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Dan Benton interviews Pat Traina


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Posted Feb 19th 2007 8:20AM by Dan Benton

Filed under: NY Giants, NFC East, New York, NFL Free Agency

Recently I had the privilege to sit down with Pat Traina from Inside Football and talk some Giants football. We touched on free agency, the recent Giants releases, Eli Manning and much more. A special thanks to Pat for taking the time.

 

Dan: "Going back in a time a little, were you shocked that the Giants kept Tom Coughlin and not Tim Lewis or John Hufnagel?"

 

Pat: "Not really. Coughlin certainly has his warts, but I think the foundation of his program is very solid. Would I, as an outsider looking in and knowing what I know, like to see him be a little bit kinder and gentler to his players? Yes. But I think one thing that he's done which he promised to do was he restored pride in Giants football, and by that I mean if you look at any game they've played under his leadership, I don't think you can point to any instance where the effort wasn't there."

 

Dan: "What were your initial thoughts when you heard that the Giants had released Carlos Emmons, Luke Petitgout and LaVar Arrington?"

 

Pat: "It's funny because I had been in the middle of writing my salary cap preview for the next issue of Inside Football and I was in the middle of analyzing Petitgout's situation when I received the official word and I just sat there thinking, 'Oh great! Now I have to redo everything I just wrote.' When the initial shock wore off, I analyzed it, truthfully it made sense."

 

 

Pat: [con't]"For example, who didn't see the Emmons move coming? Carlos has been a great warrior for this team and has given his all, but anyone who watched the games could see that his heart far exceeded his physical skills by the end of last season.

 

With Arrington, I think it was pretty obvious from the get-go that he would never realize the full value of that seen year $49 million contract he signed last off-season. What's interesting is before Arrington was signed, there was reportedly a split amongst the front office and the coaches as to whether his talents would be a good fit for this team. Moving forward, it appears that his talents don't align with what they appear to be planning to do on defense.

 

As for Petitgout, some people think his injuries – broken fibula and high ankle sprain – led to his demise, but I disagree. Remember the Giants drafted Guy Whimper to eventually be their starting left tackle, and I can remember saying as far back as last summer that I thought this might be Petitgout's last year given his remaining two base salaries, his age, and his health problems throughout the years.

 

I think the fact that David Diehl performed well at left tackle down the stretch made the decision to release Petitgout easier, as in the event Whimper isn't ready to assume full-time duty, they can get by with Diehl in there (plus it gives them an opportunity to get Rich Seubert back into the starting lineup.)"

 

Dan: "How did you feel once you had time to digest those moves [as well as the Chad Morton cut] and took a look at the cap ramifications?"

 

Pat: "From a personal standpoint, you hate to see guys go, especially if you've built a working relationship with them. LaVar was wonderful – had he not gotten hurt, I think he would have been the runaway winner of the annual 'George Young Good Guy Award' which is given by the Giants beat writers to the most cooperative member of the team. Luke began to come out of his shell this year, and often offered some valuable quotes. Ditto for Emmons and Morton, who made themselves available to the media through thick and thin.

 

But football is a business, and players come and go. The Giants cleared about $5 million in salary cap space and I think that shows that they're committed to really upgrading this team in a whole different way. Before the cuts were made, I estimated they had about $13 - $14 million in cap space, which was enough to make at least one big splash. The added cash now gives them even more breathing room."

 

Dan: "The Giants appear to be cutting injury-prone, costly veteran talent. Do you think there are any other players who are at risk of being released? Are Michael Strahan and Amani Toomer safe?"

 

Pat: "I think they are safe; because you can only make so many cuts before you start cutting major arteries. We all saw how much the Giants missed Toomer last year when he went out with his injury, so I think they'll manage his reps this spring and come summer camp, he'll start out slowly until he can go full speed. I think his role will really depend on what happens with Sinorice Moss, whom I suspect the team would like to see become the #2 receiver.

 

As for Strahan, they really missed him when he was out of the line up – I thought Osi Umenyiora picked up the bulk of the double teams Strahan typically received and I think that's why there was a slight drop off in Umenyiora's production once he came back from his injury.

 

I do think, though, with Strahan you'll probably see more of Justin Tuck rotating in there a bit more than in the past, assuming Tuck's foot is healed (which it should be). Strahan is getting up there in years and while I don't' want to speak for him, I'm sure he would welcome a few more breathers during the course of a game as that can only help him prolong his career.

 

Do I think there will be more roster cuts? Probably not until new personnel is brought on board. I know some people wonder why Tim Carter hasn't been cut yet, and I think the reason is that right now, you have two receivers coming off injury-filled seasons (Toomer and Moss), in addition to David Tyree (who had an ankle injury for the better part of the season) and you have Plaxico Burress (who had some back problems) as well as Michael Jennings. Hard as it is to believe, Carter was one of the healthiest receivers they had this past year..

