Aug 222016
 
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B.J. Goodson, New York Giants (August 20, 2016)

B.J. Goodson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Buffalo Bills 21 – New York Giants 0

Overview

There is no reason to panic. Yet. Most teams have games like this every now and then in both the preseason and regular season, where nothing goes right on one side of the ball. In most cases, one can write off or make excuses for such a preseason disappointment. But when you have a new head coach and a new offensive coordinator/play-caller on a team that hasn’t sniffed the playoffs in four years, red flags start getting raised.

Giants on Offense

The New York Giants played a preseason football game on August 20, 2016 and someone forgot to tell the offense. It was bad. Very bad.

  • Seven first downs. Seven.
  • 1-for-11 (9 percent) on third-down conversions.
  • 166 total net yards with 67 of those yards coming on one 4th quarter play.
  • 64 net yards passing.
  • 47 total offensive plays.
  • Four turnovers.
  • 20 minutes time of possession.
  • Zero points. Zero.
Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 20, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterback

Eli Manning played four offensive series in which the team netted 23 yards and one first down. He finished the game 4-of-9 for 44 yards.

Ryan Nassib continues to be dreadful. He entered the game in the second quarter and played into the fourth quarter. He didn’t complete his first pass until near the end of the third quarter, missing on his first seven attempts. Nassib finished the game 2-of-12 for 25 yards with one lost fumble.

Not to be “out done”, Logan Thomas had a “perfect” completion percentage, connecting twice with Giants and twice with Bills, finishing the game 2-of-4 for 17 yards and two interceptions.

Running Backs

It was difficult to judge this group based on the piss-poor blocking by the offensive line and tight ends. Probably the most interesting item to note is that the coaching staff isn’t giving Orleans Darkwa much of a chance. He had only a handful of snaps and no touches.

Bobby Rainey broke off a 67-yard run in the 4th quarter, where he showed nice patience but not a lot of breakaway speed despite the big gain. Aside from this play, Giants backs gained 32 yards on 14 carries for a terrible 2.3 yards-per-run. Andre Williams fumbled the ball away, but he had an impressive, physical 14-yard run to start the third quarter.

Paul Perkins failed to pick up the blitz on the sack-forced fumble-turnover that set up the Bills final touchdown. “The sack fumble was a protection adjustment that was on Paul Perkins,” said Ben McAdoo. Perkins also dropped a pass and had a false start. Not a good day for the rookie.

Wide Receivers

Victor Cruz (groin) and Geremy Davis (hamstring) did not play.

Giants wide receivers were targeted 19 times, but only five of those passes were completed. So in two preseason games, Giants wide receivers have only caught 10 passes. Ten. In the attempt to find a third receiver in case Cruz is done, thus far no one is impressing.

The “lucky” five who had a reception: Odell Beckham (22 yards), K.J. Maye (17 yards), Kadron Booone (11 yards), Tavarres King (8 yards), and Darius Powe (6 yards). Sterling Shepard was targeted once and shut out. Same with Myles White and Anthony Dable. Roger Lewis was targeted five times with no catches, including one drop.

Tight Ends/Offensive Line

Left guard Justin Pugh (shoulder) and tight end/fullback Will Johnson (burner) did not play.

I’m grouping these two unit together this week as their pathetic blocking up front was the primary reason for the shit show on offense. One of the beautiful elements of football is that a successful play is often the result of all eleven players performing their independent tasks as assigned. At the same time, one of the most frustrating elements is that if one of those 11 players – particularly a blocker – messes up, it can destroy the entire play. On Saturday, someone seemed to screw up on almost every play, be it with penalties, missed blocks by offensive linemen, and missed blocks by tight ends.

The key question is why was everyone so off? This is basically the same unit that was a top 10 offense last year. This offense played against the Bills in Buffalo last year during the regular season. Was it a comfort issue for the guys up front because Pugh was not in the line-up? Was it the play calling? Were the players simply not playing with the same level of intensity and focus as the Bills?

On the Giants first possession, on 2nd-and-11, it appeared that RT Marshall Newhouse simply failed to make contact on the linebacker who nailed the Giants running back for a loss. But Newhouse had words with TE Will Tye after the play, suggesting that Tye, who was playing up-back on the play, failed his assignment. Either way, someone messed up. After picking on the first down on 3rd-and-12, the Giants lost another yard when TE Larry Donnell simply whiffed on his man. Two plays later, RG John Jerry was flagged with a false start.

On the next series, LT Ereck Flowers was flagged for holding sabotaging the drive before it even had a chance to start. He gave up a pressure on Manning two plays later. The third series was also sabotaged when center Weston Richburg was flagged with holding. It’s difficult to overcome 1st-and-20 on back-to-back series. On 3rd-and-16, both tackles and LG Bobby Hart got beat and Manning was sacked. Manning’s fourth and final series ended on 3rd-and-2 when he was pressured as Jerry and Newhouse let one guy shoot between them.

Donnell whiffed on at least three run blocks and had trouble sustaining on others. He also had issues in pass protection on a Ryan Nassib rollout.

The second team offensive line that started the third quarter featured RT Bobby Hart, RG Emmett Cleary, OC Brett Jones, LG Ryan Seymour, and LT Byron Stingily. After a nice 14-yard run, Hart was promptly flagged for illegal formation on the next snap. Hart did a poor job in pass protection on this play as well as the next play. The Giants tried to run the ball with this unit without much success. Again, individual breakdowns led to issues, such as one right-side play that was stopped from the backside when Seymour whiffed on his block. Later, Cleary moved to right tackle, Adam Gettis played left guard, and Dillon Farrell played center. With this new line, Seymour had problems again, allowing his man to nail Andre Williams for a 3-yard loss. On the very next snap, Stingily, Seymour, and Farrell all immediately fell off of their blocks and Williams was surrounded by Bills (Matt LaCosse also had an impossible angle to attempt to block someone on this play). Farrell later couldn’t handle the nose tackle over his head on another botched run. They all struggled in pass protection too. And so it went. If you can’t block, you can’t run successful offensive plays. As far as I can tell, aside from Hart (and the jury is still out on Hart), there isn’t a legitimate NFL-caliber back-up on this roster. They all looked weak and like their feet are stuck in mud. The Bills just ran through or around these guys.

Giants on Defense

I’m not in a giving mood. The defense was OK. Were they put in a difficult situation because of the impotent offense? Yes. The three Bills scoring drives started at the Bills 48-yard line, Giants 49-yard line, and Giants 19-yard line. But the defense did allow three touchdowns on each of those possessions – all in the first half. In addition, the Bills drove 64 yards on another possession that ended with a fumble into the end zone.

Romeo Okwara, New York Giants (August 20, 2016)

Romeo Okwara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Line

DE Kerry Wynn (groin) did not play.

Owamagbe Odighizuwa lined up at right defensive tackle on 3rd-and-13 on the Bills first drive and immediately pressured the quarterback to disrupt the play and force a three-and-out. Olivier Vernon shot past the left tackle on an inside move to sack the quarterback in the second quarter. On the next snap, Vernon did an excellent job of holding the back to a 1-yard gain on 3rd-and-16.

Damon Harrison recovered a fumble in the end zone. He was a force against the run.

Among the back-ups, Louis Nix smacked the quarterback on one pass play. Jermelle Cudjo made a nice play defeating his man and tackling the running back in pursuit for no gain. Greg Milhouse made a couple of nice plays late when the Bills were running out the clock. Romeo Okwara impressed again. He caused an incompletion with one pressure and QB hit and later had a sack. Okwara also was a factor on Cooper Taylor’s interception. He was good against the run too – the Giants have something there in Okwara.

Linebackers

J.T. Thomas (hamstring) did not play.

Jonathan Casillas (4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 pass defense) had his second strong game in a row. He demonstrated nice pursuit on an end around in the 1st quarter that lost four yards. Later in the quarter, he nailed the back for no gain on an inside run. Casillas did have issues in coverage with running back LeSean McCoy on back-to-back plays in the second quarter – one 32-yard play overturned because McCoy was out-of-bounds and a 23-yard gain on a 3rd-and-8 check down.

Keenan Robinson lost track of the tight end in coverage on a 3rd-and-9 play that picked up 59 yards. Robinson later made a nice play against the run on the Bills second scoring drive by shooting the gap. He later tackled the back for a 3-yard loss on an outside run. Robinson overran a swing pass however, allowing extra yardage, and then was flagged with a face mask penalty.

Jasper Brinkley and Kelvin Sheppard continue to compete for the starting middle linebacker spot. As expected, Brinkley looked good against the run but had some issues against the pass, biting on a play-fake for a 15-yard gain to the tight end. Brinkley missed a tackle in the backfield on 2nd-and-1 but blew up a screen play on the next snap.

