Dec 282001
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, December 30, 2001: When the schedule first came out many months ago, we all looked to this game as most likely the decisive one in determining the outcome of the NFC East race. Seems like a long time ago. Well this game has finally arrived and just as we speculated, this one is as important was believed. But who would have envisioned how both the Giants and Eagles got to this point? For most of the season, the Eagles have played fairly well and remained front runners in the division. The Giants – as we all know – suffered two bad 3-game losing streaks. Only three weeks ago, they were 5-7 and all looked lost. After two come-from-behind wins, New York is 7-7. The Eagles lost last weekend and are now 9-5.

The division is still the Eagles to lose. All they need is one win or one loss by the Giants and they are the NFC East Champs. The odds are stacked against New York. If the Giants someone manage to slip by Philly, they will then face Brett Farve’s Packers the following weekend. The Eagles travel to Tampa to play a team they dominated in the playoffs last year.

But the Giants are alive and kicking and still very much a threat. The Eagles know this. The pressure is on Philadephia – not New York. If the Eagles somehow blow a 3-game lead in the East when there was three games left to play, it will go down in history as one of the greater collapses in NFL history. The Giants? Most “experts” wrote them off weeks ago. Most expect them to falter still. “So what if they beat the Eagles? They’ll lose to the Packers,” they contend. “Regardless, all Philly needs is one win.” We’ll see…the pressure is there and it matters.

This game evokes memories of other late-season intra-division wars between the Giants and other NFC opponents. There were the disappointing failures against the Cardinals in 1984 and the Cowboys in 1985 – Stump Mitchell killed the Giants in the former; who can forget “Too Tall” Jones stealing the latter game? Remember, the Giants traveling to hostile RFK in 1986 for the division title and coming away victorious? Remember how you felt when a one-armed Emmitt Smith beat the Jints in 1993? That game was for the division too. In 1997, it was the Fassel-led Giants whose victories over the Eagles and Redskins late in the year won the NFC East. In 2000, the crown was secured by the G-Men in Dallas with some late-game heroics. My point? These are the games that are remembered by fans, sportswriters, and players. These games are the reason we watch and dream. To the victor, glory.

Giants on Offense: To me, the Giants’ success or failure on offense will come down to these four points:

  1. Strategically, Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton and Head Coach Jim Fassel must come up with a quality game plan AND, tactically, Payton must call a good game. In the regular season games last year between the Giants and Eagles, New York was able to move the ball pretty well against the Eagles and put up a lot of points (33 and 24). However, in the post-season the Giants’ offense only mustered 3 points (the other 14 came on special teams and defense). This year, the Giants could only put 9 points up on the board. Has Philly figured out New York’s offense and Payton? In the earlier game this year, the Eagle defenders were calling out the Giants’ plays before the snap of the ball. The Giants’ offensive brain trust needs to come up with some fresh material or it will be a long day.
  2. The offensive line, tight ends, and Greg Comella must control the trenches for most of the game. No one is going to shut out Philadelphia completely up front – they are too good and too well-coached. The Eagles have allowed the fewest points in the League for a reason. Philadelphia will make its share of plays. The secret for the Giants is to keep these plays to a minimum and that starts up front with the run blocking and pass protection. Blitz pick-ups by the backs are also important – you can bet Philly is aware of how much problem Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne had in picking up the blitz last week. The huge match-ups up front are Lomas Brown versus Hugh Douglas and Ron Stone versus Corey Simon.
  3. The wide receivers need to make some big plays against the tough Eagle secondary. Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor are two big corners. Free safety Brian Dawkins is one of the best players at his position in the NFL.
  4. Kerry Collins needs to play well. The Eagles’ game-plan will dare Collins to make plays under pressure. “We bring it; it doesn’t matter who we play or what part of the game it is. That’s this defense,” Eagles’ head coach Andy Reid says. “(Collins) will see plenty of blitzes and people coming from every way imaginable.” Fans know – the book on Collins is that if you pressure him, he will unravel and lose the game. The ball is in his court and the fate of the team rests on his head and right arm.

Giants on Defense: The Giants did a good job of shutting down the Eagles in the last game EXCEPT for the late in the fourth quarter. New York lost. They could have won if the defense held its ground. The Giants will need a COMPLETE game effort this time. Like their brethren on offense, the defensive line needs to control the line of scrimmage. It must be a four-player from Strahan, Griffin, Hamilton, and Holmes. The Giants have a lot invested in the defensive line and it is there time to deliver – across the board. Shut down Duce Staley and get after McNabb. Cover his security blanket Chad Lewis and don’t let James Thrash beat you deep. McNabb is the wild card – he can look great or terrible at times. The one thing you don’t want him to do is get out of the pocket too much as he can hurt you badly with his feet. The linebackers also must keep an eye on Brian Mitchell out of the backfield; he’s the kind of player who can be used on trick plays as well.

With Jason Sehorn out, it’s show-time for the young pups at corner: Will Allen and Will Peterson. You can bet your ass that the Eagles will test these guys. How will they respond to the pressure? Remember, they are still very inexperienced. It is also very important for nickel back Emmanuel McDaniel to play well. Although he usually plays well, he can be guilty of a bad game here and there. The Giants need his very best on Sunday.

Giants on Special Teams: Close games are decided by special teams play. The Giants MUST, MUST, MUST keep Brian Mitchell under control on kick-off and punt returns.

Dec 262001
 
Q&A: Bill Squires, Vice President/General Manager of Giants Stadium

Bill Squires is the Vice President/General Manager of Giants Stadium. He is an employee of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, the state agency that manages the Meadowlands Sports Complex.

On 9-10, you were preparing for an opening game. Can you tell us a little about the NORMAL, run-of-the-mill operations as you prepared?

Preparations were taking place as they normally do for any regular season Giants home game (i.e. – field preparation and painting, cleaning of the Stadium after the Jets opening home game on 9/7 and seat repairs). Additionally, the event staff managers were scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss the Jets game and make preparations for the Giants game.

On 9-11 what was your first reaction to the news of the Towers? Can you talk a little about the emotional impact, as a former Naval officer, as a citizen, as the Administrator of a facility so close to Ground Zero?

On the morning of 9-11, I was on the field monitoring the shooting of a Wendy’s commercial when I was informed that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. As a former navy pilot my first reaction was that some knucklehead had been sightseeing and accidentally flew into the tower. I left the field and drove out to Gate C, which offers a terrific view of the New York City skyline. Just as I arrived I saw the flash of the second plane hitting the other tower. I did not know what I had witnessed until I arrived in my office and turned the news on. I then realized what was taking place. I, like everyone else in this country, was absolutely shocked and I will admit that I shed some tears.

I am a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and a Naval officer (12 years active duty and 10 years in the Naval Reserves). The Academy lost 14 alumni during the attacks. It was as if I had lost members of my own family. My thoughts and prayers were with everyone touched by the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

After the attacks, it did not take long for the pain to turn to anger. My only wish was that I was 20 years younger and still in the service so I could help rid this world of those evil people. I thank God everyday that I am American and that our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen are the best in the world.

Being so close to Ground Zero has been tough, but at the same time I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every day I commute on the New Jersey Turnpike and I look into the city, which gives me inspiration to do the best job that I can for the great people of the New York Metropolitan Area.

For those who criticized Commissioner Tagliabue for postponing that week of football, they had absolutely no understanding of how the tragedy affected the people at Giants Stadium. Minutes after the attacks, I saw numerous members of the Giants coaching staff and front office in the press box looking over the destruction of the southern part of the city. I’m certain that their minds could not have been any further from football. They lost days of preparation and the players could not focus. Additionally, my staff was dedicated to the recovery effort. I’m sure the time away from football helped the team to adjust and the recovery effort was very theraputic for the Giants Stadium staff.

How soon did you react, and what steps did you take? Did you place a call to the NFL or did they call you? How has the coordination been with the league officials?

We were actually in a holding pattern after the attacks. Yes, we were busy with the recovery effort at the Stadium, but we were all waiting for the NFL’s decision. I believe we could have handled a game that weekend, however the right decision was made. Postponing the games gave everyone the chance to absorb the tragedy and to regain their focus.

In regards to event safety and security, we felt that we were the most prepared stadium in the league. Giants Stadium is entering its 26th year of existence and has hosted over 45 million guests. Over the years, we have managed several high profile events that had an intense focus on security (i.e. – the Papal Mass in 1995, Men’s World Cup in 1994, and Women’s World Cup in 1999). Many of the best practices from those events were absorbed into our every day routine. In fact, I believe the NFL borrowed some of our policies and procedures for their security recommendations that they made to the rest of the league.

Because the world had changed, we decided to reassess our safety and security procedures. With the help of the New Jersey State Police, we looked at the Stadium for weaknesses that could be exploited. Again, our procedures were very solid inside the building, but we wanted to be sure that we were prepared a potential terroristic threat. We made very few changes, but they were high profile and they were obvious to the average fan.

Finally, we are extremely confident in our security procedures. You may have read in the paper of two instances that have been a source of pride for our staff. First, our security refused access to Commissioner Tagliabue because he did not have the proper credentials. Second, an automatic weapon was found in the player’s parking lot by the NJ State Police’s bomb dog during a Jets game. Those two instances support the idea that we are doing the best we can possibly do here at Giants Stadium.

How many facilities are under your care? Have uniform policies been implemented? Has there been a change in your hiring policies and what security operations are in place for employees?

I am responsible for Giants Stadium. I have counterparts at the Arena and Racetrack that have similar responsibilities. Many of the policies that are in place have evolved over the years. We review our policies on an annual basis to ensure that they are still current and effective. As a member of the board of directors of the Stadium Managers Association I keep current with what the other facilities are doing and I receive many calls asking how we conduct our business.

Our hiring practices have not changed. Everyone is thoroughly interviewed before they are hired. Not everyone who applies for a job is hired and those that are must complete a probationary period before they become members of the union.

All staff is processed for an identification card and that card must be displayed at all times including event and non-event days. All employees are screened prior to entering the confines of the Stadium. On event days they are searched and they are limited as to what they can bring into the Stadium. This has been an inconvenience for everyone, but the safety of our guests is our most important responsibility.

Your clientele places a high degree of confidence in you. Does this help you in implementing regulations for their safety?

My job description is quite simple. My primary focus is on the guest. I don’t control what takes place on the field, other than field maintenance, but I can control to a certain degree the safety, cleanliness and the other factors that contribute to the environment at the Stadium. A perfect day for me is one where everyone enjoys their visit, arrives home safely, tells their friends and looks forward to their next visit.

My biggest challenges are the guests. We do everything we can to contribute to a positive guest experience, but at times the guests make it difficult for us. If more people would car pool, take up only one parking space, not drink too much, curb their language and not smoke in the seating area, my job would be much easier. Most people don’t realize that when a game is sold out Giants Stadium becomes the 10th largest city in New Jersey and we will have our share of challenges.

We do not want to keep our fans from having a good time and letting off some steam, however we expect everyone respect the rights of their fellow guests.

Who initiated the implementation of the State Police Security mission? Do you see this as a long -term commitment?

As previously stated, the NJSEA and the NJ State Police work very closely together. In fact, the State Police have on office here on the Complex that employs several full-time officers.

The State Police work all of the events at the Sports Complex and the numbers vary depending on the event. As a result of the tragic events that took place on 9-11, we determined there was a definite need for an increased police presence. In the future, our staffing numbers for NFL games are unlikely to change.

How much more difficult is your job today than on 9-10?

To be perfectly honest, it has not changed a great deal. I must praise our event staff because they have really stepped up to the plate. Most of all I would like to give credit to our guests, the loyal fans. Although there have been policies that they may not always agree with they have nonetheless been patient and understanding. They have really made our jobs easier.

The next issue we need to address is that of throwing objects on the field. The situations in Cleveland and New Orleans unfortunately affected everyone in the NFL. As the person most responsible for the conduct of guests at Giants Stadium, I had to make the call to stop the selling of plastic bottles to our guests. It is unfortunate that the actions of a few affect so many others, but we do not want to be associated with another embarrassing situation like the snowball game.

We will revisit the new plastic bottle policy during the off-season.

How did you first get involved with Stadium maintenance? In other words, I’m wondering what was your career path and how did you come to be “the man” in charge of the whole stadium.

My title is Vice President/General Manager, Stadium Operations. My staff and I are responsible for all aspects of the Stadium, which includes all the event staff that supports the Stadium, maintenance, cleaning, oversight of the food and beverage, etc. It is quite a responsibility, but I have outstanding support from my staff and the many managers who run the respective departments.

I started in this business in 1987. I was a Lieutenant Commander stationed onboard the U.S.S. JOHN F. KENNEDY as the Communications Officer. In January, 1986 I found out that the ship was going to pull four days of rest and relaxation (R&R) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in March. At the time the Yankees were conducting their spring training there and as a fan of the team I arranged for 500 tickets to a game. I invited Mr. Steinbrenner and his family along with the players and coaches and their families for a private tour of the ship. At the game, I asked Mr. Steinbrenner how someone would get into the professional sports business. Believe it or not, he offered me a job right on the spot. It was a tough decision since I thoroughly loved the Navy, but I had a desire to one day pursue a career in sport.

The following is a brief history of my career:

New York Yankees (1987 – 1990) – Director, Stadium Operations
Giants Stadium (1987 – 1996) – Assistant General Manager, Stadium Operations
Disney’s Wide World of Sports (1996 – 1999) – General Manager
Cleveland Browns (1999 – 2000) – Director, Stadium Operations
Giants Stadium (2000 – current) – Vice President/General Manager, Stadium Operations

What part of the job do you consider to be the toughest part?

The great majority of the fans that visit the Stadium are absolutely terrific. Unfortunately, there is a small minority of people who make it difficult for other fans to enjoy the game. In the stadium setting, some fans feel a sense of anonymity. They begin to act in ways they would never dream of on a normal day. There are two things that all fans should understand when attending an event:

  1. They must respect the rights of their fellow guests 
  2. Not observing Stadium policies can result in serious penalties (i.e. – ejection from the Stadium, criminal prosecution, and revocation of season tickets)

It appears that you have not added sufficient people to offset the delays caused by the added security requirements (i.e. – searching each ticket holder). Is this in fact the case? If so why haven’t you added additional people? If not, are you looking at new ways to increase crowd flow into the game, as the current staffing numbers appear inefficient? I seem to have noticed under cover security in the stadium this year throughout the game? Is my paranoia getting the better of me or is this the case?

Since September 11, we increased our safety/security staff numbers by 25% and we have three times as many NJ State Police officers on site. Additionally, we have repositioned a number of event staff from inside the Stadium during pre-game activities to our bag-check areas at the gates. We also have added contracted security (green jackets) to help improve the flow.

We evaluate our staffing numbers and gate set-up each week and we feel that our current plans are the best they possibly can be. One great thing about Giants Stadium is the large number of parking spaces and the tailgating privileges. Unfortunately, most tailgaters continue to wait until about 30 minutes before kickoff to enter the Stadium. Because of this, we cannot eliminate the back up at the gates. The only solution is for people to enter the building earlier than usual.

We have used undercover security/safety members in the past. We usually do that to investigate guest complaints about another individual in his/her section. This procedure has not changed since September 11.

Given the obvious need for increased security, why has the time needed for fans to clear security and enter the stadium grown longer each week rather than shrunk as the staff adjusted to the new policy??? The system in place for week one, where the entry lines coincided with the turnstiles, seemed much better than the current system of making everyone enter to the sides of the gate.

