Antrel Rolle said he was "shocked" by the news that the Giants had fired defensive coordinator Perry Fewell on Wednesday morning. The Giants safety was appearing on SiriusXM's NFL Radio just moments after news of the decision was announced.
"I can't say that I saw it coming because I didn't," Rolle said. "I can say that I really didn't know what to expect."
Rolle had been a voice of support for Fewell when the season ended and he maintained that posture.
"We didn't have the best of the best years as a defense, but I think it definitely had more to do with than just Coach Fewell," Rolle said. "I have a theory that coaches coach and players play the game. We were unsuccessful at times. In my eyes the majority had to do with players not making plays when opportunity presented itself and being a consistent defense throughout the course of the year. Everyone is at fault. We all understand in this league when a defense is unsuccessful, but I figured that he would be back given that we had so many people on IR, to give him a chance to make the wrong right."
Rolle and Fewell had a relationship that was at times complicated and contentious. Prior to the 2011 Super Bowl run, there were reports that Rolle wanted to leave the Giants and Fewell's system which used him more as a slot defender than a free safety. Once they got over that, though, the two became close.
"I'd ride or die with Coach Perry Fewell all day," Rolle said. "We had a special kinship, a special bond, and we got into it a lot of times just because we always wanted to be the best. We collided because we always wanted perfection from one another. At the same time, it made us that much more accountable to one another. He knew he could count on me, I knew I could count on him. But when you're talking about the game, it's just unfortunate when you have a defense that isn't successful. The head man is going to take the hit because it's his defense, it's his system and everything else that goes along with it."
That defense finished the season ranked 29th in the league.
"There were some games when we would go out there and play good, there were some games we would go out there and play sub-par, there were some games we would go out and play very poorly," Rolle said. "There was no consistency throughout the defense pretty much the entire year until that latter part of the season. Even then there were times we would be up and it was time for us to close out the game on the defensive side of the ball and we didn't do so. It's very unfortunate for Coach Fewell. I wish as a defense we could have done a better job and kept him around to start this thing over again."
As for Rolle, he will be a free agent in a few weeks. He has stated his desire to return to the Giants and said on Wednesday that coming back to Fewell's system, which he has played in for five seasons, would have been ideal. But, he added, Fewell's dismissal would likely not affect his decision-making.
"I'm a football player," he said. "I fight where I'm told to fight, I play where I'm told to play. That's what it boils down to for me."