Mar 272014
 
 March 27, 2014  Posted by  Articles, Giant Thoughts
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (December 29, 2013)

NFL Bans Dunk Celebration – © USA TODAY Sports Images

No Fun League: NFL Bans Dunk Celebrations

It gets to the point where enough is enough.

Sure, the NFL had every right to rethink touchdown “celebrations” moments after Joe Horn removed a cell phone from underneath the goal post at the Super Dome 11 years ago. Yes…that was over a decade ago.

Sure, the NFL had every right to implement fines when players like Randy Moss mimicked mooning the crowd at Lambeau Field and ever right when others gathered in groups for unnecessary and extravagant antics.

But dunking? ….Really?

There comes a moment in time where the NFL needs to answer what exactly is being accomplished by removing a celebration such as the “Dunk?” What was the issue in the first place?

During his 18 years playing in the NFL, did one of Tony Gonzalez 111 career touchdowns (most of which ended in his signature dunk) ever strike an un-expecting ball boy on the top of his head, rendering him concussed?

Has Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates or Drew Brees–all of which have turned to the one-handed slam in their careers–ever done any “harm” to the game while celebrating a “TD?”

No.

The NFL announced that for each “dunk,” the “dunking” team will be hit with a penalty, of which the severity is not yet known. Assuming it falls under the same category as other endzone celebrations, it’ll be a 15-yarder.

When the NFL implemented a five-yard penalty for “Delay of Game” following an inbounds spike, it was understandable. The bouncing ball had the potential to roll out of the way of officials causing the ever-precious time to slowly tick of the clock. As has been shown on countless occasions, those are seconds that could truly have an impact on the game.

But a dunk? When the clock is stopped? A players emotions running? A celebration that has been a part of the game for as long as I’ve been alive? I reiterate…

Really?

Players have taken to twitter and other social media outlets to voice their opinions. Goal-post-rattlers such as Jimmy Graham is predicting he’ll lead the league in penalties, Tony Gonzalez is stating he got out “just in time,” and others like the Giants Charles James, who has yet to score a touchdown in his career, tweeted the following:

Yeah…there was no need for that tweet to appear in red ink to sense the sarcasm filled in the young corner’s typing fingers.

Many consider the NFL arguably the most well run league in all of professional sports. The multi-billion dollar industry is at the heart of Americans and–aside from the red mark that is the concussion crisis–has been the focal point of what others strive to be.

Other Leagues have tried to duplicate “football.” Be it the XFL, AFL (Arena Football League), or CFL (Canadian Football League), yet none have mastered what the NFL has perfected.

So the question is simple, why?

While the NFL has imposed fines, suspensions and penalties over the years for offenses that have garnered backlash, there was still an answer, an understandable reason.

Safeties can no longer leap headfirst at wide outs for fear of player safety; running backs cannot lower their head for the same reason. But a dunk?

Really?

NFL vice president of officiating, Dean Blandino, released the following quote on the “Dan Patrick Show” Tuesday afternoon:

“We grandfathered in some, the Lambeau Leap and things like that. But dunking will come out (of the game). Using the ball as a prop or any object as a prop, whether that’s the goal post, the crossbar, that will come out and will be a foul next season.”

Ahh, just realized that I’ve forgotten to reference exactly what “NFL” stands for in the above paragraphs. I’ll clarify:

No Fun League.

Connor Hughes/Big Blue Interactive
Follow me on twitter: @92Hughes02

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Jan 112010
 
 January 11, 2010  Posted by  Articles, Giant Thoughts
The New York Giants Training Dilemma

There are two things a Giants’ fan is more sensitive about than a fan from another team:

  1. How nightclub gun play can ruin a season.
  2. How an accumulating number of injuries can sabotage a season.

Issue #2 has been a problem for the New York Giants for most of the decade. During the 2003 season, the injury situation was so bad that Tom Coughlin addressed it at his introductory press conference as new head coach in January 2004:

“I am also aware of the injury factor; the number of IR’s and those kinds of things, which is a cancer let’s face it. It is something that has to be corrected. It is a mental thing I believe as much as it is anything else.”

Unfortunately, since that day, the injury situation has continued to plague the Giants. Let’s look at the last six seasons:

2004: After a fast 5-2 start, the Giants finished 6-10. 18 players finished the season on Injured Reserve, including DE Michael Strahan, DE Keith Washington, DT Norman Hand, LB Barrett Green, S Shaun Williams, S Omar Stoutmire, and WR Tim Carter.

2005: The Giants won the NFC East with an 11-5 record. But New York was obliterated in the playoffs 23-0 by the Panthers. One of the primary reasons for the poor playoff performance was injuries. Starting at linebacker that day were Kevin Lewis, Alonzo Jackson, and Nick Greisen. On Injured Reserve were LB Barrett Green, LB Carlos Emmons, LB Chase Blackburn, LB Roman Phifer, CB Will Peterson, S Shaun Williams, HB Derrick Ward, and WR Jamaar Taylor.

2006: The Giants started off 6-2 but finished the season 2-6 and barely made the playoffs. The team was defeated in the first round of the playoffs by the Philadelphia Eagles. On IR by season’s end were DE Michael Strahan, DE Justin Tuck, LB LaVar Arrington, CB Corey Webster, WR Amani Toomer, LT Luke Petitgout, HB Derrick Ward, and KR/PR Chad Morton.

2007: The Giants won their seventh NFL Championship. Big injury losses included TE Jeremy Shockey, LB/DE Mathias Kiwanuka, and HB Derrick Ward. DT William Joseph was lost early in the season. But the number of players lost was not great. The biggest issue was managing Plaxico Burress’ ankle injury.

2008: The Giants started off 11-1, finished 12-4, and lost in the first round of the playoffs again. Plaxico Burress was missed after he shot himself. But injuries to key defensive linemen such as DE Justin Tuck and DT Fred Robbins slowed down the pass rush tremendously. DE Osi Umenyiora was lost before the season began and was missed. The Giants could not get any pressure on Donovan McNabb in that playoff game.

2009: The Giants started off 5-0, but finished 3-8 and missed the playoffs. Injuries hit the defense incredibly hard, including S Kenny Phillips, CB Aaron Ross, CB Corey Webster, LB Antonio Pierce, LB Michael Boley, DE Justin Tuck, DT Chris Canty, and DT Jay Alford. The running game was sabotaged due to injuries to HB Brandon Jacobs, HB Ahmad Bradshaw, HB D.J. Ware, HB Andre Brown, FB Madison Hedgecock, RT Kareem McKenzie, and LG Rich Seubert. QB Eli Manning went into a mid-season slump when he injured his foot. WR Hakeem Nicks and WR Mario Manningham were not 100 percent.

Who is to blame for all of these injuries? Injuries that ruined once promising seasons? Perhaps no one. Football is a violent game. People get hurt. Always have, always will. Sometimes it is the luck of the draw. Players are also bigger, stronger, and faster today. When you have bigger, stronger players moving at faster speeds right at each other, guess what’s going to happen?

But the Giants also seem to suffer from a lot self-inflicted muscle injuries, such as hamstring pulls. Chris Canty, who never missed a day in Dallas, missed most of the season with hamstring and calf muscle injuries. Aaron Ross suffered four hamstring pulls. The word “hamstring” was commonly seen on Giants’ injury reports. Why? Luck? Coincidence? Who really knows?

There is a school of thought out there that today’s modern-day athletes over-train. As soon as a season is over, they are training on their own before being expected to participate in intensive “voluntary” team strength training and conditioning programs. Then there are Organized Team Activity (OTA) days, mini-camps, training camp, a long preseason, and a grueling 16-game regular season. There is not much time to rest and recuperate those tired and aching muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, and bones.

But the dilemma is this: with everyone training more and more, getting bigger, stronger, and faster each day, can a team afford to experiment and pull back? Can a team risk losing that arms race with other teams when jobs and careers are at stake? Perhaps the training is not the problem. Perhaps it is. It’s like debating global warming – everyone has an opinion and their own science – but most people are not quite sure.

What to do? Giants’ coaches, trainers, and doctors should comprehensively examine the issue, consulting with outside experts who have conducted research. Consider their findings and their suggestions. Don’t just assume all these injuries result from “bad luck.”  That very well may be the case, but what if it isn’t? Perhaps there is a better, smarter, and safer way to train professional football players.

