Dec 312006
 

Victory Over Washington All But Assures Giants of Playoff Spot: In a contest that basically amounted to a playoff game for the Giants, New York defeated the Redskins 34-28 at FedEx Field in Maryland. The victory all but assures the Giants of a playoff spot either against the Eagles in Philadelphia or the Cowboys in Dallas next weekend (the Giants will face the winner of the NFC East).

The Giants finished the regular season at 8-8 and will likely be a playoff team despite a 2-6 finish and not having a winning record.

“This is a soap opera to its fullest,” said LB Antonio Pierce. “This is New York at its prime right here. Hopefully, we’ll go out on top and do everything right. We finally got to the playoffs, and that was our ultimate goal. We’re in the playoffs, and we’re 0-0, and I like that better than anything else.”

The hero of the game against Washington was HB Tiki Barber who rushed for a career high and franchise record 234 yards (on 23 carries for an average of 10.2 yards per rush). Barber also rushed for three touchdowns, including scoring runs of 55 and 50 yards.

“There are certain things that motivate you, push you,” Barber said. “It’s partly because of the circumstances of this game, my last one. Most important, we had to win to keep playing.”

“That’s why he’s Tiki Barber,” Pierce said. “He sets his own goals and standards. His way of living is different from everybody else’s, and he shows it. He plays with a lot of heart and determination. Today he put this team and this offense on his back and did everything he could for us to win.”

Barber passed the 1,500-yard rushing mark for the third consecutive season – he finished the 2006 season with 1,662 yards – and also caught three passes for 24 yards. Barber’s previous best rushing game was 220 yards in December 2005 against Kansas City, which also was the franchise record.

The Redskins received the football first and moved from their own 27-yard line to the Giants’ 18-yard line on their first possession. A hit by LB Brandon Short on HB Ladell Betts forced a fumble that DT Fred Robbins recovered and advanced 67 yards down to the Redskins’ 12-yard line. But the Giants could not punch the football in and were forced to settle for a 34-yard field goal.

The Redskins took the lead on their second possession as they drove 80 yards in five plays. The touchdown came on a trick play – a pass by WR Antwaan Randle El to WR Santana Moss for 48 yards. On the play, Moss got away from CB Corey Webster and CB Sam Madison misplayed the football.

After both teams exchanged punts, the Giants drove 42 yards for a touchdown to regain the lead 10-7 with Barber scoring from 15 yards out. QB Eli Manning kept this drive alive by finding WR Plaxico Burress for 14 yards on 3rd-and-9. The Giants forced the Redskins to punt again. And the Giants took advantage with an impressive 9-play, 97-yard scoring drive that gave the Giants a 17-7 advantage. Manning hit FB Jim Finn for nine yards on 3rd-and-8 and Burress for 12 yards on 3rd-and-7. Three plays later, Barber was off to the races for 55 yards and the touchdown.

After another punt by the Redskins, the Giants started their final possession of the first half at their own 28-yard line with just about three and a half minutes to go before intermission. The Giants were able to drive 59 yards in 12 plays, including converting on three third-down conversion attempts to set up a successful 31-yard field goal. The Giants were ahead 20-7 at halftime.

The Giants received the football to start the second half but were forced to punt. The defense then came up big as errant pass by Redskins’ QB Jason Campbell was deflected by CB Kevin Dockery and intercepted by S Jason Bell, giving the Giants the football near midfield. After a 31-yard pass interference penalty was called against WR Tim Carter, Manning found Carter for six yards and the touchdown to give the Giants a 27-7 cushion.

But at this point of the game, the Redskins regained momentum. Washington drove 69-yards in 11 plays to score on a 4th-and-4, 7-yard touchdown pass to Betts. The score was now 27-14. After a holding call and a three-and-out by the Giants, Redskins moved 66 yards in nine plays to make it a 6-point game at 27-21 with nine and a half minutes to go in the game.

The Giants then temporarily regained momentum by going 75 yards in five plays, with Barber scoring from 50 yards out to give the Giants a 13-point margin once again. But for the third Redskins’ offensive possession in a row, the Giants’ defense could not hold and surrendered another touchdown drive, this one 68 yards in eight plays. The Giants only led by six points with just under three and half minutes to go in the game.

The Giants could not pick up one first down and were forced to punt. However, the defense finally held, forcing four straight incompletions as the Redskins turned the football over on downs. SS Gibril Wilson deflected the last 4th-and-10 attempt. The Giants then picked up one first down and ran out the clock inside the Redskins’ 5-yard line.

Eli Manning finished the game 12-of-26 for 101 yards, 1 touchdown, and 0 interceptions. Burress was held to two catches and 26 yards. The other starting receiver, Carter, had two catches and 14 yards. The starting tight end, Visanthe Shiancoe, caught one pass for eight yards. The Giants’ defense surrendered 393 total net yards to Washington (265 yards passing, 128 yards rushing).

