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Giants' Reese rewarded for holding steady after rough start

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Before the season started, Giants general manager Jerry Reese took a lot of grief from fans and media for not adding big-name free agents like the rival Eagles. It grew louder as injuries piled up by the day. And the furor peaked with the Osi Umenyiora contract issue.

Feelings were already chafed because Umenyiora said, in the players' lawsuit against owners during the lockout, that Reese breeched a pledge to trade or pay him big money. Reese denied the claim. Umenyiora also wasn't practicing after reporting late to training camp. The defensive end claimed to have a sore knee but there was speculation that his dissatisfaction with his contract was the real reason he wasn't taking the field.

Regardless of all the fires burning around him, Reese said the Giants would stay the course, not make any decision out of spite or haste and that they would make the playoffs.

Just days away from the Super Bowl, Reese re-visited that period of time and addressed several other topics:

On why he believed this team was playoff-bound despite all the early-season injuries:

"First off, we won 10 games the previous season. It wasn't like we were 6-10. I felt good about the nucleus coming back. We had a quarterback coming back that we felt would be in the wheelhouse of his career.

"We had two solid receivers coming back in [Hakeem Nix] and [Mario] Manningham and that was 20 touchdowns and 2,000 yards between those guys. Two running backs that rushed for 1,000 yards in two different seasons. We knew we had some really good players defensively. The injuries didn't scare us. We had a good nucleus coming back and most of all we had our head coach -- a terrific head coach -- coming back as well."

On not making it personal with Umenyiora and his future with the team:

"First off, Osi loves to play football. In the offseason, you always have some contract issues. It's what the offseason is about. I never take anything personal. It's not personal. It's business. We had some great conversations. We were able to work things out. We're happy Osi's back and he's playing terrific. I think he's happy he's back as well.

"Our focus right now is to win a Super Bowl and after the Super Bowl offseason issues will come up again. We'll cross that bridge when the time comes, but right now we're excited to be here."

On Coughlin staying the course through the fast start, late-season dip and current hot streak:

"Tom is always focused. I don't think he gets flustered by injuries or gets flustered why we're not playing as well as we should be playing. He stays focused, he keeps the team focused. He works with blinders on. Nobody works as hard as Tom Coughlin.

"Tom and I meet on Mondays and we talk about everything. We talk about the good, the bad and ugly. How can we win the next game? What do we need to do to prepare to win the next game? For a lot of weeks we kept saying we haven't played a good game.

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"One week the offense would play well or the defense would play well. The special teams would do something nice, but we were not putting it all together and playing a good game.

"We finally got out of the third quarter of the season, got into the fourth quarter of the season and we started to put together some good games. Actually, we feel we can play a better game. The last quarter of the season we started to play some good games. It can be attributed to Tom Coughlin, his staff and the players, too."

On whether Coughlin's job ever was in jeopardy:

"You're always in trouble when you're in New York, probably anywhere in the National Football League. This is a show-me business. Show me now. I don't think anybody is real comfortable where they're sitting in the National Football League as far as job security. It's a job where you have to produce every year. In trouble? I wouldn't say he was in trouble. On the other hand we're all in trouble every day because you've got to show me every week in this business. I wouldn't say he was in trouble."

On whether Coughlin has indicated if he'd retire if they win the Super Bowl:

"Who knows? I don't know. That would be his choice. The guy loves to coach. Put his record up against anybody. Put him up against anybody in a big spot. He's a terrific football coach. Who knows what he's going to do, but right now he's only focused on this one game. He is trying to win this one game right now and I know it's his total focus."

On Eli Manning's season:

"He's been an elite quarterback for a long time. I'm not sure why to people that's such a big deal. He's been a really good player. Last year we won 10 games, but he had a bunch of interceptions and he turned the ball over and we talked about it. We thought he was doing too much. He understands that. He's one of those guys who can self correct. A sack is a good play sometimes.

"In the last game we played against San Francisco he took a lot of sacks, but he took care of the ball and didn't put the ball in harm's way. We lived for another down after the sack and punted the ball. ... You turn the ball over in this league. It's tough to win.

"He's one of those guys that we feel is in the wheelhouse of his career and he just proves it over and over that he deserves to be talked about in the top five or six quarterbacks in the National Football League."

On Victor Cruz's emergence:

"Nobody saw it coming. I don't know if anybody saw it coming. His rookie year he had some flashes against the Jets in a preseason game, but you can't get too excited because you're playing late in the second half against guys who probably will not be in the National Football League the next week.

"This past preseason we didn't see those same kind of flashes. Now we were really concerned. Is this guy the real thing or is he not? He did make the team. He got out there the first game and I think the first pass thrown to him, he dropped it. Right there, we were like, 'Uh-oh. We don't know if he can do it or not.' To his credit he continued to work hard and work at his craft."

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89

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