Another quiet game for Devon Kennard who had a chance to knock the ball away or intercept it on a 14-gain gain on the second scoring drive.

B.J. Goodson can hit; when he tackles you, you feel it. But he continues to struggle in coverage as he was lucky a deep ball to the tight end was overthrown on a play where he was beat.

Defensive Backs

Cornerbacks Eli Apple (leg) and Leon McFadden (leg) did not play.

Darian Thompson did a great job of attacking a sweep and nailing the running back for a 7-yard loss on the second offensive snap of the game. Later in the quarter, Landon Collins made two nice plays on the goal line. First, he kept the scrambling quarterback out of the end zone by quickly pursuing towards the sideline. Then Collins forced a fumble that was recovered in the end zone by the Giants. Running back LeSean McCoy caught a 13-yard touchdown pass against Thompson on 3rd-and-11 early in the second quarter. Collins blew up an outside running play that lost three yards on the second scoring drive. Collins was very active against the run.

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins let the quarterback get away from him on a 3rd-and-9 blitz, and the Bills made the Giants pay with a 59-yard completion. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) knocked away an out-pass late in the first quarter. However, DRC may have knocked away a sure interception by Thompson on an errant deep pass. Jenkins got beat for 12 yards on a 2nd-and-13 slant that set up the second touchdown.

Leon Hall’s defensive holding penalty on a 3rd-and-3 incomplete pass kept the Bills second scoring drive alive. Hall was later flagged with a second holding penalty too on an incomplete 2nd-and-15 pass.

Donte Deayon (who was beat) and Nat Berhe (who was late getting over) were lucky a deep ball was overthrown. Deayon got beat for what looked like a touchdown later on this drive, but he prevented the receiver from completing the act of catching the football as he was forced out-of-bounds. But Deayon got burned for a touchdown on the same play on the next drive after a turnover. Deayon also gave up a 31-yard deep sideline pass in the 4th quarter despite decent coverage.

Trevin Wade was beat on the successful 2-point conversion after the quarterback had a lot of time to survey the field. Wade also got beat for 11 yards on a shallow crossing route on 3rd-and-9 in the 4th quarter.

Justin Currie played more than expected after Mykkele Thompson left with a concussion early. Currie couldn’t make the tackle in the backfield, leading to a 9-yard gain on one play. Currie then failed to get over in time on a 21-yard completion two plays later. Cooper Taylor picked off an errant deep pass in the fourth quarter.

Giants on Special Teams

Brad Wing was the “star” of the game for the Giants with eight punts for 384 yards (48 yards per punt), including two downed inside the 10-yard line. Long snapper Zak DeOssie was flagged with a false start.

Tom Obarski missed a 27-yard field goal, which does not bode well for his roster status.

Bobby Rainey returned three punts for 36 yards, including a 25-yard return. Dwayne Harris returned two punts for 18 yards, including a 14-yard return. Rainey had one kickoff return for 21 yards. He came precariously close to causing a turnover when he didn’t field a short kickoff. Joe Powell was flagged for unnecessary roughness, wiping out a decent Rainey punt return.

Punt coverage was better this week, although the Giants did give up two 11-yard returns. Overall, the Bills returned five punts for 26 yards (5.2 yard average). The Giants (Josh Brown) kicked off once and it resulted in a touchback.

(New York Giants at Buffalo Bills, August 20, 2016)
Aug 192016
 
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Weston Richburg, New York Giants (August 12 2016)

Weston Richburg – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Buffalo Bills, August 20, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
Normally the two most important preseason games for the starters in terms of regular-season preparation are the third and second preseason games. Minus a number of injured starters, we should get a much better impression of the starting offensive and defensive units this week. In addition, Rex Ryan usually takes preseason games more seriously.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • LB J.T. Thomas (hamstring – on the PUP – did not make trip)
  • WR Victor Cruz (groin)
  • WR Geremy Davis (hamstring – did not make trip)
  • TE Will Johnson (burner – did not make trip)
  • LG Justin Pugh (shoulder)
  • DE Kerry Wynn (groin – did not make trip)
  • CB Eli Apple (strained leg muscle)
  • CB Leon McFadden (bruised lower leg – did not make trip)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
This week the Giants offense will benefit from the addition of its two best players: Eli Manning and Odell Beckham. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking on Victor Cruz and the coaching staff must now operate under the assumption that Cruz will not be a factor for at least the first part of the season and perhaps beyond. Making matters worse is that the favorite to replace Cruz in three-wide receiver sets – Geremy Davis – has been missing valuable practice and now game time with a hamstring injury. Keep in mind that Davis is still pretty darn green.

So the attention really shifts to other green receivers such as Tavarres King, Roger Lewis, and Darius Powe – three who didn’t get much of a chance to impress last week due to crappy quarterbacking from Ryan Nassib. Unless one of these three or Myles White shines and gains the trust of Ben McAdoo and Eli Manning, the third receiver on opening day may remain Dwayne Harris. In this offense, the third receiver is a de facto starter.

On the running back front, it appears Rashad Jennings is 1a and Shane Vereen 1b. Paul Perkins will also make the 53-man roster. Bobby Rainey played earlier than expected last week. He’s vying with Andre Williams and Orleans Darkwa for possibly one roster spot. Personally, I’d like to see a heavy dose of Williams and Darkwa in order to get a better read on those two.

At tight end, Larry Donnell and Will Tye seem to be locks. Matt LaCosse has received a lot of attention from the coaches but he’s battling the ultra versatile Will Johnson (who is out this game) and rookie draft pick Jerell Adams for a roster spot. The Giants may keep four tight ends, but someone has to go other than Ryan Malleck unless the Giants ditch Nikita Whitlock and use Johnson at fullback too.

Justin Pugh (shoulder) made the trip but it is unknown if he will play. If he doesn’t, Bobby Hart will have a busy night, playing with the first-unit at left guard and then the second-unit at right tackle. The starters remain pretty much set. What we don’t know is – other than Hart – who the back-ups will be. There are a bunch of journeymen no-names in this group who have yet to inspire a lot of confidence. Depth on the offensive line is a serious concern.

On a final note, Ryan Nassib simply stunk last week. He’s a lock to make the roster, but he has to play with a lot more confidence and credibility.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The early returns with the starting unit were impressive last week, but that was only one game against a suspect offense. That said, if the Giants defensive line performs as well as it did last week throughout this upcoming season, the Giants are in good shape. The front was tough against the run and able to pressure the passer without bringing extra rushers. That’s huge.

The Giants also appear to have a nice battle brewing at back-up defensive end. Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Romeo Okwara not only flashed as pass rushers, but they showed a great deal of versatility by being able to play defensive tackle in pass-rush situations. Kerry Wynn – who was doing some nice things at camp before getting hurt – has missed a lot of time with a groin injury. Even Stansly Maponga and Mike Rose have flashed some.

Depth at defensive tackle behind Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins is more shaky. Jay Bromley is finally back after late offseason ankle surgery. The Giants very much need him to come into his own this year. Greg Milhouse, Jermelle Cudjo, Davon Coleman, Louis Nix, and Montori Hughes are probably battling for one roster spot.

It’s still not known who the Giants middle linebacker and principle defensive front-seven signal-caller will be on opening night. Kelvin Sheppard and Jasper Brinkley are the leading contenders. Jonathan Casillas has taken full advantage of J.T. Thomas’ (hamstring) absence and appears firmly entrenched as a starter and nickel linebacker. Keenan Robinson also has seen a lot of time with the nickel defense. We get our first look at him this week as he missed last week with an injury. Devon Kennard was very quiet in the first preseason game. B.J. Goodson had a mostly positive game and was in on a lot of tackles, but he needs to show more in coverage. This appears to be a deep group, but are there any consistent play makers?

The secondary is shaking up to be a strong unit. Eli Apple (leg) made the trip but it remains to be seen if he plays. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins weren’t even tested in the preseason opener. Ben McAdoo said rookie free safety Darian Thompson was virtually perfect in his assignments. I’d like to see more flash out of Landon Collins. The Giants invested a high #2 in him. The nickel corner spot has been dramatically upgraded with the addition of Leon Hall. With Leon McFadden out, Donte Deayon should see a lot of action, and possibly Bennett Jackson, at corner. I still don’t have a good sense of whether or not the Giants have an NFL-caliber back-up safeties. Nat Berhe, Cooper Taylor, Mykkele Thompson, and Andrew Adams all had their ups and downs last week. This is an important game for them.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The one-game suspension of Josh Brown and ensuing media controversy about his domestic violence past may be upsetting the apple cart here. Is Tom Obarski the guy you want kicking against the Cowboys with the game on the line in the opener? Will the media storm surrounding Brown die away or force the team’s hand? Often unrecognized by fans is that the Giants have a heck of a punter in Brad Wing now. That was a good trade last year. Team punt coverage last week was very shoddy and needs to improve.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on the Second Preseason Game: “It’s good to get the first group out there. A chance to knock the rust off. We played a few snaps in that first game but to get out there with Eli and Odell and get the whole group together and work the instincts. Anticipation is exciting.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The Giants were too sloppy last week. Hopefully that starts getting cleaned up as we progress towards the regular-season opener. Mike Sullivan called the plays. Will that continue? Who will be the middle linebacker? Who is the #3 wide receiver on this team? If Landon Collins or Darian Thompson get hurt, who is the primary back-up at safety?