“It really doesn’t matter what you did in the regular season,” said Burress. “It’s the playoffs now and it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Post-Game Notes: Inactive for the Giants were TE Jeremy Shockey (ankle), OG/OC/TE Rich Seubert (shin), WR Michael Jennings, WR Darius Watts, HB Robert Douglas, DT Titus Adams, CB Frank Walker, and QB Tim Hasselbeck (third quarterback).

Dec 302006
 

Jeremy Shockey Will Not Play Tonight: TE Jeremy Shockey did not make the trip to Maryland to face the Redskins due to his ankle injury. Shockey missed both practices this past week.

This will be the fourth consecutive season that injuries have forced Shockey to miss the regular-season finale.

OG/OC/TE Rich Seubert (shin) also did not make the trip.

Quotes: HB Brandon Jacobs on the psyche of the Giants: “You may have some guys here that are like ‘Man, I’ve had enough of this,’ ‘This just needs to be over and we need to get ready for next year,’ ‘I don’t want to go into the playoffs at 8-8’ and so forth. If we go into the playoffs at 8-8, knowing how much talent we have on our team, we can really make some noise in the playoffs.”

Quoted in The Daily News, one unidentified player on Head Coach Tom Coughlin: “You think the fans don’t like him? The players don’t like him, either. We’re tired of listening to him.”

Dec 292006
 

December 28, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report -– Shockey Not Likely to Play, No Surgery for Strahan: Not practicing again yesterday were TE Jeremy Shockey (ankle – questionable) and OG/OC/TE Rich Seubert (shin – doubtful).

“(Shockey is) getting better,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “He’s better, but he couldn’t practice…(His availability against the Redskins will be determined) probably an hour and a half before game time.” In his weekly column for The New York Post, Shockey said, “My ankle is banged up pretty bad. It’s bad luck that the game is on a Saturday night where I lose time to get ready versus playing Sunday or Monday. I’m going to do my best to play. If I can’t go, then Visanthe Shiancoe will be ready to step up.”

FB Jim Finn (back – probable) returned to practice.

During his weekly interview on WFAN, DE Michael Strahan said he saw a foot specialist in North Carolina and that his injured right foot would not require surgery. He said that while there were torn ligaments in the foot, no bones had shifted or were out of place. In fact, Strahan, who is on season-ending Injured Reserve, said he felt he might have been able to play again this year, but the team decided not to risk further injury. Strahan said he was not going to retire, although he would have considered it if surgery had been needed as it would have required 6-8 months of rehab.

Quotes: DE Michael Strahan on Head Coach Tom Coughlin: “He’s a good coach. He wants to win. He’s willing to (do) whatever it takes to win and I respect that. He’s changed a lot since he’s been here. When he first got here, did I say I liked him? No, I didn’t like him one bit. I didn’t think I would last one season with him.”

General Manager Ernie Accorsi on the Giants: “I think there’s talent here, I’ve always felt that. People will look at that and say, ‘What are you talking about?’ That doesn’t in any way obscure the fact I think there’s talent here. I think it’s in pretty good hands. There are better players on this team than there was on the team I inherited, I know that, and I’m not the only one who thinks that. John Mara already said it. It was very important to me I left my successor with no holes in the draft, a good cap situation, players signed. I just feel the next person has to come in here with a clean slate.”

Dec 282006
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, December 30, 2006: I’ve read and heard a lot of commentary in recent weeks saying that one isn’t a real fan if one doesn’t want the Giants to make the playoffs. I guess I’m not a real fan. I know in my heart that this team is emotionally done with the 2006 NFL season. And the last thing I want to see is the Giants getting killed by Philadelphia or Dallas in the first-round of the playoffs on national television. Let’s end this torture now and focus on the future.

That said, I do have mixed emotions. I can’t root against the Giants. Once the game starts, I will live and die with every play as usual. I despise the Redskins. And I know that once the season is over I will be going through Giants’ football withdrawal until the preseason starts again in August (though I do love the offseason gossip, free agency, and the draft).

If you read my Giants-Titans game review, you know I felt the team was emotionally done after that loss. I believe whatever vestiges of hope were extinguished in the losses to the Cowboys and Eagles, as I covered in my Giants-Saints game preview. There has been a lot of talk that the team has “quit.” I think “quit” is too strong a word and not entirely accurate. After all, Strahan didn’t have to play last week, but he did. Lot’s of guys like Shockey and Pierce have been playing hurt. I think the team has lost its confidence in itself and its coaching staff (its “mojo” if you will). I think it is mentally fatigued and different players are responding differently. Some players are still fighting hard. Some players have tuned Coughlin out. Others are thinking about life after football. The losing streak, injuries, and media circus have sapped the team’s strength, energy, and esprit de corps. On top of that, the demotion of John Hufnagel reeks of desperation and the players know it. I think BBI poster Daniel in MI said it best when he wrote:

Parcells talks about this in his book that players “quit” in very subtle ways, they don’t want to LOOK like they have, but the hustle, the willingness to stick your nose in there, and the energy level are gone. So, they make it look like they tried without giving it their all. It may not even be conscious.