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Oct 232007
 
 October 23, 2007  Posted by  Articles, Giant Thoughts

by English Alaister for BigBlueInteractive.com

The New York Giants are on a roll, 5-2 in the NFC East after a 5 game winning streak and a fixture looming against possibly the worst team in the NFL now missing its best player. What could go wrong? Well, we’re Giants fans so we all know that list is endless, but many will point to a game looming on the other side of the pond and all the variables that introduces. In fact, when the game was first announced there was widespread concern that the Giants had let the NFL screw them. A classic case of “the Giants putting the welfare of the league before their own good again” was the refrain from certain forums with right-angled architectural features. Well, needless to say, I don’t really think this is the case and the argument against breaks down into two strands, the pragmatic and the more theoretical.

Let’s take the former first. The Giants clearly stand to benefit from coming to London. By being an early adopter of the NFL’s scheme the Giants stand to grow their international fan base at a rate greater than they otherwise would. The NFL’s major growth opportunities lie outside the US, of which Europe is one of a handful of targeted areas. The Giants have received an overwhelming amount of free publicity and have benefitted from increased appearances on British television in the past few weeks and that’s going to show up in the bottom line for the club long-term. The more cynical amongst us might also notice our plentiful appearances on Sunday and Monday night football the past few weeks.

Another strand of the argument is that the disruption caused by the travel places the Giants’ season in jeopardy. I don’t buy this. A game in London involves little more than a trip to San Diego or San Francisco. There are those of us who commute frequently between the US and UK for work and don’t find any need to excuse poor performance for the following month. Frankly, I think the Giants should be able to perform multiple lunar orbits mid-week, splash land into the Thames and still beat the Dolphins handily. The real question here is this ‘Have the Giants developed the focus they need to not allow this to become a distraction?’. You just know for a significant amount of the past ten or fifteen years the Giants would have allowed a lack of focus and mental fortitude to throw them off their stride. This is a large part of the reason we rarely have had to worry about our January plans concerning the team. I think its this simple, if the Giants allow the Wembley game to be anything other than an important time to demonstrate to the wider world that they’re a very good team then this team is not going as far as we hope. Personally, I think the Giants will be professionalism personified and it’ll be evidence of a mentally tougher team more focused on its football.

So, on to the more contentious part of the argument for the Giants visiting London. Their international fans deserve it. I wouldn’t say we necessarily have a right to the visit but I do commend the Giants for giving their European fans the chance to see the team affordably. I don’t want to get into a discussion about what kind of rights fans have in general over their teams although I do think an increasing trend in sports will be teams questioning what is currently quite a myopic view of their base. I do think when you consider a lot of European fans have contributed a lot to BBI down the years and consider that’s a microcosm of the wider Giants fan base then the argument for the Giants playing in London is obvious. Guys like Walter B, Jason in Oregon, Larry O, Jan in Norway, Tony in Berlin and Limey Pete (to name but a few) were vocal contributors back when BBI was relatively young. All of them do reside or have spent significant parts of their lives in Europe and stand to benefit from the Giants visiting. The links between London and New York are pretty obvious with a large number of employees moving between the two cities for extended periods and this game will be manna from Heaven for a few ex-pats. Stanley Kubrick is probably the most famous example, having spent his last years in England having games shipped immediately from the US! Finally, it bears mentioning that several current Giants have spent significant amounts of their lives over here. There certainly can’t be any harm in the next Osi growing up a Giants fan!

When you think of this game then, I ask you not to focus on the disruption or the inconvenience but on the advantages this brings your team and the joy it brings to a small but vocal part of the BBI community. The Giants are going to get a heck of a welcome at Wembley and this is absolutely the right thing for one of the NFL’s flagship franchises to be doing. It’ll be a great day for us regardless of what happens, I hope it is for you too!

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Aug 252007
 
 August 25, 2007  Posted by  Articles, Giant Thoughts

By Eric Klein (DigitaLx2001) for BigBlueInteractive.com

Perhaps the concept of a true ‘team’ and what it means to be part of one is lost in this modern sports era of free agency, huge salaries, and even larger egos. Maybe I’m the one who’s being the idealist, expecting players to show some loyalty to their organization, their teammates and their fans. It’s just how I was raised, my experiences as part of a team (though certainly not on a pro sports level) and what I expect to see from professional athletes and the Giants that I have rooted for my entire life.

I did not choose to be a New York Giants fan; it was essentially bestowed upon me before I could even walk. My loyalty is unquestioned, and it’s not as if I even had a choice in the matter. This is blind loyalty, and something that (aside from probably being somewhat unhealthy) I could not expect an athlete to have for the Giants in the same way that I do. That much I do understand.

I can definitely see why a player may not have a true allegiance to a team; as a fan, I don’t have to worry about the Giants cutting or trading me, but they can do so to a player on a whim. Fans can boo players and call for them to be run out of town, so I can also understand if a player is weary of a team’s fan base.

Lack of loyalty to teammates, though, is what really makes me ill. These are the men that you went to war with; you went through the same two-a-days, spilled the same blood in the same mud (to quote a line from “The Rock”), and endured that same overtime game where you’re barely able to stand, let alone endure another snap, colliding full speed into the enemy with every ounce of strength you have left.

If you don’t do your job, not only does that affect the team’s chances of winning (which may not be of any real importance to many of these players anymore), but you may be responsible for a teammate being seriously injured. The same holds true for them; your career is always on the line – one slip up by anyone and it could be compromised in the blink of an eye. The trust of each man to put their livelihood in the hands of another on a perpetual basis is something that most people cannot fathom.

With this trust, one would think there would be loyalty. This is apparently no longer so.

Let’s take Tiki Barber and Eli Manning as obvious examples, two men that were on the same team for three years. Let’s say its 2004, and rookie Eli throws a dump pass a little too lackluster, leaving Barber exposed to a massive hit resulting in a career ending injury. His playing days end as someone who was decent but never really shook his fumbling habit, and he becomes an afterthought in Giants history (Yes, he’d be near many of the Giants records, but did anyone think he was great before 2004? Honestly, he was one of the most frustrating players I could remember because he would do something truly spectacular, then proceed to fumble the ball away. Anyway.. not my main point here).

Conversely, if Tiki misses a blitz pickup and Manning gets railed, we’re looking for another franchise QB. These are extreme situations, but could have happened at ANY TIME over three years. These men battled together and at times literally put each others careers in one another’s hands. Two men that, while possessing entirely different demeanors, were both highly competitive and seeking the same ultimate goal of achieving that ring – an honor which nobody could ever take away or say you didn’t earn. This is not the same type of bond one forms with a coworker at an office job. This HAS to be something more. Hearing Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms talk about one another, even though they had their disagreements, it’s apparent they are still very close after all these years – we’ve all seen the NFL Films specials. Sure, winning a Super Bowl helps, but camaraderie now just doesn’t seem to be what it once was.

So here we have Tiki Barber, Tiki calling out Eli on national television, saying that it was almost “comical” when he had given a pre-game speech in 2006. Maybe he just wants to advance his television career, and keeping one’s mouth shut and analyzing football itself just doesn’t land enough face time I suppose. I guess it’s too much to ask for him to say something like “We’ll find out how Eli has been progressing as a leader as he has another year under his belt” or basically ANYTHING that doesn’t publicly expose a former teammate.

There are fans and members of the media who have defended Barber’s words, claiming he can say whatever he wants now; he’s not a Giant and he’s just telling you what he observed, using his inside knowledge to reveal as much as possible about the game of football. What side of the fence one falls on with this issue here really comes down to who you are as a person. Loyalty is a trait that you either have, or you don’t – you can’t be a little bit loyal. Tiki does not have loyalty to his teammates or to his former organization for whom he claimed to love so much. He decided it was more important to be noticed and to try to advance his post-NFL career. Running his mouth for the sake of maybe landing more new TV roles was more important (to someone who is already plenty rich, by the way) than staying low key and not adding more drama and controversy to his team of 10 years, and to the players he came to know as well as his own family.

I, for one, can honestly say I would never do that. Why? Because it does not take being in a position where my loyalty is on the line to know if I would break it, and it’s not like this is a tough decision either. I am certain that as a rich retired professional athlete that I would be perfectly content trying to make it as an analyst without ever compromising my former team in any way. Period. It’s been done before… by just about every other NFL-player-turned-TV-personality I can think of (Marshall Faulk, Rod Woodson, Steve Young… even Michael Irvin, who I of course hated as a player, has never thrown his teammates under the bus), except Barber of course.

Let’s forget for a second that this is all Tiki’s opinion, and the current Giants players might even agree with what he said (despite the fact that basically the whole team came out in defense of Eli). In all fairness, it’s very possible they could just be supporting Eli because thats what good teammates do. Ultimately, it’s better for the team to be together and unified behind their leader than for a potentially ugly (and in this case, maybe true) distraction to come out. But hey, maybe thats just my own crazy thinking.

