“That’s last year’s team,” Reese said today. “This is a new team. We’ll move forward. There will be some free agents we might lose. Who knows what’s going to happen with this team? You just want to try to prepare and build your new team to have a chance to win the Super Bowl again. That’s what we’re working on. This is a new team for us.”
Reese, the Giants’ second-year general manager, is not callous or unappreciative. But he possesses the pragmatic and objective view a man in his position must take. Reese is well aware NFL teams that stand still quickly fall behind. So it does the Giants no good to keep dwelling on their 17-14 upset victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. It’s time to move on and begin planning in earnest for the 2008 season. That’s what Reese, Coach Tom Coughlin, Scouting Director Marc Ross, the assistant coaches and scouts are doing this week at the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
So focused is he on what lies ahead, Reese is reluctant to keep accepting plaudits for winning the Super Bowl in his first season
as the team’s general manager.
“You get a lot of ‘atta boys’ and a lot of pats on the back,” Reese said of the reaction from his colleagues at the combine. “And you try to run from people so you can watch the players. Everybody is happy for us. It’s exciting to be on top in this environment right now. But you can’t keep patting yourself on the back. You have to move on and try to get ready for a new season.”
This is the first time since 2003 that Reese is not in charge of the Giants’ draft. Oh, he will have the final say in the draft room, as the general manager always does. But the nuts and bolts of draft preparation now fall to Ross, who was named to his position after Reese ran last year’s draft.
Reese’s many other duties as G.M. prevented him from being as immersed in the draft-eligible players as he normally is at this time of year.
“It’s a little different for me,” Reese said. “Last year I knew everybody here. This time I haven’t been able to go out and see players like I usually do. But I’ll catch up before April. I’ll know who they are, and I’ll catch up. But it’s a little different going in and not knowing the guys like I knew them last year. I knew everyone in the building last year. So it’s a little different for me.”
But that doesn’t mean Reese is detached from the process. Quite the contrary. Reese attended the organizational draft meetings prior to the combine. And before the draft begins on April 26, Reese will be as familiar with the names on the board as he always is.
“I’m a scout - I was raised as a scout,” said Reese, who joined the Giants organization as – what else? – a scout in 1994. “Once a scout, always a scout. You always have that in your blood. In the pre-draft meetings after we got back from Arizona, just to be kind of out of the loop and watch Marc Ross run the meetings - he did a tremendous job running the meetings and the scouts did a nice job catching up right after the Super Bowl. But it was a weird feeling sitting in the room and not controlling the draft.”
Reese has a pretty good handle on what will be available to the Giants, who currently own the 31st selection in the first round of the draft. Like predecessors George Young and Ernie Accorsi, Reese attended as many college games as his schedule allowed.
“I try to go out every week,” Reese said. “The Thursday night games really help my schedule. On Thursday nights and some Friday nights you try to go out and get some games and try to get back for practice. It’s not close to what I did last year, but the Thursday night games help me out.”
Because the 2007 season stretched to Feb. 3 – the latest the Giants ever played a game – the organization’s preparation for 2008 is not as complete as it normally is this time of year. But Reese isn’t concerned it will affect the Giants’ readiness for the beginning of veteran free agency, which begins on Feb. 29, or the draft.“We haven’t quite caught up yet, but we’re getting close,” Reese said. “It’s a little bit easier this time for me because this time last year I was doing two jobs. So Marc Ross has taken a heavy load off, so it’s a little bit better for me right now. But we’re close to catching up.”
Giants general managers are traditionally secretive regarding their offseason intentions, and Reese is no exception. He is loathe to reveal priorities in the draft (players or positions) and what his goals are in free agency.
“There are a lot of possibilities for us,” he said. “We’ll consider everything. Nothing is in stone for us. Anything can happen in personnel. Every day is different and there are different possibilities every day. You get different phone calls from different people. We’re not going to lay dead and just say we have a pretty pat hand. We’re going to keep working and try to improve.”
Reese and his personnel staff had a pretty good idea where they stood before the Giants’ inspirational postseason run, so the playoffs did little to change their overall evaluations.
“It was a great run - we won the Super Bowl,” Reese said. “But with personnel, you really have to re-evaluate everything, everybody on your team and see where we really are going into the new season. We evaluated all of our players, we have personnel meetings almost daily, trying to figure out in which direction we need to go.”
“The bar has been set pretty high for us and we want to stay up there,” Reese said. “That’s why we work so hard to come right out of Arizona and not keep patting ourselves on the back, get right back to work, try to get our team evaluated, finish the evaluation on the free agents coming out and evaluate the draft class. That’s what we want to do - we want to have some stability, we want to stay at a high level, but the league’s not built like that. It’s built for any team to be able to come out of nowhere and be able to win the Super Bowl. That’s the beauty of the National Football League. Everybody has a chance. I’ve said this before, I kind of marvel at how New England stays on top. They’ve done a tremendous job keeping their team at a high level. We’d like to stay at a high level as well.”
Reese discussed several other subjects at his combine news conference:
*On the importance of being patient with Eli Manning:
“I don’t know if it was a lot of patience. He’s only been there for four years. He’s still a young quarterback. Four years is not a long time for a quarterback. The guy is in his third fulltime season - they usually make a jump. And I think Eli did make a jump. There were some peaks and valleys for him during the season, but as the season went on into the playoffs, he really matured into the quarterback we think he should be.”
“What we saw when our scouts went out there (to Western Oregon) and we looked at him on tape, you saw this big kid and the kids in that league were small, little 5-6 DBs running around. And he was just running past them. He dominated his level of competition. And when he got here, he looked like he belonged. We really didn’t expect him to play as much. Jeremy got hurt and we didn’t expect him to come in and play as much as he played during the season. But he really stepped in and did a nice job for us. We knew he had the skill set to be a receiver. But when we drafted him, he was about 260 pounds and during the season (strength and conditioning coach) Jerry Palmieri got this kid up to 272 pounds, so he got a lot stronger. He’s still not as strong as we want him to be. Obviously, he has the offseason to get a little stronger, but he got much stronger and he felt a little bit better about his confidence out there. (Tight ends coach) Mike Pope did a nice job with him, getting to be ready. With all that said, we expected him to be a developmental player, but he had an opportunity to step in and he made the best of it.”
*On whether he prefers developing young players as opposed to signing veterans:
"We like to develop players, but if there’s a situation where there’s a veteran that can make us stronger than we are, we’ll go that route. Again, there’s no template for us. We do what’s best for our team moving forward. We’ll evaluate as we go daily, we’ll see which free agents are available, we’ll see what the draft picks will look like for us going into April. What we like to do, we like to add depth to every position. We like to create competition.”
*Wide receiver David Tyree, whose spectacular catch of an Eli Manning pass set up the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl, is the father of twin girls. Tyree’s wife, Leilah, gave birth this week to Sophia (4 pounds, 14 ounces, 18¾ inches) and Hannah (5 pounds, 3 ounces, 19 inches). The couple already has two sons, Teyon and Josiah.