Aug 152016
 
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Odell Beckham, Adam Henry, and Victor Cruz; New York Giants (July 30, 2016)

Odell Beckham, Adam Henry, and Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

AUGUST 15, 2016 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP REPORT…
The New York Giants held their thirteenth and final summer training camp practice on Monday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Training camp is now officially over.

INJURY REPORT…
New York Giants linebacker J.T. Thomas (hamstring) remains on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) List.

Fullback Nikita Whitlock (burner), wide receiver Victor Cruz (groin), wide receiver Geremy Davis (hamstring), tight end Will Johnson (burner), defensive end Kerry Wynn (groin), and cornerback Eli Apple (knee) did not practice.

“No (update on Cruz),” said Head Coach Ben McAdoo. “Just the status quo… we’re building him up to get to a position where we can make an evaluation. He had the hiccup, hoping to get him some work on Wednesday… Victor and I had a nice conversation yesterday afternoon. We talked about some different things that may be able to help moving forward, and I’ll let him share that. I’m not going to share that; I’ll keep our conversation private.”

“We’re still not giving up on Cruz,” said General Manager Jerry Reese on WFAN. “Hopefully, he’ll make it back.”

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (groin) was limited. “No, there was no setback,” said McAdoo of Shepard.

Tight end Larry Donnell (dehydration), right guard John Jerry (illness), and cornerback Matt Smalley (shoulder) left practice early.

PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • The offense seemed out of sorts today and had a rough practice.
  • Giants dime defense showed a look with Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul switching sides with Johnathan Hankins and Romeo Okwara playing defensive tackle. Keenan Robinson was the lone linebacker. The outside corners were Janoris Jenkins and Donte Deayon with Leon Hall, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Darian Thompson, and Landon Collins (in the box) inside.
  • Safety Landon Collins broke up two passes, one intended for tight end Matt LaCosse and the other for wide receiver Myles White.
  • Quarterback Ryan Nassib hit wide receiver Anthony Dable for a big play against cornerback Trevin Wade. Dable also made a one-handed touchdown catch on a throw from quarterback Logan Thomas.
  • Quarterback Logan Thomas hit wide receiver Kadron Boone deep against cornerback Matt Smalley. Thomas then found wide receiver Darius Powe, who made a nice catch, against Smalley.
  • Taking probably too much time, quarterback Eli Manning eventually found tight end Matt LaCosse for a touchdown against safety Landon Collins.
  • Emmett Cleary came in with the first unit at right guard when John Jerry (illness) left the field. Bobby Hart later got some work in at right guard as well.
  • Quarterback Ryan Nassib connected with wide receiver K.J. Maye in the back corner of the end zone for a touchdown against cornerback Donte Deayon.
  • Quarterback Logan Thomas threw a strike to tight end Jerell Adams for a touchdown against linebacker Brad Bars.
  • With no healthy fullback available, tight end Ryan Malleck received a goal line carry, but he was unable to score.
  • In the 2-minute drill, quarterback Eli Manning hit wide receiver Roger Lewis for a touchdown against cornerback Donte Deayon. Manning went 5-of-5 on this drive with Lewis having two catches.
  • Linebacker Jonathan Casillas stopped running back Shane Vereen on a two-point conversion running attempt.
  • Cornerback Michael Hunter intercepted quarterback Ryan Nassib to end another 2-minute drive on a pass intended for wide receiver K.J. Maye.

HEAD COACH BEN MCADOO…
The transcript of Ben McAdoo’s press conference on Monday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at Giants.com.

ARTICLES…

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Training camp is officially over. The Giants will be off Tuesday and return to practice on Wednesday.

Aug 142016
 
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Landon Collins, New York Giants (July 30, 2016)Richburg

Landon Collins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

AUGUST 14, 2016 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP REPORT…
The New York Giants held their twelfth summer training camp practice on Sunday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

INJURY REPORT – JAY BROMLEY RETURNS, VICTOR CRUZ AILING…
New York Giants linebacker J.T. Thomas (hamstring) remains on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) List.

Defensive tackle Jay Bromley (ankle) was activated off of the PUP and practiced for the first time on Sunday.

“I feel good, I feel good,” said Bromley. “It feels good to be back on the field finally. It’s been way too long…In OTA’s my ankle started bothering me, so I had some pain and we had it checked out. There were bone spurs and it was really nagging, so we decided to get those handled (with surgery).”

Wide receiver Geremy Davis (hamstring), tight end Will Johnson (burner), defensive end Kerry Wynn (groin), and cornerback Eli Apple (knee) did not practice.

“It’s a muscle,” Head Coach Ben McAdoo said of Apple’s knee. “He has a slight muscle strain.”

“It is going to be fine and it is a matter of just taking it day by day,” said Apple.

Wide receiver Victor Cruz (groin) was limited.

“His groin is still bothering him a little bit,’ said McAdoo of Cruz. “Take a look at him tomorrow. He’ll get treatment tonight, and then we’ll take a look at him tomorrow and see how he’s feeling…if he’s not feeling up to par and can’t push through, then he cannot practice…You never know when someone is going to turn the corner.”

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (groin) and linebacker Keenan Robinson (groin) practiced.

PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • In 1-on-1 drills, wide receiver Roger Lewis beat cornerback Trevin Wade for a touchdown on a corner post route. Wide receiver Tavarres King beat Leon Hall for a touchdown on a slant.
  • Also in 1-on-1 drills, wide receiver Sterling Shepard beat cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on a crossing route. Wide receiver Darius Powe caught a sideline touchdown against cornerback Donte Deayon.
  • In 1-on-1 drills, wide receiver Odell Beckham easily beat cornerback Janoris Jenkins and was off to the races.
  • In 7-on-7 drills, the three starting receivers were Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Victor Cruz (slot).
  • Safety Cooper Taylor broke up a pass intended for wide receiver Sterling Shepard.
  • In 11-on-11 drills, quarterback Eli Manning rolled out and hit wide receiver Odell Beckham for a diving touchdown catch against safety Nat Berhe.
  • Cornerback Donte Deayon received some snaps with first-team dime defense. He lined up outside with corner Janoris Jenkins. Cornerbacks Leon Hall and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played inside.
  • The second-team offensive line was left tackle Byron Stingily, left guard Ryan Seymour, center Dillon Farrell, right guard Emmett Cleary, and right tackle Bobby Hart. Adam Gettis was demoted to the third team.
  • Wide receiver Roger Lewis beat cornerback Michael Hunter for a touchdown.
  • On a free play because the defense jumped offsides, wide receiver Sterling Shepard beat cornerback Janoris Jenkins up left sideline. But a bad pass from quarterback Eli Manning floated and was easily intercepted by Jenkins.
  • Running back Paul Perkins received some reps with the second-team offense.
  • In 11-on-11 drills, wide receiver Victor Cruz was blanketed by slot corner Leon Hall. Cruz only saw a few snaps in team drills and was shut out.
  • Quarterback Eli Manning found tight end Larry Donnell for a touchdown against safety Landon Collins.
  • Running backs Paul Perkins and Rashad Jennings broke big runs up the middle.
  • Quarterback Eli Manning hit wide receiver Odell Beckham for a touchdown in the back corner of the end zone against cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
  • Ryan Malleck received some first-team snaps at H-Back.
  • Kelvin Sheppard and Jasper Brinkley continued to rotate at middle linebacker with the first unit.
  • Safety Mykkele Thompson had two good hits, one on running back Orleans Darkwa and the other on wide receiver Myles White.

HEAD COACH BEN MCADOO…
The transcript of Ben McAdoo’s press conference on Sunday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at Giants.com.

THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

ARTICLES…

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The thirteenth training camp practice will be held on Monday, starting at 10:40AM. This is officially the last training camp practice of the summer. It is not open to the general public but only season ticket holders who have received special access. The Giants will be off Tuesday and return to practice on Wednesday.