I think these guys had been playing pretty damn hard for a long time, heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss. Even Tom Coughlin said the effort has been there (until this past week). But, I think after the last loss, they all knew in their hearts that they’re not on a championship team now, and so they’re ready to end it and start again fresh next year.

It’s just a bad situation and the quicker it ends, the better. I sense that most Giants’ fans feel the same way. Emotionally, this is not a championship-caliber club. The players need a mental enema. And physically, with Strahan, Petitgout, Toomer, Arrington, and Tuck done for the season and Eli Manning struggling, it would be difficult to compete with even the better teams in the mediocre NFC right now.

Am I saying that the Giants have no chance against the Redskins? Of course not. The Redskins are not very good, although they have been playing much better in recent weeks. Moreover, they are missing a lot of their own key players (i.e., LB Marcus Washington, CB Shawn Springs, HB Clinton Portis). But these Redskins know that Joe Gibbs and his staff will be back in 2007; the Giants don’t believe Coughlin will be back. Advantage – Redskins.

What I do expect, regardless of who wins, is one ugly football game.

It’s sad when the offseason ends up being more exciting than the actual football season. The 2006 offseason with free agency and draft happenings was certainly more interesting than the 2006 regular season. So we find ourselves in a position similar to fans of the Washington Redskins – offseason paper champions, but a crappy football team.

The 2007 offseason is certainly going to be interesting again. There are rumors that the Giants may be able to wiggle Bill Belichick or Scott Pioli away from the Patriots. There is talk of Charlie Weis. Expectations are rising among Giants’ fans. It’s time for new ownership to stand up and deliver. If not, they run the risk of more and more fans leaving games during the third quarter of future home games.

This Giants-Redskins game doesn’t interest me much. What interests me is what happens during the first week or so in January. If the Giants do not announce the hiring of one of their own internal candidates (Jerry Reese, David Gettleman, Kevin Abrams) for the general manager vacancy immediately after the season is over, and nothing happens while the Patriots are still playing in the post-season, it will only fuel speculation that Belichick or Pioli/Weis are real possibilities. That’s “the game” to watch.

Dec 282006
 

December 27, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report: Not practicing yesterday were TE Jeremy Shockey (ankle), OG/OC/TE Rich Seubert (shin), and FB Jim Finn (back). Shockey is “questionable” for the game against the Redskins on Saturday; Seubert is “doubtful,” and Finn is “probable.”

Speaking of Shockey, Head Coach Tom Coughlin said, “He couldn’t go (yesterday in practice) and he couldn’t really have gone (Tuesday) if he had to.”

LG/LT David Diehl missed practice due to his wife being in labor.

According to The Daily News, a source close to DE Michael Strahan said that Strahan has always known that surgery would be necessary to repair the Lis Franc injury he suffered on November 5th. The source said team doctors told Strahan he would likely need surgery at the end of the year. The Daily News reports that Strahan will be examined by a foot specialist again sometime within the next two weeks, at which time Strahan will likely be told that surgery is necessary.

HB Tiki Barber thinks there is a good chance that Strahan might retire. “(The surgery and recovery) is brutal,” Barber said. “It’s six months of hobbling around. And at 35 years old, he’s not going to be able to be healthy until training camp. So I don’t know if he’ll want to (come back).”

Strahan’s agent thinks he will not retire. “He would never go out like this,” said the agent.

Notes and Quotes: With Rich Seubert likely out and Bob Whitfield benched, David Diehl will likely start at left tackle and Grey Ruegamer at left guard.

HB Tiki Barber on the decision to have Quarterbacks Coach Kevin Gilbride to call the offensive plays: “It’s cosmetic. It’s change for change sake. It’s been done here previously. (Jim) Fassel did it to Sean Payton. Fassel had it done to him in Baltimore. It happens in the league when your team needs some kind of lift. Whether it actually provides it or not, change sometimes adds for extra motivation.”

Dec 272006
 
New Orleans Saints 30 – New York Giants 7

The future is not as bleak as it seems.

And this is not a Pollyanna talking. Back in late November, a month ago and before losses to the Cowboys, Eagles, and Saints, I said the season was over – that the team was emotionally done. Many said I was over-reacting and being pessimistic.

I’m not changing my tune for the 2006 season. This team has given up. Even if they beat the Redskins on Saturday and find themselves in the playoffs, it will be quick exit. Why? I will address those reasons in a moment.

But all is not lost for 2007 and beyond. This team, with some tweaking of the roster, can compete for a Super Bowl appearance soon. But three VERY IMPORTANT things have to happen first:

  1. The Giants must make the correct decision in hiring a new general manager.
  2. The Giants must make the correct decision in hiring a new head coach.
  3. The new coaching staff must be capable of turning Eli Manning into a more consistent quarterback.