Generally speaking, the delay to enter the gates has remained pretty consistent. We monitor the gates every game and we have not observed an increase. You could have experienced an extra delay on a certain game because you tried to enter the Stadium a little later than the week before or your gate could have had a larger traffic flow than normal. We hope that our guests understand the need for people to enter the Stadium as early as possible. If people begin to get complacent, the delays will increase.

We repositioned the barricades because the lines were spilling over into the roadways. This was obviously a safety concern. Our new layout has not changed the time that it takes for people to enter the gate.

Is there any kind of evacuation plan in case of an emergency?

Absolutely! In fact, we had an emergency evacuation drill on August 11. During the drill we simulated an emergency with our full staff on their regular posts. We do this at least once a year. We also conduct smaller training sessions once a month.

People who go to the games understand the new security procedures. But, it seems clear that more people must be hired to carry out those procedures. There are eight sets of turnstiles to Giants Stadium. There were six people patting fans down one-by-one. That translates into 48 people checking 78,000. I actually missed the kickoff! Any thoughts (other than head to my seats an hour before kickoff.)

If you are like me, you enjoy tailgating almost as much as the game. I understand that leaving for your seats an hour before kickoff may be inconvenient, but it is the only way to avoid the lines.

Our staffing levels at the gates varies due to traffic flow, but let me assure you that we have more than 48 people working the bag-check. In fact, I walk the gates every game and I count to make sure that we are staffed to the best of our ability. For the Jets/New England game, I have in my notes that we had 21 guards at Gate A, 19 at Gate B, 14 at Gate C, and 24 at Gate D. With all of the other posts, which include the locker room, field, parking lots, pedestrian bridge and seating bowl, we are staffing the gates to the best of our ability.

We all need to remember that the world has changed since September 11. It is not as easy as it used to be to get into Giants Stadium for a game. Getting to the gates early will help everyone.

We don’t mind being searched. We do mind waiting for the search. There aren’t enough security guards searching people at the gates.

Please read my previous responses.

Now that winter is here can we at least bring in a thermos of coffee or hot chocolate? The cups are fine at the stadium but 20 minutes later they are cold and my knees can’t take the hike up and down. Also, the seats in section 339, row 29, seats 9 and 10 have been broken for four years now and we have told people at the Stadium about it, can they get fixed?

Our official policy at the start of this season was that thermos were not allowed inside the Stadium. We were lax on enforcement of that policy because we recognized the convenience for our guests. In response to the embarrassing situations in Cleveland and New Orleans, we have adjusted our position. For the remainder of this season, we will not permit thermos, plastic/glass bottles, or cans into the Stadium. We will revisit this new policy during the off-season.

We have fixed the seats and we apologize for any delay. Our ushers turn in a broken seat report after each game. Obviously, there was some breakdown in the line of communications. We have addressed the importance of following through on those types of requests with our staff. Also, please use www.meadolwands.com in the future to communicate with the Stadium Operations Department. In the case of broken seats, our goal is to have that seat fixed before the next game.

What are the new regulations as to what can be carried into the stadium? Prior to this year I carried in a bag with a couple of essential items depending on the time of the year. Binoculars, small thermos etc.

After September 11 we have prevented the following items from entering the Stadium: backpacks, coolers, duffle bags, fanny packs and large bags/purses. This policy will remain in effect for the foreseeable future.

In response to the embarrassing situations in Cleveland and New Orleans we are now prohibiting glass/plastic bottles, cans, and thermos inside the Stadium. Additionally, we will no longer sell beer, water, or soda in plastic bottles. We will revisit these new policies during the off-season.

I went to one game with HopeJ last year and she was constantly looking up and mumbling about all the things flying around above the stadium. I know this has been seriously curtailed since September 11. What is the latest status?

After September 11, the NFL decided to impose a no fly zone around NFL stadiums during games. That no fly zone is defined as at least 3000 feet above the stadium and at least 3 miles of vertical separation from the stadium. This was instituted to prevent the private pilots and tow banner pilots from flying close to a stadium during the course of a game.

As you probably know, Giants Stadium is located between two airports (Teterboro four miles north and Newark 10 miles south). We have made requests each week that Teterboro restrict take-offs and landings to those runways that would not require the planes to fly over the Stadium. Unfortunately, some weather conditions require an approach that is near the Stadium.

What is the reason for closing more lots for Parking Permit only? The lot I usually park in was closed off last week. I came off Rt. 3 and had to park in Pegasus, adding over one hour of traffic before / after game.

The flow of traffic into the complex for a football game can change from week to week depending on how the team is playing, who the other team is, game time, weather, amount of traffic entering from various points and problems on roads. The only lots held for permits only are as follows:

  • Lot #9/11 – team officials, media and suite ticket holders
  • Lot #15 – stadium club and suite ticket holders
  • Lot #10/12 – about 1/3 of the lot is held for employee parking
  • Handicapped parking spaces are reserved in Lots 4, 7, 8, 10/12 and 18

All other lots remain open until managers stationed on top of the Stadium, Racetrack and Arena feel that the lot is full. Traffic is then diverted to another area. Roving supervisors will also drive around a closed lot to see if spaces are available and reopen the lot if needed. Without mention of the time you arrived and the usual lot you park in it is difficult to answer your question directly.

Any plans to enforce parking rules? Fans just seem to park anywhere they’d like without regard to blocking exits, etc. ?

One of the best things about the Complex is that we have 27,000 parking spaces. It is also our biggest headache. Unfortunately, not everyone follows our direction. In the case of blocked exits, we monitor those areas with parking/traffic supervisors. If it appears that a vehicle is blocking entry/exit lanes the vehicle will be towed to another location.

The main complaint about Giants Stadium is no consistent and effective parking scheme to enter and exit the complex in 25 years. I know the responsibility for this is not Bill Squires’ but the NJSEA. The people they hire to do this job at the games are mostly off duty cops and cop wannabes who are just picking up a paycheck for standing around. The ridiculously overpaid political patronage hacks who are supposed to be responsible for developing and coordinating an effective policy for parking are sitting in luxury suites sopping up beer at the taxpayers expense. If it hasn’t changed in 25 years, don’t hold your breath. The rest of us mutts don’t have a pass to flash to access any lot or exit anywhere we want. They think there are no problems because THEY don’t have any problems.

The traffic plan for vehicles entering/exiting the complex has and continues to be developed by professional traffic engineers along with input from management staff from the parking/traffic department. In fact, Good, Kind, and O’Dea (a traffic engineering firm) completed a study about four years ago. That study revealed that the current traffic patterns are operating at their maximum efficiency. Without significant infrastructure changes there is no way to make any improvements. The proposed infrastructure changes would likely be part of future renovations at the Complex.

The people hired to work part-time come from various jobs. The actual number of police officers working in the parking/traffic department at this time is two. The Complex puts much effort into interviewing and hiring qualified team members. We recognize that our staff is not perfect. In fact, we have spent a lot of time and money over the last two years to improve our training procedures. I am confident that we are making improvements to make everyone’s visit to Giants Stadium more enjoyable.

Your comment regarding, “ridiculously overpaid political patronage hacks” is categorically untrue. The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority is a state agency and we receive direction from the Governor’s office. But, on a day-to-day basis, we operate rather autonomously. The operational decisions are made by people that have years of experience dealing with the challenges of the sports and entertainment industry. Further, I would estimate that the director and assistant director of the parking/traffic department both work between 50 and 80 hours a week. They do not get overtime or compensatory time.

Finally, we have an outside agency that surveys guests and investigates our operational procedures several times a year. They have identified some guest service issues that we are currently working on, but without guest cooperation it can be difficult for our people to perform their jobs. Let me assure you that every effort is being made to ensure the smooth operation of parking and traffic.

For years the parking has been a mess – extremely disorganized getting in and out of the stadium. Getting in, my dad tells me that the attendants close down lots, despite PLENTY of parking spaces (apparently, no one upholds the tailgating rules of one space per vehicle, which brings up another question – why don’t you have a separate area for tailgaters?) Anyway, if you tip some of the attendants, they let you park pretty much anywhere, which is not fair. Now getting out after the game, according to my dad, is a whole different ball of wax. He tells me it is extremely disorganized and there are few if any attendants around to direct the flow of traffic. Finally, dad has a suggestion: that the parking lots be run like Disney World, where they wave cars into each spot in succession until they are all filled up. No more random parking, which leaves spaces blank. This way, my dad reasons, there would be a better idea of when a lot is truly full, reward those who arrive early with a decent spot and push the parking from the inside of the stadium to the outer lots rather than sending folks to the outskirts right from the get go.

The parking/traffic department has a plan that is provided by traffic engineers along with input from management staff. The philosophy is to try to park the cars in the lots closest to the entrance in which they arrived. Many fans have other plans to meet friends in lots on the opposite side of the complex. This becomes very difficult because people have to drive against the flow of other traffic.

The parking lots remain open until the managers supervising the lots from places on top of the Stadium, Arena and Racetrack determine that the lot is full. Occasionally, it may appear to a driver that a lot is not full even though he/she was sent to another lot. This happens for two reasons. First, the manager estimates the number of spaces available and will ask someone on the ground to cut off the line at that number. While the cars that are still in line are making their way to the spaces, the other cars that were diverted to another lot will see the empty spaces. The second problem is tailgaters taking up more than one space. We do our best to contain this problem, however certain people refuse to follow our instructions. However, we are trying to be more forceful on the “one car, one space” rule. Regardless, we treat tailgating as a privilege for all of our guests. There are no plans to revoke that privilege.

The taking of money to allow guests to park is against work rules and staff members have been terminated for accepting gratuities. If you have an exact location and employee ID # (the # is on the uniform) please contact us so we can monitor the employee and take proper action.

As for exiting the complex after a game, parking/traffic staff are assigned to the major intersections to do the best they can with assisting 27,000 vehicles exiting the complex at the same time. The vehicles are directed to the exit closest to the parking area they are in. After the major crunch of exiting traffic is clear the staff will divert vehicles to other areas that are less congested.

As for Disney type parking – we have a different type of person coming to our football games. The attitude of people arriving for football is far from the family Disney style. Another problem is that people arriving early sometimes enjoy parking away from the Stadium so they can reach the exit faster or they have been parking in the same place for 25+ years. Additionally, my experience at Disney showed me that people arrive to the parks all throughout the day. At the Meadowlands, 90% of our cars arrive within a very short amount of time. Trying to park all of those cars one at a time would slow down the process. Finally, the parking lots at Disney were designed with their parking scheme in mind. With the way our lots are striped, we would not be able to maintain organization.

The rent-a-cops directing traffic in the parking lots are more of a hindrance than a help, but that’s just my qualitative observation on my part.

We design our traffic patterns based on the most efficient way to move 27,000 cars in a short amount of time. Sometimes, that traffic pattern may conflict with one person’s agenda. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about that.

What I find infuriating is that the loading for the NJT buses going to Port Authority Bus Terminal after the game is insanely slow and inefficient. Given the difficulty of driving out of the parking lots after the game, what are you doing to encourage use of public transportation? Instead they only load 2 or 3 buses at a time forcing people to wait on line as long as an hour in a cold and windy parking lot. Create a real bus depot and run enough buses so that there is no more than a 5 minute wait until you load and the number of people who use the buses will increase several fold helping to relieve the congestion of cars leaving the parking lot.

Buses are loaded 3 or 4 at the same time following the game depending on the number of people using the buses and the number of buses provided by NJ Transit, Community Coach or Coach USA. For a regular sold out game approximately 2,000 – 2,500 people use the bus service from the Port Authority bus terminal to Giants Stadium. The system of how many buses to load is decided by NJ Transit. They normally supply 20 – 25 buses. The buses make multiple trips between the Stadium and Port Authority bus terminal.

Your complaint about how many buses they load will be sent to NJ Transit. As for more people using bus service and a real bus depot, the last survey provided to season ticket holders gave us information that people enjoy taking their cars to a game.

Has there been any serious thought about running a train on game days on the NJT line that passes relatively close to Giants Stadium?

When the Stadium first opened a train/bus shuttle was available and it was not very successful. A train station at the Complex has been proposed for the renovation project.

Is it possible to install the same field that the University of Washington plays on in Giants Stadium?

We installed a similar surface in the practice Bubble last year. We like how it has performed so far, but we are not sure that it can handle the rigors of two NFL teams, an MLS team, college football games and several major concerts. The current grass tray system gives us the flexibility to adjust to those different events.

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority made a substantial investment in the grass tray system (over $5 million since March ’00). Over the last 18 months we have learned a lot about field preparation within our busy schedule. We expect to see additional improvements next year and we are confident that the system will be a success.

Who is responsible for the turf? Even after the field was resodded or “retrayed,” it is in bad shape. Question – Has a long term commitment been made to the grass field system currently in place or are you on a year to year basis?

Both the Giants and the Jets agree that the field has performed better this season. In fact, we have made great improvements. The NJSEA, Giants, Jets and MetroStars all made a three-year commitment to this system. With continued improvement over the next season and a half, we are confident that the grass tray system will remain in Giants Stadium.

I thought the tray idea for the field was great but anyone watching games sees that players both home teams and all visiting teams are slipping much more frequently than at other fields. What’s wrong with the grass? Can it be fixed? Why did it drain so strangely on Sunday, with the areas closest to the sidelines in puddles, while the replacement trays in the center seemed to drain properly?

This year, we corrected the “divoting” problems we were having last season. The slipping you saw was happening between the sidelines and the numbers. Those areas were stripped bare by the end of the XFL season. With a heavy concert and soccer season, we were not able to “regrow” those areas as well as we had hoped. Therefore, a film developed on the surface that was causing some players to slip. We have done two things to correct that problem:

  1. We put in new trays between the 30-yard lines on November 14 and we will be replacing the trays between the 30-yard lines and the goal lines during the week of December 17-21.
  2. We top-dressed those areas to dry up the film. Top-dressing is a technique in which a thin layer of sand is spread throughout the top of the field. This promotes stability and helps level the field. If you look closely, you can see sand bounce up at most stadiums at some point during the season.

Regarding drainage, we feel this system drains better than any field in the league. The system is designed in a way that an average rainfall will run through the trays without affecting playability. Additionally, we have two vacuum units that will pull water out of the trays.

During the Giants/Raiders game we had drainage issues between the goal line and the 30-yard line. Again, those trays have not been removed since the field was installed in March of 2000. Therefore, the surface is very compacted, which prevents water from seeping through open pours. In our effort to eliminate slipping, the top dressing probably closed up most of those pours.

With the intensity and duration of the rain, we were very happy to see how well most of the field drained. In fact, we believe that most of the fields in the NFL would have turned into a giant mud puddle during the downpour that we had.

Will the no-banner rule ever be overturned? What are you scared of? (grin)

There are several reasons why we do not allow banners. First, there are people that like to push the envelope by writing offensive messages. To avoid embarrassing or inappropriate signs, we decided to eliminate all banners. Second, banners and signs can block the view of other guests. Eliminating the signs prevents potential altercations between guests. Finally, our safety/security representatives have noticed that some guests try to sneak in glass bottles and cans inside a rolled up banner.

Are you ever going to take down the banners when you first get off the escalator to the upper deck, Gate C? Romen Oben, Charles Way, and Brian Williams? I forgot the other guy, but I think he’s still on the team. You can see these from the parking lot and it’s just sad.

Those signs have three sides to them. The Giants, the Jets and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority have control of one side each. Depending on the event, the sign is rotated to the appropriate side. The Giants are responsible for deciding the content of their side of the sign. We will forward your question to the appropriate department within the Giants organization.

I sit on an aisle seat in the upper deck and I’ve never seen a concession vendor up there. All game, people climb over me during the plays to go buy food. And then when I finally get up myself to get a beer, the lines are really long. Is there any way to add concession (beer, soda, hot dogs, etc.) vendors to the upper deck to make the game experience a lot easier?

