HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
"I have to admit, I'm kind of surprised that all of you are here. Isn't there a parade going on right now? It's a workday for me and for you too. But it is great. Dusty Baker has been such a great manager for so long. You just kind of just assume that he had won a World Series and led his team multiple times. But for this to be his first one is pretty special. It couldn't happen to a better guy. Excited for our Astros. For us, it's a workday for us. We have a big game against the Giants coming up. It's as simple as that. They've played good football this year, starting with how their quarterback Daniel Jones has played. First off, he's a lot better athlete than he's given credit for. Everybody assumes he's just a stand in the pocket thrower. He can make all the throws, but I think he's been really effective when he's gotten out on the perimeter. They do a really good job with boots. Mike Kafka of course and (Brian) Daboll, I mean their coaches have done a great with designing some plays to take advantage of his talents. It always starts at quarterback, but Saquon Barkley, the conversation goes to him quickly. Loved him in college and what he's done in the league. He's an outstanding player. A big guy that can run in between the tackles, he can make you miss in the open field and he also has excellent speed. So that'll be a good, big challenge for us. On the other side of the ball, no one will blitz us as much as they will blitz. Of course, I'm very familiar with (Kayvon) Thibodeaux, spent a lot of time with him. Fabian Moreau, who was on our team, is playing good football for them. Good football team. Big challenge for us. We've taken a couple of days off, of course. Our players will be back officially in the building tomorrow, and we'll get back on our game week routine."
What has surprised you most about the Giants turnaround this year?
"If you just look at the guys I'm talking about, they've been there. I feel like they have a pretty good foundation in place too. But sometimes it takes a while for it all to come together, and for whatever reason, it's coming together. They have a commitment to the run, and when you talk about a great tailback like that (Saquon Barkley), you see why there will be a commitment to the run. And a quarterback who has protected the football and done the things he's supposed to do. Once you get momentum going and you start believing, in the NFL, the top team to the team that most would consider the worst team in football, any day that can happen."
Who or what can you lean on for new answers than what you came in with?
"From the first day you get here you're looking for, if something doesn't work, you're looking for a better way of doing it. That process just continuous throughout. It's not getting to a certain point in the season or anything like that. We understand what our record is, if you're talking specifically about us, and any time something doesn't work, we're looking for ways to make that better. All the way up until the last game. All the way up until the last play. You know, it's always about protecting the football, and we protect the football at the end of the game. I like the way a lot of our guys actually played right at the end of it, this last game. That's something to build on."
Do you expect WR Nico Collins and DL Maliek Collins to practice this week?
"I'm hoping. We talk about how good the Giants are, rightfully so, we need all hands on deck. They're getting better. Like I said, these last couple of days we let the guys get away a little bit. You know, guys are starting rehab and injury checks today, but we hope they will be able to. They are right on schedule and have made a lot of progress. We'll see."
How has captain OL Laremy Tunsil played this year?
"He's showed up. First off, we know who he is. He's as talented as a player as we have, and we're paying him that way. He's been great in the locker room, showing up every day and giving his all, each play, a good presence in the locker room, all those things. Guys, that's what they're looking for, a veteran that's been around and has played a high level for a long period of time. How have you done this? What I've found out about him, from my shorter time around him, is when he starts talking, he makes a whole lot of sense on so many things. Just his knowledge of the game, taking care of his body, all of those things, being a pro. Been really impressed with that."
When WR Brandin Cooks is back, how do you get him incorporated back into this offense?
"That's what we've been trying to do throughout. We've been trying to win every game throughout. Our best players, we've been trying to get them the ball, gameplan-wise as best we can. To let their talent show all within a team concept. We missed Brandin (Cooks) the last game we played like we missed Nico (Collins) the last game. We missed Maliek Collins. We missed a lot of those guys and can't wait to get them back. We need everyone. Can't wait to be them back as soon as possible and see what we can do then."
What are some of the things that OL Laremy Tunsil has said that makes sense?
"I'll keep those to myself a little bit. A lot of things, you can probably understand why we don't go over everything Laremy (Tunsil) has said to me. There's a lot of things throughout the day, when you're around someone for multiple hours each day that they say. Take my word for it."
