Senior Vice President & General Manager Jerry Reese
November 16, 2015
Okay, six games to go and we’re going to try and win them all. We’ve got some battle scars, obviously, from the first 10 games and hoping to make us battle-hardened and be a benefit for us going down the stretch. Heard you guys have a long schedule for today, so I’ll take any questions.
Q: It seems like a couple weeks ago you were waiting for the cavalry to come back…JPP, Beason, Victor, obviously Jason is back. Do you have a sense that these are our guys that are going to have to do this?
A: Yeah. We’re always continuing to upgrade the roster where we can. I feel badly for Victor Cruz, he worked hard to try to get back and it’s just not working out for him. He’ll go through another offseason, try to get healthy and we’ll see where that goes. Jon Beason, the same thing, kills him not to be out there, but the injuries have taken their toll on him. I feel badly for both those guys.
Q: How much has it thrown a wrench in your plan and having to sort of reconfigure everything? Have you had to do that at all?
A: Well its football, everybody has to do that. It’s the National Football League, look all around the league, it’s a battle of attrition. Injuries all over the league and you have to make the adjustments every week. We’ve done a decent job to try to make the adjustments and I think we’ll continue to do that. And again, it’s a six-game season and we’ll try our best to win every one of them.
Q: Do you think in the offseason you’ll address Victor’s contract situation?
A: I’m not going to talk about that right now, that will take care of itself when the time comes. Right now we’ll just try to focus on the last six games. That’s a long way off.
Q: What do think of this team right now? You’re 5-5, obviously not what you want, but first place, which is where you want to be. Do you feel like a first place team in your mind or do you feel like a .500 team?
A: I feel like a first place team because that’s where we are. Obviously I really don’t want to talk about the first ten games, the first ten games are over, but we had some chances in some of those games to come out on top. We didn’t do it and we’re 5-5, we’re on top. The division is going to come down to a couple games at the end probably, and we want to be one of the teams in the conversation at the end.
Q: How has this team’s performance compared to what your expectations were?
A: I think we haven’t finished games like we want to finish games, I think that’s been an issue. In this league, the close games, you have to win the close games. There’s not many blowout games in the National Football League, you have to win the close games. For whatever reason, we’ve come up short a few games at the end of the game. So these last six games, we want to win those close games at the end.
Q: As a guy who’s in charge of personnel, how do you sort of help with that? What do you have to do to help create a team that finishes games?
A: I can’t play, I can’t go out there and play. It’s up to the players to make plays. We do our best to get the best players out there and we think that can make some plays. And obviously the players have to make plays. Coaches have to get them in position to make plays.
Q: Does it make you think the roster is lacking in something if there’s a pattern of not finishing?
A: You can blame it on all of us, I think everybody can take some blame in this situation. I can take some blame, the coaches can take some blame, the players can take some blame about where we are. But again, we’re in first place. We’ve got six games to go and we’re going to try and win them all. So blame all of us if you want to, we’re big boys. We can handle it if you want to blame us. You should blame us, we’ve built the team, we’ve coached the team, the players play, so blame all of us. But again, we’re in first place.
Q: You come out of yesterday and you watched the way the team performed and how close it was, to lose a game the way you’ve lost games. But do you see a team that went toe to toe with the best or do you see a team that is still deficient in areas that you’ve been all season?
A: It’s just like all teams. If New England is the best team in the National Football League, which a lot of people think they are, obviously we played them to the wire yesterday, so we felt like if they’re the best team, we feel like we can compete with anybody. Again, it comes down to finishing games. At the end of the game, the close games, you’ve got to win the close games at the end, that’s just the way it is in this league. I’ve said this to you guys plenty of times that personnel is pretty close. I think personnel is pretty close, everybody has some good players, everybody has some mid-level players, everybody has some C players. But you have to win the close games, you can’t beat yourself with bad fouls and turnovers and those kinds of things. You’ve got to win the physical battle. I think we’ve done those things. I think there’s some positive things that happened the first 10 games. A few plays here or there, our record could look a lot different. But we are where we are right now and we’re going to fight with everything we have to finish this season these last six games to try in get in the tournament.