The industry term for vending in the seating sections is “hawking.” Over the last few weeks, we have dramatically increased the number of hawkers at the Stadium. Since your question was written, I would guess that we have tripled the number of vendors.

Our hawkers wear red jackets and an Aramark hat. They are now selling pizza, hot dogs, peanuts, cracker jacks, soda, water and hot chocolate.

Unfortunately, it is illegal to “hawk” beer in New Jersey. Because the hawkers are paid on commissions, it violates the State Law that prohibits the sale of alcohol by vendors that are given an incentive to sell as much as possible.

Why not have concession vendors walking around the stadium so people don’t have to keep getting up and down to get something? They might have started to change this because at the Raiders/Giants game I saw a guy walking around selling Dominos in the upper deck but that was it.

Please read the previous response.

Is it possible to raise the temperature of the water in the sink during the winter? It’s painful to wash your hands during the winter in ice cold water.

Unfortunately, the water temperature cannot be changed. When the building was designed the plumbing only included cold water to the restrooms. The cost of a retrofit would be astronomical. The Giants, Jets and the NJSEA have begun discussions for a new stadium or a renovated Giants Stadium. I’m sure that whatever happens in the future will include a correction to this problem.

Why don’t you pipe a radio/television sound feed into the heads? I have been to other stadiums and it’s nice not to miss a play while taking care of business.

Great idea, unfortunately we can’t do that. Currently, we broadcast the PA system on the concourse, in the restrooms and the suites. All of those spaces are on the same communication loop. If we were to change over the audio on the concourse we would have a lot of interference from the PA in the seats. We are considering adding a separate communication loop that would feed the restrooms separately for our 2003 capital budget.

Is there any way to show replays of all of the plays? Currently, it seems like only the great plays for the Giants are shown. Often, a bad play happens for the home team, and I’d like to get a second chance to see what happened – especially on close referee calls.

Yes, we are a little more selective when showing negative plays for the home team. However, we do show the replays that change the momentum of the game regardless of the affect on the home team. From what I have seen at other venues, I would say that other buildings are more conservative than Giants Stadium.

The new TV monitors in the Mezzanine level are great. Since I can’t see the scoreboard from my seats, I have been wishing for this for years. Thanks.

Those televisions were added at the request of another guest like yourself. Your feedback can be very important to making everyone’s experience at Giants Stadium better. Also, we want to thank you for the positive feedback. We always do our best to correct any problems. It feels good to know that we have helped.

Those new scoreboard monitors are awesome. Please show more replays on them. Half the time they don’t show a replay of a play being reviewed by the officials.

We do our best to show all replays under review. The league does restrict some of the things that we can show, however. I will let you in on an industry secret, though. We try not to show a replay that would lead a visiting coach to challenge a play. We want to keep them guessing. We consider the video boards to be part of the home field advantage.

Can you please stop that “charge” horn/song that is played over the loadspeakers when the Giants are on offense? It jinxes them every time!!!

Unfortunately, we can’t help the offensive or defensive execution. We are pretty sure that the charge song doesn’t hurt it either.

Please lower the damned PA system volume!!! It’s deafening.

You would be surprised by how many people say that it is not loud enough. Either way, we have just hired an outside contractor to tweak the system. We expect them to help clean up the quality of the sound. Please send me an e-mail (via www.meadowlands.com) listing your seat location and we will see if there is anything abnormal in your section.

The story about the doors being opened in the end zone in Giants Stadium to aid on field goals? Myth or fact? If it doesn’t happen now, did it ever?

Complete myth. I have stood in the endzone on very windy days and I’ve never noticed a day where opening or closing the doors would have helped or hurt.

Besides, don’t you think Bill Parcells would have complained about it when he was coaching the Patriots?

I was wondering if it’s been decided whether a new stadium is going to be built or if renovations are in store for the current stadium? If a decision hasn’t been made yet which seems to be the most likely to take place?

There are on-going discussions regarding renovating or building a new stadium. I’m uncertain which way the negotiations will go. Either way, I believe something will be done within the next five years.

Do you plan to sell the name of Giants Stadium to any corporation in the near future? This seems to be the trend nowadays.

Currently, there are no plans to sell the name of the Stadium. I’m sure that it will be discussed if there is a renovation to the Stadium or if a new one is built.

Dec 262001
 
New York Giants 27 – Seattle Seahawks 24

Game Overview: It was a crazy game. Both defenses scored off of fumbles by the quarterbacks. Both Shaun Alexander and Ron Dayne broke off big touchdown runs. And for the second week in a row, Kerry Collins led the Giants on a last-minute, game-winning touchdown drive. Unbelievably, if the Ravens beat the Buccaneers on Saturday, the Giants playoff fate will once again be in their own hands. But the Giants have to win their next two games – starting with the Eagles at the Vet on Sunday.

Quarterback: Collins (30-out-of-47 for 338 yards, 1 touchdown, no interceptions) probably played his best game of the year. Not only did he lead the Giants on the game-winning drive with some superb passes, but his accuracy throughout the contest was much improved. What impressed me the most was the way he stood in the pocket this week and delivered the ball despite the oncoming defensive players – something he normally doesn’t do. Kerry’s confidence has to be surging after back-to-back comebacks. Let’s hope he can keep it up.

First the negative. Collins fell back into an old bad habit of staring down Tiki Barber or Greg Comella from the very start of the play when one of these two was the primary receiver. This lead opposing linebackers and defensive backs right to one or the other – resulting in no or little gain on the play. Collins did this a number of times. He must look off the coverage first before he looks in the direction of the back. The other negative on Collins is that he was extremely fortunate that his game-winning effort was not stalled due to two almost-interceptions. In the drive right before the game-winning drive, a pass over the middle intended for Joe Jurevicius should have been intercepted. So should have the pass intended for Jurevicius two plays before the game-winning throw. If those interceptions are made, the Giants probably lose the game. Also, those called rollouts are not working. Collins and the offensive line doesn’t look comfortable on these plays. Lastly, Collins continues to have some problems feeling pressure at times. While his fumble in the endzone was mostly the fault of the right-side of the offensive line, he needs to be more careful with the ball when the protection is breaking down.

But there was plenty of positives to write about. Except for a few plays (most noticeably a couple of deep throws), Collins’ accuracy was excellent and he made some superb throws against tight coverage where he threaded the needle. More than a few times did I catch myself saying aloud, “What a great throw!” One of these plays came in the second quarter when Collins hit Ike Hilliard over the middle for 15 yards on 3rd-and-10 from the Giants’ own nine-yard line. One play later, Collins deftly avoided the blitzing linebacker, stepped up and threw a 25-yard strike to Amani Toomer – a very pretty play. Collins’ passing was a big factor in the field goal drive right before halftime. He threw quick to Jurevicius for 14 yards, beating the blitz. On the very next play, he scrambled away from pressure and found JJ again – this time for 13 yards. Collins then hit Toomer on the very next play for 17 yards. Breakdowns by others (Glenn Parker, Toomer, and Tiki Barber) prevented the Giants from getting into the endzone – not Collins.

In the second half, the excellent throws continued. There was a perfect pass to Toomer for 21-yards, despite pressure in Collins’ face. Kerry then led the Giants on another field goal drive – including a 19-yard toss to Hilliard on 3rd-and-10 and a 12-yard slant to Toomer.

Then came “The Drive” – a 96-yard masterpiece resulting in a touchdown. With less than three minutes to play, Collins started things off with a 28-yard strike to Toomer down the left sideline, using a pump fake. He then hit Toomer for 11 yards before the two minute warning. Despite repeated breakdowns on the left side of the offensive line (mostly Parker), Collins then found JJ with a beautiful throw for 18 yards despite pressure. Then came two back-to-back seven-yard tosses to JJ and Hilliard despite more pressure. On the very next play, he fired a rocket to Hilliard between tripple-coverage near the goalline, but the ball was dropped. He then threw low to Hilliard over the middle, but the ball was caught for 18 yards. Three plays later, Kerry fired another very accurate pass to Hilliard for the touchdown with 20 seconds left in the game.

Wide Receivers: A very, very productive day. There were two drops: one by Toomer as the Giants were driving right before halftime and one by Hilliard between triple coverage, but other than that, it was mostly positive. Before I forget, I do want to make mention of some excellent run blocking in the game by the receivers – most noticeably by Toomer and Jurevicius.

Toomer (8 catches for 124 yards) appears to be coming on down the stretch. The slant pass was back in the arsenal and Amani made some big plays down the field. Hilliard (7 catches for 105 yards) was a difference-maker despite his painful toe. Again and again, he made clutch catches over the middle, including the game-winning touchdown. Jurevicius was back this week and was a factor, catching four passes for 52 yards, including two on the last drive.

Offensive Line: I don’t think this group played a very good game. Many of the pass protection problems came as the result of poor blitz pick-ups by the backs, but there were enough breakdowns in pass protection by the linemen to be disconcerting. Run blocking was even worse with the Giants not able to generate much movement against Seattle – except for the one big 31-yard run by Dayne for a touchdown.

In particular, I thought Glenn Parker played a poor game. His crappy pass protection on the game-winning drive could have cost the Giants the game. I had him down for three missed pass pro blocks. Earlier in the game, there was a play where both Lomas Brown and Parker looked incompetent as all hell allowing both rushers to crash into Collins. I had Parker down for at least three more instances where his poor pass protection helped to disrupt the play. He continues to look too slow on the pull as well. The right side was steadier, but both Luke Petitgout and Ron Stone got beat badly in pass protection on the play where Collins was sacked and a touchdown resulted. The most disappointing aspect of the game was the fact that the entire line was not generating much movement when it came to running the ball. The low-point came on the failed quarterback sneak. Luke Petitgout probably did the best job and Ron Stone occasionally got some movement – but the rest of the group was pretty disappointing. I have no qualms with the Giants getting rid of three-fifths of this line when the season is over. I’d build around Petitgout and Zeigler.

Tight Ends/Fullback: I saw Dan Campbell miss one block pretty badly that led to Dayne getting clobbered at the line of scrimmage, but aside from that, his run blocking was pretty strong – including the Dayne TD where he was used as a lead blocker. He also looked pretty darn good on his 16-yard reception on the Giants’ first possession. Howard Cross blocked well except for one play where he was used as a lead blocker out of the backfield. His block at the end of the line sprung Barber on one 13-yard jaunt.

Greg Comella (4 catches for 17 yards) is going to get killed unless the Giants stop running that stupid quick pass to him to the right flat. As I said last week, it’s fooling no one right now. I saw one strong lead block from him (coming off of the goal line in the fourth quarter). Greg dropped a pass over the middle.

Halfbacks: Not much productivity except for Dayne’s superb run for a 31-yard touchdown. On the play, Dayne (7 carries for 42 yards) showed good vision as he cut the play back to the weakside and power as he carried a man into the endzone on his back. He had another nice-looking 7-yard run on the Giants’ first possession in the second half – but the rest of his runs were stymied with poor run blocking (even on the play where the announcer said Dayne missed a hole). Dayne badly missed a blitz pick-up too when the onrushing linebacker beat him to the inside.

The guy who really disappointed me was Tiki Barber (12 rushes for 47 yards, 6 catches for 24 yards). Not so much because of his running (there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of room), but because of his crappy blitz pick-ups. He almost got Collins killed on a few occasions as he really struggled with picking up the linebackers, especially Anthony Simmons. Tiki also did a real bad job of reading his blockers on the screen pass early in the fourth quarter. The play should have resulted in a first down and could have resulted in a touchdown had Barber stayed with his three blockers.

Defensive Line: The right side of DE Kenny Holmes (2 tackles) and DT Keith Hamilton (4 tackles, 1 sack) had some problems in the first half (as did the linebackers to that side), but these guys really shaped up in the second half and shut down Seattle’s running game after an ominous start. Holmes, Lance Legree, Brandon Short, and Michael Barrow all got blocked successfully on Shaun Alexander’s long touchdown run in the first quarter. When Seattle did test the left side of the defense, there was not much movement as Michael Strahan (5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery for a touchdown) and Cornelius Griffin (9 tackles) were active against the run. Griffin, in particular, seemed more animated this week – perhaps his ankle is finally improving a bit.

As for the pass rush, it was not consistent, but it had its moments. Again, the right side was less productive. Holmes got close on a couple of occasions, but that was about it. Hamilton had a sack, but was kept remarkably quiet by a rookie. Griffin had a few very good pass rushes in key situations (i.e., the 3rd-and-1 pass on the Giants’ 2-yard line in the second quarter, the 3rd-and-10 pass play in the 4th quarter where Hasselbeck was forced to throw it away). Strahan had a number of these kind of timely pass rushes too. The big play was his fumble recovery and score. He also had a hustle-type sack at the very end of the first half when he chased down the quarterback as he scrambled to his left.

Linebackers: Michael Barrow (11 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble) was all over the field. He had some problems in pass coverage (unlike him), took the wrong angle on Alexander’s long TD run, and missed a tackle on Alexander in the backfield that led to an 8-yard gain. But he made plays all over the field. There were a few plays where he shot the gap and slammed Alexander in the hole for no gain or a loss. His sack of Hasselbeck led directly to a touchdown. Brandon Short (3 tackles) and Jessie Armstead (7 tackles) were too quiet. Armstead in particular was rarely heard from and gave up a big pass play to the fullback for 35 yards in the 4th quarter.

Defensive Backs: CB Jason Sehorn (4 tackles, 2 passes defensed) was burned deep early in the game for what should have been a touchdown, but the ball fell incomplete. After that, he played a bit too soft for my liking – allowing a couple of easy completions underneath. Jason did make a nice play in the endzone saving a touchdown in the second quarter. I thought he picked off the ball there despite what instant replay ruled. He dropped an easy pick at the end of the first half on a Hail Mary. Will Allen (2 tackles) got burned deep for a 42-yard gain. Aside from that play, he kept his opponent fairly quiet. He knocked one sideline pass away intended for Korey Robinson by coming over the top just at the right moment. Will Peterson (2 tackles) made a nice play in run support and had tight coverage on Darrell Jackson on a 3rd-and-4 attempt that fell incomplete in the 4th quarter. Dave Thomas sealed the game with a interception.

Shaun Williams (12 tackles, 1 pass defensed) was the other big defensive star of the game. The Giants played him closer to the line of scrimmage this week in order to defend against Alexander. Williams thrived in that role – adding fuel to the fire for those who want to move him to strong safety. Williams was all over the field against the run and made some big-time hits against the pass – including a very timely smack of Bobby Engram on 3rd-and-6 that forced a punt.

Sam Garnes (6 tackles) was OK. He missed a tackle on Alexander on Seattle’s first TD drive, but did a good job staying at home on the very next play on an end-around. On Seattle’s next drive, he clobbered Alexander on a 3rd-and-10 run and held him to four yards. But Garnes also got flagged with a dumb personal foul penalty that gave the Seahawks a first down on what would have been 2nd-and-20. Garnes did finish up with another key run defense play on 3rd down – stopping Alexander for a two yard loss on 3rd-and-five right before New York’s game-winning drive. If Seattle converts there, they win the game.

Special Teams: Kick-off coverage was alright (for this group). Seattle’s kick returns went for 28, 22, 26, 21, 24, and19 yards. Punt coverage gave up one big return (22 yards) and that is not acceptable; however, punt coverage was hampered on this play by Rodney Williams’ line drive punt. For his part, Williams had a decent game with a number of punts inside the 20 yard line. However, he does remain a bit inconsistent. PK Owen Pochman’s kick-offs were ordinary. PK Morten Andersen was perfect on his two field goal attempts.