 

Now I think Tyree, Burress and Moss will be able to go at full speed come the spring, but I don't' think the same can be said of Toomer, who might not be ready to go until training camp gets underway. So right now I think you have to hang onto Carter until you either have a better sense of where he is in his rehab is or until you get a replacement on board to take Carter's roster spot."

 

Dan: "With all the holes the Giants currently have, where do you think there focus will be in free agency?"

 

Pat: "I think they'll address the secondary. New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has been hinting at installing a more aggressive scheme, so I would think a shut-down cornerback is high on the priority list.

 

They also need another running back to compliment Brandon Jacobs, so if a desirable candidate is available, I can see them spending some money to get him. Last year, Tiki Barber accounted for over 40% of the offensive plays and while I am confident that Jacobs will be a good back for them, I'd be surprised if he takes on more than half of that load in 2007.

 

I also think they might want to acquire some back-up depth along the offensive line – worth Petitgout and Bob Whitfield gone, they really don't have much veteran experience at tackle, so I think that's an area that will be addressed perhaps later on in free agency.

 

There have been some rumors floating around about Mathias Kiwanuka probably converting to an outsider linebacker. Does this rumor hold any water? I think the coaches liked what they saw from Kiwanuka last year, and I get the sense that they want to get this kid on the field as much as they possibly can. But with Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora ahead of him, that might prove tricky if you're looking at playing Kiwanuka as a defensive end.

 

So yes, I do think they might consider experimenting with Kiwanuka as an outside linebacker – the kid has great speed and quickness, and is smart enough to learn the position as part of a crash course. I think he could be effective in that role if given the opportunity and used in the right scenarios."

 

Dan: "I know you probably haven't begun any in-depth draft research yet, lord knows I haven't, but what road do you think the Giants will take in April?

 

Pat: "Truthfully it's too soon to say because it all depends on what they do in free agency. Sometimes guys become available that you didn't think would be there – for example who thought Luke Petitgout would become available? If I had to take a guess right now as to what they might do in the draft, I think it will have a strong defensive flavor.

 

The one thing I've learned with the Giants is that just when you think you've figured out how they're going to draft, they throw you a curve ball. Think back to last year. How many people were shocked and angered that they took a defensive end in round one?

 

The one thing that will probably be different is that new GM Jerry Reese probably won't gamble as much on players who were injured their junior or senior year in hopes of getting a steal – I always thought that was a bit of a risky proposition anyway because there's no guarantee a player will ever be the same again once he undergoes surgery and you have to really get as much out of your draft picks as soon as possible; you can't wait for them indefinitely to get 100% because that slows down their professional development.

 

Besides, I'm sure there are people out there who, like, me, don't want to hear 'Well, he would have been a first rounder were it not for his {insert injury type} here.' You can't deal with 'woulda, coulda, shoulda's' because over 50% of the time, these situations don't pan out the way you hope for."

 

Dan: "With all the drama and heartache the Giants faced last season and even so far this off-season, are you at all optimistic for next year?"

 

Pat: "I'm always optimistic because every team is 0-0 and everyone is pretty much as healthy as they're going to be. But of course, I always go into every season with guarded optimism because I know that life throws curve balls at you and you're either going to hit them or strike out.

 

I think if the Giants make some sound personnel decisions during free agency and the draft, if head coach Tom Coughlin bends a little more to meet his players halfway on some issues, if they stay healthy, if Eli Manning takes his game to the next level and if they get a few breaks to go their way, 2007 will be a competitive season. That's a lot of 'ifs' but right now that's all we really have to go on.

 

The one thing though I will stress is that championships aren't won in the spring. I know some fans get excited one way or another when they see who the team gets or doesn't get, and I know this sounds like a cliché, but the big names aren't necessarily the way to go. You have to get people who fit the system you have in place. I think if the Giants do that, they'll put themselves in the best possible scenario to be more competitive in 2007."

 

Dan: "Does Eli Manning have "it"?

 

Pat: "I sure hope so. I've been a staunch defender of him because I've always thought he was asked to do too much too soon in the Giants' offense, and I'm hoping with Kevin Gilbride as the offensive coordinator, they'll scale things down to compliment Manning's strengths while he works to improve his weaknesses.

 

I think the other thing that's going to help Eli from an intangible perspective is Tiki Barber's retirement. I always got the sense that Eli was reluctant to make the team his own because Barber was there and this was really his offense. I think Eli needs to step up and become the new alpha male of that huddle now. He doesn't have to be the 'rah-rah' type, but I'd personally be happy if he morphed into 'E.F. Hutton' – a guy who when he speaks, his teammates listen."

 

Dan: "For anyone who may not be familiar with you or Inside Football, please give us a little background on yourself and how you've become involved with Inside Football."

 

Pat: "Inside Football, is an independent accredited publication devoted exclusively to covering the New York Giants. That means we tell it like it is, and we are credentialed by the Giants as well as the NFL. Over the years, we've built up a strong network of contacts around the league, including personnel people, scouts, agents, players, etc., and we draw upon their expertise as needed.