Why do I think the way that I do? Why did I think that the season was over a month ago, but there is a chance to do some special things with this roster in the future?

After a 6-2 start, various factors conspired to turn a once-promising season into a nightmarish collapse. A series of hard-fought but emotionally-draining defeats took its toll on a team that was already physically breaking down. The tough schedule only exacerbated matters. The team eventually lost confidence in itself and the coaching staff. The ultimate result of all this manifested itself against the Saints. Honestly, I expected to see a humiliating defeat like this sooner. I’m surprised it took this long.

If you want to take away anything from the Saints game, take away this – it cemented the fact that Tom Coughlin and his staff are toast. Whether you believe this is the correct decision or not, or whether they were the problem or not, is immaterial. The team has lost faith in and tuned out the coaching staff. And it is far easier to replace the coaches than it is to replace the players. The team is not playing hard anymore for this staff. It didn’t have to be this way. If the Giants had won even one or two of the games that they let get away, that confidence and trust might not have been shattered. That’s how fragile the coach-player relationship has become in the NFL today. It’s tenuous and why we see coaches getting fired en masse almost every season now.

I’m really going to make a lot of fans disagree with me, but I firmly believe that the Giants – in terms of personnel – are nowhere near as bad as they looked like against the Saints. In fact, I wouldn’t even suggest reviewing that game in terms of evaluating personnel. The Giants did not play that game with the level of confidence, intensity, or desire that is required to adequately compete in the NFL. It’s not because they have “no heart” or “don’t care.” They are an emotionally and physically tired football team.

Let’s talk about the physical breakdowns first. Much has been made out of the injury situation. It has been talked about to death. But few teams can lose their starting left tackle, starting flanker, its top three defensive ends, and a starting linebacker and not have it affect the win-loss column. Just as importantly – and this has not been emphasized enough – the injuries caused the depth to become worn down. For example, Mathias Kiwanuka, a rookie who is used to playing 11-12 games a season, found himself starting every snap on defense and playing special teams on top of that. Depth at defensive tackle became an issue as Fred Robbins has been playing hurt of late and Barry Cofield over-used given his rookie status and the physical nature of the position he plays. Antonio Pierce has been bothered by a knee and the linebacking unit was banged up again. Jeremy Shockey with a painful dislocated finger. And the offensive line has been dealing with multiple injury issues for the last few weeks.

But the injuries were not the sole reason for the collapse. And neither was one game or one play. Too much has been made about the loss to the Bears or the breakdown on the 3rd-and-22 draw play in that game. The Giants could have very easily have survived that tough loss had they followed that up with a win or two. But that physical, emotional defeat was followed by a physical pounding by the Jaguars and emotionally draining losses to the Titans, Cowboys, and Eagles. In each of those latter three games, strange plays, questionable coaching decisions, and untimely failures in execution led to heartbreaking defeats. Confidence waned and then was shattered. It happens all of the time in football. The season snowballed on New York

If some players were openly questioning the ability of the coaching staff in public, you know that must have been only the tip of the iceberg behind the scenes. If fans recognized that there were schematic problems with Tim Lewis’ third-down passing defense, you know the players must have certainly felt the same way. And whether these concerns were justified or not, what actually transpired in football games certainly fueled that doubt. And how can a team do well if it is filled with self-doubt in its coaches and/or its own ability? Again, a win or two may have changed things. I thought the loss against the Titans – collapse of mind-boggling proportions (not to mention a game filled with unbelievable mistakes) – was the last straw. It wasn’t. The Giants regrouped and gave the Cowboys a real fight. But mistakes in the red zone and in pass defense, as well as botched turnover opportunities, did the Giants in again. They lost another heartbreaker. They played the Eagles close, but it was obvious from that contest that the foundation was cracking. It burst against the Saints.

Excuses, excuses, excuses you say. It’s not an excuse, but an explanation. When a team loses four close games in a span of six weeks and in each of those losses, there is some sort of devastating failure in execution or coaching mistake, it will take a mental toll on a football team. In each of those four losses, players and fans were left with the mentally fatiguing feeling, “Damn, if just one of six or seven things didn’t go wrong, we would have won that football game.” Why did those things go wrong? Some of it was that the personnel was not good enough. Some of it was the injuries. Some of it was coaching decisions. Some of it was strange happenings (i.e., the two misplays by Kiwanuka), and some it was simply bad luck.

So why am I optimistic about the future? Simple. This team still has very good players and, to be frank, no one in the NFL is really all that dominant.

