evaluation can be skewed, your evaluation on a player right now can be skewed. We can't have that.
How far is this team from going back to the Super Bowl?
We're an improved football team. My goal, which it has been all the time, is to improve the football team so I feel that we can be competitive. There is nobody in this league that plays 16 perfect games and wins them by a good margin. The way I look at this year, it's pretty hard when you're 7-9. You look back and you see a couple of games that you could have won. For the most part, we're competitive. There were a couple of games that I thought we should have won, but we lost. We gave up fourth quarter leads.
Was this season tough with teams coming after you following the Super Bowl?
There is a part of that. I don't look at that as a deciding factor in our 7-9 record. When the ball is kicked off, it's two teams going after each other.
Do you have to change your philosophy about winning games? Don't you have to try to build a bigger margin rather than shoot for one-point victories?
Yeah. I would like to build and be better than everyone else. I want to have perfect draft choices and have perfect free agents so we can build a team that is so much better than everyone else. That's hard to do. Like I said in a personnel meeting last year, let's not get frustrated with where we are. When I came here five years ago, we had major cap problems. We had no wiggle room. We were dead last in the division. In four years, we didn't mortgage the future with the cap. We didn't sell out the franchise for down the road, and we got to the Super Bowl.
We still have a cap problem, but at least we've got one thing still going for us. We're building a better team without mortgaging the future. You can't solve your cap problems, build a better team, get to the Super Bowl and have much money left over. It just doesn't happen. There isn't one team that can do it. We built this organization and I feel that we are a lot closer. I'm hurting and disappointed that we got down to the close games and didn't win those games this year. Does that mean that we need to restructure and throw out our formula? No. Maybe this off-season we can get some cap issues resolved and continue to improve this team to give us an opportunity to be competitive.
Are any of the younger offensive linemen ready to come in and contribute?
We can't say our younger guys will simply take over. We need to look at evaluating our guys that are here. Then you look at free agents that are available and how they fit cap wise. You put a mixture of that. We have some pretty good young guys like Bober and Seubert. Yesterday Jason Whittle played a good football game. On the 2 point play, he pulled out and did a really nice job. I'm optimistic, but am I ready to say that those are the guys we're ready to count on? No, I'm not ready to say that.
What happens now with Lomas Brown next season?
I'll have a conversation with Lomas. I didn't want to have a conversation today. There are a lot of guys I wanted to talk with today, but I told them when they get back in a week or so to call me. Lomas Brown has given this organization a lot. He's given it all he has. I'll talk to him about what he wants to do. Every player will play until whenever. I'll have to make the determination about whether we'll have him back. I'll have to talk to him about it. There are lots of considerations that go into this. I'll guarantee one thing, I mean this sincerely, nothing gets in my way of making a decision that helps the New York Giants. Nothing. I love Lomas Brown. I've been with him a few places, and he's exactly what I want on this football team.
I make decisions like that everyday. I remove my personal emotions. I remove everything else. I do what's best for the Giants, that's it.
Do you need to re-evaluate the way you use your offensive personnel during the off season?
You do. I have basic philosophies that say you have to do what your players can do. I believe that. I don't care what people say system wise, you have to adjust to what the players can do. Then you adapt. There were lots of things we did a year ago that we didn't do this year. The same stuff, we just didn't execute it well. I have to think of what the problem is. I like to stay ahead of the curve as far as what the next step is to be successful.
You look at the league and certain teams run certain plays. I want to make sure that we are on the cutting edge of what we can do and teams start copying us. I want to make sure that's happening in all phases of our football team.
How do you improve the special teams?
I have to look at that whole thing. That hurt us more and it was underlined in this game. I looked at the special teams tape, and we missed so many tackles. Green Bay got another 25 yards. We had 2 or 3 guys missing. I have to look at whether it's the scheme, but we had a guy there who missed a tackle. Do we have good enough tacklers, do we need somebody else? There are lots of things I have to look at . Whether we have to designate more money to some specialists. Tiki's a good punt return guy. I want to do some things on kickoff returns. We've got to get the ball out of there. There is no question about that. It has always been frustrating to put different guys out there. We have Dixon and Carter trying, but I want to grow with it. We can increase the speed on some things. Maybe that's what we need to do. What's interesting is when we covered the punts well, their returner didn't get anywhere. Those were the same guys covering the kickoffs for the most part. The Kevin Lewises, Thabiti Davis, Dave Thomas, and Omar Stoutmire, you can go down the laundry list. They are the same guys out there. When we go down there on the kickoffs we miss them. On punts they didn't get anywhere.