Aug 132016
 
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Andre Williams, New York Giants (August 12 2016)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Miami Dolphins 27 – New York Giants 10

Overview

Minus their two best players – Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, the Ben McAdoo era began with a bit of an anti-climatic, uneventful game sabotaged by horrendous quarterback play by Ryan Nassib. The first preseason game is usually a bit sloppy and this contest was no exception. McAdoo needs to get this team to play more disciplined football and execute at a higher level. There were too many turnovers and the Giants were lucky there weren’t a lot more. Nassib could have been picked off more than twice. And the Giants fortunately recovered four of their six fumbles.

The primary take-aways from this game were:

  • Ryan Nassib stunk.
  • The starting defense played at a high level.
  • The team is holding its breath awaiting news on Eli Apple’s knee.
  • There appears to be little depth on the offensive line.
  • The Giants have some promising young players on both sides of the ball.

Giants on Offense

Not good. Aided by two Miami Dolphins penalties. the Giants drove 74 yards on nine plays on their opening drive to score their only touchdown of the evening. The only other points were set up by a turnover returned to the Dolphins 11-yard line. The Giants gained five first downs on their first drive and only seven others on the remaining 13 drives. The passing game was beyond pathetic, accruing a net of 69 yards. The running game was far more productive with 158 yards rushing but it couldn’t compensate for the terrible quarterbacking.

Something to keep an eye on is that Mike Sullivan called the plays in this game, not Ben McAdoo. If the offense continues to struggle, that may have to change.

Quarterback

Ben McAdoo decided to not play Eli Manning.

Ryan Nassib was handed an opportunity that all back-up quarterbacks who aspire to one day start in the NFL hope to receive: play the bulk of a preseason game, including starting with the first unit. Nassib failed miserably. Rather than confidently raising the level of play of the offensive unit, he appeared to be the one holding it back. Nassib seemed jumpy, missed seeing open receivers, and had trouble on almost all of his outside throws. Indeed, the only strikes he really threw were between the hashmarks. Two of his deep throws were underthrown, late, and picked off. He was lucky at least two other passes were not intercepted. Nassib sloppily fumbled away one ball after a scramble, setting up an easy touchdown for the Dolphins. He also had issues on a couple of snaps where the football ended up on the ground. Nassib had a chance to hit Sterling Shepard in the end zone on 3rd-and-goal, but also underthrew him there.

The final stat line was ugly: 7-of-15 for 75 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 1 lost fumble, and a quarterback rating of 22.2. Logan Thomas received playing time in the 4th quarter but was only threw for 12 yards.

The primary reason the Giants lost this football game was Nassib. He held the entire offense back.

Running Backs

Hampered by a pathetic passing attack, the running game was probably more productive than should have been expected as the Giants ran for 158 yards on the night (146 yards from the running backs). Andre Williams was the leading rusher with nine carries for 41 yards (4.6 yards per carry). He had runs of 16 and 12 yards and appeared more nimble and instinctive. New York’s best run of the night was a 19-yarder by Shane Vereen who put on a nifty spin move to avoid a free defender behind the line of scrimmage. Rashad Jennings only had three carries but scored from three yards out, running through a tackle to do so. Bobby Rainey received playing time earlier than expected (2nd quarter) and had four carries for 17 yards (4.3 yards per carry). Paul Perkins gained 36 yards on seven carries (5.1 yards per carry), including a 14-yard run, but he botched a handoff. The turnover gave the Dolphins a short field to put the game away. Orleans Darkwa had two carries for 16 yards and Marshaun Coprich two carries for six yards.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham (coach’s decision) and Victor Cruz (groin) did not play.

The quarterback play was so shoddy that it was tough to get a good read on the receivers. Giants quarterbacks completed nine passes – and only five to wide receivers!!! Sterling Shepard had the catch of the night, when he kept alive the Giants sole TD drive with a diving 24-yard catch on 3rd-and-6. Only one receiver had more than one catch and that was Geremy Davis who caught two passes for 21 yards before leaving with a hamstring injury. Only one other receiver – Dwayne Harris – had a catch longer than 10 yards (Harris had an 11-yarder). Roger Lewis received a lot of playing time earlier than expected. He had one catch for nine yards.

Tight Ends

Again, quarterbacking was so poor that it was tough to get a good read on the tight ends in the passing game. Will Tye had a nifty 15-yard catch-and-run called back due to an illegal formation penalty on Byron Stingily. The only official catch was the 7-yarder caught by Jerell Adams late in the 4th quarter. Larry Donnell was flagged with an unnecessary holding penalty on an outside run. Donnell did have an excellent block as an up back on Andre Williams’ 16-yard run. Tye and Matt LaCosse seemed to do a reasonable job run blocking.

Weston Richburg, New York Giants (August 12 2016)

Weston Richburg – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Offensive Line

The Dolphins sat their top three defensive linemen so this wasn’t a real good test for the starting five. On the first drive, Ereck Flowers allowed one pass pressure and was flagged with a false start. The Giants had some issues running around end early; there was on play where RT Marshall Newhouse was pushed back, disrupting the play. Overall, the starters were pretty steady however.

The second-team line featured LT Byron Stingily, LG Ryan Seymour, OC Brett Jones, RG Adam Gettis, and RT Bobby Hart. Gettis was a train wreck. He got flagged for holding three times and botched his initial block on a screen pass that led to a sack. Stingily was flagged for an illegal formation penalty that wiped out a 15-yard reception by TE Will Tye (Stingily also allowed Nassib to get hit on this play). Seymour got beat on the play that led to the Nassib fumble that was returned to the 5-yard line; he had some issues with the bull-rush.

In the third quarter, Gettis moved to center and Emmett Cleary came in at right guard. This is where Gettis promptly was flagged with his third holding penalty. Late in the quarter, Dillon Farrell played center with Jones at left guard and Cleary still at right guard. In the 4th quarter, the line featured LT Jake Rodgers, LG Shane McDermott, OC Dillon Farrell, RG Brett Jones, and RT Emmett Cleary. Rodgers and McDermott had good blocks on a 14-yard gain by Paul Perkins. Rodgers was flagged with a false start and the running game pretty much sputtered for much of the rest of the final quarter. Cleary also gave up a pass pressure on 3rd-and-9.

Giants on Defense

The starting defense played very well. The Giants stuffed the run and got after the passer. Miami did not gain a first down until their sixth drive of the game. The reserves did not play as well, but they were also not helped by the Giants offense setting up the Dolphins on short fields after turnovers. Miami scored 17 points after drives of 33, 5, and 25 yards. A 51-yard touchdown pass came on a fluke play where the intended receiver tipped the pass to another receiver who easily ran into the end zone.

Defensive Line

DT Jay Bromley (ankle) and DE Kerry Wynn (groin) did not play.

The starting four of LDE Jason Pierre-Paul, DT Johnathan Hankins, DT Damon Harrison, and RDE Olivier Vernon looked as good as advertised. They were tough against the run and applied tremendous pressure on the quarterback. Hankins and Harrison – who flipped between both tackle spots – are a brick wall in the middle. Vernon stood out with his lightning quick pass rush, hitting the quarterback twice and almost getting a safety. JPP also flashed with his pressure on the quarterback and caused a holding penalty on a running play.

Owamagbe Odighizuwa had his best game as a Giant, lining up both at defensive tackle in pass rush situations and outside in the base defense. He had three quarterback hits and two sacks. His first big hit came with the starters, forcing the quarterback to unload the ball quickly. He also caused a holding penalty on one pass rush. Odigizuwa did get handled on the 5-yard touchdown run however.

Two other relatively unknown defensive ends had their moments too. Stansly Maponga accrued a sack and rookie free agent Romeo Okwara played a lot. Okwara has good size and made some noise both in run defense and applying pressure. Like Odighizuwa, Okwara played defensive tackle in passing situations. Mike Rose had one big hit near the end of the 3rd quarter on the quarterback.

Among the reserve tackles, Greg Milhouse had one sack and four tackles. He combined with safety Andrew Adams to stuff one 3rd-and-1 run. Louis Nix had a few decent moments against the run.

Jonathan Casillas, New York Giants (August 12 2016)

Jonathan Casillas – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Linebackers

Linebackers Keenan Robinson (groin) and J.T. Thomas (hamstring) did not play.

Jonathan Casillas looked good in pass coverage, picking off one pass and returning it to the 11-yard line and almost coming down with another interception off a deflection. He was also pretty active flowing to the football on running plays (two assists). In limited time, Jasper Brinkley had two solo tackles and Kelvin Sheppard one assist. Devon Kennard was quiet.

B.J. Goodson (7 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss) stood out as a physical presence with strong, sure tackles. However, he did miss a tackle at the start of the 3rd quarter on a 26-yard run. Later on this drive, Goodson was badly beaten in coverage by the tight end (fortunately, the pass was dropped). Goodson did a nice job of reading a screen pass and causing a 3-yard loss.