The big problems on special teams were the three personal foul penalties (Frank Ferrara, Kevin Lewis, and Thabiti Davis), the atrocious blocking on punt returns (Tiki was only able to manage one decent return), and Ron Dixon’s mistakes on two kick-off returns (fielding a kick that was about to go out of bounds, and fumbling away the second half kick-off). When the Giants do return kick-offs, the men doing so (Dixon, Omar Stoutmire) look unsure of themselves.


Seahawks Will Be Sleepless This Off-Season

by David Oliver

It was another of those games the Giants have played all year. They lost the close games to the Rams and Eagles and won against the Cardinals and Seahawks. But for a total dufus loss against the Cowboys, life would have been much easier. We are all euphoric as the Big Dog is still in the hunt – don’t ask me how. This team could easily have gone 6-and-10; just as easily 10-and-6; now hovering between 9-and-7 and 7-and-9. The margin for error is that thin. We are all along for the ride. BB56 and the chorus rooting for Kerry Collins; Old Timer cussing Coach JF; Rocky T rooting for the Giants but hoping they don’t win out and make his predictions look bad. The stats men are combing the sites looking for positives, or at least explanations; on and on, we each have our own little nuances. But it comes down to this: beat the Eagles this week.

You read the reviews and everyone says the Giants have a two player offense, Kerry and Tiki; the Giants are inconsistent; the Giants are______(fill in the blank). Then there is mighty Philly – and they have like how many offensive threats – Donovan McNabb, period, finito, absoluto. They can’t win at home, have been given an open door, were handed a present by the Giants early, and they still can’t get out of their own way. Enough Eagles for right now.

The Seahawk game was a narrow thing. Again, it seemed as if the Giants didn’t want to win. I said before the game that the defense had to score for the Giants to win; and the defense scored. Still it took another long drive, with Kerry throwing to Ike and Amani leading the way. This is another of those officiating crews with their collective heads up their butts. Strahan was mauled several times – no flag; Joe Jurevicius (JJ) was totally mauled in the end zone – no flag; Frankie Ferrara was pushed out of bounds on a kickoff – penalty flag. I’ m standing right there, almost parallel to the official who tossed the flag, watching his eyes and the play. I see a swarm of players heading our way, blocking, pushing; 4 or 5 go out of bounds and bump the ball carrier. The official sees only the numbers and the line – he wasn’t watching the play. He stood on the line and saw the bump, but not the push. Why am I taking so much time on this. It is just an example of selective enforcement. Watch tackles grab Strahan around the neck – I guess this is now a legal move. Watch the contact on JJ – even in real time, it was flagrant. Is it one game, one crew, one team. No. This year, several crews have done an unbelievably poor, almost bush league job of calling a game. Labor problems, egos, or just a desire to control the sport? I don’t know, but I don’t like it-it is too selective and ruins the continuity of the game.

Time of possession was just about equal – the game was just about equal. After all, it was sudden death. Shaun Alexander fooled the Giants D twice – otherwise he was held in check. Ron Dayne answered once, otherwise he sat on the bench; although Tiki did not get many more carries. This was an aerial game for the Giants. Kerry threw 47 times and connected on 30 for 338 yards. Toomer and Hilliard actually had 15 catches between them; Tiki added 6, JJ and Comella 4 and Dan Campbell had a big one for 16 yards. I asked him in the locker room, who was that wide receiver wearing #89? He laughed and said, “Yeah, who was that guy. He shows up every once in a while.” He also told me that they were working on getting him more into the rotation. He told me that, “There were quite a few plays in for me today and I can think of 2 or 3 that we got blitzed. When that happens, if they stay in a regular shell, a regular defense, I’m one of the first reads. But there are also better reads to be had on a shift, and it worked out that we hit the hots and you keep on moving. That first read was one of those things and Kerry got comfortable with the fact that if they do that, I know Campbell is going to be open right there and he threw it to me and it was a big play.”

We continued on and I mentioned to him my conversation with Coach Payton last week about the defenses. I told him that the Seahawks did not go soft out there and he agreed. Dan said, “The good thing about that is Payton made some good calls. They’re not going to go soft, he started reading that, he was feeling it and he had some really good plays in there. Those little ones to Joe and Ike, those were perfect plays to be in there. You want to bring it, here, we’ll throw it right there, and then hit a big one. It just worked out great. The team played together, we never said die, we went out there and stuck it out to the end. We won.”

There were some common refrains in the locker, such as, we’re not as bad as people say, we fought this thing through, we played as a team. That’s important to note when you roll up 337 yards passing. That means the line is blocking, the QB is tuned in, the receivers are focused and the backs are doing their job. As Lomas Brown said, “All we had to do was give Kerry time. We knew our receivers could get open and we knew he could get the ball to them.” Lomas is always trying to figure out where the team is and why. He expressed the view that the team fell victim to being the hunted and not being ready for it. He said, “Last year, it wasn’t like that for us. No one gave us respect, so it wasn’t like that. After the Super Bowl year, we had a target on our backs. I think it took us a little time to realize that and to play like it. Now, over the last couple of weeks, not only because of that, but also because of the urgency of the situation we are in, lose and you go home, now it’s bringing out the best in this team, and this is what we had in us the whole time. It just seems like it took something to bring it out of us. Better it happened now and for us to get on a roll and really try to do some damage.”

Sam Garnes had some similar comments when I talked to him about the secondary. He talked about how they “went through some struggles, but we haven’ t played exactly terribly. We had some let downs here and there. We don’t think we are bad and we’re going to start getting some breaks sooner or later. It takes a while to gel; you just have to forget about everything going on around you and go out and make a play.” I asked about the relationship between himself and Shaun Williams and he told me, “We know each other. Come this part of the season, you’re going to see us make a lot of plays.” And I asked him about the youngsters. He said, “The Wills. I love them. They are going to be great players. The focus and preparation they have, I love them.”

Coach Lynn told me he felt good for Dave Thomas, getting in there and making a play. He told me, “We’re talking about who’s got to go in, who is coming out. It’s got to be Dave. We’ve got to put him back deep and let him do it. With all the things last year and this year, for him, it says something about him; doesn’t complain, takes care of business, does his business…tremendous, tremendous person.” So I asked him what about the Eagles game and he told me, “Don’t know yet. I’m going to get another corner ready to go. That’s the way it goes.” And then, just as Garnes, when I asked about the secondary play, he told me “They’re shaping up. We’re not where we’re going to get, yet. They’re coming together a lot better and a lot faster than I thought; it’ s getting better. We’ve had some bad games and stuff like that, but it hasn’t been all us. I think we’re getting better and we’ll do a better job.” His answer about the Wills, “Love them, love them.” Boy, there ‘s a whole lot of love around here for the Wills.

Lomas also told me a little about the difference from three weeks ago: “Right now we have so much confidence. I just think we’re a confident team. We’re playing well right now and we have a bunch of confident guys and we know that we’re not out of the game.” And then the bottom line: “It’s amazing what wins do for you. Wins will make a team that’s not as good play a lot better than they are. For us, it gives us a certain amount of confidence that we know we can go out and beat anybody. All we had to do was to go out there and execute and stop shooting ourselves. We had to stop making mistakes, stop turning the ball over and doing things to hurt ourselves.” And then I asked the question about feelings- did he feel like it was coming to them, and he answered, “Well, yeah, I think it is, really. This is the stretch run. We have two games left. Everybody should be able to lay it out on the line for two games. Two games, two games, you’ve got 6 months to think about it.”

The line did its job. There wasn’t much running, but the Giants almost equaled the Seahawks. In the passing game, Kerry was given his pocket. There were a few missed assignments, such as the strip in the end zone. Antonio Cochran had a clear shot at Kerry, who, of course, had no idea he was about to be hit. For the most part, it was as efficient as the line has been this year. Luke has been noticeable in elevating his game since the Oakland game. He is functioning on instinct now, reacting to the defense better and locking up his man. It’s nice to see.

Amani was all smiles in the locker, as well he should have been. He and Ike had very good games. For JJ, it was a good game that could have been great, if the refs gave him that call. It’s one of those games that will make him missed if he is not re-signed. Dixon almost had one and shows enough speed to be dangerous if he can ever get out of the doghouse.

On the defensive side of the ball, the day was Shaun Williams’. Twelve tackles, 10 unassisted, several very nice. Barrow contributed his usual double digits and Griffin had a very good game with 9 tackles. They contained Alexander except for the one jaunt around the left end (offense) and the short pass – both costly. Jessie had 7 tackles, and Barrow, Hammer and MS contributed sacks with that very nice TD run by MS.

Special teams did not hurt the Giants this week. Rodney had several booming punts and Mort hit a couple. Frankie Ferrara told me that the Seahawks Specials “were the best all year. For the games I was in, these kids brought it, they came down there hard. I busted two helmets, maybe three – one I kept telling them it needs a little more air, so he was putting in air and the air wasn’t working, there was no air in there. I busted the top. They brought that one out and got me another one, the mask went on that one, it bent, it was all scuffed up; here, (showing me), here’s blood on this one.” Frank told me he watches a lot of film, “Wwatching film by myself. As my experience grows, so does my talent. I really focus in on special teams, that’s my responsibility right now, the kickoffs, I watch a lot because they always scheme in cross blocks, this block, that block.” I asked him if he was having fun, he’ s always so animated. He told me, “I’m having a blast. I’m having a great time. You have to play with that excitement, that passion, that enjoyment, that’s what makes you the player that you are, you have to play this game with passion. It’s a tough business. You’re as good as your last play, that’s it.”

I asked them all about the Eagles game. To a man, they said they were looking forward to it. But Sam Garnes said it best, when I asked him about it. He told me, “This will be a game that Giants’ fans are accustomed to, a backyard brawl, one of those games you look forward to playing in when you are a young kid.”

There you have it. The things that were missing in the middle part of the year, what I will call the 911 tariff – expectation, excitement, passion, confidence, they are all back. We haven’t seen a real pretty win yet, but each player I asked acknowledged that they feel “it” is coming to them. That karma thing. We’re on the edge of our seats. It’s show time. Remember, guys, like I said last year, the meadowlands is Newark, and Newark doesn’t take crap from Philly. Go Giants.

(Box Score – Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants, December 23, 2001)
Dec 212001
 

Approach to the Game – Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants, December 23, 2001: The Giants can still make the playoffs and do some damage once they get there. But to do so, they must win their next three games – starting with Seahawks on Sunday. With seven losses, the Giants have backed themselves up into a corner. There is no margin for error anymore. It won’t be easy. At 7-6, the Seahawks are themselves fighting desperately for a playoff spot. They consider this a must-game. Thus, the contest SHOULD have playoff-like intensity about it. SHOULD.

The Giants must come out of the gate with superior intensity and crispness – something they have lacked most of the year. They need to rekindle the type of passion that they demonstrated in the playoffs last year. If things go wrong in the game (and they inevitably go wrong in any game), the Giants must keep their heads up and keep plugging. No quit. No excuses. Just go out there and get the job done. Win.

Giants on Offense: For better or worse, the fate of this team now rests on the right arm of QB Kerry Collins. Collins has been far too inconsistent this year and played one of his worst games of the year last week. But there is still time to turn it around. First he’s got to stand tougher in the pocket and be more willing to take the big hit. If he has to scramble forward, don’t slide. Every inch counts now. When he does throw, make intelligent decisions and throw with great accuracy. But don’t be afraid to take some risk. Get some of that gunslinger mentality back. As I’ve said all year, the opposition is going to focus more on Tiki Barber and dare Collins to beat them. He’s going to have to make some plays.

The blocking up front, as always, remains key. The offensive line did a decent job last week, but they face a far tougher opponent this week. The inside blocking of OG Glenn Parker, OC Dusty Zeigler, and RG Ron Stone versus defensive tackles John Randle and Chad Eaton will be decisive. Eaton is the stronger player against the run; Randle (9.5 sacks) is the quicker pass rusher. If Stone can handle Eaton and Parker can keep Randle quiet, the Giants should be in good shape. LT Lomas Brown faces DE Michael Sinclair. As long as Brown is healthy and on his game, he should be OK. RT Luke Petitgout faces either DE Lamar King (who has been hampered with a leg injury) or DE John Hilliard.

What the Giants need to do offensively is game-plan for Seattle’s active linebacking corps. Outside backer Chad Brown makes many highlight-reel type plays (he has 8.5 sacks), but he should not overshadow the other outside backer, Anthony Simmons – one of the best linebackers in the game. Simmons leads the Seahawks in tackles and is superb in coverage. Keeping both at bay will be a monumental task. Seattle likes to blitz Brown and the linemen, tight ends, and backs must be on their game in terms of blitz pick-ups. Levon Kirkland is the stout middle linebacker who FB Greg Comella may have problems with as a lead blocker. Since Kirkland is a far better run player than coverage man, the Giants may want to take advantage of that when he is on the field. The ability of the Giants blockers (linemen, tight ends, and Comella) to engage the Seahawk linebackers is one of the most important keys to this game.

As for the secondary, WR Ike Hilliard will be lined-up on CB Willie Williams. Williams has fine quickness, but he has been known to give up big plays in the past. The Giants catch a break with CB Shawn Springs (drug suspension) being out; his replacement is CB Ken Lucas, a rookie who many BBI‘ers liked heading into the 2001 Draft. He’s a bigger, more physical corner and that style of play should help him with WR Amani Toomer. But Lucas is a bit on the stiff side and he is green. Expect the Seahawks to try to help Lucas out as much as possible. If so, the other receivers must come through. WR Joe Jurevicius (hamstring) is back. When the Seahawks go to the nickel, Williams moves inside and CB Ike Charlton plays in his spot.

Giants on Defense: The focus will obviously be on shutting down Seattle’s ground game. With HB Ricky Watters (broken ankle) out, the man in the spotlight will be HB Shaun Alexander – a guy who many on BBI wanted in the 2000 NFL Draft instead of HB Ron Dayne. Alexander will be motivated. First, he probably wasn’t happy that Mike Holmgren benched him in favor of Watters last week. Secondly, Alexander will be looking to make the Giants pay because they didn’t pick him first. Alexander has 12 touchdowns (five more than Tiki Barber and Dayne combined) and has already rushed for over 1,000 yards on the season. He is a big runner who reminds me a bit of a young Rodney Hampton (the Hampton of 1990 and 1991) in the sense that he has good vision, quickness, moves, and he is fine pass receiver. The Giants’ front seven need to control the line of scrimmage and get a lot of hats on Alexander. Punish him. Put Seattle in long down-and-distance situations and then get after the pass rusher.

Big battles will continue to be inside with DT Keith Hamilton’s match-up against rookie Steve Hutchinson, the Michigan guard who many of us at BBI were real high on before the draft. Seattle will undoubtably run mostly to their left against the Giants, behind Hutchinson and one of the best left tackles in the game, Walter Jones. The ability of DE Kenny Holmes and Hamilton to take on this onslaught and hold their ground is everything. RCB Jason Sehorn, the linebackers, and safeties will have to be active too. Because the right side of the defense will have its hands full, DT Cornelius Griffin (who lines-up over RG Chris Gray) and DE Michael Strahan (who faces RT Todd Weiner) need to have strong games themselves to take some of the pressure off.

Brandon Short is coming off one of his strongest games, but I bet you Holmgren tests him coverage with the tight ends. Tight ends Christian Fauria and Itula Mili can both get down the field and catch the ball. The other linebackers and SS Sam Garnes may have to help out. The linebackers also have to be careful with Alexander and FB Matt Strong as pass receivers.