 

Inside Football has been around for over 30 seasons now – can you believe it? Our web site is www.insidefootball.com and I think we've been online now for at least ten years. Rather than rehash the obvious – for example, what we were told by the players and coaches and the game summaries which you still see today in media reports – we reconcile this information with our own observations and our knowledge of a situation. We do our homework and we try to take angles that no one else takes which means we watch a LOT of film during the season.

 

I think we're a very fan friendly publication. For example, I interact almost daily with readers in our web site's 'Letters to the Editor.' We have a growing message board community run by our loyal and mature readers who help keep the riff-raff to a minimum and who offer up some thought-provoking topics for those who want to discuss Giants football. We really try to involve our readers and as such every feature we do is with them in mind. Plus I'm interested in what the readers want to know, and as such, I've made some gradual changes to Inside Football since becoming editor to reflect our audience's needs.

 

I've always wanted to be a sportswriter, but after I graduated from college, I made a career choice that derailed me from that dream. Fortunately, I got to know several people in the business thanks to the Internet, and that led to a part time freelance writing on Giants football.

 

I joined Inside Football after I wrote a letter to the founding Editor, who was looking for someone to help him set up a web site for the publication. We had a meeting and I, of course, just had to ask about doing some writing because I never lost the itch, despite pursuing a different career path.

 

At first he was a little apprehensive about me being in men's locker room, but I was determined to not let it become an issue. I was more concerned with meeting his high editorial expectations and those of the Inside Football readers.

 

My first article was an interview with DE Chad Bratzke. It was purely spontaneous; the Editor told me 'Come to the locker room at 11 a.m. and be ready to interview whoever is there.' Talk about pressure, right? Anyway, I got through the first assignment, wrote it up and when the Editor reviewed it, he called to tell me it was outstanding and he offered me additional work.

 

When he sold the paper in the late 1990s, the new publisher promoted me to the Editor and I've held that role ever since. To prepare for the role, I've taken up watching film during the off-season so I can better understand the game and for a while I even did some film work with a high school coach. I didn't want the fact that I had never played the game to take away from what I thought I could bring to the table as a reporter and even to this day I'm trying to learn as much as I can."

 

Once again, a special thanks to Pat Traina from Inside Football for taking the time! I don't want to hear any "oh, she's a woman" stuff either. She knows her football and especially her Giants football. As they say, Inside Football is for the best informed Giants fan.

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Awesome read Lug. Thanks :TU:

 

 

By reading that, I think we're going with Whimper at LT this season now. I think we draft a solid RB and WR, as we address the secondary during FA. Just what I picked up from that, though nobody is to say for sure.

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For example, who didn't see the Emmons move coming? Carlos has been a great warrior for this team and has given his all, but anyone who watched the games could see that his heart far exceeded his physical skills by the end of last season.

 

:confused:

 

Was that sarcasm?

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Thanks for the good read Lughead.

 

As for Petitgout, some people think his injuries – broken fibula and high ankle sprain – led to his demise, but I disagree. Remember the Giants drafted Guy Whimper to eventually be their starting left tackle, and I can remember saying as far back as last summer that I thought this might be Petitgout's last year given his remaining two base salaries, his age, and his health problems throughout the years.

 

I'm kinda suprised they forgot/left out the fact that he had missed time each of the last 3 years with his back spasms, in my opinion that would be a bigger issue than his sprained ankle or his broken leg..... unless the broken leg was of the Seubert (spiral fracture) variety.

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Thanks for the good read Lughead.

I'm kinda suprised they forgot/left out the fact that he had missed time each of the last 3 years with his back spasms, in my opinion that would be a bigger issue than his sprained ankle or his broken leg..... unless the broken leg was of the Seubert (spiral fracture) variety.

Agree with Ragin....back spasms are a lineman's bane due to the fact that once you get them you never really lose them as you are repeatedly streesing the same pain inducing receptors each time you kneel down into a stance.

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Agree with Ragin....back spasms are a lineman's bane due to the fact that once you get them you never really lose them as you are repeatedly streesing the same pain inducing receptors each time you kneel down into a stance.

God knows that if just getting in stance is going to cause the back to go out what happens every time he takes a good punch and strains the back too much? Herniated disc can't be that far behind, I know for sure once that happens your career is finished.

 

Just my two cents, I'm glad that the Giants decided to move foward with the OLT position, every time you wanted to compliment Luke he seemed to fail due to injury or mental mistake. Wimpher I hope is the heir apparent, god knows the last few times EA picked a offensive lineman they wound up being about as useful as Jeff Hatch. Wimpher doesn't seemed like damaged goods and is certianly younger & doubtlessly less costly against the cap, I really would like to see him come in and light the world on fire from day one as the starter at LT...... one can hope and dream can't they?

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