2002 New York Giants Mid-Season Review – Bye Week Blues
By BigBlueInteractive.com Reporter/Photographer David Oliver
Well, here we are, 7 weeks into the season, and for the first time in many years I haven’t attended one game, of any sort. I have watched too many on television, when I wasn’t working on the weekends, so I have a pretty good idea of what is happening throughout the League, at least from the Generalissimo Armchair’s perspective. Twenty or so years ago, when I had that luxury, it was a sort of numbing chill that came over me at this time of the year. Dad would send me the STAR-Ledger, I would scour sources for an AP report, but the deflation, or happiness was a solitary thing. As more NYC émigrés moved into the Washington area, it became more of a shared joy and sorrow, but by then, it was the era of LT, Simms and Parcells, so Mondays were considerably more joyful, if not less angst filled by the tendency to eke out wins.
This year, I have had the experience of being an outsider, connected by the tether of BBI to Giants wins and losses. The outcry of pain following the loss to the Cardinals was cacophonous, reminding me of the old days. Then the frustration of losing to the Falcons. And the counterbalance of all those wagging a finger and toot-tooting that we were only three plays away from being 5-and-1. Of course every team in the League, save the Bengals, Jets and Texans have that same claim.
So I feel like Nastasia Kinski in that Roman Polanski movie where she is in a breakdown state and as she moves down a hallway hands are reaching out trying to grab her and push her. It was a psychotic movie and BBI on Mondays is similar. The hands scream, Barber, no Dayne, Tim Carter, no Daryl Jones, either one, Amani is the best, what happened to Shockey?, why can’t this line block?, should Sehorn be playing?, should he be a safety?, Stoutmire is good, Stoutmire is terrible, who’s manning the front line?, what defense do the Giants play? – AAAAAAgggggHHHHH!
All this while, I have been swallowing pills like a junky, one infection of unknown origins after another. My leg swelled out at the thigh and erupted in the nastiest infection this side of Spawn’s face, the throat, the arms and other places. And through it all I worked 3 out of 4 weekends in 90 degree heat, reaching deep, deep into my inner reserves trying to figure out this photo thing, stripping everything from the past, and renewing. The denouement came on back to back weekends in Miami and outside of Atlanta. Three races on one weekend in Miami, hot, tired, on Sunday night I am walking back to my hotel, sweaty, dirty, leg swollen, lugging too much equipment, when I bump into a colleague strolling down the street, Churchill in hand. The lights are going out quickly and he sees me and says, “Dave, you sure are brave walking down a dark street like this with all that equipment.” I just smiled and told him, “Phil, if you look crazier than they feel, you will be ok.” It dawned on me that I had to look pretty crazed, dragging my leg, hauling the cameras, and not about to move And then I thought of all those clean young men in the Giants’ locker room. It was worse the following weekend. Up at 3:30 am, catch a 6 am flight out of DC National to Philly, hop a connection to Atlanta, drive to the track, work the race until midnight, wash up, change, get something to eat, drive to the airport and sit from 2 am until a 6 am flight home, through Charlotte. When I landed and got in the car, I told my wife I was no longer a stud. After almost 40 straight hours without closing my eyes, sweating like a beast, and finally giving it up 1 hour too early to get the shot I wanted at the race, I told her that I was now officially a ¾ stud.
What does this have to do with the Giants? Well, sitting there in the Atlanta International Airport at 3 in the morning, on the weekend the Giants were playing the Falcons in the Meadowlands, I had time to reflect on the team, on my reason for taking a brief sabbatical and the future. It came to me that my art with the camera was never going to be what I wanted it to be. I’m no Ansel Adams, or Galen Rowell. But I have a vision, a stubborn vision. I want to capture the essence of sports and athletes. I want to take the abstract and make it real, to get that timeless look in the eyes of a driver, or footballer, or jockey or track and field star. And I want to capture the beauty of the sport – in racing the relationship of spirit and mechanics, in football, the balletic movements of angry men participating in choreographed warfare, in track, the relativity of time and motion as an athlete stretches space and pushes the clock.
I felt that last year I had lost the joy; night games and bad weather had made it difficult. My equipment was limited, I wore down, and the impotence of the Giants left me feeling as I imagined a young lady once told me after an uninspirational tryst she had just had, in that she said “you guys are lucky- 20 seconds and you all get off. But more times than not, for me, it’s all work and no joy, it just doesn’t happen.” Damn, it’s hard getting in touch with your feminine side, but pick up a camera, or follow the Giants, and I guarantee you will become a much more understanding man.(grin)
The Giants at 3-3 are both better and worse than I anticipated. I had them pegged for a 7-9 team that might get to 9-7. Now, I feel they may actually get a 10th win, or they might not get 6. Admit it, in your heart of hearts, don’t you feel that way? This is my take on it. Football is a rugged, masculine game of intimidation and ersatz violence. It is the unstoppable force against the immovable obstacle; it is Thor’s Hammer and a Viking Berserker raid – no, not those weenie Vikings in Minnesota. Football is a game, like old Indian Lacrosse, where the losers need to be sacrificially offered to the gods of testosterone. But the way the Giants are playing it this year is passive aggressive, on both sides of the ball. Call it read-and-react, wait-and-see, managing the game, I don’t care. It is frustrating and the sole satisfaction comes in looking at the WIN column. And if the number in the win column is not larger than the number in the loss column, well, I know how that girl felt when she couldn’t get it off. And for someone who never had that problem, it’s quite a painful feeling.