Seattle’s quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, has struggled more than I thought he would. I was impressed with him when he was in Green Bay, but he has had his problems this year. The key will be for the Giants to keep the heat on him by getting in his face and forcing him to make mistakes. That’s why defending the run on first and second down is so important. CB Will Allen will face a good challenge by facing Seattle’s leading receiver, Darrell Jackson (55 catches). CB Jason Sehorn will likely be matched-up on rookie first rounder Koren Robinson, a fluid player with fine size. Bobby Engram is clutch, possession-type of receiver who the Giants must play aggressively. This isn’t a particularly fast group, but they can keep the chains moving. With the focus of the defense being on stopping the run, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Holmgren try to get some cheap points early through the air instead of testing the Giants’ strength – their run defense – right away. It’s time for FS Shaun Williams to start playing like one of the better players in the league again at his position. It’s been a while since he’s made a big play.

Giants on Special Teams: The Giants can ill-afford anymore poor punting from Rodney Williams. Coverage teams must keep Seattle from getting superior field position. Guys like Kevin Lewis, Clayton White, and Dhani Jones can have an impact on this game with their special teams play. C’mon Ron Dixon…break one!

Dec 182001
 
New York Giants 17 – Arizona Cardinals 13

Game Overview: Things broke right for the Giants this weekend in terms of both them beating the Cardinals and other NFC playoff contenders losing. However, that fact should not overshadow what was generally a terribly lackluster performance against a mediocre team. Indeed, for much of the game, it looked like the Giants had already packed it in on the season. The Giants did not play with much passion – a poor reflection of the character of many on the team as well as the coaching staff.

If the Giants are to win three games in a row, they need to get their collective heads out of their collective asses. They still have a chance to make the playoffs, and if they are fortunate to make it there, anything can happen.

Quarterback: Kerry Collins (14-out-of- 32 for 147 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions) played like sh*t. The fact that he threw one beautiful touchdown pass in the first quarter and led the Giants on a last-second, game-winning touchdown drive cannot erase what was otherwise a miserable performance. Despite the fact that he was rarely under pressure, Collins’ accuracy was terrible. Most of his throws were either low, too far in front, or too far behind his intended receiver. Well into the third quarter, he had only completed four passes in the entire game and at one point was 1-of-his-last-9. Dropped passes were a factor, but those who point to the wind should note that the much weaker-armed Jake Plummer didn’t seem to have any problems with the weather.

To his credit, Collins did come through on the last drive and he didn’t force the ball except for one incredibly stupid play where he blindly launched a pass into the end zone – only a good play by Toomer prevented an interception that would have cost the Giants three points. He also wasn’t helped by some strange called rollouts – strange because the Cardinals were getting absolutely no pressure on Kerry. In fact, Collins’ only sack came on one of these rollouts – and another pressure came from another rollout. Stupid coaching.

Collins is getting worse and right now he is one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. This team will only go as far as he takes them.

Wide Receivers: Collins was not helped by the poor performance of WR Amani Toomer (3 catches for 32 yards, 1 touchdown). Toomer dropped three passes – all of which came on third down and all of which would have kept drives alive. The last pass was a poor throw from Collins, but certainly catchable. The only thing real positive about Toomer is that I liked some of his downfield blocking (all the receivers did a good job with their blocking). Ike Hilliard (4 catches for 41 yards) had a key third down catch on the Giants’ game-winning drive despite moments earlier aggravating his toe injury. He also made a key reception on third down on the Giants’ field goal drive in the 4th quarter. Ron Dixon made a big play deep for a 26-yard score on a perfectly thrown pass from Collins.

Tight Ends: Dan Campbell and Howard Cross continue to block well. One of the few positives this year has been the development of Campbell into a more consistent blocker. He also had a very nice 13-yard reception on the field goal drive where he carried tacklers a few extra yards. Marcellus Rivers is seeing more playing time.

Offensive Line: I was impressed with the game RT Luke Petitgout played – though one must consider the fact that he was playing against a rookie. He controlled the end all game in both pass and run blocking. He also looked sharp on a number of right-side pulls. RG Ron Stone was up-and-down. On the Giants’ first drive, he failed to pick up a stunt on 3rd-and-6 and some pressure got to Collins (who threw behind Dan Campbell). He also allowed too much penetration on a Tiki Barber run in the second quarter that lost two yards. He then was flagged for a false start on the Giants’ last drive right before halftime. But as the game progressed, he played in a more positively consistent manner and made a number of key blocks in the running game as well as keeping rushers off of Collins. The rest of the line played fairly well. There were a few breakdowns here and there (i.e., OC Dusty Zeigler and Stone got beat badly by the defensive tackle on a play where Barber lost two yards; Parker was also too slow on one right-side pull), but for the most part, LT Lomas Brown, LG Glenn Parker, and Zeigler kept things quiet and did their job. The only time I got real mad at this group was when they all stood around and watched Collins get sacked on a designed rollout (why this rollout was called in the first place is beyond me).

Running Backs: FB Greg Comella wasn’t as consistent on his run blocking this week. He had some beautiful blocks where he took the feet from underneath the defender, but I spotted one blocking attempt where he didn’t sustain long enough on the linebacker (who made the tackle in the hole) and a couple of other plays where he got stuffed in the hole and this aborted the plays. The Giants also have to stop throwing that damn short pass to Comella to the right – it fools no one anymore and results in little or no gain.

Tiki Barber (16 carries for 85 yards; 5 catches for 35 yards) was up-and-down. He broke off a number of long runs including a 29-yarder on the Giants’ touchdown drive in the first quarter. But he also fumbled the ball (luckily out-of-bounds) and dropped two passes. His performance was mostly positive due to his rushing effort however. I don’t know what it is about Ron Dayne (4 carries for 9 yards), but every time he gets the ball, the blocking seems to mostly disappear. His first effort I thought was reminiscent of last year – too much dancing as he neared the line of scrimmage. There was also a sweep to the right were there was no place to go (the Cardinal pursuit prevented a cutback). His best run of the game was a 6-yard effort where he showed good vision by cutting back and then making another move through the hole.

Defensive Line: DE Michael Strahan (5 tackles, 0.5 sacks) played a strong game. He not only shared a sack with SLB Brandon Short, but got close to Plummer on a number of other occasions and just missed two more sacks. His run defense was excellent.

We saw more life from the other three down linemen this week. There were a few plays where DT Keith Hamilton (5 tackles, 0.5 sacks) and DE Kenny Holmes (3 tackles) were not real stout against the run, but for the most part, these two played well. Both Hamilton and Holmes pressured Plummer on a few occasions, as did DT Cornelius Griffin (2 tackles). Arizona was not able to generate much yardage up the gut at all and all four down linemen did a good job of keeping the linebackers free of blockers. I really liked one play where Holmes stuffed the lineman, played off the block and slammed Thomas Jones for a 1-yard loss. The only real negative I saw is that Strahan and the defensive tackles sometimes lost contain on Plummer and allowed him to scramble for yardage. DE Frank Ferrara (1 tackle) and DT Lance Legree (no tackles) saw some playing time.

Linebackers: Very strong game by all three starting linebackers. WLB Jessie Armstead (16 tackles, 1 forced fumble), MLB Mike Barrow (13 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 pass defensed), and SLB Brandon Short (10 tackles, 0.5 sacks) combined for 39 tackles and 2 sacks in the game. That is superb production. Short stood out not only near the line of scrimmage, but also covering passes in the flat. Mike Barrow was a bit up-and-down in pass coverage this week, but got in on 1.5 sacks. Jessie looked like the Jessie of old as he was all over the field making sure tackles. Plays where he stood out included his forced fumble and the 5-yard loss on the swing pass to HB Thomas Jones. Armstead also did a good job defending a draw play late in the third quarter.

Defensive Backs: Mostly positive. I thought CB Will Allen (4 tackles, 1 pass defensed) played a strong game. He was on his man like glue most of the game. Allen made a real nice play on the ball when he knocked down a 3rd down pass intended for Boston in the third quarter. In the 4th quarter, he blanketed Frank Sanders on a fly pattern that fell incomplete. CB Jason Sehorn (7 tackles, 2 passes defensed, 1 fumble recovery) was inconsistent. He made a sure tackle on WR David Boston on 3rd-and-7 to prevent a first down early in the game (Sehorn’s tackling was pretty strong in this game), and generally played very well against a top notch receiver – Boston was not a huge factor in the game. Sehorn was lucky however that Plummer overthrew Frank Sanders in the third quarter on what should have resulted in a touchdown (pressure from Griffin saved the day). Of course, Jason’s biggest mistake was not knocking down the 4th-and-16 pass that resulted in a late touchdown; he learned his lesson on the last play of the game by violently knocking down Plummer’s Hail Mary. CB Will Peterson (7 tackles) played aggressively at times, but was a bit inconsistent too. Peterson was too far off of the receiver on a 3rd-and-3 pass in the first quarter that was completed easily for a first down. He made the same mistake when lined up against Frank Sanders later in the quarter. Despite the fact that Boston caught a 4th-and-4 pass against Peterson for a first down in the second quarter, I liked the aggressive way Peterson played his coverage (it was an excellent play by the receiver). Peterson later made a nice play by providing strong coverage on a pass intended for Boston on 3rd-and-18 in the 4th quarter.

SS Sam Garnes (5 tackles, 1 pass defensed) was alright. He knocked away a pass intended for Frank Sanders on the Cards’ first drive of the game. But Garnes took the wrong angle on a Thomas Jones run that picked up 12 yards – had he taken the right angle, the play would have gone for no gain. After that, Garnes was pretty solid in run defense. Garnes and Peterson were lucky that Plummer slightly overthrew Boston on a deep pass as Garnes was late to get over in time. FS Shaun Williams (3 tackles) did a good job of defending a deep pass to David Boston on the Cards’ second drive. However, Peterson and Williams got beat down the left sideline for a 20 yard reception by Boston in the third quarter.

Giants on Special Teams: God am I tired of writing how bad the Giants’ special teams are. At least Morten Andersen continued his strong year by hitting his only attempt. Rodney Williams’ punting was poor and he panicked on the play where he attempted to run for the first down. PK Owen Pochman’s kick-offs, both with and against the wind, were mediocre at best. The punt coverage unit gave up 19-yard and 39-yard returns. The Giants were fortunate that a 43-yard kick return was brought back due to a penalty. Tiki Barber muffed another punt and Ron Dixon didn’t do anything on his one return before the Cardinal kicker hurt himself.


Raising Arizona

by David Oliver

From the eternal torpor in which it finds itself is a difficult job. How would we feel if we were their fans? I am going to miss them for two reasons; it was one of the nicest trips I could make every year, and what a tonic for lame football the Cardinals provide for the Giants.

This year, the Giants have proved difficult to cover. In the words of Thomas Carlyle:

The most gifted man can observe, still more can record, only the series of his own impressions; his observations, therefore,…must be successive, while the things done were often simultaneous…Actual events are nowise so simply related to each other as parent and offspring are; every single event is the offspring not of one, but of all other events, prior or contemporaneous, and will in turn combine with all others to give birth to new; it is an ever-living, ever-working Chaos of Being, wherein shape after shape bodies itself forth from innumerable elements. And this Chaos…is what the historian will depict, and scientifically gauge, we may say, by threading it with single lines of a few (inches) in length!

Okay, okay, pretty deep stuff. A simpler version is Soren Kierkegaard’s statement,

Life is lived forward, but understood backward.

That, ladies and ladies is why you must suffer through reams of useless information from me before I will tell you of the Giants. It has been an interesting couple of weeks and my email has been busy. I have been in discussions on the nature of the game, the relationship of the Giants to our lives as fans, and the SOTI comments.

In a fall of depressing happenstances, I have spent a lot of time in this room, introspectively. I don’t actually talk to a lot of people, and although the cats and I have worked out a language, it is basically monosyllabic. They say, food, scratch, open the door. I sing to them, stroke them, watch them sleep. For a time, I thought I was in danger of oscillating on a high enough mental frequency to disappear up my own arse. Pounding the shit out of the Arab rabble has helped; and the Giants have kept me sane. Like Quixote, each week, I put my pie plate (I don’t have a barber’s dish) on my head, I board my faithful steed Roncinantes (‘96 Toyota Camry – 112,000 miles) and I ride through the countryside, fighting the giant evil (windmills) in Philly, surviving the stench of Delaware, paying bounty to the brigands of the toll routes in the forest of nothingness. And in a season of our discontent, I believe I may make it through.

So about the Carlyle and Kierkegaard statements? It seems to me that a lot of time has been spent in the corner lately discussing who is to blame, when did it start and already the Board is looking to next year. So both statements are germane. As a half-assed historian of Giants play, I can only offer you my observations, but they must be taken in a continuum as events have transpired, are transpiring and will transpire of which we have little knowledge. And events have and are transpiring which cannot be discussed openly. You may not like it, and my only comparison is this, that the NFL is akin in operations to the Company, only the oath of silence is unwritten, but break it, open yer yap, and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. BBI is lucky to have SOTI. SOTI speaks of contemporaneous events. Not in a harmful way, but by way of letting you, the fans, know what is up in parts of Giantdom. For his contributions, he gets pilloried, and pilloried by folks who pay nothing, contribute less and piss and moan about things of which they have very little knowledge. Obnoxious brats. A little aside here: my son recently came home and said his company gave the employees one of those personality-aptitude tests. He didn’t come out badly, but mentioned that his score indicated some degree of narcissism, in fact, he said everyone who took the test scored high in the narcissistic range. Most of the employees are young, so I laughed, and told him, yes, you might not like it, but this is the characteristic of your generation: the “me” generation; My opinion, My wants, MY needs. Narcissism is a term that wasn’t even on the personality profile of prior generations. Oh, we knew the term – but it was applied as code language among the aesthetes for someone who was a little, well, narcissism was too long, so the term was changed to gay. There is greatness to be harvested in this younger generation, if it learns to have a little respect to temper that narcissism.

Back to SOTI, an honorable contributor. SOTI gave you a peek into the dark corners. And it isn’t opinion. (Incidentally, several posters lately have asked who or what is SOTI. After detailed investigation, I have discovered that SOTI stands for Special Office of Technical Industry in Iraq – the Office responsible for biological and chemical warfare development – hmmm!!!) There is much happening in Giants’ land, and truth be known, if Mr. Rogers holds this thing together and actually leads this team to the playoffs, he should be “Coach of the Year”. For if there is a scintilla of truth behind the whispers, Coach Fassel is doing a hell of a job. Now, I’ll add a little to SOTI – don’t be surprised to find the Great Dayne wearing other colors next year. Not earth shattering, but just one of many things on the table, one of the whispers. Losing breeds whispers, and as always, check the source and consider the source.

Is a wholesale house cleaning in order? I think not. But if it is, then it must start with the front office. Most of the team has been savaged by the fans and the media; after all players play. But somehow the GM skates. He has made a series of blunders, has mismanaged the cap, signed people to outrageous salaries, made short term, tactical moves, with only one strategy in place, to win one Super Bowl, and yet he receives accolades while everyone around him is called inadequate. I’ll come back to this, but I think trying to replace 60% or more of an offensive line in one off season is quite foolish, especially if you go QB shopping, strip your last first round running back, change your tight ends and wave goodbye to your offensive coordinator – so although all of these are part of the whispers, I believe only some of them will actually happen.