Brad Bars seemed to get hung up a little too long on blocks and was caught chasing ball carriers who got around him. Ishaq Williams made a nice tackle on an inside run but later couldn’t make a play on the back on 3rd-and-3 when the Dolphins were running out the clock.

Defensive Backs

Corners Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins were never tested. Neither were safeties Darian Thompson and Landon Collins. Ben McAdoo said that Thompson was near perfect in his assignments.

Eli Apple had a couple of throws in his direction, but made a sure tackle to keep the receiver short of the first down and had tight coverage on another short throw. Apple also helped to disrupt an outside running play.

Leon McFadden was beaten a couple of times, including on key 3rd-and-8 and 3rd-and-6 plays that kept drives alive. Donte Deayon and Michael Hunter couldn’t get off their blocks on a 3rd-and-16 screen play that picked up 24 yards. Deayon was beaten for 14 yards on 3rd-and-4 later on this scoring drive. In the 4th quarter, the Dolphins tried the WR screen again but Hunter this time read it beautifully, disrupting the entire play.

Nat Berhe made one very good play in run defense, but later left his side of the field wide open on the 5-yard touchdown run by misreading the play. Cooper Taylor missed a tackle near the line of scrimmage on a 26-yard run. Andrew Adams made a nice play in short yardage on 3rd-and-1 but he bit on the 4th-and-1 play-fake and may have been responsible for the tight end being wide open for the catch-and-run touchdown. Bennett Jackson did a horrible job of over-running this play too and letting the tight end score.

Giants on Special Teams

I’m sorry but Tom Quinn doesn’t do it for me. He should have been let go a long time ago.

Brad Wing punted seven times, including a 65-yarder and two kicks downed inside the 20-yard line. But kickoff and punt coverage could have been much better. Miami’s Jakeem Grant returned kickoffs for 26 and 27 yards. More damaging were his four punt returns for a total of 60 yards (15 yards per return), including a 28-yarder. Orleans Darkwa did have a strong tackle on a third kickoff return that only gained eight yards.

Bobby Rainey received most of the return work for the Giants. He returned three punts for a total of 17 yards (5.7 yards per return) and two kickoffs for 36 yards (18 yards per return). More alarmingly, his old ball security issues appeared as he fumbled a punt return and bobbled another. He also had issues with one kickoff return. Dwayne Harris’ job appears very safe.

Cooper Taylor was flagged with an unnecessary roughness penalty, wiping out a 15-yard punt return by K.J. Maye. Leon McFadden was also flagged with a holding penalty on a punt return.

(Miami Dolphins at New York Giants, August 12, 2016)
Aug 112016
 
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Ben McAdoo, New York Giants (July 30, 2016)

Ben McAdoo – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Miami Dolphins at New York Giants, August 12, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
Experienced fans understand that the first preseason game is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. But this first game has a far deeper meaning. For the first time in 12 years, a new head coach for the New York Giants will be walking the sidelines. The three most successful head coaches in franchise history were Steve Owen (24 years), Bill Parcells (8 years), and Tom Coughlin (12 years). Will Ben McAdoo become a franchise fixture, lasting 10+ years or will he be gone in three years? Nothing is given. No one knows the answer to that question.

Some young Giants fans have known nothing but Tom Coughlin. They can’t remember a day when he wasn’t the head coach walking the sideline. Or they have a hazy memory of Jim Fassel or Dan Reeves. Love or hate Tom Coughlin, he knew how to run the ship. Everything was organized. The Giants were a well-run machine. On Friday night against the Miami Dolphins, we’ll receive our very first impression of how tight a ship Ben McAdoo operates. The first preseason game is often sloppy, but we want to see things run generally smoothly. Disorderly and undisciplined teams usually do not succeed.

The starters will only play about 15 snaps. This first game will be more important for the current reserves who are either trying to push for starting playing time or simply trying to make the team.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • DT Jay Bromley (ankle – on the PUP)
  • LB J.T. Thomas (hamstring – on the PUP)
  • WR Victor Cruz (groin)
  • DE Kerry Wynn (groin)
  • LB Keenan Robinson (groin)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
WR Victor Cruz will not play and with each passing day, one wonders if he will ever be the same player again. Indeed, it may not be a given that he makes the team. Cruz has yet to make much noise in training camp and the clock is ticking. 2011-12 was a long time ago.

The quarterbacks in 2016 will be Eli Manning and Ryan Nassib again. The starting offensive line returns intact. So does the running back corps plus Paul Perkins. There is more competition at tight end but the front runners likely remain Larry Donnell and Will Tye. The key difference between the 2015 and 2016 New York Giants on offense appears to be the subtraction of WR Rueben Randle and the addition of WR Sterling Shepard – which appears to be a huge upgrade.

The leading wide receivers for New York in 2015 were Odell Beckham (96 catches for 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns), Randle (57 catches for 797 yards and 8 touchdowns), and Dwayne Harris (36 catches for 396 yards and 4 touchdowns). No other wide receiver on the roster had more than seven catches! The hope here is that Shepard becomes an instant impact player who is able to take pressure off of Beckham. The Giants also need a productive Cruz to return or another receiver to step up and produce as the third receiver. The chief candidates right now are Geremy Davis, Myles White, Tavarres King, Roger Lewis, and Darius Powe. Are these just guys or is there someone here who can serve as a legitimate threat?

Beyond the receiver concerns, the main focus on offense will be for jobs and playing time behind the starters. There are a lot of bodies at running back and tight end. After Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen, who will receive the few remaining touches at running back? Andre Williams, Orleans Darkwa, Paul Perkins, or Bobby Rainey? Ben McAdoo loves to employ tight ends in multiple packages. I expect four tight ends to make the roster. Will Johnson is a jack-of-all-trades player who can play fullback, H-Back, and tight end. Aside from Donnell and Tye, Matt LaCosse has been making noise in camp. Does Nikita Whitlock have a role on this team?

Then there is the ever-present concern about depth and competition on the offensive line. At this point, it appears the same five starters will remain intact in 2016. But the back-ups – who could quickly become important in the event of an injury – are relatively unknown and unproven. The primary candidates right now are Bobby Hart, Byron Stingily, Ryan Seymour, Emmett Cleary, Shane McDermott, and Adam Gettis. Who? The performance of the second-team offensive line will be something to concentrate on during the game.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The New York Giants were a disaster on defense in 2015. The team could not stop the run or the pass. The Giants were statistically dead last in the NFL and one of the worst in NFL history. In reality, except for spurts here and there (notably the 2011 playoff run), the Giants haven’t been playing good defense for years. Indeed, there is an entire generation of young Giants fans who have no idea what consistently good Giants defense looks like. It’s an embarrassment for a franchise that prided itself on good defense even during bad years.

The pressure is on Steve Spagnuolo to deliver at least a middle-of-the-pack defense. The Giants spent big bucks in free agency and invested much in the draft on defense. DE Olivier Vernon, DT Damon Harrison, CB Janoris Jenkins, CB Leon Hall, CB Eli Apple, and FS Darian Thompson were added. Much is expected from second- and third-year players like DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, LB Devon Kennard, and S Landon Collins. Keenan Robinson, Kelvin Sheppard, and B.J. Goodson were also added to the linebacking corps.

The primary challenge of course is to get everyone playing cohesive and effective defense as soon as possible. There will be at least four new starters with many new faces also receiving a lot of playing time like Leon Hall at slot corner. Who will the middle linebacker be? Jasper Brinkley, Kelvin Sheppard, or Keenan Robinson? J.T. Thomas’ hamstring injury has sidelined him for all of training camp and Jonathan Casillas appears to have taken over his outside job. Can Kennard stay healthy?

With a plethora of quality defensive backs, one would expect Spagnuolo to use packages that take advantage of Apple and Hall in addition to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Jenkins. It will be interesting to see how rookie safety Thompson performs as the new starter and Collins as a second-year player in a more natural strong safety position. Time is running out on guys like Nat Berhe, Mykkele Thompson, Cooper Taylor, and Bennett Jackson.

Up front, Jay Bromley’s late ankle surgery has really set him back. Much was expected of him as a reserve. Can he catch up? Who now are the primary back-ups behind Johnathan Hankins and Harrison? Greg Milhouse is a rookie to watch. The Giants also need quality reserve minutes from Odighizuwa and a 4th defensive end – Kerry Wynn, Stansly Maponga, or Romeo Okwara.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
This is an area where there is very little change. The kickers remain Josh Brown and Brad Wing. Dwayne Harris is the primary returner. Tom Quinn has been the special teams coordinator since 2007. Dwayne Stukes is his new assistant. While the New York Giants were vastly improved on special teams in 2015, special teams snafus still were a factor in a number of defeats. That needs to be cleaned up.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on Preseason Playing Time: “We’re going to be consistent. We’re going treat every guy differently. We’re going to take every player case by case. We’ll start with the first group, probably, for maybe 15 plays or so and then either dial it back or push it forward based on what we need to see and what we want to see.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The #1 concern is always coming out of the preseason healthy. In addition to that, what we need to see is how well run the entire operation is under the new head coach. Who will call the offensive plays now? If it is McAdoo, can he handle that responsibility in addition to his head coaching duties? The Giants need to find other offensive threats to complement Odell Beckham. Sterling Shepard is hopefully one piece. Defensively, who are the leaders? Can this team quickly jump from dead last to at least middle-of-the-pack defensively?

