Approach to the Game – Green Bay Packers at New York Giants, December 4, 2011: I should have stuck my guns, but the victory against the Patriots raised my expectations.
“The Giants will probably beat a team or two that they are expected to lose to, and they will probably lose to a team or two that they were supposed to beat. But this has the feeling of an 8-8 season to me.” – Eric, September 2011
I find myself as dejected as most of the New York Giants fan base. I’m fully aware that each NFL season is a rollercoaster filled with mini- and major-crises. Often times, just when you think everything is great, it goes south in a hurry. Likewise, when all looks bleak, your team pulls off an upset and gets rolling again.
But I don’t think that is going to happen this time. The Giants are not going to beat the Packers so let’s get that out of the way right now. “Screw you Eric, you damn defeatist!” Yeah, let’s talk on Monday.
The Giants’ only chance to salvage this season is win their last four regular-season games. It’s possible, but you have to wonder where the team’s confidence will be on Monday after their fourth-straight defeat and an ever-lengthening injury list that is probably going to start to include players who are shutting it down for the rest of year. (By the way, this is what Coughin was ironically referring to in his oft-quoted “injuries are a cancer” comments back in 2004).
You don’t think the Giants can bring any more pain to their loyal fan base? There are two nightmare scenarios I can still envision: (1) the Giants start laying down like dogs like they did at the end of the 2009 season, but instead of humiliating losses to the Panthers and Vikings, imagine that happening to the Jets and Cowboys; (2) I actually can see this team getting to 9-6 and blowing the last game against Dallas in the Meadowlands. THAT would be typical Giants.
So stealing a page from Peter King, I am going to simply use this preview to write-down a few disorganized thoughts circulating in my depressed mind at this moment:
Players: The team is not as talented as some think. The question has been, “How did the Giants lose to the Redskins, Seahawks, and Eagles?” but maybe the question should be, “How did Patriots lose to the Giants?”
Let’s look at the roster:
- QB: Elite.
- RB/FB: Below average.
- WR: Very good, but still inexperienced. Manningham having a down season.
- TE: One good receiver; below average blockers.
- OL: Never came together as one unit; below average.
- DL: Good, but not as good as it was supposed to be. Tuck having his worst season and Umenyiora is tanking.
- LB: Injuries and inexperience make this a bad unit.
- DB: The sum doesn’t seem to equal the parts. Up and down.
- Specials: Kickers and coverage are decent, but no return game.
You know what really bothers me? Who is the leader of the defense? Who rallies the troops? Tuck doesn’t seem to really want the job and seems too moody. Antonio Pierce and Michael Strahan are gone and no one has replaced their leadership. How do the Giants find that leader in the offseason?
Coaches: I think Kevin Gilbride has been a very good (not great) offensive coordinator for the Giants. I don’t agree with those who say he has been a problem. He has a poor blockers (OL, TE, FB) and poor runners and yet the offense still scares people. The biggest problem has been first-half production. The Giants are moving up and down the field but not getting the ball into the end zone in the first half of games. I don’t think that is on Gilbride. He’s not committing penalties and dropping passes.
Many BBIers know I haven’t fully been on the Perry Fewell bandwagon for some time. Last year’s horrific defensive performances against the Colts and Packers, not to mention the defensive collapse against the Eagles with under eight minutes to go, really left me wondering. The defense actually played pretty darn well in the Eagles game two weeks ago with the major exception of the last scoring drive. And that’s been a problem for Fewell all year…his defense seems to play its worst in the 4th quarter. Even in games the Giants have won this year, the offense has had to bail out the defense late in games. Now throw onto all of that, the second-worst defensive performance in team history just transpired last week. Fewell seems at a loss and his players, including his veterans, still seemed confused in week 11.
Which brings me to Coughlin… I’m a fan. I wasn’t always a fan (see my 2006 game previews). But why can’t a guy who loves to analyze every little detail pick a good defensive coordinator? He did it once…with Steve Spagnuolo. But that’s outweighed by Tim Lewis, Bill Sheridan, and now Perry Fewell. It’s been his #1 Achilles heel with the Giants.
I think Coughlin has been a victim of expectations. The 2009 and 2011 New York Giants were not as good as their first half records. In a weird twist of fate, the media that regularly picks the Giants to be 8-8 or worse seems to annually label the Giants as a huge disappointment when the team fails to make the playoffs. You shouldn’t be able to have it both ways, but the media does and the fans buy into it. That all said, losing to bad Seahawks and Eagles teams at home were devastating. The Giants did not match the intensity of those teams and the coaches deserve a lot of criticism for that.
Organization: Jerry Reese’s offseason has been sabotaged by injuries to Terrell Thomas, Justin Tuck, Jonathan Goff, Michael Boley, Ahmad Bradshaw, Prince Amukamara, David Baas, and Marvin Austin to name a few. But the roster is also his baby and some things that have not worked out include no viable blockers at tight end or fullback, counting on David Diehl to succeed at left guard, no veteran depth at linebacker, and not trading Osi Umenyiora when his value was still relatively high (2nd rounder).
I also think the organization is ultimately responsible for the hiring of assistant coaches too. Are the Giants financially aggressive enough in pursuing top assistants? It would be the height of stupidity to annually entrust a high-priced roster with cheap assistants. Why has the organization sat on its hands and not forced a change with the special teams coach? Will they make the same mistake this offseason with Fewell? You don’t have to wait for failure to upgrade (see the 2006 offseason with Hufnagel and Lewis).
Final bitches and moans…why does this team have so much trouble winning at home? Stop criticizing a fan base that boos when the product you put on the field at home sucks.
I don’t think it was particularly bright to schedule the “Ring of Honor” ceremony this weekend. You want Carl Banks and Mark Bavaro being honored in front of 80,000 angry fans whose team is behind by 21 points at halftime?