Another aside. I have a lot of time in the car to make observations and do some thinking, and the Turnpike is a sociological goldmine. Other than the speeding jackasses who think going 85 to 90 in a Neon makes them Mario Andretti as they weave among the Sports Utes, the most noticeable thing these days is the amount of flags, bumper stickers and other patriotic decorations on our vehicles. The sociological part is that the most highly decorated machines are invariably driven by females. Also, women are big supporters of President Bush and more hawkish than males, at least that’s what some of the polls I have seen, said. So I thought about it for a while and it seems to be that the events of 911 have been taken more seriously by women, who view them as a violation. I bounced this off my wife and she almost shouted at me, “Of course, it’s a violation. Don’t you feel violated?” Well, in a sense I do, but more than that I feel shamed. There is a biological imperative here. Women, regardless of their stage of liberation, still look to men as protectors. And men, subconsciously pride themselves in that role. When our women feel violated, we feel shamed, then angry. So I don’t articulate my feelings symbolically; inwardly, however, I would take great pleasure in shoving a flagpole up ubl’s ass. Just an observation, from the road – not quite Kuraltian, but it helped to pass the time.

Which, of course, does tie into the Giants’ season. I recently was discussing the season with the father of a player. A lot of the conversation was brought about by The Corner and the reaction to SOTI. We batted around the emotional content of the discussion and some of the bads of the season, i.e., bad management, bad coaching, bad playing and bad karma. The karma part is funny to me, as I am a firm believer in Giants’ karma, good and bad. If you saw the Monday night game, Dan Fouts mentioned how much football players are tuned in to karma. The discussion turned to the need “to get a life.” And then, that father discussed the “good” of the season:

Here’s the good from this year:

The team showed tremendous support and resolve for the victims, families, volunteers, police and fire, of 911. Their tireless support, goods purchased, money donated, visible wear, and time donated, have been a tremendous show of character and dedication. The team has been an inspiration of good athletes and better human beings who show compassion for their fellow man. NO Super Bowl will ever be bigger than that.”

Thank you, Geno. Because that says a lot about the season and what these “young” men have been through. Yes, I know, the hard asses among us will answer with their showing up at the job every day and doing their thing. Yeah, yeah, yeah – and they haven’t been affected? Not so. We have all been affected, but most of us are not performers on a very visible stage; and most of us are not the idyllic personification of valor and toughness that these young footballers are.

Which leads to some other thoughts about the season and earlier conversations about following the Giants. I know, for me, the ebbs and flows of my life have been tuned to the successes and failures of the Giants. It’s not just a game. Somehow, it has become the archetype for my existential voyage through the ‘short, nasty and brutish’ travels of Hobbes. It again struck me as funny how even General Stufflebeam’s flea on a dog, ubl, in his now famous tape, referenced 911 in terms of a soccer match. The banality of it all; it brings to mind Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, through Conrad, “the horror, the horror.” It dishonors the game, but it puts it squarely before us. UBL dreams of a soccer match, while his forces are pounded into annihilation by the joystick and video game American fighter pilots. Something to think about. As my Navajo friends told me, life without bonding, the hunt, defending and celebrating, is not life for men So the game becomes larger than itself. It keeps us from becoming l’etranger, or in the words of Aldous Huxley “Eyeless in Gaza.” Camus was so full of ennui that he backed his car off the edge of a cliff just to find out what was on the other side of life. The game, football, soccer, whatever, has become for man, the palliative that keeps us sane in a world not really made for us, at least until evolution teaches us all how to speak with the affectation of Harvard Professors. The sociopaths corrupt the ritual, the sanctity. Many years ago there was a motion picture, THE TENTH VICTIM, with Marcelo Mastroianni. The sociopaths were weeded out. They were given a list of 10 names to hunt and kill – other sociopaths. If they succeeded, they would receive 1 million dollars. The rub – they were on the lists of 10 others. And if they killed an innocent, they were taken into custody and vaporized. Very interesting.

Another discussion on the email raised the question of whether I would follow the Giants if they moved, ala the baseball Giants and Dodgers. Well, the Memphis Giants do not do much for me, sad to say. I had an interest in the SF and LA teams for a short while. When the players I knew left, so did that interest. So add to the game, the locale, the Olive Tree in Thomas Friedman’s book, THE LEXUS AND THE OLIVE TREE. The Giants set my place in the universe. No matter where I go, or where I am, in my heart is the Giants and the New York Metro area, growing up, family, tradition; the Sacred and the Profane. It is the Kierkegaardian statement above. Example: I’m in the locker room talking to Dhani Jones as he struggles with the clasp on his chain. I tease him about wearing a chain and tell him that when I was a young man in Newark, chains were for fighting. He asked me a little about that and I told him of rumbles with as many as 40 of us fighting, swinging bicycle chains, car aerials, rubber hoses, bats and zip guns. He asked me if I had ever been hit by a bat and I told him, yes, I had that dubious distinction. A full swing across the chest. He asked if I felt it in the heat of battle, or did the pain come later. I told him that the pain was immediate; there was no delay when hit by a bat swung hard. I also told him about a fight I was in where I was dodging a lead pipe, but I had the knife. We grappled and fell through a plate glass window onto a showroom floor. Not a scratch on either of us and as the police sirens got near, away we went. I told him about the Aztecs, the Romans, the High Hats and the El Diablos, and how the Town Councils all banned wearing athletic jackets with gang names on them. Yet we were all Giants fans. There was never a battle on Sunday afternoons.

So I could never follow the Giants if they moved. It would be a disassociation, a broken connection, a surrender. That’s why I feel so bad for fans of the Baltimore Colts and the Cleveland Browns. Fans in Baltimore have got to feel like abused children who have grown to be molesters themselves. And they imitate art by becoming Poe’s Ravens and enjoying football “Nevermore”.

So what do these Giants of ours need? What is the glue that forges the bond of success? We like to talk about the importance of the QB, those multi-million dollar Superstars; we talk about wide receivers with speed and tight ends with hands and powerful, speedy running backs. I had a couple of experiences when I was younger which made enough of an impression on me to establish what is important on a football team. I had just started a new job and coincidentally a new Agency head came on board. He was a very recent Governor of Nebraska. Well, I had a very good friend at work. We were practically inseparable. He was a vowel from Brooklyn and we were about the same size. I weighed in at about 255; he was maybe 10 pounds lighter. Our boss was taking the Governor around for introductions, but as we were young and not important, the boss saw no reason to waste time on us. However, we were rounding a corner in the hallway one day and the boss and the Governor came around the other way, moving quickly. The boss barely acknowledged us, but the Governor whistled, stopped and called to us to hold up; then he looked us over and told the boss, “Boy, would I love to have these two for a pair of pulling guards at Big Red.” Well, we could have been a pair of pretty boys and the Governor wouldn’t have given us a second thought. But Nebraska, even then, was about football, and the Governor knew what made a team move. Not much later I was extended an invitation to work out with a team in the powerful, almost all-black industrial League in Washington. A tough brand of football with a lot of ex-black school players – the MEAC-types: Florida A&M, South Carolina State, Howard, many Big Eight players and some Big Ten guys. There weren’t many white guys in that League, but they recognized the value of a 255 guard. I was a little long of tooth, even then, so I declined, but those two incidents stuck with me. You build a successful offense with the road graders. Knowledgeable football people, who played the game, know that instinctively. Today you start with the left tackle, but if you go on the ground, you go behind the guards. It’s something the current Giant leadership seems to have forgotten.

I’m not dodging the issue. There was a game on Sunday. It was a three quarter yawner. What do you want to hear? Kerry threw the ball repeatedly at everyone’s feet. When he did elevate, pop, off it bounced, sort of like magnetic polarity at work. But there were positives. Glenn Parker and Luke Petitgout had good games, so did Lomas Brown. KC had time. He still rolled when he didn’t have to move and looked like a rookie. But on two drives, he showed that flash – the coach killer flash. He hit Dixon in stride for a score and then marched the team downfield for the winning score. He did get lucky once when he tried to force the ball into Amani in the right corner of the closed end zone, where Amani was at least double covered like a blanket, maybe triple covered. Then it struck me; here I was watching Daryl LaMonica, who when he had to “manage” a game, failed in football, but who, when given the opportunity to go vertical became a star. Kerry has no sense of game management, but like LaMonica, if he is put in a situation where he is allowed to go vertical, he will move a team. Sunday also clarified for me what JF means when he talks about “managing a game”, a term I hate because it is clinical, sanitized. But he is right: a QB today, maybe forever, has to know the game, feel the game, control the tempo. That’s what made Bart Starr great; it’s what made Joe Montana great; it made countless other, less than strong-armed QBs great. And it’s the quality for which JF is still in his search mode.

I spent a little time with Jason Whittle after the game Sunday. It was an interesting discussion, so I’m going to do it here in Q-and-A form for you:

Me: Jason, there are lot’s of rumors about line changes next year. Are you ready to step up?

JW: I definitely want to come back. Yes. I feel that I’m capable; whether the Giants want me to or whatever their plans are, I can’t control that.

Me: What’s your status?

JW: I’m RFA after this year. I like it here. I like the guys on the team; I like the guys I play with.

Me: How about the next 3 weeks. What’s the mood?

JW: We just have to go out there and play hard. People talk about playing for pride, or this, or that. We may not be in the playoffs, but it’s still football and it’s still an opportunity to go out there and play. Any time you get a chance to go out there and play a game you’ve been dreaming about playing since you were 5 years old – if you can’t get up to play football, and I don’t care what your record is, then you’ve got issues…

Me: Tell me about the game – what it means to you?

JW: The game to me is something I’ve always enjoyed. Ever since I can remember, all I’ve wanted to do is to play football – now that I’m doing it, it’ s a dream come true. It’s a physical game, you’re out there, lot of people think you go out there on Sundays and play the game, and like, the rest of the week, what do you do. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into it. We’re practicing…your body…it takes a toll on your body, but at the same time it’s well worth it.

Me: Tell me about the preparation. How many hours a day?

JW: We’re here from 7AM to 4PM. Then, usually, 30 minutes to an hour and a half watching extra film at home. Not every day. Wednesday, Thursday are the real work days. Maybe 20 years ago, in football, you didn’t have to take work home with you like now. It’s not something you can forget about. You can’t just put in your time here and then forget about it the rest of the time. You have to be constantly preparing and thinking about what you have to do for the game. The defenses don’t just line up in a 4-3 or a 3-4 and let you block them. They are constantly bringing things and you have to be prepared .

Me: Take an average play, for example, you guys are calling a Tiki sweep – he’s going left – What are your responsibilities?

JW: It depends on what defense they’re in. There are 15 different defenses they can be in?

Me: Who calls it?

JW: Pretty much the center calls if it’s an over or under, but everybody does, or most guys should, recognize, well, they might not know the coverages, but they know what the front 7 or 8 are doing, and obviously, the center calls most of it; but if he’s (my man) in a 3, which is an outside shade, you’re working by yourself, unless he slants in, then you have to work with the center. If he’s in a 1, which is an inside technique, then you’re giving a hand to the center, and you’re pulling also; there are 4 or 5 different sweeps, the toss sweep, the toss crack, the toss back crack; these 3 are run all different ways; if you’re on the backside or the bend, then you’re pulling and going. We’ve got to get that backer and if it’s the crack back, or regular crack, then you’re turning what we call a queen block. There’s a lot of stuff involved. It’s a very mental game.

Me: There has to be a lot of instinct involved?

JW: Absolutely. There are so many plays, you don’t have time to practice it all; you’ve got to get in your book; you’ve got to be prepared. In practice, there is no way you are going to get to see all the looks.

Me: Several weeks ago, during a Rams game, the commentators said that the Rams put in 30 new plays a week. How many plays a week do you guys practice?

JW: We usually have in about 20 different types of runs and 25 or 30 different passes. They’re not all new; there are adjustments on each play. Each week on Wednesdays, we install the basic offense, the basic run and pass plays; on Thursdays we install the nickel packages, the third downs and anytime we’re in 11 personnel or 200, we install that; the short yardage and goal line on Friday, oh, yeah, there are another 12 to 15 plays there.

Me: Tell me a little about the difference in blocking for Tiki and Dayne?

JW: Tiki is obviously a little quicker. Ron seems to cut it back a little more, he’s more of a pounding back. Ron needs to get the ball 20-25 times a game to get himself going. He’s a big, bruising back; that’s his running style. Tiki, he pops it, he runs really hard. Tiki is an all around great back and Ron will be, too, when his time comes.

Me: How about the hurry up offense? Are there differences in assignments?

JW: Lots of differences. We’re in a whole different blocking system. We’re not identifying the Mike, we’re identifying someone else. It’s something that we work on a lot and it’s something our offense seems to do well. Ever since I’ve been here, our offense seems to move the ball well in hurry up, and some of that is the way the defense plays you. Obviously, when you’re in a two minute situation, the defense is in more of a prevent, and we seem to play better like that.

Dan Campbell expressed very similar thoughts to me. He told me he felt like as if he had “arrived”. He told me, “I’m pretty confident in my abilities now in the passing and the running game. I just want to do whatever I can to help this team, to help us win.” I teased him about catching that kickoff and he laughed and said, “Yeah, what was everybody saying, he’s gonna drop it?” I told him it happened to fast for anyone to react like that but I wanted to know if he was going to ask for some time running back kicks.

I also talked to Kevin Lewis about the erratic special teams and he told me that they worked hard, you have to work hard on specials because it’s all aggression. He told me sometimes the adrenalin kicks in and a player over-commits. He said they were all frustrated because it’s a different break down every week.

Finally, I had a few minutes alone with Coach Payton. I asked him why the team did so well in the two minute offense and he corrected me by telling me “that wasn’t a 2 minute drill.” So I went Q-and-A with him:

Me: Okay, so it’s a little time left drill?

Coach: We were huddling, we stayed in our base, but we got close to using it as a 2 minute drill. We stayed in our base, huddling and under center. We had two time outs and we were fortunate. Not having those two time outs, we would have been in a two minutes.

Me: Tell me about the defense. It didn’t look as if the Cards went prevent?

Coach: What they did is they played coverage. They sat in a shell, or cover 4, and kind of kept it in front of them. There wasn’t a lot of tight bump and run, and we made some plays. We completed a slant, we hit Hilliard on an inside seam, Tiki broke a run and we hit Tiki again under coverage and in the end, the guys we wanted to see make plays did that for us. It was good to see Amani come back after the first half, where he had struggled a little. They stayed in a similar coverage scheme of 4 deep, which is what they do, and they gave us one pressure. We went to a no back snap once and we got blitzed and threw to Hilliard hot. When you look at film with the team, it’s pretty much what they like to do; they’ll pressure you a little bit, then stay in coverage, so technically, it was a 7 man box with a 2 deep shell.

Me: You have almost two full seasons behind you. Do you feel you have learned a lot?

Coach: Certainly have learned a lot. I think the challenges are every thing that the sport creates; the challenges are certainly not when you’re winning, but when you’re losing. Getting up at 5AM, being in here and working until midnight; it’s hard to do and it’s challenging. Today it was good to see it finally come through, even though it didn’t go the way we wanted. There are a lot of things that we’ve got to correct, and at the same time, it was good to see, in the end, our guys contribute. I don’t know if that happened a year ago, where we came back to win a game. As a coordinator, I feel more experienced by having learned a lot more and all the things that have to be done the right way. The fine line between winning on offense and not winning and our players are starting to see some of that now. You can’t drop the ball, you can’t miss an assignment, you’ve got to get the right read, and all those things; those are things that we’ve got to do to be efficient, and when we do that we’ll be fine.

Me: Are the players responding?

Coach: I think so. When you put it in their laps, it’s still Tiki making a play, it’s still Amani making a play. It’s easy to take a guy out, but in the end, those are the guys that won for us a year ago. And they realize that you just can’t roll out there; you’ve got to make some plays. Last year everyone was hungry, everyone was excited about the direction we were heading and if you think the rest of these teams are just sitting around waiting for you to do it again; well, you’ve got to keep that hunger and that energy about what you do and your livelihood. This stuff is what we do.