Here are some quick thoughts on the personnel:

Defensive Line: The strength of the defense and the hardest part of the defense to make a strength. No team has four quality defensive ends like the Giants do. Michael Strahan will be back. Osi Umenyiora hasn’t come close to reaching his fullest potential. Mathias Kiwanuka looks like a future stud. And Justin Tuck is a fine two-way defensive end. Much depends on the ability of Strahan and Tuck to recover from their foot injuries, but if they are fine, this is the strongest group in the NFL. Inside, the defensive tackles were supposed to be the weakness of the defense. Until they wore down late, Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield were actually the strength of the defense. Robbins had a very good year and Cofield, amazingly, held up very well until the end. He will be much better next year with this experience. What is needed is quality depth that can spell these two. William Joseph is clearly a bust and must be replaced. Jonas Seawright did not come on. The Giants did pick up an interesting prospect in Titus Adams. Another body is needed.

Linebacker: After two excellent seasons (one with the Skins, one with the Giants), Antonio Pierce had a down season. Much of that may have been due to nagging injuries (a hand injury and a knee injury). But he is one of the better linebackers in the NFL. Gerris Wilkinson has potential to be a good one, but more bodies are needed. We still don’t know what we have in LaVar Arrington. His knee was never close to 100 percent and the added time off due to the Achilles injury actually may help him. If he can play anywhere close to way he was playing against Dallas before he got hurt, he’s an asset. What the Giants do need to do is add linebackers with speed who are tough, physical players with leadership skills. The Giants need more speed on defense and they need to become more physical. This is the obvious area to improve both characteristics. Good bye Carlos Emmons.

Defensive Backs: I’m not as down on the corners as many. I was pleasantly surprised at how well Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters played. Can the Giants do better? Sure, but the Giants can win with both. Much depends on the development of young players such as Corey Webster (didn’t give up big plays, but was too soft on underneath stuff), E.J. Underwood (coaching staff was really high on him), and Kevin Dockery (looks like a nice nickel corner). Ideally, the Giants add another young corner with impact ability as a future starter. The bigger issues were at safety where Will Demps struggled for much of the season and Gibril Wilson has never regained his rookie form. The Giants can become more physical at both spots and more athletic at free safety. James Butler remains in the picture.

Offensive Line: I don’t care what some think, this is a very good group. The supposed weak link, Luke Petitgout, was playing very well before he was lost due to injury. The guards are both young and improving players. The right tackle is solid. The Giants may lose Shaun O’Hara to free agency but the rest of the group is under contract long term. Rich Seubert could replace O’Hara. This group can block for the run, pass protect, and pull. Don’t forget interesting young prospects such as Guy Whimper and Matt Lentz.

Jeremy Shockey: Love him or hate him, Jeremy Shockey is an impact player. He’s the focal point for other teams in defending the Giants. What the Giants do need to do is protect themselves better in case Shockey gets hurt. I could very easily see them drafting a tight end very high not only for this purpose, but also to provide them with some serious match-up problems against other teams in two-TE sets.

Wide Receiver: Love him or hate him, Plaxico Burress is the best receiver the Giants have had in a long, long time. He’s the only receiver on the roster right now that deserves double-team respect. Unlike many, I like Plaxico and respect his ability. The Giants are still very high on Sinorice Moss – an explosive receiver who had his season sabotaged due to a nagging quad injury that must have been a tear. At worst, I expect him to be a dangerous slot receiver in the NFL. The Giants hope he can become his brother. The big question is Amani Toomer. He turns 33 next year and has a big contract, but Eli is so comfortable with him, that you have to think he will be back. Provided he comes back strong, a receiving triumvirate of Burress, Toomer, and Moss is dangerous enough. Since you know David Tyree will be back, there is room for one more young player here. Anthony Mix is a wild card. Good bye Tim Carter.

Running Back: A lot of people are down on Tiki Barber right now because he is being too closely associated with this disappointing season. His media whoring hasn’t helped matters. But as time passes, he will be fondly remembered as the best running back in Giants’ history. That said, and despite his productivity this year, I think he is leaving at the right time. Either due to declining physical ability or lack of focus on the game, he’s not the same player he was in 2004 and 2005. The burst that led to big plays isn’t there anymore. It’s time for Brandon Jacobs – a physical beast who is going to pound teams into submission next season. He’s also going to run away from a lot of people en route to some 40+ yard runs. I think he will be the face of the Giants’ offense in 2007 and beyond. My only real concerns with him are durability and ball security. We don’t have enough info on him yet to know if either will be a problem. What the Giants do need to do is find a back-up who complements him well. Derrick Ward, if he can stay healthy himself, could be a viable back-up, but a quicker, change-of-pace back would be ideal.

Jim Finn is a solid fullback.

