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12/3/2009

By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, December 6, 2009: I think the following post by BBI member drkenneth says it all:

“It is clear however, that this whole year has been a perfect shitstorm from top to bottom.”

I couldn’t agree more.  It’s been a colossal perfect storm of excrement from General Manager Jerry Reese to the coaches to the players.  What freaking disaster!  And like 2008, this season represents another wasted opportunity.  Teams that should be in the Championship mix only have so many chances.  Windows quickly close.  Key elements of the 2007 Championship team have already fallen by the wayside such as Michael Strahan, Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, Kawika Mitchell, and Sam Madison.  More may soon follow such as Antonio Pierce, Fred Robbins, and Jeff Feagles.  More talent can and will be brought in, but will that same magic mix be found in time?  There is one prize and 32 teams are fighting for it on a pretty level playing field.

I was shocked that the Giants played so poorly in Denver.  Shocked.  I saw marked improvements on both sides of the ball against San Diego and Atlanta.  But in Denver, what had been the strengths of this team in 2007 and the bulk of 2008 – the offensive and defensive lines – were completely outmatched.  In a word, the Giants were soft.  The Giants were manhandled and took their ass-whipping without much of a fight.

The Denver game was extremely important and the Giants were (and still are) very much in the playoff hunt.  With everything to play for, all the motivation in the world, they appeared to be playing out the string.  Where is the fight?  Where is the passion?  Where is the pride?  For the most part, these are the same players who went down in NFL history in 2007 as one of the most resilient groups ever to play the game.  What happened to that resiliency?  Now if something bad happens in a game – and something will always go wrong at some moment in every game – the team folds, especially on defense.

One thing is brutally clear.  The magic from 2007 is officially over.  The swagger and confidence from that magic season is gone.  The only way to re-acquire that is with future playoff success.  But when will that happen?  This year?  2010?  2011?

The ONLY chance the Giants have this year is to not focus on the next five games, or even the next game, but to focus on the next snap of the football and only that snap.  Every snap might be the season – on offense, on defense, on special teams.  They have to play like every play is the ballgame and every play is the season.  If something bad happens, they have to put it behind them and make a play on the next snap.  When the boo-birds come out on Sunday – and they will come out – if they start doubting again, it’s over.  The game will be over and the season will be over.

So Giants, in the spirit of this Christmas season, like the Winter Warlock, do you have just a little magic left in you?

Giants’ Management/Coaching: It’s not hindsight.  Many of us were questioning some of the offseason personnel moves in March and April and how the 53-man roster was construed in September.  From the start, many of us wondered aloud if the Giants were not taking too big of a risk by carrying only three safeties.  And when Kenny Phillips went down, C.C. Brown pretty much proved he was not a viable starter in the NFL.  That’s on Jerry Reese and the pro personnel scouting department.  And to boot, the Giants went into 2009 with NINE linebackers on the roster.  Nine!  On a 4-3 team!  Worse, linebacker is one of the weakest areas of the team.  When the frontline starters struggled, the coaches showed zero confidence in Bryan Kehl and Gerris Wilkinson.  Why are they even on the team?  Special teams are the only answer and we’ve seen how that unit has played.

Beyond all that, the most disturbing thing about the coaching staff – a coaching staff mind you that won an NFL Championship in 2007 and helped the Giants attain the #1 seed in the NFC in 2008 – is they seem to have started taking stupid pills.  Players don’t appear to be on the same page.  Players and coaches don’t appear to be on the same page.  Coaches don’t appear to be on the same page.  And no one seems to have answers.  Here are some of the troubling signs:

  • Ever since the Saints game, coaches have publicly admitted that they have been surprised by the game plans the other teams have employed, that the other teams have not followed their tendencies.  Well, no shit.  This is the NFL.  Teams try to surprise each other all the time.  You have to adjust.  And adjust quickly.  The Giants have done neither.
  • The Giants have gotten too cute and are out-thinking themselves.  This is on the coaches as well as the on-field signal callers such as Eli Manning and Antonio Pierce.  The Giants are playing far too much match-up football instead of going out there and doing what they do best.  Offensively, run the football.  If it doesn’t work at first, don’t give up.  Eli’s got to stop playing cat-and-mouse games with the opposing defenses at the line of scrimmage.  Other teams are obviously trying to bait him now and it’s ruining the tempo of the offense.  Defensively, the Giants still look confused.  Simplify.  If you are hesitant at all, you’ve lost half the battle.  Regardless, all of this trying to out-think the other team doesn’t appear to be working – opponents never seem to be overly surprised by what the Giants are doing.
  • Defensive players have said there is confusion on defense.  Bill Sheridan has said that is news to him.  Does Bill encourage feedback from his players?
  • Running Backs Coach Jerald Ingram said the Giants have not been calling plays best suited for Brandon Jacobs’ style.  Kevin Gilbride said he was surprised by Ingram’s comment and does not agree.  Do these guys talk to each other?
  • Tom Coughlin says the Giants have to run the football more.  Well, against Denver – a team that has struggled lately against the run but has been superb against the pass – the Giants passed on 9 of their first 12 offensive plays of the game.  If Tom doesn’t like Kevin’s play-calling, he has to overrule him.  I am convinced that the play-calling this year has engendered more of a finesse mindset with the offensive line.  Stop getting cute with formations and personnel groupings and playing so much shotgun on 1st and 2nd down.  Get a hat on a hat and sustain your blocks and pound the freaking football!
  • The red zone issues on offense have been a problem for years and the red zone issues on defense have been an embarrassment all season.  Dead last in the NFL?  Dead last?  C’mon!  That’s not all on the players.

Giants’ Offense: The line has to play better.  Period.  If it does not, the season is over.  And changes may then be coming in the offseason.  But it is not all on the offensive line, Madison Hedgecock has been pretty bad this year.  The tight ends have been far too inconsistent.  Everyone needs to ENGAGE then SUSTAIN their blocks better.  With Ahmad Bradshaw and D.J. Ware ailing, the Giants need to ride Brandon Jacobs and possibly Gartrell Johnson.  Don’t get cute with the running game.  Power football – between the tackles and off tackle runs.

When you put the ball up, don’t forget you can get easy completions to Kevin Boss and Brandon Jacobs over the middle.  The Giants passed to the backs with great success in the preseason and for some reason have gotten away from it in the regular season.  Why no quick slants to Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks?  Cannot Eli make that kind of throw?  The Giants should use more plays that get Manningham and Nicks in the open field on the run – not just those bubble screens to the wide receivers.

Giants on Defense: The line has to play better.  Period.  If it does not, the season is over.  (Is there an echo in here?)  I don’t care who is hurt.  If you are practicing, if you are playing, no excuses.  Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins certainly don’t seem to be playing like players whose contracts will be up in a few months.  Chris Canty played like crap against Denver.  Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck should be embarrassed.  They got man-handled.  Tuck, Umenyiora, and Kiwanuka should be a nightmare for opposing offenses to pass protect.  What the (expletive deleted)?  If Tuck and Umenyiora want to play patty-cake with opposing offensive linemen, bench them and start Kiwanuka and Dave Tollefson.  If the Giants are going to lose, I want to see at least some effort.

I haven’t seen a more disgusting display of linebacking since the playoff loss to the Panthers during the 2005 season.  All three linebackers were brutal against Denver.  Heads need to roll if that keeps up.  It may have started already with Chase Blackburn.  Danny Clark should be next.  Thanks for keeping all of those great linebackers on the roster!!!

Terrell Thomas is quietly having a very good season.  Corey Webster is still very good.  Take advantage of these guys by manning up and jamming the opposition’s best receivers to provide your pass rushers with an extra second.  If Michael Johnson and C.C. Brown continue to struggle, bring up Practice Squaders Sha’reff Rashad and/or Vince Anderson.  Heads need to start rolling for poor performance and especially poor effort.

Prediction: I don’t think the Giants have a lot of fight left in them.  I was optimistic before the Denver game, but there is no excuse for that abysmal lack of effort.  The team is not playing with passion or confidence.  At the first sign of trouble, look for them to fold like a house of cards.

After the Giants lose to Cowboys and Eagles, the team may want to consider shutting down injured players such as Eli Manning, Justin Tuck, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Rich Seubert.  There is no sense having these guys going in into training camp with unhealed injuries.

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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season. Follow Eric on Twitter @BigBlueInteract.

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