You're going up against another top-10 running back in Giants RB Saquon Barkley. Without giving away the gameplan, are you going to still lean on RB Dameon Pierce like you have in the past?
"First thing, it's a good sound to it, 'going against another top-10 running back', saying that we have a top-10 running back. I think whatever you are, as a football team, what you believe, your personality, you don't get away from that. We need to run the football. We've said that every game, that's not going to change, doesn't matter who we go against. They have an excellent defense that's going to challenge us in a lot of different ways that other teams have not. We have to meet that challenge. It's kind of as simple as that."
As a coaching staff, how much can you guys be better at helping your players execute whatever run fit they're supposed to?
"We can do a whole lot better job of coaching our players so we play better run defense. Absolutely."
How have you seen teams build around a running back like the way you approach using RB Dameon Pierce?
"I'll say one more time because for me, I think every year it's been that way. Maybe some years a running back is used a little bit better and maybe has a few more yards. I don't think the running back position has been belittled. It's just a passing game. You don't need a good running back to be able to do what you want to do. Seems like this year, more of the tension has been placed on it. That's the only way I've know it to be, our game. You need a good running game. If you're a good passing team, what would help that passing attack is a running attack. I think it all goes hand-in-hand. I know for us, that's just the only way we know how to do it. If you look at most of the good football teams, I think that's still the case. You look at the Super Bowl champion, I think somewhere along the lines, they have a good running back. That's what I would say."
I know you couldn't make it to the parade today, but if it's any consolation, Dusty Baker hated that he missed the game on Thursday night.
"Dusty (Baker) is of course a Houston sports fan in general. Total support behind that. We talk about LT (Laremy Tunsil) setting a good example of how things can be. On what Dusty is setting for us and all the other sports team around here, what you can do, come in, change some things, believe in the process, keep getting better, adding pieces to the puzzle and also see perseverance. If you just look at Dusty Baker in general, perseverance. Normally cream comes to the top, and that's what we're hoping."
Did you call Dusty Baker after he won the World Series the other night?
"When I say Dusty Baker knows a whole lot of people, I'm way down the line. Have I communicated, have I congratulated him? Absolutely, like me and about two billion other people have. We will eventually make contact, but right now I'm just pumped up for what they're going through. That feeling, that's a feeling that I can't wait to get. I know it's got to be special."
What do you feel like you need to do to fix that glaring hole in the defense?
"It's just not one thing I can tell you. I know you asked me pointed questions on do this, fix that. That's just not how the world works. That's not how a defense works. That's not how football works. This is what we do. If there's an issue and there's been an issue, we constantly practice it. We changed personnel. Believe it or not, we changed up ways to actually practice and try to get it better. Sometimes it just takes more time. Things don't happen overnight. That's what I'm going to say. We're just going to go to practice and we're not combing our hair or something out at practice. We're practicing trying to get better. I understand about our run defense and eventually it will get better. Right now, when you ask those questions, there's not a whole lot I can do or say except for coaching wise we have to coach a whole lot better, player wise we have to play better. That's the only answer I can give you right now."
What do you think that group adds with TE Teagan Quitoriano out there?
"It's tough to get four tight ends active and they were able to get into it. That's tougher to do. Talking Teagan (Quitoriano) in particular, he's our best blocker of the group. We say we're a running football team, you need a Y tight end and that's what he is. He caught a touchdown pass and did some good things in the passing game too, which is an added bonus. A few weeks back we talked about Christian Harris' first game. I know Teagan played a little bit more in the preseason but we're just glad to get him back into the mix. We love those decisions where, at the tight end position you talk about four guys and how we get them involved in the gameplan. It will be fun to do that. When you play a team like we're playing this week, without going over all the gameplan, it's about keeping more bodies in to being able to protect some of that stuff. We'll ask all of those guys to do an awful lot. But just talking about a position, we talked about what Teagan has done, Jordan Akins has done the same thing. O.J. Howard has had his moments and getting Brevin (Jordan) back into the mix gives us a lot of flexibility."