Aug 102016
 
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Mike Sullivan and Eli Manning, New York Giants (July 30, 2016)

Mike Sullivan and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

AUGUST 10, 2016 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP REPORT…
The New York Giants held their eleventh summer training camp practice on Wednesday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

INJURY REPORT…
New York Giants defensive tackle Jay Bromley (ankle) and linebacker J.T. Thomas (hamstring) remain on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) List.

Wide receiver Victor Cruz (groin), defensive end Kerry Wynn (groin), and linebacker Keenan Robinson (groin) did not practice. “I’m doing good,” Cruz said. “Better.”

PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • For the second day in a row, the first-team wide receivers were Odell Beckham, Geremy Davis, and Sterling Shepard (slot).
  • The defense used a three-safety package in 7-on-7 drills with the first-team including Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe deep with Landon Collins in the box. Another package had Leon Hall and Berhe deep with Collins and Thompson closer to the line.
  • The dime defense had a look with Jason Pierre-Paul and Devon Kennard at defensive end and Olivier Vernon and Owamagbe Odighizuwa at defensive tackle.
  • Kelvin Sheppard and Jasper Brinkley continue to see reps at middle linebacker with the first-team. B.J. Goodson received second-team reps at middle linebacker.
  • In 11-on-11 drills, cornerback Janoris Jenkins broke up a slant pass intended for wide receiver Geremy Davis. Jenkins later almost picked off another pass intended for wide receiver Dwayne Harris and broke up another pass intended for Davis in the end zone. Jenkins had a good practice.
  • Defensive end Stansly Maponga flashed at right defensive end.
  • Quarterback Eli Manning hit wide receiver Odell Beckham for a touchdown against cornerback Eli Apple. Manning and Beckham later hooked up for another touchdown.
  • Defensive tackle Greg Milhouse flashed by collapsing the pocket.
  • Quarterback Ryan Nassib hit tight end Will Johnson for a touchdown.
  • Wide receiver Anthony Dable caught a touchdown against cornerback Matt Smalley.
  • Cornerback Donte Deayon flashed in coverage.
  • Quarterback Logan Thomas was not sharp.
  • Place kicker Josh Brown nailed a 63-yard field goal in practice.

JERRY REESE ON ESPN RADIO
The audio of ESPN Radio’s interview with General Manager Jerry Reese on Wednesday is available at ESPN.com.

THE COACHES SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following coaches are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

ARTICLES…

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
There is no practice on Thursday. The Giants play the Dolphins in the preseason opener on Friday. The twelfth training camp practice will be held on Sunday from 11:10AM – 12:50PM. Weather permitting, this will be the last training camp practice open to the public this year.

Aug 092016
 
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Jerell Adams, New York Giants (July 30, 2016)

Jerell Adams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

AUGUST 9, 2016 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP REPORT…
The New York Giants held their tenth summer training camp practice on Tuesday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

INJURY REPORT…
New York Giants defensive tackle Jay Bromley (ankle) and linebacker J.T. Thomas (hamstring) remain on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) List.

Linebacker Keenan Robinson (groin) did not practice. Wide receiver Victor Cruz (groin) and safety Nat Berhe (hamstring) were limited.

“It happened during practice, just a little tightness,” said Cruz. “I didn’t want to push it and make it worse, so I just told the training staff and they shut me down…A couple of days, so we’ll see…I’m sure it clouds up (me playing in the first preseason game on Friday) a little bit.”

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (stinger) and safety Landon Collins (lower leg) were dinged in practice but returned.

Fullback Nikita Whitlock (illness) was carted off of the field near the end of practice.

PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • The first-team defense to start practice had Kelvin Sheppard at middle linebacker and Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple at cornerback.
  • Ishaq Williams appears to have been shifted from defensive end to linebacker. Williams intercepted a quarterback Logan Thomas pass tipped by cornerback Donte Deayon.
  • In 1-on-1 drills, cornerback Eli Apple covered Odell Beckham like a blanket on one deep shot.
  • Wide receiver Sterling Shepard got away from Eli Apple on a double move for a touchdown.
  • Wide receiver Odell Beckham beat cornerback Janoris Jenkins for a touchdown.
  • Cornerback Donte Deayon broke up a pass intended for wide receiver Roger Lewis, but then Lewis made a great catch in the end zone against cornerback Matt Smalley.
  • On the first play of 7-on-7 drills, quarterback Eli Manning hit tight end Larry Donnell down the sideline for a one-handed, diving catch against safety Landon Collins. (VIDEO) Manning and Donnell later hooked up for a touchdown on 7-on-7 drills.
  • In 11-on-11 drills, the first-team wide receivers were Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Geremy Davis. In addition, Darius Powe and Roger Lewis received some first-team snaps.
  • The defense ran a pass-rush package up front that had Devon Kennard at left defensive end, Jason Pierre-Paul at left defensive tackle, Owamagbe Odighizuwa at right defensive tackle, and Olivier Vernon at right defensive end.
  • Wide receiver Odell Beckham beat cornerback Eli Apple on a double move for a touchdown.
  • Safety Darian Thompson had good coverage against wide receiver Geremy Davis on a long post throw.
  • In 7-on-7 drills, quarterback Eli Manning hit tight end Larry Donnell for a touchdown off of play-action. Manning then threw a strike to wide receiver Roger Lewis for a touchdown against cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
  • Wide receiver Tavarres King beat cornerback Leon McFadden in the end zone for a touchdown despite tight coverage.
  • Defensive tackle Davon Coleman recovered a fumble by Ryan Nassib.
  • The defense stopped the offense three times in a row in the two-minute drill. Defensive end Oliver Vernon sacked quarterback Eli Manning (not actually hit) on 4th down to end one drive.
  • Shane McDermott continues to receive some first-team snaps at center.
  • Running back Orleans Darkwa has had a good training camp, running very aggressively.
  • Wide receiver Sterling Shepard continues to impress and is developing a nice chemistry with quarterback Eli Manning.
  • Defensive end Kerry Wynn flashed at practice on a number of plays.
  • Leon Hall has looked sharp at slot cornerback.
  • Defensive end Stansly Maponga had a touch sack of quarterback Ryan Nassib.

HEAD COACH BEN MCADOO…
The transcript of Ben McAdoo’s press conference on Tuesday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at Giants.com.

THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

ARTICLES…

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The eleventh training camp practice will be held on Wednesday from 10:40AM – 12:20PM. Only two remaining training camp practices at Quest Diagnostics Training Center will be open to the public (weather permitting) this year:

  • Wednesday, August 10: 10:40 AM – 12:20 PM
  • Sunday, August 14: 11:10 AM – 12:50 PM
Aug 082016
 
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Jasper Brinkley and Weston , New York Giants (July 30, 2016)Richburg

Jasper Brinkley and Weston Richburg – © USA TODAY Sports Images

AUGUST 8, 2016 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP REPORT…
The New York Giants held their ninth summer training camp practice on Monday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

INJURY REPORT…
New York Giants defensive tackle Jay Bromley (ankle) and linebacker J.T. Thomas (hamstring) remain on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) List.

PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • Quarterback Eli Manning had a virtually flawless practice, completing most of his pass attempts. He went 6-for-6 in a two minute drill that culminated with a touchdown pass.
  • The first-team offense started off with Odell Beckham (wide left) and Victor Cruz (wide right) outside at wide receiver and Sterling Shepard in the slot.
  • Wide receiver Odell Beckham also lined up in the backfield in one formation.
  • Punter Brad Wing had a strong day with a number of booming punts and punts being downed inside the 10-yard line.
  • Quarterback Ryan Nassib hit wide receiver Tavarres King deep for a touchdown, beating cornerback Leon McFadden and safety Mykkele Thompson.
  • Quarterback Eli Manning hit wide receiver Odell Beckham for a touchdown against cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who had tight coverage on the play. Manning later found Beckham again for another red zone touchdown between cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Landon Collins.
  • Linebackers Keenan Robinson and Kelvin Sheppard did a good job of stringing out a running play for no gain. Robinson made a few plays during practice.
  • Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie continues to see reps both outside and at slot corner. He had a few pass break ups in 7-on-7 drills. Cornerback Leon Hall also continues to work at the slot corner position.
  • Quarterback Ryan Nassib hit wide receiver Roger Lewis with a bomb (against McFadden and Thompson again); Nassib then found running back Bobby Rainey in the flat who ran in for the score.
  • Defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa stuffed a pitch play to running back Shane Vereen.