Even if every word Tiki spoke was 100% true, he has still broken the trust and loyalty that should go along with what it means to be a true teammate; that’s why Eli fired back. Calm “aw, shucks” Easy E got riled up enough to respond because Tiki broke the unspoken rule: what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. Publicly revealing fact or fiction here is still a betrayal, so I have no idea how anyone could possibly use the “it’s ok because it’s true” counterpoint (and if anything, truths are much more hurtful; picture this whole situation between you and a friend). The content of Tiki’s ramble is entirely irrelevant to me. Manning was in fact betrayed, as I believe the Giants organization as well as fans have been. Tiki Barber, even after his antics last year calling out the coaching and slipping about his retirement, still would have been held in very high regard by most fans after his career ended. This, however, I personally cannot forgive.

I’ve always wanted my Giants to be different than all those other teams, with players like Owens who are complete trash and have no concept of anything but their own popularity. I thought class was something we had, as a whole, over a lot of other teams – the fans, the organization, the players. Perhaps this is not the case. However, in my unwavering loyalty, I will still be a Giants fan, and will never stop rooting hard on Sundays. In my eyes, there is just a void atop the rushing records in our history now that we’ll have to work on filling in. Seems we’ve got this big ol’ monster wearing number 27 back there now… so with any luck, maybe that’ll happen sooner than later.

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Feb 282007
 
 February 28, 2007  Posted by  Articles, Giant Thoughts

Many readers of this site are tired of my recent pessimism with respect to the New York Giants. They contend that I am attempting to orchestrate some sort of witch hunt against Tom Coughlin (not true) or that I am just a fan who is not privy to any inside information that would make my views any more informed than other fans (true).

But since this site’s inception in 1995, it has been one of my functions to provide my opinion on the state of the team. Almost all of my previous off-season articles since 1995 have been optimistic in tone, the last example being my 2005 off-season piece.

If you don’t respect my opinion, then don’t bother reading this article. No one is putting a gun to your head. If you think I’m being overly negative because of subjective personal biases clouding my judgment, then move along. I’m not a rah-rah guy. When I think the situation looks positive, I call it like I see it; when I think the situations looks negative, I do the same.

With all that said, I think you can already tell that I am worried about this team. I see question marks and/or instability in too many areas ranging from player personnel to the coaching staff to the front office to ownership. Increasingly, 2007 reeks of year of transition with a coaching staff that has been given a one-year ultimatum to win now or be toast.

Let’s look at the state of the 2007 New York Giants:

Player Personnel: The key question here is are the Giants better now than they were last season? On paper, the answer is clearly no. The Giants’ best player for the past few season – Tiki Barber – has retired. The team cut its starting left tackle, a player who was having one of his better seasons. And in what was probably the right decision, the Giants are prepared to part ways with their three top outside linebackers (LaVar Arrington and Carlos Emmons have already been cut and Brandon Short is likely not to be re-signed). The top back-up offensive tackle retired before he was cut and the starting center may be departing in free agency. It looks like the Giants won’t re-sign their top back-up tight end.

So let’s look at the offense. Mostly, things depend on Eli Manning. While Manning improved his completion percentage in 2006, he did not experience the type of growth that was expected of him. He remains far too inconsistent and his critics are growing daily – not just because of his performance but because of the price the Giants paid for him, his last name, and the manner in which it is perceived that he forced a trade on draft day. The offensive line was supposed to be the steady foundation of this team for the foreseeable future but now the Giants have to break in a new left tackle – the most important and most difficult position on the line. David Diehl, who struggled at right tackle in 2004, will likely be the new left tackle. With his shift to tackle, the Giants will also need a new starting left guard. That was to be Rich Seubert, but now Seubert may be needed at center if Shaun O’Hara leaves via free agency. Regardless of all of this, depth is now a big issue as Guy Whimper is now the #1 back-up at tackle and Matt Lentz at guard (unless Grey Ruegamer is re-signed).

At the skill positions, I personally have great confidence in Brandon Jacobs. I think he is the least of the Giants’ worries and will become the heart of the offensive team. But he is a question mark. And there is little depth behind him. The Giants have no depth behind the injury-prone Jeremy Shockey, who has never finished a season healthy. At wide receiver, if something were to happen to Plaxico Burress, the Giants would be in deep shit. Amani Toomer is nearing the end and doesn’t really frighten opposing defenses anymore. We have no idea yet what kind of player Sinorice Moss will be. Everyone else at wide receiver stinks.

Defensively, the strength remains the defensive line, especially at defensive end. The only worries at end are the ability of Justin Tuck and Michael Strahan to recover from serious foot injuries. Inside, let’s pray that 2006 was not just a one-year wonder for Fred Robbins. Barry Cofield should be better, but someone to push William Joseph out of the picture would be ideal.

The real problem – not just for the defense but the entire team – is that the back-seven on defense is sub par. Antonio Pierce, who had a down season in 2006, is the only proven commodity left at linebacker. If the season were to start today, Chase Blackburn and Gerris Wilkinson would probably be the starters outside. In the secondary, Corey Webster has not developed and Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters are a year older and probably slower. Will Demps was terrible at free safety and Gibril Wilson far too inconsistent at strong safety. It is my strong opinion that you can’t win without a strong defense and the Giants’ back-seven is a mess.

On special teams, Jay Feely may depart via free agency.

Possible Off-Season Player Personnel Upgrades: The counter argument to all of this is, “Hey Eric, the season doesn’t start on March 1st, it starts in September. Let’s see what the Giants do in free agency and the draft first!” I have a couple of problems with that argument.

First, this is one of the worst – and possibly the worst – free agency markets since the inception of unrestricted free agency. Why? Partly because most teams have learned how to handle the salary cap and re-sign their younger, up-and-coming players before they hit free agency. But mostly it is because more teams have more cap room than ever before. This is because of the dramatic increase in the salary cap (to $109 million) due to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Teams now have more money to re-sign players and/or not be forced to cut players due to salary cap restrictions. Thus, if you look at the quality of those who will soon hit the open market, it isn’t very good. Worse, for the few quality players out there, teams will have more money than ever to spend on them. Look at the Giants. This is a team that is always against the cap but this year they will have $20 million to spend. However, the Giants are still only above average in terms of available cap space this offseason. Almost everyone has millions to spend. Basic economics. Too much money chasing too few players – players will be dramatically overpaid.

Secondly, I don’t think the Giants are an overly attractive destination for free agents. “Yeah Eric, we’ve heard this same shit from you before only to be proven wrong.” That’s true. I expected Tom Coughlin’s reputation as a rule-driven hard-ass to scare off potential free agents. It didn’t because I failed to fully realize the old adage – it always comes down to money. The problem this year is that everyone has money. And worse, the perception out there (right or wrong) is that Coughlin is a lame duck coach on the verge of being fired and that the Giants have terrible team chemistry. If the money is near the same, a player may not see the Giants as the better situation.

Thirdly, just because a player is signed in free agency, it doesn’t mean that that position has been “fixed.” Quality matters. Last year, the Giants signed 10 free agents from other teams – CB R.W. McQuarters, CB Sam Madison, S Will Demps, S Jason Bell, S Quentin Harris, LB LaVar Arrington, LB Brandon Short, DT Junior Ioane, TE Boo Williams, and OC/OG Grey Ruegamer. Not exactly a stellar effort despite the numbers.

So the Giants will have to deal with a poor free agent market in which a lot of teams have money to spend. If the Giants are fortunate, they may get one or two quality starters out of free agency. And that’s if they are fortunate. The other area where the team can improve itself is the draft. But the Giants only have seven picks and will pick in the latter half of each round. The team has a lot of needs and seven picks don’t seem like enough. In addition, it is never, never wise to assume that a rookie can come in and start. It happens, but it is not wise to count on it.

So in summary, I see major needs at linebacker, cornerback, safety, wide receiver, tight end, possibly the offensive line, and possibly place kicker. I also see additional needs at defensive tackle and halfback. That is a lot of needs. And the Giants don’t have a lot of ammunition to fill those needs.

Coaching: I am not going to go off on an anti-Coughlin tilt, other than to say that Coughlin has been nothing more than a .500 coach in New York and 2006 was not one of his better coaching efforts. In addition, he obviously made major mistakes in selecting his assistant coaches as both coordinators were fired.

