Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Buffalo Bills, December 23, 2007: After I read Damon’s BBI review of the Giants-Redskins game, I thought he was being more than a tad melodramatic when he wrote:
“Coughlin will finally make an adjustment though. Make no mistake, Kill-drive will run, run, run, and use plenty of play action on Sunday to beat a reeling Buffalo Bills team and get our hopes up one last time. Then there will be the fiasco against the 15-0 Patriots before the last chapter of this season. But we don’t need to read it. Rest assured, we know well how this book ends.”
Upon further reflection, I think Damon has the same sense of impending doom that I have not been able to shake this week. I don’t think it is written in stone that things will transpire the way Damon has laid it out above, but there is this overwhelming feeling of “we’ve been down this road before.”
Because last Sunday night was supposed to be different. At 9-4 with a mediocre Redskins that was starting a back-up quarterback coming to OUR HOUSE, the Giants were supposed to take care of business and make it easy on themselves and their fans. Instead, the Giants appeared to lack intensity, focus, and a killer instinct. Not that the Redskins played or were coached all that well, but they were certainly the more physical, more focused, and smarter football team.
The media and fans have heavily focused on the Giants’ game plan against the Redskins, as well they should. Yes, there breakdowns in execution against the Redskins, particularly the dropped passes. But what they hell was Tom Coughlin thinking? He was a position coach under Parcells from 1988 to 1990. He knows the Meadowlands winds and how Parcells would have played this game. I don’t buy his explanation at all that the 54 pass attempts was an inflated number due to the scoreboard. The Giants were passing early and often, including in many situations that called for something else. And when the game got close again in the 4th quarter, the Giants started taking shots down the field again when the Redskins’ defense was on the verge of breaking. There is a reason why Parcells and other coaches of his kind don’t start winging the football around in such weather – because it is very difficult to EXECUTE in those conditions!!!
Honestly, I can’t imagine a worse scenario for Coughlin than what transpired last weekend. His game plan was so bad that it quickly evaporated any good will that the 9-4 record produced with his critics. And not only was the game plan bad, but the Giants looked unprepared and unmotivated. That – fairly or unfairly – also falls on his shoulders. How in the world could the Giants be so ill-prepared in such a situation? They were at home. Against a hated division rival. With a playoff appearance at stake. Something is wrong. Very wrong. This is NOT supposed to happen.
And let’s stop blaming Kevin Gilbride. He is who he is. Coughlin is the one who hired him as quarterbacks coach and then promoted him to offensive coordinator. Coughlin is an offensive coach and a micromanager. Do you honestly think he is standing on the sidelines, hearing the plays being called, and thinking “Geez, I wouldn’t call that, but I don’t have the right to interfere”? This is his offense. Not Hufnagel’s. Not Gilbride’s.
That all said, I don’t think the play-calling has been a big issue this year. And I only think the Giants have lost one game because of the game plan, and that was the one we are talking about now. But the sins of this one game were so egregious that it just boggles the mind.
Now the Giants find themselves in familiar territory once again. The problem under Jim Fassel was that the Giants always appeared to experience some sort of mid-season crisis that either the team responded well to, or fell apart from. There would be one good year followed by a bad year. Under Coughlin, the obvious trend has developed where the Giants start off fast and fade down the stretch. The reasons for this can be argued and debated, but it without question that the overall trend is there. So is losing games at home.
As I talked about in my preview last week, Coughlin’s Giants created situations late in the season in 2005 and 2006 that necessitated a victory in the final game of the regular season. They could have made it easier on themselves had they not pissed away the advantages they had created with earlier season wins, but they did. Now they are in the same situation again. Sunday’s game against the Bills is the Giants’ de facto season finale. The Giants will not beat the Patriots who will be motivated as hell to put the final touches on their regular-season perfect season on national television.
This game against the Bills may be the most important of Tom’s head coaching career as a Giant. If the Giants lose this game and finish 9-7, even if New York backs into the playoffs, that might be it for him unless his team pulls off an upset or two in the post-season. The owners have publicly admitted that they almost fired him last year. They only gave him a one-year contract extension. If the Giants lose to the Bills, a demoralized Giants team will get slaughtered by the Patriots on national TV. People will boo and leave early. It could get as ugly as last year’s Saints game.
Honestly, I thought we were beyond this point. I thought Coughlin was coming back in 2008. I think the owners felt that way too. But that was before last Sunday’s game. Now everything has changed. And Tom helped do this to himself.
If Coughlin gets fired, don’t rejoice. It was Giants’ ownership who kept that idiot Ernie Accorsi employed. And Accorsi was seriously looking to hire Nick Saban, Charlie Weis, and Bobby Petrino. Great. Hiring a new coach is always a crap shoot and since the Giants have done a horrible job in hiring new coaches since 1991, it’s pretty clear that the organization could do a lot worse than Coughlin. A lot worse. Ray Handley, Dan Reeves, Jim Fassel, Tom Coughlin. Ughhhh!
So here we go. The Bills are a tough, scrappy team. The weather is going to be an issue again. If the Giants do beat the Bills and make the playoffs, I think Tom is coming back. If the Giants lose, barring some playoff heroics, there is the strong likelihood that the Giants are starting all over again. What a mess!
But they have no one to blame but themselves. From top down.