HEAD COACH BEN MCADOO…
The transcript of Ben McAdoo’s press conference on Monday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at Giants.com.

THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

ARTICLES…

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The tenth training camp practice will be held on Tuesday from 10:40AM – 12:55PM. Only three remaining training camp practices at Quest Diagnostics Training Center will be open to the public (weather permitting) this year:

  • Tuesday, August 9: 10:40 AM – 12:55 PM
  • Wednesday, August 10: 10:40 AM – 12:20 PM
  • Sunday, August 14: 11:10 AM – 12:50 PM
Aug 072016
 
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Spider Lockhart, Brad Van Pelt, Jack Gregory; New York Giants (1975)

Spider Lockhart, Brad Van Pelt, Jack Gregory; New York Giants (1975)

The first chapter of the New York Football Giants history closed on December 29, 1963. Up until that time, one of the cornerstone franchises of the NFL, the Giants prospered on the field while they regularly struggled financially to stay afloat. The franchise nearly went bankrupt fending off four American Football Leagues (AFL) and the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), all of which placed one or more teams in the New York market. No other franchise had as many direct competitors as the Giants; 13 in all attempted to carve out their own niche in the greater New York area after Tim Mara, Billy Gibbons and Dr. Harry March purchased the rights to establish an NFL franchise in New York in 1925.

A significant number of these incursions took place during the circuit’s leanest years during the Great Depression in the 1930’s and World War II in the early 1940’s. These were times when a pro football team’s primary source of income was ticket sales. Radio and newspaper were the forms of communication and promotion, and bad weather would keep turnstile counts low.

The AAFC proved to be the most formidable foe to the NFL, and to the Giants in particular. The Maras were forced to take out a significant loan to keep the franchise solvent as escalating player salaries rose disproportionately against the modest income stream that had yet to be augmented by lucrative television money.

The decade of the 1950s was a rare period where both the NFL and Giants remained free from competition. After the New York Yanks franchise relocated to Dallas in 1952, the Giants were the lone football team in New York for eight years, their longest stretch as New York’s long pro football team.

The fourth AFL in 1960 was initially considered little more than a nuisance to the Giants, who were a star-studded outfit that regularly contended for the NFL Championship, and crossed over into popular culture with numerous players receiving advertising and media opportunities. For the first time since Red Grange in the 1920s, pro football players became household names, and the first among them were Giants like Frank Gifford, Sam Huff and Pat Summerall.

On the field, the period between 1925 and 1963, the Giants were among the NFL’s “Big Four” that dominated the gridiron circuit, along with the Packers, Bears and Redskins. The Giants overall record of 294-156-27 over 38 seasons gave them a winning percentage of 0.645. Included were 16 postseason appearances, more than any other franchise, 14 league championship games, and four NFL titles. The first championship in 1927 was played before there was a post season; the other three were all won on the Giants home fields in the Polo Grounds in 1934 and 1938 and Yankee Stadium in 1956. The Giants lost four other titles games on their home field, but established league records for attendance until the NFL moved into the enormous Los Angeles Coliseum which held over 100,000 patrons.

The ultimate recognition for the best-of-the-best is induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The Giants were invited to play in the first Hall of Fame Game in 1962 and had three charter members in the inaugural class of 1963: founder Tim Mara, center Mel Hein and tackle Cal Hubbard. There would be many more to follow. Today, the Giants total number of enshrines of 22 rates third, behind only the Bears and Packers. Of the Giants 12 retired numbers, 10 were worn by players from this era.

Foreshadowing

Many believe the Giants demise was initiated with the trading of linebacker Sam Huff to Washington and defensive tackle Dick Modzelewski to Cleveland during the 1964 offseason. That may be true, but there were warning signs that went unnoticed, obscured by the team’s success and record-setting passing performances by Y.A. Tittle during the 1962 and 1963 seasons.

The 1959 offseason with the departure of offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi to Green Bay began a sequence of miscalculations, untimely misfortunes, unusual circumstances, and poor drafting. New York continued to succeed despite second-choice staffing and unsatisfactory talent backing up an aging, though talented and championship-hardened, roster.

Owners Jack and Wellington Mara had anticipated Lombardi assuming the head coach position when Jim Lee Howell retired. Lombardi had long been frustrated by his inability to land a head spot in the NFL, and prior to the 1958 season had been offered the head coaching job in Philadelphia. Lombardi was advised by Wellington not to take it and wait for a better opportunity. That chance came the following year, and according to Wellington, there had been an oral agreement with the Packers’ board of directors that they would release Lombardi back to the Giants when the New York head coaching position became available.

Howell stepped down from coaching after the 1960 season and moved into the Giants player personnel department. Green Bay refused to relinquish Lombardi to the Giants after he led the Packers to the NFL Championship Game that season. The Maras then turned to offensive coordinator Allie Sherman, considered by many around the league to be a brilliant offensive mind. Sherman would become the most controversial and polarizing figure in franchise history.

Sherman originally came to New York in 1949 as a specialist to help Single Wing and A-Formation tailback Charlie Conerly transition into a contemporary T-Formation quarterback. Giants Head Coach Steve Owen, while being a revolutionary genius with defenses, had dated ideas on offense and relied on concepts that were comfortable to him. Sherman was a prized possession of Philadelphia head coach Earl “Greasy” Neal as an undersized quarterback and later assistant coach. Sherman helped the Eagles become an offensive power and advance to the NFL title game in 1947. Neal told Owen, “Take Sherman as your assistant. He knows more about (the T-Formation) than anyone.”

Sherman and the Giants were mostly successful, albeit never fully committing to either Conerly or the T-Formation, over the next four seasons. A disastrous and injury-riddled 1953 campaign led to Owen’s departure. After being passed over for the head coaching positon for Jim Lee Howell, Sherman coached the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Winnipeg Blue Bombers for three seasons. His teams featured imaginative offensive concepts with multiple men in motion that took advantage of the CFL’s more liberal rules, and qualified for the post season all three years.

Despite his success, Sherman desired to return to the NFL and accepted a scouting position with the Giants in 1957, while also coaching Conerly part-time. When Lombardi left for Green Bay in 1959, Sherman assumed the Giants offensive coordinator role. Under his tutelage, Conerly enjoyed a career year and was awarded the NFL’s MVP trophy as the Giants won the Eastern Conference title.

After Howell stepped down as head coach, Sherman signed a three-year contract as head coach of the Giants on January 10, 1961. Before Sherman became official, there were many behind-the-scenes machinations where the Mara’s attempted to extract Lombardi, who was entering the third year of a five-year contract to coach Green Bay. Once the futility of that exercise was accepted, Sherman became the eighth head coach of the Giants.

The roster Sherman inherited had plenty of championship experience. Many of the Giants starters, including the core of the defensive front seven, were on the Yankee Stadium field when they won the NFL Championship in 1956. That was also the team’s biggest problem – their best players were their oldest. There hadn’t been a rookie drafted that made an impact on the Giants since Sam Huff.

Most troubling, many of New York’s draft picks produced for other teams. Wide receiver Buddy Dial (2nd round 1959) had an eight-year career in Pittsburgh and Dallas, and appeared in two Pro Bowls. Wide receiver Bobby Joe Conrad (5th round, 1958) had a 12-year career with the Cardinals and Dallas, was All Pro once and played in another Pro Bowl. Don Maynard (9th round 1957) was a reserve and kick returner on the 1958 Giants, but he went on to a Hall of Fame career as a wide receiver with the New York Titans/Jets. In 1959 the Giants first round choice (10th overall) was used on quarterback Lee Grosscup as an heir apparent to aging Conerly. Grosscup appeared in eight games and amassed a total of 47 pass attempts as a Giant through 1961, his last year on the team. He was out of football altogether following the 1962 season.

What the Giants did do well, and what sustained them for a terrific three-year run, was execute exceptional trades. The Y.A. Tittle deal with San Francisco for tackle Lou Cordileone turned out to be a first-rate heist in New York’s favor. Soon after, a trade with Los Angeles for Del Shofner in exchange for a first round pick completed the key components of what would become a record-setting offense.