So let’s look at it from the top.
Coaching (Offense): An abysmal D, except for Offensive Line Coach Jim McNally. How could a team have so much potential firepower and do nothing more than pass gas? Simple answer – the coaching staff just doesn’t have a handle on the game inside the 20 yard line. Two strong, experienced wideouts, a dynamic out of the backfield running back and a tight end who can rewrite the record books. So what? The play selection is so damn boring, the Bengals could probably defend against it. Running Dayne wide and Tiki off tackle, not using play-action because there is no set up, lacking the confidence to go for the jugular; the coaches can say failure of execution til they are blue in the face – fact is, it is a failure of inspiration, a failure to instill confidence, a failure to be aggressive which is keeping this team out of the end zone. Passive-aggressive coaching – don’t make a mistake, don’t lose the game – flip it over and in this game it leads to MEDIOCRITY. And that is what 3-3 happens to be.
QB: So many statistics, so little success. Dave Brown was terrible, but he had toughness; Danny Kanell was awful, but he had panache; Tommy Maddox was the pits, wish we had him now. Kerry Collins is a middle of the road QB with a gun in the medium range game. But he continues to lack field presence and vision, goes to his short man too often and has little confidence in all but two receivers. Jaws was on the other night and said it’s all in the footwork. Great quarterbacks have wonderful footwork, which has them in position to release the ball within the time available. KC does great in a totally managed environment – football is organized chaos – you can achieve total management about twice a season. Until KC finds the resoluteness to hold the ball until the last possible second, and take the hit, if necessary, and until he develops confidence in his complete receiving corp, the result will continue to be one outstanding game, three or four acceptable games and the rest, well, someone else will have to win them. Even with a rating near 90, MEDIOCRITY.
Running Game: What running game? Tiki is nicked, but just as important, Tiki misses Comella, BBI‘s favorite whipping boy. Personal chemistry is critically important to the running game. Tiki could play on auto pilot behind Comella – he just followed his lead to the hole. Dayne – a sorrowful case. A tailback in a big body. But he doesn’t have a chance in this offense. Until the linemen build up a familiarity with his style, his moves, he will not run consistently. He is not the kind of runner who will make his own holes; at the same time, he doesn’t need a huge hole. Once in the hole, he is an accelerating force. I think not having Zeigler this year has hurt him some because Zig is great at picking off the backer or safety and that is where Dayne does his damage. If the Giants want to use RD in a finesse offense, they had better start throwing him the ball. Everyone who wants a thunderous pound the ball offense, well, go watch Nebraska games because you won’t find it in the Meadowlands.
Passing Game: Should be in the top three in the League. When the third wideout is really Shockey, well, there are just not enough balls. Then again Keyshawn caught what, 80 or more passes last year and scored how many TDs? The Giants can stretch the field, they just can’t stretch it enough. I have no answers for the lack of production, except see above.
Coaching (Defense): Successful, yes, statistically, but is it more filling? More passive-aggressive philosophy. Don’t give up the big play, keep it close, yadda, yadda, yadda. I have a deep respect for Coach Johnnie Lynn; same with Defensive Line Coach Denny Marcin; I thing Defensive Backs Coach Sky Walker has potential. It is the influence of the Dark Side that I don’t like. And it is there. I have kept some contacts in the locker room and those initials are starting to pop up. There is a lot of film available now and I don’t think this defense will be successful as we move into the heart of the schedule. I know, I know, if so and so hadn’t made such and such a mistake that L would have been a W; except so and so did and the W was a L. My refrain – I don’t care for passive-aggressive anything; it’s not masculine; it’s not football; and if the Ws don’t outnumber the Ls, and I mean by more than one, it will be somewhere else next year. Everybody hated Buddy Ryan – but didn’t you just love his Eagles and Bears defenses? And didn’t you laugh your butt off that night in Houston when he popped, Gilbride, for calling such a crappy offensive game that Buddy felt his D was being abused? The Giants have the corners to play aggressive ball. Send the dogs – let Spurrier fear this, let Andy know McNabb is going to be torched, let Brunell know he better have skates on.
Success Story: The offensive line. Still developing as a run blocking unit, but way ahead of where anyone figured in the passing game. Rosey is holding up, Luke has made a nice conversion and Bober will be playing in this league for a long time. Keep your eye on Tam Hopkins – he is a mountain.
Everywhere I have gone this season, I have bumped into Giants fans. Went to NYC to cover Lance Armstrong in the NYC Championship and started talking to the Executive Director of the U.S. Cycling Federation – big time Giants fan; plane ride down to Atlanta, my seat mate was Coach McNally’s high school quarterback – Coach Mac was a center; his parting words to me, tell Jimmy I see he still hasn’t found a quarterback who can get into the end zone. Walking through Sam’s Club two Sundays ago bumped into a young man, Moses P. wearing his Giants jersey proudly in Skins country; he is now a BBI member.
It’s been a tough season til now. I really didn’t miss the game, thanks to BBI and TV. My own mini-journey is almost completed. I have retooled several times in my life and this chrysalis is about to unfold. I’ve recharted, reloaded and I’m ready to start firing. I hope the Giants have used the bye week to do some soul searching. I hope we see some Giants’ football the rest of the way. 3-3, phtooghy; 9-7; MEDIOCRE; 8-8, like kissing your sister; 7-9, can the whole damn bunch and start over.