The big problem here is that Coughlin is in a win-or-be-fired situation. That’s a tough situation given: (1) the personnel issues I discussed above, (2) the savage nature of the NY area media when they smell blood in the water, (3) a fan base that has started to turn on the coach, and (4) a roster of players who has a history of criticizing their coaching staff publicly and privately. Plus, it’s a tough division.

There are also issues with the assistant coaches. New Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride was fired from his previous two offensive coordinator gigs after only two seasons. Plus, he didn’t exactly do a stellar job with Eli Manning as the quarterbacks coach. Now he’s in charge of the entire offense. New Defensive Coordinator John Spagnuolo has never served in that role at the pro level. We don’t know how he will handle the job. Even if he is good at it, his players will now have to learn a completely new system and terminology. There will be growing pains and growing pains equals losses. The new special teams coach, Tom Quinn, is young and very inexperienced. He’s never served as a special teams coordinator at the pro level. Finally, new quarterbacks coach Chris Palmer has an up-and-down record with working with young quarterbacks.

Front Office: I still don’t get the sense that ownership was overly enamored with new General Manager Jerry Reese. If so, why was Reese not promoted before the season ended or as soon as the season ended? Why was loser GM Charley Casserly interviewed? Why did the Giants reach out to Scott Pioli? Why was the decision to retain Coughlin made before Reese was promoted?

It was also a red flag that Reese was far too open when discussing the team’s personnel situation recently at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. In fact, both The New York Times and FoxSports contend that by simply mentioning Bills’ HB Willis McGahee, Reese was violating League tampering rules. He should know better. The Giants also appear to have mismanaged the contract discussions with OC Shaun O’Hara. According to The Daily News, the Giants never intended to meet O’Hara’s original contract demands, but chose to do so once the Cowboys gave a big deal to their center. Now O’Hara has upped his demands and is rejecting his own original offer. The Giants could have re-signed O’Hara weeks ago and now may be forced to pay him more or let him walk.

Reese is also taking a big gamble by releasing Luke Petitgout. We’ll have to see how that one pans out.

Ownership: One wonders if the 50-50 split between the Mara and Tisch families is a bad thing. Every major decision probably has to be negotiated and compromises (instead of drastic changes) are probably the norm. There is a reason why you don’t see 50-50 splits in corporate America.

The jury is still very much out as to whether John Mara and Jonathan Tisch have what it takes to successfully run an NFL team. Their first major decision – to retain the services of Tom Coughlin – was a strange one. Not because they kept him, but because they took the half-assed approach of not providing a firm commitment or firing him. The one-year contract extension appears – on the surface – to be band-aid. It appears that ownership is either hoping that Coughlin has a 2000 season, Jim Fassel-like run in him or they are simply postponing the inevitable. It doesn’t sit well with me. I have a bad feeling about this. I wonder if 2007 is going to be a wasted season. If it is, then 2008 will really be a year of transition – no, make that a year of rebuilding. Michael Strahan, Amani Toomer, and others will be gone. The new coaching staff will be bringing in their own systems and players. It will be 2009 or 2010 before the team contends again.

Do the owners care? I think they do. But their profits lessen their discomfort.

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Jan 242007
 
 January 24, 2007  Posted by  Articles, Giant Thoughts

Where Has the Time Gone?

I’m 39 years old. The last time the New York Giants won an NFL Championship was 16 years ago. I was 23 years old at the time. 16 years! When I think back to what my life was like 16 years ago, I can’t believe how much time has passed. I was fresh out of college, starting my first real professional, white-collar job. My life centered around dating girls, hanging out with college buddies, drinking, and the Giants. In those 16 years, I went from sharing apartments, to having my own apartment, to owning my first house. I got married and had two kids. I’m a family man now and I don’t get out much. My life is much different. The first gray hairs are appearing.

And I’m still waiting for the Giants to win another Super Bowl.

Think back to where you were 16 years ago when Scott Norwood’s last-second field goal attempt sailed wide right. How different was your life? Consider how much time 16 years really is. That’s how long we’ve been waiting. The old timers will say 16 years is nothing; that they had to wait 30 years between 1956 and 1986 for another Championship. It’s a valid point, but it doesn’t make me feel any better. I don’t really want to wait until I’m 53 until the Giants win another Super Bowl.

The average life expectancy in the United States is about 77. If I live to be 80, it means that I just spent one-fifth of my life watching the Giants futilely attempt to regain Championship glory. Worse than that, consider these embarrassing facts: (1) the Giants have only won three playoff games in those 16 years; (2) the Giants have not won a road playoff game during that time period. Yikes!

What Went Wrong?

How did the Giants go from a team that won two Super Bowls in four years to a team that that averages a playoff win every five years? The answers are pretty obvious: (1) bad personnel moves and (2) uninspiring coaching.

For all the positive work that General Manager George Young and Director of Player Personnel Tom Boisture did in the 1980′s, their magic quickly disappeared in the 1990′s. Young left the Giants after the 1997 draft and Boisture left the Giants after the 1998 draft. During that time period in the 1990′s, high-round picks were spent on players of dubious talent such as Jarrod Bunch, Kanavis McGhee, Derek Brown, Dave Brown, Marcus Buckley, Thomas Lewis, Thomas Randolph, Gary Downs, Tyrone Wheatley, Rodney Young, and Cedric Jones. And the Giants completely mismanaged the salary cap and free agency. The team overspent to keep its own mediocre talent, let talented players get away, and spent its remaining limited resources on guys like Mark Jackson, Carlton Bailey, and Ray Agnew.

It didn’t get much better under General Manager Ernie Accorsi and Director of Player Personnel Marv Sunderland. Accorsi’s first draft (with Boisture) was a disaster – Shaun Williams, Joe Jurevicius, a 3rd and 4th round pick for Brian Alford, Toby Myles, Todd Pollack, and Ben Fricke. Then from 1999-2002, the Accorsi-Sunderland team spent high picks on Joe Montgomery, Sean Bennett, Ron Dayne, Ron Dixon, Will Allen, Cedric Scott, Tim Carter, and Jeff Hatch. The Giants never seemed to have any cap space but did finally add some decent football players in free agency such as Mike Barrow and Dusty Zeigler. However, there were also big mistakes such as Kenny Holmes.

After the 2002 draft, Jerry Reese became the new director of player personnel. He and Accorsi spent high picks on players such as William Joseph, Osi Umenyiora, Visanthe Shiancoe, Rod Babers, Eli Manning (1st, 1st, 3rd, 5th round picks), Chris Snee, Reggie Torbor, Gibril Wilson, Corey Webster, Justin Tuck, Brandon Jacobs, Mathias Kiwanuka, Sinorice Moss, Gerris Wilkinson, and Barry Cofield. It’s been a mixed bag, but drafting does appear to be better. However, almost everything depends on the Eli Manning trade and we don’t know how that will pan out yet. Free agent additions during this time frame included Brian Mitchell, Jeff Feagles, Jim Finn, Dorsey Levens, Mike Hollis, Ryan Kuehl, Fred Robbins, Carlos Emmons, Shaun O’Hara, Barrett Green, Barry Stokes, Terry Cousin, Lorenzo Bromell, Martin Chase, Norman Hand, Brent Alexander, Kurt Warner, Antonio Pierce, Kareem McKenzie, Jay Feely, Kendrick Clancy, Plaxico Burress, Bob Whitfield, R.W. McQuarters, Sam Madison, Will Demps, Grey Ruegamer, Jason Bell, and LaVar Arrington. A lot of names – some good, some bad.

The net effect of all of this? Of the players added to the roster since 1991, both in terms of draft picks and free agent acquisitions, only seven have been voted to the Pro Bowl: Jessie Armstead, Michael Strahan, Ron Stone, Jeremy Shockey, Tiki Barber, Osi Umenyiora, and David Tyree. Sixteen years of work and only seven players who have been considered among the best at their position.

At the forefront of the frustrating personnel issues has been the inability to stabilize the quarterback position with an upper echelon talent. Since Phil Simms was forced to retire, we have gone from Dave Brown to Danny Kanell to Kent Graham to Kerry Collins to Kurt Warner to Eli Manning. And whether you believe in Manning or not, he certainly has not lived up to expectations yet. For better or worse, the fate of this franchise for at least the next few years is tied to Eli Manning.

There has also been been mediocre coaching. After the Jim Lee Howell/Vince Lombardi/Tom Landry Giants won the NFL Championship in 1956, the Giants did not win another until Bill Parcells/Bill Belichick appeared on the scene. And they have not won another since. The franchise has been led by Ray Handley, Dan Reeves, Jim Fassel, and Tom Coughlin with some bad assistant coaches such as Rod Rust, Johnnie Lynn, Tim Lewis, and John Hufnagel.

