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Thursday, January 24, 2013
John Mara: Giants will improve

By Mike Mazzeo
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Owner John Mara, in his first public comments since the end of the New York Giants' season, said he's "very disappointed" that his team did not reach the playoffs.

However, Mara doesn't believe wholesale changes are needed, and that his team's title window is open as long as Eli Manning is the quarterback.

"Obviously, we were very disappointed not being in the postseason," Mara said Thursday following a news conference about the area's Super Bowl XLVIII plans. "I haven't quite gotten over that yet, particularly the back-to-back games in Atlanta and Baltimore.

"But sometimes you go through things like that and it just strengthens our resolve to put a better team on the field. We've got some areas we need to improve on, and we're gonna do that."

The Giants looked as if they could repeat as Super Bowl champions after a 6-2 start. But they lost five of their last eight games, including two of their last three. They had needed not only to win, but help from several teams, in order to make the playoff cut. But in Weeks 15 and 16, the Falcons and Ravens outscored the Giants by a combined 67-14 margin.

"I've been around this team a long time, and I thought I'd seen everything," Mara said. "But I certainly didn't expect the two weeks we had there in Atlanta and Baltimore. At least we finished the season on a decent note."

That was a 42-7 victory over Philadelphia, but it was a hollow win after the Chicago Bears beat the Detroit Lions, eliminating the Giants.

Given that the team finished 9-7 -- the same record as in 2011, when it won the Super Bowl -- Mara doesn't feel the need to overhaul the roster. With the team's core still intact, Mara believes the Giants will be able to contend again next season.

"Again, if we win the game in Washington (the Giants lost 17-16 in Week 13), who knows what would've happened the rest of the season?" he said. "You always have to keep retooling your roster a little bit. We need to add a little more depth, and we'll do that. It's important that we have a good draft, but I'm very confident in the staff that we have.

"Obviously, when you miss the playoffs, everybody's a little more concerned about what went wrong. But we were 9-7. We went 9-7 a year ago also, but we made the playoffs and then got hot. We do need to improve in certain areas, but we certainly don't need to tear the whole thing down."

The Giants finished sixth in the NFL in points per game (26.8) and 14th in total offense (355 per game). But they gave up the second-most yards per game in the league (383.4).

"We had some guys hurt this year and that was a problem," Mara said, referring to players such as Hakeem Nicks, Chris Snee and Ahmad Bradshaw. "We gave up too much yardage on defense, too many points, so we need some improvements there. And offensively, we played fairly well, but we had some red-zone issues."

Manning had a strong statistical season, throwing for 3,948 yards and 26 touchdowns. Still, the two-time Super Bowl MVP struggled at times, completing less than 60 percent of his passes, and had 15 interceptions.

"He's 32 years old. He's got a lot of years left. So I think our window is still pretty wide," Mara said. "I think as long as he's under center, I think we have a chance to win."

This season, the read-option offense seems to be all the rage. Dual-threat quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers, Russell Wilson of the Seahawks and Robert Griffin III of the Redskins all thrived in such a system. Mara still would rather have Manning, though.

"It's interesting. There are these new trends, and we're gonna have to figure out a way to stop some of these offenses," Mara said. "But the best quarterbacks in the league are still the drop-back passers, and I'm not trading our guy for anybody."

The Giants have 18 unrestricted free agents, most notably defensive end Osi Umenyiora.

Asked if he believes Umenyiora has played his last game with the Giants, Mara responded: "I don't know about that. We'll see what happens. I would love to have him back. He's been a great player for us. He's a great guy. He's been a huge part of our two Super Bowl wins, but there are economic considerations and we'll just have to see what happens."

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.