Q: You’ve been through these kinds of seasons before. In 2011, you were 7-7 and not even assured of making the playoffs, then you go on a run. Is there anything in this group in particular you see that might lead to just this kind of upswing in performance down the stretch?
A: Again, we have good players on this team. We can score points, our defense has given up a lot of yardage, but the defense has turned the ball over a lot. We may be in the top two or three in the league in turnover ratio. So the defense has been getting the ball for the offense, the offense can score points. But again, it comes down to late in the game, you have to finish the game, you have to win the close games. Again, like I said, battle-hardened, battle scars, and tough lessons from the first ten games and I expect us to learn from those things. And these last six games, be able to win those close games at the end.
Q: Have you been surprised at all how quickly Jason Pierre-Paul has come back and made an impact on the field?
A: A little bit, because obviously the injury was a big injury. For him to come back and to even be out there, I think it’s amazing and I’m happy for him. But the way he’s come in and he’s continued—I thought he played better last night than he played the week before, and I think he’ll continue to get better as he goes. I think you have a better understanding of what he can do with his hand and what he can’t do. Yeah, I’m a little bit surprised by that. But he’s such a great athlete, if anybody could come back from something like that, it’s him.
Q: Do you take any issue with the overturned call on the Odell touchdown? What’s your understanding?
A: Yeah, it’s over with, there’s nothing we can do about that. We just want to, these last six games, go into these games with a steel focus and try to win these last six games. There’s nothing I can do about that.
Q: I know you believe in what Dwayne Harris can do at wide receiver. Has he even the last couple weeks exceeded your expectations with the way he’s performed?
A: Not really. Again, we thought he was a five-tool kind of guy. We thought he could fill that receiver role as the third, fourth type receiver. He’s done a really good job of that. I think it hurts him a little bit on special teams because he’s really playing as a full-time receiver and he still has special teams duties that we wanted him to initially have. He’s done a nice job there.
Q: You’ve had injury issues the last couple years here. I know Tom has changed the training, the schedule, and all that. At this point, are you a little bit at a loss to why this keeps happening to this team?
A: Well, it’s not us, it looks like us because you guys cover us. Go around the league, the only team that’s really looked like they’re healthy to me is the Bengals. The Bengals are a pretty healthy team. But you can go around the National Football League, the team we played last night, they’re beat up, too. So you’ve got to play the hand your dealt. The young players you have on your team, they have to step up and play and you have to get them ready. That’s just the way it is, everybody has injuries, that’s not an excuse.
Q: Do you sort of have to look at it again because of the number of injuries, maybe not this year, but the last two years at least?
A: Yeah, we bring guys in and we look at their injury history. We’ve had guys who have never had an injury, we bring them in here and they’ve gotten hurt. Then you bring some guys who have some injury history and they get here and never have a problem. That’s just the way it is in the National Football League, it’s a contact sport, it’s a physical game and injuries happen.
Q: Given the pass rush in the first ten games and the lack of sacks and things like that…looking at the roster the way it was constituted…you knew at a certain point JPP would be here. Was there enough on this roster to get a good pass rush like you guys have had or a semblance of what you’ve had in the past?
A: Well again, when you say semblance of what we’ve had in the past, we’ve had some pretty good pass rushers, but you can’t just wave the magic wand and a pass rusher is going to fall out of the sky. You have to get what’s available and obviously not having Jason from the beginning after the accident he had in July and training camp starts at the end of July and that happens, so you’re taken aback a little by that. Owa (Odighizuwa) hasn’t developed as quickly as we’d like for him to. He’s had some injury issues and still does have some injury issues. But the young players, Damontre, Owa, and some of the veterans we have, Robert Ayers, who is coming around a little bit, he’s had some injury issues. We thought we had enough to generate some pass rush. Obviously we’d like to have more. I do think the pass rush with Jason back is starting to come around a little bit now. Obviously we’d like to have more pass rush than we’ve had.