Quarterback: As is almost always the case, the most controversial figure on a football team is the quarterback. Unless you have a Tom Brady, Joe Montana, or Dan Marino on your roster, half the fans out there will hate their quarterback, the other half will support him. It happened with Phil Simms. It happened with Dave Brown. It happened with Kerry Collins. I still believe in Eli Manning. I don’t think accuracy will ever be a strength of his game, but I believe he has all of the physical and mental tools to succeed in the NFL. Fans who are writing him off already don’t remember the legions of NFL quarterbacks who have struggled early in their careers only later to become very good signal callers who led their teams to glory. We know Eli can play well in the clutch. We’ve seen him lead the Giants on many come-from-behind drives either to tie or win games in just his 38 starts. In that time, he’s thrown 53 touchdown passes. But he has been horribly inconsistent. Can the new coaching staff make him a more consistent quarterback that elevates the play of his teammates? My opinion is that he has been hampered by a system and coaching staff that makes him think too much and doesn’t game plan well enough. I know, it sounds like a cop-out. But there have been games in his short career where he has had a very high completion percentage and an excellent touchdown-to-interception ratio. He performs extremely well in the hurry-up offense and two-minute drills. He can throw all the passes. And I think his laid-back temperament is ideal for New York – it’s not a liability but an asset. Fans want to see a fiery guy, but I’m not sure a fiery guy could survive the NY/NJ media and fan onslaught. It’s interesting to note when the Giants win, his temperament is complimented; when the team loses, it is criticized.

Kickers: Jeff Feagles says he will be back in 2007. That’s a good thing. Jay Feely, a free agent, might not.

Free Agency: There will be a lot of teams with a lot of money to spend in free agency this year due to the elevated salary cap from the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Too much money – too few quality free agents. Don’t expect the Giants to make a big splash here. They could target one top player such as a linebacker or defensive back.

As for their own free agents, the most important players on this team are already under contract. Who is not? OC Shaun O’Hara, OC/OG Grey Ruegamer, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, LB Brandon Short, CB Frank Walker, and PK Jay Feely. There are some others who will be restricted free agents such as SS Gibril Wilson and LB Reggie Torbor. The Giants are in great shape here. They do need to determine what they will do at place kicker.

Draft: The Giants have all seven of their picks.

Summary: Personnel-wise, this is not a bad football team. The Giants have good offensive and defensive lines. There is talent at the offensive skill positions of running back, tight end, and receiver. The biggest needs are defensive – to become more athletic and more physical on defense, especially the back seven. The team could use a quality prospect at safety, linebacker, and corner. It could use a quality back-up defensive tackle. Offensively, another receiver and tight end would be nice.

But this roster does not need to be blown up. There is a solid foundation.

The big unknown – and what will ultimately determine everything – is how well can the Giants get Eli Manning to play. I’m optimistic, but the Giants need to find a coach who can get it out of him. We have to move beyond that Manning trade. It’s a done deal and nothing will change that. Did we overpay? It’s a moot point. The general manager who pulled the trigger is no longer in the picture. We have to get behind our young quarterback and hope and pray he can deliver us to the promised land. Let’s go Giants!

(Box Score – New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, December 24, 2006)
Dec 272006
 

Updated New York Giants Playoff Chances: If the Giants beat the Redskins on Sunday, they will make the playoffs if any one of the following occur:

  1. Chicago defeats Green Bay
  2. Dallas defeats Detroit
  3. St. Louis defeats Minnesota
  4. At least TWO of the following occur: (a) Carolina defeats New Orleans,
    (b) Houston defeats Cleveland, (c) Tampa Bay defeats Seattle, (d) Indianapolis defeats Miami, (e) Denver defeats San Francisco, or (f) San Diego defeats Arizona

If the Giants do make the playoffs, they will play the winner of the NFC East, either Philadelphia or Dallas, in the first round of the playoffs.

New York Giants Place Strahan, Petitgout, and Morton on Injured Reserve: The Giants have officially placed DE Michael Strahan, LT Luke Petitgout, and HB/Returner Chad Morton on Injured Reserve, ending their seasons.

Strahan re-injured his Lis Franc sprain in his foot against the Saints on Sunday. According to the Giants, the foot may now require surgery. If so, one has to wonder about his availability for the 2007 NFL season. “We don’t know (if Strahan will need surgery),” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “He’s going down to be looked at by the doctors and they’ll make that determination, whether there is surgery necessary or not.”

Petitgout fractured a fibula and suffered a high ankle sprain against the Bears on November 5th. The Giants had hoped that Petitgout would be able to return this season, but obviously he has not improved enough for that to be a realistic possibility.

Morton tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against the Saints and he will undergo surgery.

Giants Sign Three to the Active Roster: To fill the vacancies created by placing Strahan, Petitgout, and Morton on Injured Reserve, the Giants have signed TE Darcy Johnson, WR Darius Watts, and FB Robert Douglas to the active roster.

Darcy was on the Giants’ Practice Squad, Douglas was signed from the Texans’ Practice Squad, and Watts is a street free agent.

Practice Squad Moves: The Giants released HB Cedric Humes from the Practice Squad yesterday. The team also signed TE Jason Randall to the Practice Squad.