Mediocre talent + mediocre coaching = mediocre results.

Current Events:

So let’s move to the current situation. Let’s recap what has transpired. In 2005, both Wellington Mara and Robert Tisch passed away. Their sons, John Mara and Jonathan Tisch, have taken over. According to press reports, the front office tried to convince Tom Coughlin to dump Hufnagel and Lewis after the 2005 campaign despite a largely successful season where the Giants won the NFC East. If true, Coughlin obviously refused. As we all know, the Giants were embarrassed at home in the playoffs by the Panthers 23-0.

Expectations were high entering the 2006 season. The team won all four preseason games, but came damn close to a disastrous 0-3 regular season start until Eli Manning saved the day with late-game heroics in Philadelphia. Then the Giants went on a five-game winning streak, highlighted by their 36-22 destruction of the Cowboys in Dallas on Monday night. The Giants completed what was supposed to have been the toughest part of their schedule 6-2 and had a two-game lead in the NFC East. The Giants had, at that time, the second-best record in the NFC. Life was good.

But the Dallas game was costly as the Giants lost LaVar Arrington and Justin Tuck for the season. Osi Umenyiora also got hurt and missed the next five games. Then Michael Strahan got hurt against the Texans. An MRI revealed an ACL tear in Amani Toomer’s knee. And Luke Petitgout fractured his leg against the Bears. Antonio Pierce had ankle and knee issues. Brandon Short missed a month with a quad injury. Sam Madison pulled his hamstring. Corey Webster suffered a turf toe injury. A team cannot lose that many quality players and not expect the product on the field to suffer. And it did. The Giants began a 2-7 slide. They finished the regular season 8-8, barely limped into the playoffs, and got immediately bounced by the hated Eagles.

Nevertheless, the disastrous finish to what had been an extremely promising start cannot be blamed completely on the injury situation. Questionable coaching decisions were a factor in losses to the Bears, Titans, Cowboys, and Eagles. The coaching staff was publicly criticized again by players after losses to the Seahawks and Jaguars. While many point to the loss to the Bears as the turning point to the season, I believe the real turning point was blowing the 21-0 fourth-quarter lead to the Titans. That was a devastating emotional loss. To the credit of the coaching staff and players, the team did fight hard in close losses to the Cowboys and Eagles, but odd red-zone play calling helped to prevent victory. More importantly, the defense was coming apart and Eli Manning was wildly up-and-down in every game. The low-point came when the Saints trashed the Giants 30-7 at home in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. The fans, before they left early, started chanting, “Fire Coughlin!” Coughlin (or the front office) decided that a change was needed and Hufnagel was fired. The Giants’ running game came to life again against the Redskins and the Giants defeated Washington 34-28. The outcome of this game was incredibly significant, not so much because it put the Giants in the playoffs, but it very likely saved Coughlin’s job.

Against the Eagles in the playoffs, the defensive problems that plagued the team in the second-half of the season continued, as did Manning’s up-and-down play. Issues with red-zone play calling remained despite the fact that Quarterbacks Coach Kevin Gilbride was now calling the plays. It was truly a microcosm of the entire season. An incredibly disappointing 2006 campaign ended with an equally disappointing finish as the Giants allowed Philadelphia to easily move down field and set up the game-winning field goal with no time left on the clock.

And then we all waited. Waited to see if Tom Coughlin would be fired. Waited to see who the next general manager would be. There were wild rumors of major changes. Names such as Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick, Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis, and Patriots’ Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli were mentioned.

What we can safely assume is that it was not a given that Coughlin would return. Ownership never spoke up in his defense during the late-season slide. And nothing was said for the first few days after the season was over. Coughlin’s annual post-season press conference was not held as both sides met. Three days after the season ended, it was formally announced that Coughlin would be retained and that his contract would be extended one more season. It was not a ringing endorsement.

“Jon Tisch and I sat down with Tom Coughlin on Monday afternoon and had a lengthy discussion with him about the state of our team,” said John Mara. “Those discussions continued on Tuesday. At the conclusion of those discussions we told Tom that we wanted him to continue to be our head coach…(Coughlin) knew that obviously we were not happy finishing 8-8, particularly after starting 6-2. We addressed our concerns to him.”

“It is our strong belief that consistency, stability, loyalty, and sticking by your people are extremely important,” said Jonathan Tisch.

But consistency, stability, loyalty, and sticking by your people didn’t seem to apply to Hufnagel, who was fired with two games to go in the season, and Tim Lewis, who was fired the day after the decision to retain Coughlin was announced. In January 2004, Coughlin vowed to “provide the New York Giants with the best staff in football.” In that he failed miserably as his two most important hires – offensive and defensive coordinators – were let go due to ineffectiveness.

He also said back in his inaugural press conference the Giants must “must eliminate costly penalties” and instill “discipline which provides us all with the courage and the confidence to win in this league in the fourth quarter.” Since Coughlin has been with the Giants, costly penalties have remained an issue and the team lost too many close games in the fourth quarter in 2006. The Giants certainly did not play with much confidence or discipline. Regarding the injuries that plagued the Giants in Jim Fassel’s last season, Coughlin said, “It is something that has to be corrected. It is a mental thing I believe as much as it is anything else.” Injuries have been a huge issue during Coughlin’s regime.

On the surface, there doesn’t appear to be much respect between at least some of the players and Coughlin. Players have publicly and privately criticized the coaching staff in the press. Coughlin has also repeatedly told them not do so to no avail. The team also seems to ignore his message about not talking trash to the media about an upcoming opponent. Most Giants fans wish the players would simply shut the hell up and play.

But even if you don’t buy into all of these arguments, coaches are ultimately graded on their win-loss record. With the Giants, Coughlin is 25-23 in the regular season and 0-2 in the playoffs. In other words, he has been a .500 coach. His New York teams have experienced two second-half swoons in three years – an eight-game losing streak in 2004 and a 2-7 finish in 2006. Giants’ pride has not been restored. In his last three seasons in Jacksonville, Coughlin’s teams finished 7-9, 6-10, and 6-10. The last time Coughlin won a playoff game was 1999.

Some have argued that a coaching switch was not made because of a lack of viable alternatives and/or there will be better candidates available next offseason. I’m not sure I buy that. For one, there are always good young candidates available (i.e., Mike Tomlin). Plus, there is no guarantee that coaches such as Belichick, Weis, or Bill Cowher will be available or even want to come here. It’s not an overly attractive destination as the team has a split ownership and an entrenched new general manager and quarterback.

The next major decision the Giants made – even bigger than the decision to retain Coughlin – was the promotion of Jerry Reese to general manager. On the surface, it appears odd that the Reese was promoted after – and not before – Coughlin was retained. But Reese, at least publicly, said he supported the decision to keep Coughlin. It also seems odd that the only external candidate the Giants interviewed for the position was ex-Redskins and Texans’ General Manager Charlie Casserly, although they did reach out to Pioli (and were rebuffed). It will be Reese who will guide the franchise for the foreseeable future. That said, John Mara did make it very clear that his brother, Chris, will have an ever-larger role in personnel matters. I wonder how that dynamic will work in actuality behind the scenes. How much power will Chris Mara have? Under Reese, the Giants have drafted better in recent years, but he also said he fully supported the trade for Eli Manning and would make that trade again.

The next major announcement was the decision to promote Kevin Gilbride to offensive coordinator. This was a curious move for three reasons. For one, according to Gilbride, Coughlin immediately picked him as the man to be the coordinator. He did not interview anyone for the position. Secondly, Gilbride was quickly fired after two seasons from both of his last two offensive coordinator gigs (Pittsburgh and Buffalo). His 2003 Bills’ offense was one of the worst in the league and ultimately got his head coach fired as well. In Buffalo, Gilbride was criticized for being too pass-happy. Thirdly, Gilbride was the quarterbacks coach in charge of the immediate development of Eli Manning. Even the casual observer would question how effective he has been in that role. Indeed, I would argue that the Giants have dumped too much responsibility on Manning in his first three years in the League. The coaching staff certainly does not make it simple for him and they do not employ much of a short-passing game in order to get him in a rhythm and build up his confidence level. To the contrary, both Coughlin and Gilbride said one of their main offensive priorities in 2007 would be to throw the football down the field even more. Now to be fair to Gilbride, he has had some success as an offensive coordinator with the Oilers, Jaguars, and Bills (2002). So we shall see. As for why Coughlin did not interview anyone outside of the organization for the position, it may have been his wish not to throw another offensive system at Manning and maintain some level of continuity. There is something to be said for that approach, especially since the Giants decided to keep Coughlin.

