Interim Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo
December 6, 2017
Opening Statement: Before I get going, if I can, Iím just going to say a couple things, then Iíll let you fire away. Itís been a rough 60 hours since we left Oakland. Needless to say, itís been real emotional. Everybody has kind of felt it. The first thing I want to say or convey is how much respect I have for Ben (McAdoo) and what he did here as the head football coach. I feel personally Iím one of the guys that let him down. We failed as a team, but part of that failure was me. So, itís really hard Ė itís hard for me to stand here in the position Iím in right now and I want to publicly thank Ben for two years ago sticking with me as the defensive coordinator here. I greatly appreciated that. Heís a great man. Heís a great coach. Heíll be a head coach again in this league in my opinion and a really good one.
Having said that, I do want to say Iím honored that ownership asked me to do this. I will give it every ounce of energy that I have out of respect for this organization and Iíll give every ounce of energy to help unite, restore and win football games. Thatíll be the goal.
So, a couple of things I know youíre going to be interested in. The first one is Eli Manning will be the quarterback for this football team in this game. Okay, the Ďwhy Eli?í All I can tell you is this. When John Mara and I talked, one of the first things he asked was about the quarterback situation and I said, ĎJohn, my gut right now is that Eli should be the starter.í What you have to understand is when I was coaching just the defense, I had the blinders on and all Iím worried about is the defense. I stay in my lane. So, I didnít have my eyes around what was going on on offense Ė who was playing what. None of that. So, I took my gut and visited with the offensive coaches and together with that and my gut, Eli Manning is going to be our quarterback. Had a conversation with Geno (Smith), which was a tremendous conversation. I have a great deal of respect for Geno Smith in the way he reacted. He was a man. He obviously didnít agree with the decision, but he is a team player and he told me that he was going to go forward and wants to be a part of this and I just have a great deal of respect for him. Itís not an easy thing to do.
The other thing I know youíre going to ask about is the defensive side of the ball. So, for right now, Iím staying heavily involved with the defense and the game planning. Obviously with some new duties here, Iíll be in and out of there. So, when Iím not there and somebody has to cover, Dave Merritt will do that. Weíll worry about calling the game on Sunday when we get to Sunday. Weíll figure that out as we go.
I know probably one of the other questions is going to be what was said in the team meeting. Iíll keep most of that to the team, but I will tell you this: one of the main focuses was asking the guys that when they come into the building, when they come to work, come to work expecting to win. Thatís how they should function. Forget about what has happened prior. Letís just go forward coming in the building ready to work every day and expecting to win. Okay, having said that, Iíll open it up for questions.
Q: What are some of the things you learned from your time at St. Louis and how have you grown as a head coach?
A: Iíve got a Ė I want to say itís six pages Ė typed out list -- Iím not a good typer -- that has all of the Ďwhat would I do next timeí, Ďwhat did I think I did wrongí and Iíve already reviewed that. Iím not going to reveal them all. Itís too long of a list, but sometimes you learn more from failure than you do from success. I think everybody understands that. So, there are many things. This is a little different. Itís boom. Itís not OTAs and training camp, so weíre going to kind of improvise and adjust as we go. But, Iím hoping all of that will help.
Q: Do you expect to still play Davis Webb?
A: Well, Mike (Sullivan) and I and the offensive coaches will talk about that as we go. The number one focus right now is to figure out a way to beat the Dallas Cowboys. I can tell you that. And, each week weíll talk about those other things, but right now, in the midst of everything thatís going on with the changes and what not, little tweaks here and there, the focus is still going to be to beat the Dallas Cowboys.
Q: What was your discussion with John Mara and do you look at this as an interim or something that you could possibly turn into being the head coach here?
A: Iíll be honest with you, Iím not focused at all on that and I would say this to everybody and I mean this sincerely, I leave that in Godís hands. Iíll be where He wants me to be and right now he wants me to be here for this game and thatís how Iíll function. And thatís as honest as I can get.
Q: Whatís your message to Giants fans at this point?
A: Yeah. Itís our hope to unite, restore and find a way to win football games. When I mean restore, you know, restore Giant pride. Itís hard to be real prideful when you donít win a lot of football games. But, I think the guys feel that. They understand it and weíll function that way going forward.
Q: Geno will be the No. 2 quarterback this Sunday?
A: Right now. Right now.
Q: Does Davis Webbís workload increase or how will you handle that moving forward?
A: It has been increased. There has been an ongoing plan. You donít see it behind the works, but there have been efforts there. Iíll call it drills where Davis has done things where he would do as he prepared to be a one or a two. So, thatís ongoing. Where we go with whoever the two is, weíll just take it week-to-week.
Q: Davis Webb will handle scout team this week and isnít going to split duties?
A: Probably not this week.
Q: Is the gut feeling that Eli Manning gives you the best chance to win?
A: Yeah. That would be a pretty good assessment because the first thing you focus on and think about is how are we going to find a way to win the football game and I think you all know how I feel about Eli and what happened happened and in the long run hopefully itís a really good thing. He walked in my office Ė I will tell you this Ė and as a coach, you want every player to walk in your office with intent, resolve and the determination that he has. So, I respect that.