John Hufnagel Demoted, Kevin Gilbride Now to Call Plays; Front Office Wanted Hufnagel Fired Last Year: In an act that reeks of the last desperate act of a coaching regime in its final days, Head Coach Tom Coughlin has demoted Offensive Coordinator John Hufnagel and promoted Quarterbacks Coach Kevin Gilbride to offensive play caller (but not offensive coordinator). Gilbride served as Coughlin’s play caller (as offensive coordinator) with the Jaguars in 1995 and 1996. Gilbride has also been an offensive coordinator with the Houston Oilers (1990-93), Pittsburgh Steelers (1999-2000), and Buffalo Bills (2002-2003). Hufnagel will continue in an administrative role with the offensive staff.

The New York Post is reporting that the Giants’ front office advised Coughlin to fire Hufnagel after the 2005 NFL season, but Coughlin refused.

“There’s no offensive coordinator,” said Coughlin. “If there would be one, it would be me. Kevin will be the play-caller and he will head the meetings this week.”

“In essence, we’ll have to see how much this is going to change things,” RT Kareem McKenzie said. “It’s not like we have a week or two to look at the differences. They’re not going to change the whole playbook, you know. You just have to go with the flow of things.”

“I gave it a lot of thought and, to be honest with you, John (Hufnagel) did, too,” said Coughlin. “When John came in earlier – we were both in real early on Christmas morning and we sat down and we talked about a lot of things.”

“In order to win this game, whatever we had to do, both of us were at the conclusion whatever we had to do to win this game is what we were going to do,” said Coughlin. “John was man enough to see it exactly the way that it had to be and what my whole intention is, which is to create some kind of spark for the offense…so that we can feed off of this thing and get some kind of spark and play the kind of football that we’re capable of playing here in the 16th game. That’s the whole reason. John Hufnagel is a stand-up guy. He is probably one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around. I don’t know – and I’m saying this sincerely – I don’t know if he ever sleeps, and I don’t know when. I’m very, very loyal to people who dedicate themselves to seeing things the way that I am, that I see it, and do the things that I ask them to do, and he does. I don’t believe in scapegoats or any of that kind of business, so for you to understand where I’m coming from, this is simply stated: to create some kind of spark with the offense.”

When Coughlin was asked why Gilbride was the best option, he responded, “I think that Kevin and I have worked together before. I’m well aware of the number of opportunities when Kevin has been a play-caller. He does an outstanding job. I just thought that his relationship with the quarterback, since that’s the position he coaches, that the communication would be very strong, and I’m counting on that part of it as well, to be honest with you. The communication between Kevin Gilbride as the quarterback coach and the quarterback as we go through this and so I just thought that this was the best.”

“I think (Gilbride is) an excellent game day coach and, as I said, I’ve been with him when we’ve been very successful and it was, to me, a natural progression,” said Coughlin. “If I wasn’t going to do it or if I was going to do it in some capacity, Kevin would have been very much involved in it anyway. And I like, as I’ve said, the quarterback relationship there is a strong one for me and when, in fact, Kevin was the play-caller in Jacksonville he was the offensive coordinator and he was the quarterback coach.”

“I don’t know what to think about it,” said QB Eli Manning. “It’s just kind of an awkward situation. I kind of feel it’s somewhat my fault. Our offense hasn’t been playing real well. We’ve been doing some decent things. Obviously the Saints game we had our worst performance. I don’t think it had to do with the coaching or the play-calling. It’s just we didn’t execute and we didn’t do anything right. There’s not much we can do. We just have to focus on the game ahead of us and try to figure out a way to get our offense going. It’s not going to (make) a difference who’s calling plays. If we don’t execute as a team and an offense and get things going, it’s not going to make a difference. We have to come around as an offensive group and figure out how to play good football.”

“I think Hufnagel has a good vision,” said Manning. “We’ve been successful in his offense before. Last year we scored a lot of points. This year at times we were able to move the ball and do some good things. We just, for some reason in the last couple of weeks, we haven’t been making the plays that we need to, and we haven’t been finding ways to win games. That’s what it comes down to. If you’re not winning games, things happen and that’s just the way it goes…Obviously Coach Gilbride and I talked, Coach Hufnagel and I talked. What I liked and didn’t like. But still, it’s going to be a matter of execution. We’ve got to find a way to get first downs. We didn’t have enough plays last game to do anything. We didn’t convert on third downs, we had penalties…We’ve got to find a way to have better production and avoid the negative plays.”

Notes and Quotes: LT Bob Whitfield may have lost his job to LG David Diehl, with either Rich Seubert or Grey Ruegamer taking over at left guard. Seubert has been bothered by a shin injury that kept him from playing against the Saints.

From The Daily News, an unidentified Giants’ player on Head Coach Tom Coughlin: “We are tiring of his act. He is pushing too hard. We’re still in full pads for part of practice, despite all the injuries we have and the fact that it’s the end of a long season. He is very ‘me’ oriented, always talks about doing things his way – his hard-ass, no-give approach – but we’re not winning or sustaining games, so the disconnect is widening and we are tuning him out.”