The latest major decision was hiring Eagles’ Linebacker Coach Steve Spagnuolo as the new defensive coordinator. On the surface, this appears to be a good move as Spagnuolo has coached for eight seasons under Eagles’ defensive guru Jim Johnson. He has experience in Philadelphia working with both the linebackers and defensive backs. He also knows the NFC East, and the Eagles in particular. However, it remains to be seen if Spagnuolo is capable of replicating the Eagles’ success without Jim Johnson. “That package we had was Jim,” said Spagnuolo. “We put our heads together as a staff and came up with a few things, too, but the majority of it is Jim sitting down, mixing it together and coming up with something good.”

The Future?

So where does that leave us heading into 2007? That’s the million-dollar question. Coughlin is not in a strong position. He knows it, his assistant coaches know it, his players know it. The one-year extension means nothing. It was just for show. It’s pretty clear that the expectation level by ownership is for this team to make the playoffs and win in the playoffs. If not, Coughlin is likely gone. Some of the comments made by Coughlin recently are laughable. When talking about the decision to promote Gilbride and the Giants’ offense, Coughlin said, “It’s the New York Giants’ system. And the New York Giants’ system has tremendous flexibility.” When talking about Spagnuolo, Coughlin said, “I was obviously looking for a guy who had had the opportunity to work with some outstanding defensive people in this league. It wasn’t just a matter of the aggressiveness because the scheme that we have played here has been an aggressive scheme.” Fans would beg to differ on both accounts.

Obviously what will decide his fate will be if the team wins or not. That will be tough unless Eli Manning becomes a much more consistent quarterback. The Giants’ best player – Tiki Barber – has retired. The defense has issues in the back seven and will be learning a completely new system with the inherent growing pains that come with that. If the 2007 New York Giants experience a two- or three-game losing streak, how will it respond? This hasn’t proven to be a mentally tough football team. Will the players begin criticizing the coaching staff again? We know the press doesn’t like Coughlin and smells blood in the water. This situation has the potential to spiral out of control with the media (and fan sites such as this) fueling anti-Coughlin sentiment. If the chants of “Fire Coughlin” begin again and patrons start leaving the stadium early, a change will be made.

But there is some hope. In recent years, at least under Jim Fassel, this team has played better when expectations were lower. The Giants have talent at the skill positions and on the offensive line. I think Brandon Jacobs is going to be a heck of a player. Eli Manning lobbied for Gilbride so hopefully he will be more comfortable. Defensively, if everyone returns healthy, the defensive line is one of the best in football. Antonio Pierce and LaVar Arrington have talent. And while the Giants should add a stud corner to the secondary, the cornerbacks were not as bad as everyone makes them out to be. An improved pass rush will help. Spagnuolo’s defense will likely suit the talent on this roster better than Lewis’ system did.

Let’s just hope that history doesn’t repeat itself. In 1996, Dan Reeves was a lame duck and the team pretty much tanked after the 0-3 start. The Giants finished 6-10. In 2000, Jim Fassel was very much on the hot seat entering the season. He got his team to the Super Bowl before it was creamed by the Ravens 34-7. Fassel got an extension and held onto power for another three years before a change was made. In a way, it may be better to get this situation resolved quickly one way or the other.

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Dec 152004
 
 December 15, 2004  Posted by  Articles, Giant Thoughts
The Outsider’s Report: Special “Not Numerically Eliminated” Delusions Edition

By BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Daniel in MI

What the hell happened? After several weeks of being, let’s say out of commission, after a particularly awesome post-Vikings game bender (that we’re told involved tequila, baby oil, a shower curtain, and several large women that swore they were Giants cheerleaders) we came to and asked ourselves, “So, what are we now? 9-4? 10-3?” After consulting some secret league inside sources, we came to the conclusion that we’re 5-8 and playing like crap. We thought, “Not again…” So, we were determined to get down to the bottom of this slide. As always, although TOSR (The Outsider’s Report) lacks contacts, sources, access, and legitimacy, and much of what we write is apocryphal if not wildly inaccurate, we do score over the pedestrian media in two important ways: (1) we’re free, and (2) we remain unencumbered by journalistic integrity. Hmm…Ok, so we’re really only differentiated by the first thing.

After long seconds of studying film, our sources diagnosed the play of rookie QB Eli Manning as a key to the team’s recent decline. Clearly, a struggling Manning might lose confidence if his team doesn’t support him. We got a chance to ask about this support when we were lucky enough to get a few minutes alone with Manning when we came across him in kitchen at Giants stadium where Eli appeared to be examining the gas vents at the back of the ovens.

We asked him whether the team has been supportive and helping him to maintain his confidence. “Oh, yeah, everyone’s been great,” he said his flat tone masking his enthusiasm. “When I come to the sidelines after a bad series, the other players help me by not crowding me or coming near me which allows me to concentrate. And, Kurt has been really helpful, before each game he reminds me not to worry just because millions of people are watching and my team is counting on me, and not even to think about how Ben is doing for the Steelers or living up to my MVP brother. Off the field, the guys have been leaving apple cores, banana peels, fish heads, and other nutritional supplements in my locker to help me keep my strength through the longer NFL season, too.” It’s good to know the Giants have been behind the kid.

Some fans and media have called for benched veteran QB Kurt Warner to return to the lineup, but Warner himself is backing Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s decision. We found Kurt sticking pins into a small doll and put the question to him. “Look, Eli is the future of this team. The team has made its decision and cannot go back on it now. They made the call to pull a former MVP in a playoff hunt for their rookie QB, and now they have to live with it. You have to send the message to the team, ‘This QB with the 0.0 QB rating is the QB we’ve chosen and we’re going to stick with him so you’re stuck with him.’ That’s the message they must send, it’s the message they deserve to send. Plus, the Steelers are a fast, physical, brutal defense and Eli will benefit from playing almost as much as I’ll benefit from watching him try. I’ll be here to help him in whatever way I can, whether it’s reading defenses or peeling his body off the turf.” That Warner is a team guy!

A strange story popping up this week is that former commentator and current Raven CB Deion Sanders said that the Giants quit, and the team atmosphere is miserable. Giants WR Amani Toomer stepped up and defended the team. We found Toomer writing his new book, “I’m an Elite WR, Damn It!: Why Touchdowns are Overrated” to ask him about Sanders’ comments. He said, “I am surprised because I didn’t see him out there that much. Of course, I’ve been closing my eyes when I go over the middle lately so I don’t see much of anything. Maybe after those years of being a TV commentator he can see into the hearts of players. Or, maybe now that he’s not in the media he forgot what it meant when I said ‘off the record’ when we talked before the game.”

This drop-off is toughest on the Head Coach and veterans, of course. Coach Coughlin came in preaching running the ball and toughness, but even though Major Tom wants ground control, Tiki Barber’s numbers have fallen off as defenders stack the run. But, how has the notorious tough guy handled the team? We asked RB Tiki Barber. “The Coach has been trying to support us as best he can, just like my brother and I do in our book, ‘By My Brother’s Side,’ he’s trying to stay positive.” We asked Tiki for examples, “Well, today for example, Coach said, ‘Tiki, you lost two fumbles in that last game which was atrocious. But, you are wearing the right size socks, so good job on the socks.’ Last week he told Osi that even though he got blown off the ball against the run, he’s really punctual to meetings. And yesterday, I heard him tell Eli that his play looks horrible, but his butt looks great in the grey pants. So, he’s really encouraging, like I say you should be in my new book for kids called, ‘By My Brother’s Side.’ Speaking of my new book, ‘By My Brother’s Side,” have I told you about the lessons it gives…” At this point we hit Tiki over the head with a copy of the book and ran.

Finally, our sources indicated that another key problem this season has been losing the young playmaker SS Gibril Wilson to a shoulder injury. Now, Wilson claims he feels good, but team doctors are keeping him out of the games. We caught up with team Physician Dr. Russell “Terrier” Warren on his cell phone trying to refinance a loan with someone named “Vito” to ask him about why Wilson is being kept out. “Well, it’s about an abundance of caution,” said Dr. Warren, “If you look at the MRI and CAT scan, and then the point spread against the Ravens and Steelers, you’d see that we’re much safer keeping a playmaker like Wilson out or you risk losing against the spread…I mean, losing the kid for the season.” While we had him, we asked him when he thought Chris Snee might recover from his mystery illness. “When my boat is paid off.”