Q: About two or three weeks ago John Mara told us that he had mentioned to Jerry Reese that he wanted Geno Smith and Davis Webb to get a chance to play. Has that plan been scratched now?
A: Well, first of all, Iím not privy to what you just said, to be honest with you, because, again, my blinders were on trying to figure out the other part of it. Iím not sure I can assess or answer that question right now. What I hope you all can appreciate is the last 60 hours and putting together some changes and tweaks and getting ready for todayís team meeting. So, thereís things that will be talked about ongoing that we havenít really gotten to that point yet.
Q: John Mara didnít express that to you as a priority when you met?
A: No. That wasnít the top priority. No. That wasnít.
Q: As a coordinator, are there things that you donít say out of respect for a head coach that now that youíre in the position you will point out?
A: I think I know where youíre going with it. I canít think of anything specific that way. I would say this, in the middle of what we were going through, if I felt that there was something that could have changed or helped, I would have said that. Ben and I had a great relationship. One of the finest qualities that Ben had was he was a great listener. So, had I felt that, I would have said something. He was more than willing to adjust and I thought he did everything and anything he could under the circumstances and sometimes things work out and sometimes they donít.
Q: Is there something about being behind that podium and being the Giantsí head coach right now?
A: I donít know that itís all caught up to me yet. Iíll be honest with you. Iím not going to lie, in the past, I had thought about this. But, because of how fast it all happened, I donít know that. I havenít thought that way. It really was, you know, it came. I prayed Monday morning that it wouldnít happen. Iíll be honest with you. But, thatís okay. This is where weíre at. Iím honored to do it. But, as soon as that happened, it was Ďboom!í You shift gears. Letís figure out what we got to do for Wednesday. Everything was just focused on today. The players, the practice, etc.
Q: Can you talk about the support that youíve gotten from the organization, your assistant coaches, the players, etc.?
A: Itís been great. Itís good to have that. The guys Iíve been working side-by-side with, you know, rubbing elbows. Weíll go to war, do the same thing. People in the building are great. Iíve always felt that way about them. Thatís part of being a Giant and a family atmosphere.
Q: You appeared to tweak the schedule.
A: Found that out already?
Q: Well they gave it to us. Is Tuesday now the playerís day off and can you talk about your reasoning?
A: We might do that. Not 100 percent sure on it. The reasoning on the Friday deal was we just felt at this time of the season, really third down and red zone are really, really important Ė winning those areas, and you got to win them both offensively and defensively. So, what that schedule does is gives us an opportunity to do more third down on Thursday and then extend more red zone on Friday and itís a schedule Iím real familiar with and I think itíll help us in the upcoming games.
Q: Can you talk about the tone of the meeting this morning?
A: Attentive. Everybody was great. Thatís probably the best way I would say it. They were tuned in. I thought they responded well. You know, practice today was good. I told them I didnít think it was great. It was good. I think we can get better at that. Weíll try to work at that and itís about getting the football right. Thatís what we were doing out on the field today.
Q: Have you spoken to Ben McAdoo yet and what was that conversation like?
A: A hard conversation. I mean, I saw Ben Monday. Iím not going to share the whole thing. I have a great deal of respect for him. I told him what I just told you that I think he did a heck of a job and I do believe that he will be a head football coach in this league going forward.
Q: How much of a boost would it be for this team to win at home and end a division rivalís playoff chances?
A: I havenít focused on that yet because to us, it doesnít matter what the other team has got in front of them. Itís what we can do to win football games. So, it is just a focus on the team that weíre playing, the game that weíre going to play in MetLife on Sunday. See if we can get it figured out, putting our best foot forward and win a football game.
Q: Did you look to change your role today out at practice? You had the Sinatra blaring.
A: You noticed the Sinatra song. I did it just to see if the players would know who that was. Some didnít. Some did not. My dad used to play Frank Sinatra every Sunday morning when we got back from church. It was great. So, I enjoy it. It shifted real quick, didnít it? I forgot what the question was.
Q: Talk about what you were doing practice.
A: Again, the defensive football in me is not going to change. Iíve already been down this road and will figure out exactly how weíre going to do it, but I like doing the tackling drill that I did. I like doing the walk through with the defense. I want to be a part of it. I want the guys to feel me there and hopefully we can Ė we need to get better. So, thatís what weíre going to do at practice.
Q: Did you coach defense in St. Louis?
A: In different years. The first year, I did and then slowly turned it over to Ken Flajole at the time.
Q: Is it any different than somebody trying to call offense at the same time, but did you find that difficult?
A: It was the first time. When you do something for the first time, thereís bumps along the way. Certainly things I could have done better and I think I learned from that. But, Iím not sure exactly how weíll do it this Sunday. Weíll figure out something for us.
Q: Can you talk about the level of disappointment you had two years ago after Tom Coughlin left and you interviewed for the job and didnít get it?
A: Yeah, I donít know if I want to go back there. Where we are today, not exactly how anyone intended. But, again, Iím honored to be doing it and Iím going to give it everything I got.
Q: What happened to Jason Pierre-Paul and Sterling Shepard?
A: Jason is a finger. Sterling is a hamstring right now. Weíll know more when I get back in there and talk about it, but thatís all we know right now and they did not practice today.
Q: How much sleep have you gotten?
A: Not a lot. I need to hydrate.