Me: Are you ready for the next level?

Coach: That’s a good question. This might not be the answer you want. I think I have a great job right now with the NY Giants. We’re in the midst of building a new house out there in Wayne. I think the ownership here, the Head Coach have been awesome to me. I haven’t actually gone out and looked at any other job. My job is to beat Seattle and next week it’s going to be beat Philly. I don’t have time to read an article, or get on the internet, or do any of that stuff. Last year, when some of that came up, I emphasized that when the season ends and all that stuff arises, that’s fine, but I’ve never been a big scoop guy and I’m probably a little bit more of a hermit than I am a guy that gets out there and knows exactly what’s going on. I’m happy right now with what I’m doing. Certainly, I want to be happier. We need to improve and our guys know this.

Me: Are you in a positive mood about Seattle?

Coach: I think so. We’ve got a great roll of film to put on. If we play like we did in that last drive, there’s no reason why we can’t pick up a little of where we left off a year ago. We’re not going to be able to stroll on out there and let it happen. We’re playing against another good football team. In the end, there are about 3 or 4 teams in this League who are good enough to play bad and win; there are 3 or 4 teams that if they play well, they still might not win; there are about 20 teams that have to play well or they won’t win. We have to play well.

All year there have been undertones of under-performance. No one will point fingers, no player is being called out; but it’s there. The players have discussed it, now the coaches are pretty open about it. In the corporate world that often leads to change. We have been forewarned that we might see such change. I just hope the tree is pruned correctly.

The game itself was a microcosm of the Giants year. Botched plays, a team putting out effort, but without a rudder. A racehorse burst of offense, which covered up one defensive flub. The Cardinals had an overwhelming advantage of time of possession, so they should have won going away. What happened? Well, the Giants defense, led by the linebacking corps, stopped them. Imagine, 39 tackles by linebackers. But the film will also show this: Tiki – 85 yards rushing; Tiki, 5 receptions for 35 yards. Ike had 4-for-41 total yards with a long of 14, but a critical one and Amani only 3-for-32, with the TD. Dixon had a nice 26 yard TD reception.

The Giants had 11 possessions, the longest being 3:39, the final TD drive. The game was difficult to watch, difficult to photograph because a lot of the play was in the middle of the field, and a lot was scrum action. I concentrated on the line play, and the line held it’s own against a pretty weak defense.

But, for me, this is the playoffs. The Giants are playing every game in sudden death mode. One loss and it’s shut down time. Each week’s win keeps hope alive. I just don’t want to be sitting there at the end of the Packers game, watching some other two teams play, hoping one loses, so the Giants can get another week. This is lemonade time, enjoy it.

Christmas is coming up. Eric will be partying through the Holidays, so I won’t get a report up Monday (as if I ever do). But I want to wish you all, whatever your religion, whatever you celebrate, Peace and Joy. This is a tough time for a lot of folks. Already last week, there was a suicide of a spouse who lost her husband in the Towers. If you know someone with such a loss, reach out. If you are someone with such a loss and you need help, just come on in – we will find a way to help. If you need to talk to someone, one-on-one, I’ m here for you. If you are in the D.C. area and you need a hug, I’ll come (except for you Joey – you can call, but no hugs). Don’t be alone. You are among friends. Go Giants. Amen.

(Box Score – Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants, December 15, 2001)
Dec 132001
 

Approach to the Game – Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants, December 15, 2001: Who the heck would have thought the Giants would be out of the playoff hunt with a quarter of the season left to play? Especially, when you consider the division they play in? Six losses in eight games? Give me a break. NFC champs to chumps.

The situation makes writing a meaningful game preview pretty difficult. Who cares about the match-ups or game strategy? Hopefully, the Giants’ players will realize that they are playing for their jobs (read salary) and that they owe their fans more than they have delivered this year. At the very least, they will play hard simply to avoid being any more of an embarrassment.

I don’t care what Jim Fassel says about not thinking about next year. He has to and he has to use these last four games to get a head start on the rebuilding process. If he doesn’t, then he is wasting valuable time. That doesn’t mean throw Jesse Palmer to the wolves, but it does mean using the time to get more concrete player evaluations. What would be great is if the Giants could finally blow out one or two teams down the stretch here and get some of their back-ups in the game, particularly on the offensive and defensive lines. Giving the ball to Ron Dayne 20+ times would be great too.

Approach on Offense: If QB Kerry Collins is not on the hot seat with this franchise, then the team is being run by a bunch of morons. That is not to say that Collins should solely be judged on his performance this year, but if continues to regress in terms of his decision-making ability, accuracy, and poise, then the Giants have to go into the off-season finding suitable competition at the very least. The problem is that even if Kerry shines downs the stretch, what difference does it make? The pressure to get this team to the playoffs if off him now.

With WR Joe Jurevicius (hamstring) possibly out another game, the Giants need to use this time to get a better read on WR Ron Dixon. They know what they have in Thabiti Davis. I’d also like to see them take some shots down the middle of the field to TE Dan Campbell or TE Marcellus Rivers.

This brings us to the running game. When the playoffs were still a possibility, I said feed the ball to Tiki Barber. Now with playoff chances virtually gone, it’s time to give Ron Dayne the work. The Giants can ill-afford to have (1) Ron Dayne sulking into the offseason again and (2) not know how productive he can be if you feed him the ball. However, with the playoffs still a remote possibility, I bet you Fassel goes with the more productive player at this point until their playoff chances are officially dead.

I think it is pretty much a foregone conclusion that Lomas Brown and Glenn Parker are gone. Why not give Jason Whittle some work? It would also be interesting to get a better read on Chris Bober at tackle – though that might be pushing it. RG Ron Stone is probably still auditioning for a contract offer from the Giants.

Giants on Defense: What I’m hoping to see down the stretch is more pass rush productivity from DE Kenny Holmes and DT Cornelius Griffin. If you ask me, that is the key to the defense next year. It would be great for the Giants to get a comfortable lead and for them to give DE Cedric Scott, DT Lance Legree, and DT Ross Kolodziej some snaps. The biggest thing fans have left to cheer for is DE Michael Strahan’s pursuit of the sack record and DT Keith Hamilton’s toughness.

Jessie Armstead is another player on a hot seat. In the Giants’ system (as is usually the case throughout the league), the strongside linebacker (Brandon Short) is called upon to do the dirty work and the weakside linebacker (Jessie Armstead) is supposed to be the play-maker. You can probably count on one hand the great plays Jessie has made all year. If he continues to slump down the stretch, I can’t see how the Giants can justify keeping him. Want to watch a real football player? Besides Strahan and Hamilton, keep your eyes on MLB Mike Barrow. He’s a joy to watch. Again, it would be nice to see some of the back-ups such as Dhani Jones. Does Jack Golden have a future with this team?

I’m just not as bothered by the play of the secondary as some. The rookie corners will be fine and Jason Sehorn is hurting. Shaun Williams is in a temporary slump.

Giants on Special Teams: Nothing special here. I dread the snap of the ball before every special teams play.

Dec 122001
 
Dallas Cowboys 20 – New York Giants 13

Game Overview: What is going on? How can the Giants be in the Super Bowl one year and be fighting to stay out of last place in the NFC East just one year later with virtually the same roster? Instead of reviewing the unit-by-unit breakdowns again (something that would sound like a broken record in any event), I want to use the review this week to address the various interrelated factors that have contributed to the Giants’ demise in 2001. Please note the word INTERRELATED. There is no easy scapegoat to pick on here. It’s not just the coaching, the injuries, the schedule, or the players – but a combination. Let’s break down our analysis into the following compartments: coaching, talent evaluation, injuries, players and 2001-specific factors.

COACHING:

Jim Fassel is not a bad coach. He’s not a great coach, but he’s not a bad coach. Bad coaches don’t win two division titles, a conference championship, and a “Coach of the Year” award in their first four seasons. Fassel’s assets are that he is very intelligent, analytical, organized, hard-working, and somewhat open-minded. Many coaches do not have the latter asset as most are stubborn to the core. Fassel’s players like him and continue to play hard for him. Fassel’s major con is that he is a good guy and his players know it. They don’t really fear him and thus his threats to punish are most likely not taken that seriously. But before you start yelling for firing Fassel and hiring a guy who will instill fear, note that those kind of guys are difficult to find. With ever growing player salaries/bonuses, the salary cap, and free agency, players have more leverage vis a vis the head coach than they ever had. Once a player signs a big contract, it becomes more and more difficult to motivate him – it’s simply human nature. Unless a coach has a special aura about him such as a Bill Parcells, selecting any new coach is a crap shoot. Fire Fassel and you could get lucky and find another Bill Cowher. But you could also land a Bruce Coslett. Personally, I wish Fassel had more of a kick-butt personality about him in spirit of a Jon Gruden as I think players will reflect the nature of their head coach. But unfortunately, that’s not Jim’s nature.

Fassel’s biggest coaching problem this year has been Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton. Payton, you will remember, was elevated to the offensive coordinator position when it became obvious that Fassel was having difficulty calling plays and managing the game at the same time. To his credit, Fassel admitted to the inadequacy and promoted Payton. At the start, Payton shined. His game-plan against the Jets in 1999 was what I thought his blueprint in New York would be – a heavy dose of a feature back (in that game, Joe Montgomery carried the ball 38 times) and a lot of play-action. The Giants put up 41 points that day. There was a continued emphasis on the running game in 2000 – although the approach became a running back-by-committee one. For some reason, Sean has gotten away from the run this year. And he has continued the annoying trend started last season of inserting and removing Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne throughout a contest rather than letting one of these two get into the flow of the game. Sean ought to pull out the game tape of the 1999 Jets game again and take a look at how a commitment to a ground attack with one feature running back will open things up in the passing game. One gets the sense that the aerial fireworks against the Vikings in the playoffs encouraged Payton to turn this offense into something it can’t be. The quarterback and receivers are simply not that good. Also, for some reason, bread-and-butter plays that worked so well from last year such as the slant have been called less and less.

The work of Defensive Coordinator John Fox has been sabotaged a bit by injuries (Keith Hamilton, Jessie Armstead, Cornelius Griffin, Jason Sehorn) and inexperience (Will Allen, Will Peterson, Brandon Short). But Fox doesn’t seem to be as innovative or aggressive as he has been in the past.

Special teams is a disaster and I simply refuse to believe that it is merely a result of a lack of talent (though that undoubtably is part of it). The trouble started in 1997 when Fassel hired Larry MacDuff – an old friend of his who was the defensive coordinator at the University of Arizona. MacDuff was an uninspiring coach who frequently lost the attention of players in meetings. The last time MacDuff coached special teams prior to coming to the Giants was for the University of Hawaii in the early 1980’s. Hello, can we please find someone with some recent experience please??? Fassel then made the same mistake again by hiring Fred von Appen – a defensive line coach fired by the Vikings who last coached special teams in the 1980’s. Special teams win and lose football games. The Giants have not improved at all in this department and it has cost the Giants many games.

TALENT EVALUATION:

In some ways here the Giants are a victim of circumstance, but the Giants have really screwed up in the draft in recent years with respect to the running back position. It started in 1999 when the Giants spent two premium choices (a 2nd and a 4th) on what would become two injury-prone running backs. One (Sean Bennett) has already been cut, the other (Joe Montgomery) probably doesn’t have much of a future with the team. The Giants drafted Tiki Barber in 1997 in the second round, but after three so-so seasons, the team felt it needed to draft a feature back with the 11th pick in the 2000 draft, Ron Dayne. However, as fate would have it, Tiki had a breakout year that same year and Dayne was relegated to the status of co-starter. However, in both 2000 and 2001, Dayne became less of a co-starter and more of a high-priced, first round back-up as the season progressed. If the Giants had to do it all over again, in hindsight, DE John Abraham would have made much more sense.

Blowing the 2nd and 4th picks in 1999 was a disaster. But there have been other mistakes. What the heck did the Giants see in PK John Markham (2001 5th rounder)? WR Ron Dixon (2000 3rd rounder) has been a huge disappointment. FS Shaun Williams and WR Joe Jurevicius are the only players on the team from the 1998 draft. WR Ike Hilliard, Barber, and SS Sam Garnes are the only players left from the 1997 draft. Not enough talent coming in – especially SPECIAL talent. With all the high draft picks the Giants have spent on their offense in the 1990’s, you would expect someone to standout. The Giants continue to lack a legitimate deep threat wide receiver and a receiving-type tight end to threaten the middle of the field. Tiki Barber can’t do it alone.

Free agency? The Giants have also overrated and overpaid CB Jason Sehorn – an injury-prone corner who occasionally makes spectacular plays, but who has never been to the Pro Bowl (for good reason). Jason was great in the two playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl, but terrible in The Game itself. He started off 2001 strong, but has struggled of late (possibly due to his injury). They overpaid SS Sam Garnes in 2000 by giving him a big, four-year contract. Garnes is a decent player, but he rarely makes any plays. The Giants made the same mistake with Corey Widmer in 1999. DE Kenny Holmes has been an upgrade over DE Cedric Jones and he is getting better, but he has not provided the pass rush that was expected of him. Kenny was another expensive investment. They gave QB Kerry Collins too much money too back in 1999.

The biggest gamble of all was to hope that LT Lomas Brown and LG Glenn Parker had another good year each left in them. The Giants lost that gamble. Both have been inconsistent and injury-prone. Not surprising given their age. No credible alternatives were made available either via the draft or free agency.

To be fair, no team can address all their needs in a single off-season, and with the Giants desperate to shore up the cornerback position, they had little ammo to address all these areas in the 2001 draft.

INJURIES:

The Giants have been lucky in that they have not lost any significant player to a season-ending injury, but the injuries have been a major factor to a team that was relatively injury-free in 2000. It all started in the preseason when WR Ike Hilliard procrastinated regarding his foot injury and the ensuing surgery cost him all of training camp and the preseason. Ike missed early regular season games and he still isn’t healthy. Joe Montgomery and Sean Bennett were lost before the preseason (and the Giants had plans for Bennett in particular). Then came the hand injury to Tiki Barber that kept him out of the entire preseason; a subsequent hamstring injury cost him regular season playing time including the decisive game against the Rams. DT Keith Hamilton originally dislocated his shoulder in the Rams game – his healthy body was missed in that game as well as the subsequent 1-point loss against the Eagles the following week. He hasn’t been completely healthy since. CB Jason Sehorn’s knee has been causing him problems since before the regular season started. He most likely will need follow-up surgery in the offseason. WLB Jessie Armstead is slowing down with age, but a hamstring tear exacerbated problems much of the year. DT Cornelius Griffin and DE Kenny Holmes have been nicked up much of the year as has been LT Lomas Brown, RG Ron Stone, and LG Glenn Parker.