So, there you have it Giants fans. We’re on a losing streak, facing a team with only one loss that has given two other teams their only loss, with the rookie QB playing the way we hoped ours would. But, take heart, at least Phillip Rivers didn’t have a better QB rating than Eli last week, so we have that going for us.

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Sep 232004
 
 September 23, 2004  Posted by  Articles, Giant Thoughts
The Outsider’s Report: Special First Coughlin Era Victory Edition

By BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Daniel in MI

Well, the Giants improved to 1-1 with a win over the Redskins. This is good because the TOSR (The Outsider’s Report) staff much prefers celebratory drinking binges to the drowning our sorrows type (more chances of a round on the house). In any case, we sobered up just in time to make up more news this week – just like the rest of the media. As always, although TOSR lacks staff, inside contacts, friends, access, and personal hygiene, we do score over the more pedestrian media outlets in two important ways: (1) we’re free; and (2) we aren’t afraid to ask the tough rhetorical question. But enough about us, how’re you?

This week the Giants earned their first win of the Coughlin era by outlasting the Washington Redskins 20-14. Although the offense sputtered at times, the defense nabbed 7 turnovers to bail them out. We caught up with QB Kurt Warner to ask him if he’s starting to get more comfortable in the offense. “Oh, yeah, I was watching film and I just kept thinking, ‘Gosh, there is so much more I can do. Jeepers, I can feel that I’m improving each week. Golly, we can maybe get two touchdowns a game and not go 1-13 on 3rd down. Gee, I think I’ve really shown that I still have what it takes to win in this league. So, Jesus, someone trade to get me off this team before I get killed.’”

The defense was understandably proud of it’s turnaround after last week. A big story was how DC Tim Lewis told the players not to worry so much about the ‘Skins tendencies are, but to focus on what the Giants defense wanted to do. We asked Tim Lewis if this was a way to keep the players loose and aggressive. “Uh, well sure, I’ll go with that. To be honest, I was going against Joe freakin’ Gibbs! The guy’s a legend. I had no idea what the ‘Skins were going to do. So, I just trying to play it off like it was all about us.”

The players responded, and CB Will Peterson thinks this style will be a trend, “I think after seeing how well it worked, he’ll give us more and more leeway. And, from now on, all the game plans will include having the opposing QBs throw the ball to our safeties 5 to 7 times a game because if we don’t have that happen, we’re screwed.”

Recently, the media sommeliers gave us the weekly whine specials from the players, which featured a nice pairing: something dry from RB Ron Dayne and something zesty from TE Jeremy Shockey.

Although Dayne was giddy in the pre-season about getting a second shot at a first impression, he has apparently soured on the new regime’s use of him for something other than sideline decoration. We caught up with Ron studying films of Tyrone Wheatley’s NY press conferences and asked him about the kind of plays he wanted. “Well, I wish they’d give me more plays like I got in the pre-season. You know, successful ones. I want to play against scrubs and defenses that don’t game plan. But, the coaches have gone a different way.”

We asked him about how he’s being used. “Man, if you watch the game, you don’t even have to ask that question. You see how they’re using me: they’re asking me to carry the ball, forward, to attempt to advance the team’s field position and get a first down. I don’t think they spent a first round pick on me if all they were going to ask me to do was run the football and occasionally catch a pass or block. They could have gotten a back in later rounds for that. And he might even have been good.” When we asked why he thought they spent a first round pick on him, he said, “I have no idea.” Funny, that’s what Coughlin must be thinking, too.

For his part, Shockey’s issue is comfort with his role in the new offense. “I just feel like with everything I do, all the moving and stuff, when I watch it on film I’m not the same player I was a year ago – the player that scored two whole touchdowns each of the last 2 years. I just hope I can get comfortable soon so I can get both of my touchdowns this year.” The big man is clearly frustrated as things are not coming as naturally to him. “I’m not having as much fun as I had in the past. I mean, winning games is fun, and so we’ve only had one fun that way this year, but for me personally, I’m having less fun than before, which was a lot of fun. So, on a fun scale of 1 to 10, I’d say I’m about a 6.2, which puts me somewhere between slinging slurs at coaching legends and throwing ice into the stands.”

Finally, turning to the next opponent, the Giants will face a depleted Cleveland Browns team, which will be a reunion of sorts for OG Barry Stokes and OC Shaun O’Hara who came to the Giants from the Browns in the off-season. We caught up with Cleveland Head Coach Butch Davis trying to design a logo for the Browns’ helmet, and he commented on his former linemen, “We hold both of those guys in extremely high regard. They were awesome people…but get to a certain point with guys when you have an undisputed center that is, you know, ‘good,’ so it made it very difficult to keep players that aren’t good…I think everybody in this organization felt that they were a starters in this league, but we just thank goodness it’s not on our team.”

So, here you have it Giants fans. A win is said to cure a lot of ills on a football team, and if that’s the case imagine how many ills there must be on this team. Clearly, some more of the treatment is called for. Hopefully the Giants will make the Browns feel blue. If not, we can look forward to hearing about how newly signed practice squad CB Art Thomas doesn’t like how he’s being used on the practice squad, “I should be used to emulate the top shut down corners in practice like Sanders or Bailey; they wouldn’t have used a practice squad spot on me if just showing the opponent’s defensive alignment is all they wanted.”

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Sep 152004
 
 September 15, 2004  Posted by  Articles, Giant Thoughts
The Outsider’s Report: Eagles “Game” Edition

By BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Daniel in MI

Well, the regular season has started not with a bang or a wimper, but more a gasp and gurgle. We at TOSR (The Outsider’s Report) have returned from our various 12-step programs and are getting back into regular season form. Our lack of contacts, informants, league sources, inside information, and integrity has really paid off. As always, although much of what we write is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, we continue to score over more pedestrian media outlets in two important ways: (1) we’re free; and (2) we show up for meetings 5 minutes after they end. We turn now to Week 1.

The Giants were abused 31-17 the Eagles this week, and careful study of film indicates that when the Eagles weren’t running on the Giants defense at will, they were passing at the Wills. CB Will Allen was a favorite target. Although some speculated his injury was the problem, Allen denied this. “No, I’m fine. That’s no excuse.”

Reporters then asked Allen if he just had a rough day. “No, that wasn’t a rough day. We just didn’t execute like we should have.” We followed that up, “Will, what exactly would a rough day look like?” He described a bad day for us, “They’d pass for like 300 yards, we’d get no turnovers, they’d score like 4 TDs against us, and their star WR everyone knew needed to be covered would get like 3 of them. Now, that’s a rough friggin day!” We pointed out that they threw for 330 yards, 4 TDs, 3 to Owens, and we got no turnovers.” He said, “Oh, we’ll I guess that is a rough day. Damn. Hey, but I’m just coming off an injury.” Allen assured us, however that “come December, no one will remember what happened in September.” Under his breath he added, “By then people will forget this and complain about our missing the playoffs.”

One problem plaguing the team’s offense has been a lack of red zone production, particularly in the passing game. After the Giants failed to score a passing TD from the 1st and 2nd string QBs in the pre-season, fans eased their fears with the knowledge that the Giants were keeping things “vanilla.” Surely a team with this offensive firepower would break out against two young CBs like the Eagles. But, again the Giants scored no passing TDs. We caught up with QB Kurt Warner working on his fumble recoveries to ask about the offense.

“Yeah, we kept things vanilla in the pre-season,” agreed Kurt, “And the coaching staff have decided to keep things more vanilla now. In fact, we’ve moved from plain vanilla to French vanilla (simple as well as cooperating with the other team). We don’t want all of our opponents to know what our REAL offense will look like, so we’re continuing to keep it under wraps. It’s really a brilliant offense, though. Coach says we’ll unveil it in the off-season when we practice in the bubble and no one can see.”

We asked Kurt if he felt confident about the offense going into the game. “Yeah, I felt great about our offense going into this game. I mean, in practice, I’m able to pass seemingly wherever I want against our defense. We get completion after completion to our WRs, TEs, and RBs, you name it. Our blocking is great against our defense, I feel no pass rush, I mean I love playing against…our…defense….Wow, that sounded kinda bad, huh?”