From The Daily News, an unidentified source who has worked with Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis: “I believe, knowing Charlie Weis, he would love the Giants job. I guarantee he would be interested in the Giants job. I think if they pay his price that would be the one job he would definitely jump for. Giants blue runs through him. Given where he grew up and started his coaching career, that would be the pinnacle.”

Dec 262006
 

New York Giants Playoff Chances: With the Eagles defeating the Cowboys last night, according to NFL.com, the Giants can make the playoffs if anyone of the four following things happen:

  1. Giants win + Giants clinch strength of victory tiebreaker over the Packers
  2. Giants win + Packers loss or tie
  3. Giants tie + Packers loss or tie + Rams loss or tie + Falcons loss or tie +
    Panthers loss or tie
  4. Packers loss + Rams loss + Falcons loss + Panthers loss

Giants to Sign TE Darcy Johnson to the Active Roster?: According to The Star-Ledger, the Giants will sign TE Darcy Johnson to the active roster today. Johnson is currently on the Practice Squad.

HB/Returner Chad Morton will likely be placed on Injured Reserve.

Dec 242006
 

An Embarrassing Train Wreck: The NFL keeps offering the Giants an opportunity to make the playoffs – the team keeps saying “No thanks!” But unbelievably, the pathetic 7-8 Giants, who were annihilated by the Saints 30-7 at the Meadowlands today, are still alive for the last playoff spot in the NFC.

Based on their play against the Saints, however, it does not appear the Giants will win another game this season. The players have given up.

The Giants, who were once 6-2, have now lost six of their last seven games. The Giants have lost four home games in a row and have finished the 2006 season 3-5 at home.

How bad was it against the Saints?

  • The Saints scored 30 unanswered points on the Giants after New York took a 7-0 lead.
  • After scoring on the opening drive of the game, the Giants never crossed midfield for the remainder of the contest.
  • The Giants only picked up six first downs all game.
  • The Giants were 0-for-10 on third-down conversion attempts and 0-for-1 on fourth down.
  • The Giants only accrued 142 total net yards.
  • The Giants only accrued 59 net yards passing.
  • QB Eli Manning only completed nine passes.
  • The Giants held the football less than 20 minutes in the game.
  • The Giants were flagged with three unnecessary roughness penalties, including two by LT Bob Whitfield.
  • The Giants committed three turnovers.
  • The Saints rushed for 236 yards on 53 carries as both Saints’ halfbacks rushed for over 100 yards.

Before the bulk of the home crowd disappeared, well before the game was over, it chanted “Fire Coughlin!”

“You don’t want to play a game like this at any point in the season,” said DE Mathias Kiwanuka. “With the circumstances that are at hand it really is stomach churning right now. There are no words to describe it. It’s unacceptable. There is nothing you can say about this. It’s a tough one to swallow. We are professionals and we have to come through this. I think the entire game was not what we expected and not what we wanted to get out of it. It wasn’t like they threw anything at us that was unexpected. At this point in the season when you are playing for a playoff spot, everything is on the line, it shouldn’t matter what position you find yourself in. The defense has to be able to go out there and make up for whatever happens. The offense has our back; we should have theirs.”

“We were just pathetic on offense,” said FB Jim Finn. “We didn’t do anything right. We didn’t execute basic football principles to give ourselves a shot at winning.”

“I know team is important but for what Tiki (Barber) has meant for this team and this organization, a guy like him is not supposed to have his last home game end like that,” said RG Chris Snee. “Especially in a critical time with a game that is so important like this. It’s embarrassing.”

HB/ Returner Chad Morton Tears ACL: HB/Returner Chad Morton tore the ACL in his left knee against the Saints. His season, and possibly his career with the Giants, is over.

Post-Game Notes: HB Tiki Barber was the only Giants player introduced prior to the game. His sons, A.J. and Chason, served as honorary captains. The crowd chanted “Tiki Barber” at times during the game.

Inactive for the game were LT Luke Petitgout (leg/ankle), OG/OC/TE Rich Seubert (calf), WR Michael Jennings, DT Jonas Seawright, DT Titus Adams, LB Tyson Smith, CB Frank Walker, and QB Tim Hasselbeck (3rd quarterback).

Dec 232006
 

December 22, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report: The only players who did not practice yesterday were LT Luke Petitgout (leg/ankle – out) and OG/OC/TE Rich Seubert (shin – doubtful).

Returning to practice were OC Shaun O’Hara (ankle – questionable), RG Chris Snee (illness – probable), and HB Brandon Jacobs (ankle – questionable). “(O’Hara) did alright,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “He did OK. I’m sure he was out there trying to test it out and find out how he felt. I think he did OK and we’ll see when he comes in here and gets treatment again, and then tomorrow.” Coughlin said O’Hara would be a game-time decision on Sunday against the Saints.

Continuing to practice were DE Michael Strahan (foot – questionable) and CB Corey Webster (turf toe – questionable).