Q: You’ve mentioned Owa with the injuries…what about Damontre, who is not injured but has been on and off the field?
A: Really the one bad foul that he had, I think it was against the Eagles against their quarterback. That was a bad foul. But the other ones, we talked to the league office about those fouls, they’ve agreed that some of those fouls were too close to call. But they got called because, again, he has that stigma, for lack of a better way to say it, of hitting quarterbacks late. When the opposing coach says, “Hey watch 98, he hits the quarterback late,” he gets close to the quarterback and the flag comes out. I think, like coach said, he’s got to play through that and be smarter. But a couple of those fouls were really not fouls.
Q: With Victor and his being on the 53 this whole time, do you look back at all and wonder if in August there was a warning sign that this might be longer term and if you could have handled it differently in the sense of giving Eli a weapon who could be on the field?
A: Yeah, well, hindsight in 20-20. We thought coming off the big patella injury that he had that he was going to be ready to go. And then all of a sudden, he gets the calf, which has become more bizarre for me—it’s the Year of the Calf for us, I guess. Every time we’ve gotten him out there, we babied him through, babied him through, babied him through, then we start to do some things with him and he just can’t do it. Even after the first time we thought he was ready, we thought about putting him on the reserve/return. Our doctors said, “That’s too far.” They said it was too far, so we kept him on the 53 instead of putting him on it. And now if we had known, obviously, we would have gotten a roster player. But that happens sometimes. Remember a couple years ago, the receiver for the Seahawks, I think he only played one game and that was the Super Bowl—Percy Harvin, I think I’m correct by that. He only played one game and he was an X-factor in the game, I thought.
Q: Do you have to add a player at that position in your estimation now?
A: We’ll look at the roster, we’ll make some adjustments. Obviously we’ll have a roster spot available, we’ll definitely look at that and see what move we need to make, what corresponding kind of move we’ll have to make.
Q: How do you assess the performance so far of Ereck Flowers and Landon Collins?
A: They play like rookies. They have some good moments and some tough moments. Flowers is a big, tough kid, and is learning the game. We think he’s going to be a good left tackle for a long time for us. He’s got some technique flaws that he needs to clean up and he works hard at it. Collins is the same thing. There’s a lot going on back there in the secondary. Spags has kind of a complicated defense, what you have to do. The calls, every week it changes. So the game plan changes, so he has to get ready every week, but he comes from a big program, so we expect him to make those adjustments. But again, both of those guys, sometimes they look like rookies.
Q: How big of a challenge do you think Victor’s road back is going to be? It’s been nearly two years out of the game.
A: Yeah, who knows? When you’re gone for a couple of years like that, you just can’t jump back in and play, I don’t think. I think you have to build your way back up and get your feet under you and get your confidence back and have the quarterback get his confidence back and get that chemistry back. I don’t think it’s an easy road back, but I know how hard he works and how hard he worked in getting back from the patella injury. We’ll see where that goes, but again, right now our focus is solely on these last six games. It’s a six-game season for us, and we’re going to try and win every one of them.
Q: Is there anything you’ve been told about that surgery that leads you to any optimism or pessimism as in, “Hey, if we get this done, it looks like he’s going to have smooth sailing?”
A: Yeah well, you guys probably forgot about this guy, Nat Berhe, same kind of injury. The way he looks now, he looks like he could be close to playing anytime soon. So if he has the same kind of progress that Nat had, maybe this thing will get behind him and he can start on the road back.
Q: When did Victor actually tear it?
A: This last time? Saturday. Yeah, Saturday he was on the side with the trainers and they were doing some three-quarter speed, then all of a sudden it happened again.