Meanwhile, in the search for something to distract the fans from the disaster on the field is the petty whining off it. Much has been made of the fines levied against Giants players – including Green, Strahan, Cousins, and Emmons – for not showing up the requisite 5 minutes before the scheduled meeting time. We caught up with Coach Coughlin measuring socks with a micrometer and he told us that it is all of this is part of establishing winning discipline. “You’re either on time, or you’re late. On time is on time. And that’s five minutes early. And, since five minutes early is on time, to actually be five minutes early, you need to be there five minutes before five minutes early. So, that’s ten minutes early. That’s on time. But, to be five minutes early for that, you’d better be here five minutes before that. Unless it’s a Wednesday or Thursday on a leap year, or there is a Harvest Moon, it’s Simchas Torah, or the numbers in today’s date sum to a prime number. It’s very simple. Being on-time for team meetings is covered on pages 355 – 488 in the players rule book I gave them Chapter 13, Vol. XXI, 4th Edition. So, be on time for meetings and make sure you’re on the practice field on time. And with long socks, which should be 5 inches longer than short plus 5 inches.”

We caught up with physics professor Dr. Hortence Puffinpanty to explain how 5 minutes early is really on time. “Coach Coughlin is really relying on Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity which suggests that time is not constant, but actually all relative. For example, if you were to take off in a space ship near the speed of light ½ hour before a team meeting, you might return to Earth and have missed Coughlin’s meeting all together even though time for you will not seem to have progressed more than a minute or two. Wow, I’d hate to be you if you did that. Can you imagine what that fine would be? And God help you if you were wearing sandals on that ship and they were not dress sandals…”

Finally, there is the massive hit put on P. Jeff Feagles by Eagles LB Jeremiah Trotter. Although Feagles complained the hit was helmet-to-helmet, the league counted that in order to qualify as an illegal helmet to helmet hit, the offense had to fall into one of 7 categories. Six of the categories are, of course, defined situations in which the player receiving the hit are vulnerable, and the 7th was the addition of the phrase, “and the player is not on the Giants.” But, don’t worry, DE Michael Strahan has vowed to remember the hit Trotter put on his teammate. “We’ll remember that hit,” warned the Gap Toothed Wonder, “Oh yeah, we’ll remember it. Because, I don’t ever want to get hit like that, so next time we play the Eagles, I’m going to keep my head on a swivel and just go to the ground if I see someone coming. No way I want to get lit up like that. Man, he crushed him! That Trotter can hit!”

So, don’t worry Giants fans, the team will avenge us, or at least play again next week. The Giants are even now feverishly preparing for their home opener against the Redskins, going over strategies for showing up on time to meetings, filing grievances, and discussing what constitutes a dress sandal. Watch out Clinton Portis! And look out Jeff Feagles!

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Sep 142004
 
 September 14, 2004  Posted by  Articles, Giant Thoughts
2004 New York Giants: A Slightly Different View

By BigBlueInteractive.com Reporter/Photographer David Oliver

The Giants losing to the Eagles does not necessarily presage the dawn of a nuclear winter, or a return to the football of the 70s. It was a bad match up for Game 1, as the TV mavens at NFL Central thought they might have Eli Manning to showcase. Instead they got an entire network of ex-players focusing on the Curse of Terrible Tommy. BBI seems upset with this focus, but keep in mind, these guys are ex-players, and Tommy, whatever he is, has never been known as a players’ coach. The only comments I intend to make on this fiasco go to the mewing of the fans about the “spoiled players” and how the “media” is making up stories or running with complete canards – this from an audience who has absolutely NO knowledge of what is actually happening. What we are seeing is only the tip of this iceberg. There is a deep-seated unrest, throughout the League, with coaches from an old-school background. Discipline is only a small part of this rebellion – it goes more to the point of mutuality of respect. A large part of the ethos of these young men is respect, whether you and I like it or not. It is in part economic, in part racial, and in part generational. Some players have no problem with old school coaching; others have a big problem. In the end, one or the other goes.

I am currently reading General Tommy Franks’ autobiography (which I wholeheartedly recommend). General Franks cuts to the core of the entire issue of leadership and building a winning team, in his discussion of loyalty. He makes a constant refrain of the important lesson he learned early in one of his commands that loyalty extends both ways. When you become mother and father, counselor and leader of any unit with an organizational goal of success, you MUST take into account the troops. You must go the extra step in knowing what is in their hearts and minds, and you must show them that you care and that you will not only teach and guide, but you will also nurture. I can’t speak to what is in Coach Coughlin’s heart. And I have lived a life of discipline – if I was expected 5 minutes early, I was there 10 minutes early (hearken back to my mini camp write-up; I drove from Virginia and made sure that I was the first person on the field); if I entered a meeting where an old buck didn’t think much of a staffer who got up to go to the men’s room, I would rather piss in my pants than get up and leave early. That’s how I was raised. On the other hand, much of what I have heard and been told smacks of something other than mere bullshit discipline problems. My only concern is that as a Giants’ fan, this thing will carry on, because you and I know that the Maras do not easily fire their personal choices, but we also know that these same personal choices also do not deliver.

It appears that there is a tendency to rationalize away failure on the part of those we like, and to denigrate too easily those we do not like. Coach Coughlin appears to be a man and a coach who can revitalize the offensive side of the ball, just as Coach Fassel could work wonders with a QB. Both are about equally successful, but ultimately failed coaches for almost antithetical reasons. One has been accused of running a country club; the other of being a tyrannical prison warden. Neither depiction is wholly accurate. But there is a commonality. The last team of Coach Fassel was sloppy; but people choose to overlook the cast of characters that was on the field for the final eight game stretch. The first part of Coach Coughlin’s tenure is also characterized by sloppy play, whether vanilla or not, and with a different cast of characters, mostly those brought in by the current coaching staff. When football players are confused by the scheme, or give a lackluster effort, it is not always the players. We’ve been over this ground too many times before. On defense, what we saw against the Eagles was scary. Go back to the hiring of Coach Coughlin; I wrote then that the Giants had to act fast, that they needed to make this hiring within a week after the close of the season. Everyone on the planet who knows the Giants knew that Coach Coughlin was the man. But the Giants hesitated, whether it was out of political correctness, or a last ditch fight by the Chief Wig, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Coach Coughlin lost his choice of Defensive Coordinator Greg Williams (now with the Redskins), and therein lies the tale of Sunday’s game.

The personnel on the Giants are ill-suited for a 3-4 defense. I stand by my earlier statement that this might be the worst linebacking corps in a decade of Giants’ play. Individually, each player might be great at his position, but as a unit, they showed no cohesion. The front line also showed that you cannot build a unit of starters with everyone else’s journeymen or castoffs. If DE Keith Washington is starting after game 3, this defense will be a failed unit, now and at the end of the year. Defensive tackles Norman Hand and Fred Robbins will be good only against lesser units, and they won’t be playing many of those this year. The less said about the secondary, the better. But even if I cannot fault the schemes, or make the rationalization that this unit has not played together, I cannot rationalize the missed tackles, the arm waves, the running from this side of the field to the other, as players’ faults in a system run by a disciplinarian who allegedly laughed at the performance of last year’s scrub team. If that play was the result of poor coaching, then Sunday’s effort against the Eagles is likewise the result of poor coaching.

On the offense side of the ball, the Giants are a better than good team. The skill players are there, the QB position is a strength, and the line will be consistent and formidable as it works itself into shape. I don’t think Shaun O’Hara is a real strength at center and I am hoping that Lucier takes this job soon. Luke Petitgout has to work on some things. Otherwise, they will only get better. Tiki Barber has shown that once again, this offense is his; now Jeremy Shockey has got to knock off the rust.

It was really distressing to watch the game, not because I thought they could win, because they really were outmatched, but because the play was sloppy and disorganized, mostly on the defensive side of the ball. This is something we were assured would not happen. OK, so it was a bad match-up for Game 1. Now comes the Redskins game, and this is a game that the Giants should win. If Robbins and Hand are anywhere near as advertised, Portis will not have his 64-yard gallop to open the game. Once the run is neutralized, the Redskins can be controlled. As formidable as the ‘Skins defense looked against Tampa, it should be no match for the firepower the Giants can bring on offense. This is show time; Coach Coughlin and the new look Giants are having their unveiling before the home crowd. A win on Sunday and we will see-saw throughout the year, as most everyone expected and will accept. But should the Giants not beat the ‘Skins, it is possible they will not win a game this year.

The thing that people forget is that Coach Coughlin was not brought in to muddle around for a couple of years. He was brought in to win. If ever there was a situation for a coach to show off his system, to let the fans and the owners and the players and the rest of the League see that he can still win, then this is it. If we are going to be allowed to focus on football for the rest of this season, and if we are not to be bombarded with an ever-increasing crescendo of bullshit “why we hate the Coach articles”, the time is now.

The Giants will win on Sunday.

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