PLAYERS:

Some of this has to do with the aforementioned injuries, but a number of players have not performed as well as expected in 2001:

  • Quarterback: Kerry Collins is the chief culprit. It may be that he is having a down year. Worse, last year may have been his best year. Or possibly, the beating he took in the Super Bowl has indeed wrecked his confidence. Whatever the reason, Collins has not been sharp and when one’s quarterback is not sharp, the ENTIRE offense will suffer. Collins has been too jumpy in the pocket, often without cause; he has fumbled the ball way too much; his accuracy is off; he is making too many bad decisions such as throwing the ball into coverage; and he is not making many plays down the field. Yes, he is still better than Dave Brown, Danny Kanell, and Kent Graham, but that is not saying much. The Giants have to be VERY CAREFUL with Collins in terms of his contract situation. If 2001 is simply a down year for him due to a variety of factors, then letting him go would be a mistake. At the same time, Collins may never be better than he is right now and I would not recommend signing him to a long-term extension. Simply put, Collins has shown a tendency to not to respond to pressure well and he isn’t very tough. He is also VERY inconsistent. These are three negative characteristics one doesn’t often see in a Championship-caliber quarterback. Too many teams think if you force Collins to beat you, he can’t do it. More often than not, they have been right. Jesse Palmer may be an option, but more competition is needed.
  • Offensive Line: Not far behind Collins is the offensive line. LT Lomas Brown and LG Glenn Parker are at the end. Both have worn down and are inconsistent. The Giants need a whole new left side of the line. Luke Petitgout has been up-and-down in 2001 but he is a fine player with a bright future. I’m not sure he can handle left tackle, but if he can, that would be ideal. This would allow: (1) the Giants to have a left tackle who can run block (as Petitgout is a good run blocker), and (2) draft or sign as a free agent the much easier-to-obtain right tackle. For the latter, I’d prefer a huge mauler. Ron Stone will be an interesting case to watch. He will be a free agent, but he has had such an inconsistent year that his asking price may have dropped into the Giants’ ballpark. However, at the same time, he still may feel slighted by the organization and depart regardless. The Giants are set at center with Dusty Zeigler. So, depending on what happens with Stone, the Giants may need two or three new starters on the offensive line in 2002. That’s asking a lot. Whether Jason Whittle, Mike Rosenthal, or Rich Seubert can help out at guard is a matter open for debate. I doubt Chris Bober is the kind of guy you want starting at tackle. The Giants’ need to pick a style – finesse or power – and acquire players accordingly. No more mix and match.
  • Wide Receiver: Amani Toomer has been a huge disappointment in my book. Yes, he has a shot at his third consecutive 1,000-yard season, but I expected more fireworks from him, not just ordinary plays. Remember his first game of the season against Denver – the two TD performance (including the long TD pass)? I thought we would see much more of that. Perhaps the problem is Collins, but for whatever reason, Toomer has not made much of impact this year. Like Collins, let’s hope it is just a down year for him. Ike Hilliard has made some big plays, but like Toomer, he is no consistent deep threat. His hands remain inconsistent, but whatever quarterback throws to him, loves him. He has a knack for getting open. Joe Jurevicius finally flashed some this year, but he really doesn’t scare people. Ron Dixon appears to be yet another super-talented, brain-dead wide receiver draft high by the Giants in the mold of Thomas Lewis and Brian Alford. The Giants desperately need to find a consistent deep threat who can contend for starting playing time. That means finding someone who can understand the playbook, run routes, and catch the damn ball. No one here scares anyone and no one makes the spectacular play.
  • Tight End: The good news is that Dan Campbell has shown enough to take away Howard Cross’ job. Howard won’t be back in 2002. Dan will never be a big receiving threat, but he is developing into a good blocker and he can catch the ball every now and then. What the Giants need is a quality receiving-type to compliment him. It is questionable whether Marcellus Rivers or Taman Bryant can become that guy, so the Giants need to add more competition. The lack of a tight end receiving threat over the middle is not keeping opposing safeties honest.
  • Running Backs: If Ron Dayne is not going to be a bust, the Giants must use him like the Steelers use Jerome Bettis. That means giving him a good run-blocking line and giving him the ball 20 times a game. If they don’t do this, then he was a wasted draft pick. The problem is that Tiki Barber, right now, is the more dangerous player. The one thing I’m sure of is that Jim Fassel and Sean Payton need to get a better feel for using the ground attack or Fassel has to replace Payton. No more of this constant changing of the backs during a drive. If Dayne picks up a first down on two carries, don’t then bring in Tiki Barber. Keep feeding Dayne. The reverse is also true. Situational substitution is one thing, but Fassel and Payton take it too far.
  • Defensive Line: Michael Strahan had the type of year that I never thought he was capable of and I’m a long-time fan. It’s a shame that it was wasted. He is the best two-way defensive end in the game. DE Kenny Holmes was slowed by injury early and has had problems adjusting to Defensive Coordinator John Fox’s defensive line techniques. Kenny has improved as the season has progressed, but he has not supplied the pass rush that was hoped from him. He will be given another chance in 2002. DT Cornelius Griffin was hampered by a painful ankle injury, but also learned that playing the run is a lot harder than rushing the passer. Surprisingly, however, his pass rush has also been lacking. Griffin is a hard worker and I think he will impress next year. Keith Hamilton is a stud – his only problem this year was he played most of the season with a shoulder that kept popping out of joint. Depth is somewhat of a concern though I was much more impressed with Lance Legree and Ross Kolodziej than I ever was with Ryan Hale as a rookie. The Giants do need another outside pass rusher to spell the two starters and push Holmes. The biggest disappointment here was the lack of a pass rush from Griffin and Holmes…how they respond in 2002 will be critical.
  • Linebackers: Mike Barrow had a great year and is probably worthy of Pro Bowl recognition. He can play the run, blitz, and cover. Brandon Short is an upgrade over Ryan Phillips. While he made some mistakes due to his inexperience, he has a bright future as a steady guy on the strongside. The big concern is the decline of Jessie Armstead. We all knew it was coming, but most of us didn’t think it would come this fast. Most damning is the fact that this all happened when Jessie was trying to improve his contract situation. Undoubtably, his torn hamstring was a factor, but Jessie was unproductive throughout the preseason and early regular season as well. The Giants face a real tough decision here. Armstead is a very popular leader on the team. At the same time, his high salary cap figure in 2002 must make him potential salary cap victim. As for the back-ups, Dhani Jones shows some potential but Jack Golden didn’t look sharp in the preseason. The Giants need to add some bodies here.
  • Defensive Backs: I’m not as concerned as most about this unit. I think they are merely in a slump. CB Jason Sehorn’s play is being affected by his knee. At times, the damn thing locks up on him and he can’t even bend it. While I hate his style of play (too soft), he can shut down any opposing receiver when he is on his game. To write him off just yet after he signed a big contract is probably not wise. The rookie corners Will Allen and Will Peterson actually played better than I anticipated. I thought it would be mid-season at least before either started – both got in there on opening day. While they have had some rough moments, they have the athletic ability and attitude to succeed for a long time. FS Shaun Williams was having a Pro Bowl year until the Minnesota game. He’s struggled since then. Some of it has not been solely his fault as he has simply tried too hard to help out other breakdowns in coverage. SS Sam Garnes is steady, but rarely makes any plays. Could the Giants do better? Sure, but they could do a lot worse. The Giants have more important needs to address than the secondary.
  • Special Teams: Rodney Williams could become outstanding if he develops his consistency. Morten Andersen probably won’t be back unless Owen Pochman really disappoints. Unless Ron Dixon turns his game around, the Giants need to find a viable, dangerous kick returner. The biggest problem on special teams seems to be the coaching.

2001-SPECIFIC FACTORS: There are a few factors that when combined with everything else mentioned above have conspired to work against the Giants. These include:

  • Opening the season on the road in Denver in the inaugural game of their new ballpark with all their heros from the past on hand. Denver played their best game of the season in an atmosphere similar to the Giants’ NFC Championship Game a few months before. Starting off 0-1 did not help.
  • The tragedy of September 11th. I am not as willing as some to say that this was a big factor in the Giants’ decline. After all, the Giants won their next three games after the tragedy. However, being so close to the events and dealing with the human aftermath on a charitable level had to be emotionally-draining as well as focus-taxing.
  • The two back-to-back one-point losses to the Rams and Eagles. I know blaming officials is the defense of the weak, but the officials stole the Rams game from the Giants. The Giants dominated the Eagles until late in the game and then lost. If the Giants win both these games, their confidence is soaring and they are on their way to an easy NFC East title. But they lost and in the process lost some of that all-important swagger and confidence. If the Giants score two more points in each game, they are 5-1 instead of 3-3.
  • Then came the one thing that teams that are success one year often fall victim to the following year – they underestimated the competition. The Giants went into the games against the Redskins and Vikings taking their competition too lightly. The Redskins’ players said the Giants did so in both games that they played and we know from SOTI that the Giants did so against the Vikings. Only two or three teams in this league are good enough to go into a game taking the opposition lightly and expect to win. The Giants are not one of them. Confidence begins to really sag as bewilderment grows. The Giants feel snake-bit – but they brought it upon themselves.
  • This touches upon the real root of the matter. It’s the classic Super Bowl letdown syndrome. No matter how much coaches preach to the players, players forget the fact that they had to fight tooth and nail just to get to The Game the previous year. There are no automatic invitations. The Giants practiced and played hard, but they just weren’t quite as hungry. The schedule was tougher too. The Giants did not dominate in 2000. They were a good team that got on a hot roll. It wasn’t a fluke as some suggest. They played better in the NFC down the stretch than any other team in the conference. Therefore, they deserved to go to the Super Bowl more than any other NFC team. Now you may see that as an indictment on the NFC, but it is the truth. The 2001 Giants became a mediocre team because key elements of the team (quarterback, offensive line, secondary) did not play as well as in 2000 and the schedule got tougher. The team never got on a roll. Parity reigns supreme in the NFL and if a team plays well one year has a number of players who don’t perform as well the following year, then that team will fall back to the middle of the pack fairly quickly. That’s why the number of “surprise” and “disappointing” teams each year continues to grow. The old NFL is officially dead. Now we have a free-for-all where any team with decent talent has a shot if they get on a hot, injury-free roll.

Those who completely blame the coaching are blind to the fact that the players on the team are not superior. Those who completely blame the players are blind to the fact that the coaching is not superior. Those who completely ignore the responsibility of management are fooling themselves – talent wins football games. Injuries are a factor in every season and so are the odd bounces that occur each year that cumulatively turn close games into a special season or a disappointing letdown.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, December 9, 2001)
Dec 072001
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, December 9, 2001: This is when the football season really gets exciting and nerve-wracking. For Giants’ fans, there have been both bad and good memories. The disappointing late season defeats in 1984, 1985, 1988, and 1993 that cost division titles. The three straight losses at the end of the season in 1999 that prevented any chance at a playoff spot. Then there were the winning streaks in 1994 (six game winning streak) and 1998 (four game winning streak) that came too late to be of any help. The good came in 1986, 1989, 1990, 1997, and 2000 with important wins and winning streaks down the stretch. How will the 2001 Giants respond? Will there be pleasant memories in the final five games that wash away earlier results or will there be a continuation of heart-break?

The Giants do not control their own destiny, but they will if Philadelphia loses another game. The NFC East title is still very much up for grabs and there is absolutely no reason in the world why the Giants don’t have as good a shot or better than at any than the Eagles or Redskins. Now is the time for heros to step up and make some plays. Leave us with some great memories Giants.

Giants on Offense: I think Head Coach Jim Fassel said it best this week at his press conference:

I don’t care how many yards we rush for or how many we throw for, it’s points. We could look real pretty and not win the trophy at the dance. I want the ball in the end zone. I would rather have 120 yards and score 30 points. I don’t care if they come from kickoff returns, punt returns, fumbles on the one-yard line. We need points.

That’s what it comes down to – getting the ball into the end zone. It doesn’t have to be pretty. The good news is that HB Tiki Barber is healthy and coming on. The offensive line is blocking for the run better now too. It’s time to back to old school Giants football and grind it out. Ron Dayne will have to wait another year because the Giants are desperate and it is time for their best player to get as many touches as possible.

But Tiki Barber needs helps too. It’s all interconnected. Two guys who have had disappointing seasons who could prove to be a huge factor down the stretch are QB Kerry Collins and WR Amani Toomer. But for these two to deliver, the offensive line has to give them time in pass protection. Dallas is undersized up front, but quick up front. The last time these two teams met, the Giants had some problems in pass protection with LT Lomas Brown and RG Ron Stone struggling in particular on a few plays. The run blocking was stronger. Dallas will probably load up against the run and dare the Giants to beat them with the pass. They will fondly remember Kerry Collins’ two interceptions returned for touchdowns and hope that it happens again. They probably don’t have a lot of respect for the guy. That’s why Collins and Toomer have to come through. Aside from SS Darren Woodson, the Dallas secondary is not a real strong unit so there are no excuses for not making plays. With Joe Jurevicius (hamstring) possibly not playing, Ron Dixon may finally get his chance to make some plays in the passing game. But if he drops a ball or runs a wrong route, expect to see Thabiti Davis in the game. Fassel’s patience with Dixon is running out.

I wouldn’t throw the ball much in the direction of WLB Dexter Coakley. He runs so well that he’s looks like another defensive back out there. Remember how he jumped on that pass intended for Dan Campbell? If Dallas is smart, they keep him on Barber. It will be interesting to see if impressive rookie linebacker Marcus Steele (knee) can play or not. If he can’t, Jamal Brooks starts and the Giants might be able to take advantage of that. A big match-up will be whether or not FB Greg Comella or one of the offensive linemen can get out and effectively block MLB Dat Nguyen – a small, but instinctive and productive player.

The key is Collins. If he plays well, the Giants will win. If he doesn’t, they will struggle. It’s that simple. But the Giants’ coaches have to put him in a good position to be effective. “(The Giants are) so Jekyll and Hyde, they’re hard to figure,” Cowboys SS Darren Woodson says. “They’ll come out and open it up…sometimes against a team that doesn’t stop the run that well. I think they put their quarterback in bad situations at times.”

Giants on Defense: Stop the run and prevent big plays in the passing game and the Giants should be able to largely control the Dallas offense. Obviously, it all starts up front and making sure HB Emmitt Smith doesn’t get rolling like he did last week against the Redskins. Keep the Cowboys and in long yardage situations and make it difficult for rookie QB Quincy Carter. Carter can look absolutely horrible at times and then make a great play. What is scary about him is the unpredictable. I remember watching the Cowboys in the preseason and seeing him run some devastating option plays. He’s fast, fluid, and elusive in the open field. The defenders who get near him need to stick to the basics when attempting to tackle him.

Where the Giants really need to stop the bleeding is in the secondary. The bad news is that Dallas has a couple of speed demons in wide receivers Joey Galloway and Rocket Ismail. The good news is that while Will Allen is a rookie, his style of play matches up fairly well with these two who like to run deep. That said, also keep in mind that Galloway badly burned Allen in the last game and he was yanked in favor of Will Peterson. Jason Sehorn will most likely stay with Ismail again so the Allen-Galloway match-up is huge.

Once again, the Giants will face a very large and very physical Dallas offensive line. How well the smaller Giants play with proper technique and passion will largely determine the fate of the game. DT Keith Hamilton (shoulder/chest) will be back, but it is difficult to say how long and how effective he will be against All Pro LG Larry Allen. DE Kenny Holmes will have to use his superior athleticism against huge LT Flozell “the Hotel” Adams. DT Cornelius Griffin should fair well against RG Kelvin Garman. DE Michael Strahan faces RT Solomon Page. Dallas would also like to rotate in some of their back-up linemen at some point as they are looking to evaluate their talent before the season is over.

These battles up front will be decisive in the battle to stop Smith from being effective. The Giants also must be wary of third-down back Michael Wiley who continues to make big plays for Dallas. Troy Hambrick is a factor at both fullback and tailback. The linebackers need to keep an eye on TE Jackie Harris in the passing game – he hurt the Giants with a couple of big catches against Brandon Short a few weeks ago.

Giants on Special Teams: Reggie Swinton is a very dangerous punt and kick returner. As a matter of fact, he leads the league with a 15.5 punt return average. Keep in mind that the Giants were able to block a punt the last time they faced the Cowboys. The Giants need Tiki Barber to break a punt return.