EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — In the wake of another disappointing New York Giants season, co-owner John Mara wasn’t so sure about his own job.
“Not according to my mother, it’s not,” the Giants president and chief executive officer quipped Monday in his first comments on the 7-9 season that left the team out of the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.
A candid Mara confirmed the feeling that Giants’ fans experienced this season and expressed his own frustrations.
“Obviously, this was a very disappointing season, as disappointing as any in my memory,” he said addressing the media at Giants headquarters.
Mara spoke about the many shortcomings of the team, including the offensive line, but did not point the blame at coach Tom Coughlin, general manager Jerry Reese nor quarterback Eli Manning.
Coughlin was told Monday the team wants him back for an 11th season as head coach.
“In terms of other changes that may or may not be made, that will be discussed later in the week,” Mara said. “I’d like to think that the fans know we’re going to do whatever we have to do. Not necessarily the moves they want us to make. Nobody wants to win more than Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese, perhaps than myself. We’re going to do what we have to do. We’re going to do it in an intelligent fashion. Stability is important. There are times when changes have to be made. We’ll do whatever we have to do to put a team on the field that our fans can be proud of.”
Giants fans can be assured that Mara will be looking to improve the offense, especially the offensive line.
“I think our offense is broken,” Mara said. “We need to improve on the offensive side. To me, that is the No. 1 personnel priority going into the offseason is we need improve the offensive line. My biggest concern coming into the year was if our offensive line could stay healthy. We were never able to protect Eli or get our ground game going well enough.”
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride is likely to be fired, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.
Mara said it was obvious Manning did not have a good season. The career-high 27 interceptions was evidence of that.
“With Eli, sometimes he tries to do too much,” Mara said. “He competes so hard out there. We have all the confidence in him. He’s still the face of the franchise and we need to help him. We need to give him some better tools and do a better job around him.”
Mara admits he made mistakes in evaluating the team and during the draft.
“I was the same person who said in the preseason that this was as talented a team as we’ve had in years,” Mara said. “I read some stories about our draft picks. We have missed on some guys and have had bad luck with some second or third-round picks. There were a few instances where we took a chance, knowing we were taking a chance, thinking we were going to hit it out of the park, and we missed.
“I think we have as good a group of scouts as there is in the NFL. It’s as much as me as anything else. I knew the risks we were taking. To be successful in this league you have to do a good job in the draft, especially with those middle-round picks. No question over the last few years we’ve missed on people. I’m not sure why it took us three years to find out that Jerrel Jernigan can play.”
When asked about Reese, Mara said, “Yes, I’m convinced he’s the right guy. I like the way he deals with the players in a direct and honest way.”
Since it seems obvious that Coughlin will be back, Mara was asked about the Giants philosophy of not letting a coach go into the season with a one year left on his contract.
“Extending Tom? That has been our philosophy in the past, whether that continues or not has not been decided,” Mara said. “I’m not sure he knows how much longer he wants to coach. It’s very tough to have an exit strategy in the National Football League.”
Mara agonized over the 0-6 start as much as the fans. He thinks the team could have won its division if not for the horrendous start.
“It kills me to go into these other stadiums and see this large collection of Giants’ fans come out to support us and we put on performance like we did in Kansas City, Carolina and San Diego,” Mara said. “It’s painful to watch that. There is no reason we couldn’t win our division this. We needed to just make a couple of plays in those games.
“If there was one positive, at least the locker room held together. Three was no mutiny or finger pointing.”
Both Eli Manning and GM Jerry Reese pointed to Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning as a reason that next season can be better.
“There are some really good quarterbacks who have come back from rough seasons and been really good players,” Reese said. “Actually, his brother (Peyton) had 28 interceptions one season (1998). (Eli) has to play better, we expect him to play better. He expects to play better. One of the things that attracted us to him when he came out of Ole Miss was that he made everyone around him better.”
Peyton Manning set an NFL record with 55 touchdown passes during the regular season.
“You want to come back and prove to yourself and your teammates and your organization that you’re committed, and that I can play at the high level that I’ve been playing at in the past,” Eli Manning said Monday on WFAN radio. “Obviously this year was tough. … I can play at a high level. I can win games in this league.”
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