While the roster still lacked the desperately needed infusion of youth, there was no wanting for talent among the starting eleven, regardless of the dates on their birth certificates. New York’s average age was 29½ with 6½ seasons of NFL experience for their starting lineup in the 1962 NFL Championship Game versus Green Bay. The Packers, by comparison, were just under 28 years with five years of experience. That does not appear to be a significant difference on paper, but once the Giants over-30 crowd began to leave following the 1963 and 1964 seasons the decline in performance was precipitous. Green Bay’s core remained mostly intact through a run of five championships over seven years, which ultimately saw them be honored with the unofficial title of Team of the Sixties.

Duplicitous Eccentric or Misunderstood Genius?

Sherman’s first three seasons at the helm were unqualified successes. The Giants 33-8-1 record earned them three Eastern Conference titles. Despite losing all three championship games, Sherman was recognized as one of the game’s best and brightest coaches. He was voted NFL Coach of the Year in 1961 and 1962, and remains the only coach in history to have won in consecutive years. Wellington Mara quipped years later, “Allie might have been the best second choice since John Alden.”

Tittle certainly was appreciative of what Sherman meant to his career. The reborn quarterback established the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season with 33 in 1962, then reset it with 36 in 1963, during 14 game seasons. Those still stand today as the Giants franchise standard. Tittle said, “(Sherman) never looked upon the Giants as a team but as 40 men – each with a unique personality. Sherman realized early in his career that a successful club depended on the system adapting to the players, not the other way around.” The Giants were so confident in Sherman, they tore up his contract after the 1962 season and locked him up with a new five-year deal.

Y.A. Tittle, Allie Sherman, and Kyle Rote, New York Giants (1963)

Y.A. Tittle, Allie Sherman, and Kyle Rote, New York Giants (1963)

Not everyone behind the scenes were as generous sending adulation Sherman’s way. Halfback and wide receiver Frank Gifford saw two sides to the coach: “Allie was a terrific offensive coach but not a great head coach. Allie had a good sense of the passing game, and he loved to employ it. But when it came to dealing with real players rather than with blackboard X’s and O’s, Allie’s style hurt him a great deal. Instead of saying, ‘this is the way it’s going to be,’ he tried to cajole the players.”

Defensive end Andy Robustelli described the first three years of Sherman’s tenure as “an era of agony and ecstasy for all of us connected with the Giants – the agony often taking place in our locker room while the fans were in ecstasy over the wondrous feats our team performed.

“We freely wondered whether the head coach had a hang-up about the defense, and after a while we simply accepted the fact that we would never be his favorite. It was plain to us that he couldn’t handle the defense’s notoriety. My role as a coach offered me a unique perspective as well as some agonizing dealings with Sherman. Al was not the kind of person with whom you could disagree and feel it was for the good of the team. That was a tough situation for me because I felt one of the prerequisites of being a good assistant coach was to express freely an opinion that was based on experience and knowledge.”

Robustelli placed most of the credit on Tittle. “Y.A. was more than just an efficient quarterback. His personality carried over to the field, where there was no doubt who was in charge.” (Y.A. Tittle’s Incomparable 1962 and 1963 Seasons)

Defensive tackle Rosey Grier was traded to Los Angeles after the 1962 season for John Lovetere, who was younger and more athletic than Grier, who suffered from chronic weight issues. Lovetere had a strong 1963 season but suffered a knee injury the following year and never returned to form. This was only the first of many moves that would backfire on New York for one reason or another. Wellington’s uncanny knack for getting the right player at just the right time had escaped him.

By far, the most shocking and controversial transaction in Giants history was the trading of star middle linebacker Sam Huff to Washington after the 1963 season. The grudge Huff held against Sherman eventually became a legend that took on a life of its own. In return, New York received two journeymen players, defensive end Andy Stynchula and halfback Dick James, who brought youth but little impact. Rookie Lou Slaby inherited Huff’s position as the man in the middle but only lasted one season as the starter, and two overall in New York. He was out of football by 1967.

The friction between Huff and Sherman began before the 1962 season with a change in scheme that confounded the All Pro. In the new defense, Huff was required to fill the strong-side gap between the guard and center, regardless of where the play was going. The reading of offensive keys that Huff had executed to near-perfection in the Landry 4-3 defense was now nullified after the snap. Near the end of the exhibition schedule Huff confided his discontent with defensive captain and coordinator Robustelli, who told him, “I agree with you, but this is the defense Allie wants you to play, and you’re just going to have to do it.” (New York Giants – Cleveland Browns 1950-1959)

Huff eventually voiced his dissenting opinion to Sherman, despite the predictable result being all but assured. No changes were made and the Giants once impermeable defense began to show signs of leakage. Over the 1960 and 1961 seasons, when the NFL schedule expanded to the 14-game schedule, the Giants surrendered an average of 17 points per game with the Landry-created 4-3 defense (this despite its originator now in Dallas with the expansion Cowboys). The next two seasons with the Sherman defense, the total went just upwards of 20 points per game. The won-loss record didn’t suffer as the potent Tittle-to-Shofner connection kept the Giants just ahead of the opponents on the scoreboard.

Also traded away that portentous offseason was defensive tackle Dick Modzelewski. He went to Cleveland for tight end Bobby Crespino, a serviceable if unspectacular player who remained with New York through 1968. The foundation of the Giants 4-3 defense, defensive tackles Grier and Modzelweski backed by Huff, had been gutted.

If the Giants hadn’t felt like they went into games with one hand tied behind their back going into the 1964 season, it probably didn’t take long soon after it started. The injuries that depleted the roster were symbolized in perpetuity with the crushing John Baker hit on Tittle in the Pittsburgh end zone. Tittle and fellow former heroes Shofner, Gifford, fullback Alex Webster, defensive end Jim Katcavage, cornerback Dick Lynch and cornerback Jimmy Patton all missed significant time or their seasons ended prematurely. Robustelli said with his tongue only partially in-cheek: “It seemed we won because of ‘experience’ and lost because of ‘age.’”

New York’s 2-10-2 record in 1964 was as abysmal as it was unexpected. Never before had a Giants team had a double-digit figure in the loss column, and the 399 points surrendered by the sieve-like defense averaged nearly 29 points per game. The inconsistent offense with rotating personnel was unable to bail them out this time. When the season mercifully closed, Webster, Tittle, Robustelli and Gifford all retired. It would be a long time before those shoes were filled.

Wandering into the Wilderness

New York had the first pick in the 1965 draft (which was held in November 1964). The Giants have had the number one overall choice twice in their history, and ironically, both times they selected highly regarded backs whose careers were altered by untimely and severe knee injuries. The first was Kyle Rote in 1951, and the second was Tucker Frederickson.

Frederickson was of a much higher pedigree than New York’s recent run of failed first round picks: Lee Grosscup (1959), offensive tackle Lou Cordileone (1960), running back Bob Gaiters (1961), linebacker Jerry Hillebrand (1962), offensive tackle Frank Lasky (1963) and running back Joe Don Looney (1964), all of whom were deemed questionable choices at the time. Frederickson was an impressive athlete with all of the necessary credentials. Many other teams were envious of the Giants at the time and stated they would have taken the back from Auburn given the chance. Denver of the AFL, which held its own draft the same day, inquired about Frederickson, but he told them he preferred to sign with the NFL’s Giants.

The celebration of the touted pick was short lived. Team president Jack Mara passed away from cancer on June 29 at the age of 57. The loss was devastating to Wellington, who had shared the duties of running the Giants with his brother for 29 years. Jack handled the business side and Wellington the football operations. With no succession plan in place, Wellington dutifully, if somewhat reluctantly, assumed stewardship of everything involved with the franchise. The strain of handling all aspects of the team over time impeded New York’s growth as a franchise during an era where the more successful franchises diversified and modernized their approach in areas such as player evaluation and acquisition. The Giants became stuck in what was often referred to as “old ways.”

While Wellington burned the candle at both ends, he craved a sense of stability and security after the loss of his brother. To that end, he tore up Sherman’s contract on July 26 and signed the coach to a new 10-year deal. Mara said, “The most important thing we could do was get the best possible leadership on the field. That’s why we have given Al a new contract.”

Sherman said, “I think any coach in the business would envy me today. We have the kind of ball club that can give the city what it has come to expect and want in the way of a winning team. We have the ingredients to come back quicker than a lot of people might think.”

Improve the Giants did in 1965, to 7-7 which was good for a second place tie in the mediocre NFL Eastern Conference. Veteran Earl Morrall started every game and stabilized the quarterback position. Homer Jones flashed some big play potential as a wide out and Frederickson made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. The defense continued to struggle, but the kicking game was far and away the weakest link. As a team, New York made an embarrassing four of 25 field goal attempts on the season, a figure that would have been unacceptable even in the drop-kick era of the 1920’s.

Mara reconciled that on-field problem by signing Pete Gogolak from the AFL’s Buffalo Bills to a three-year contract. That move also created a typhoon of issues for NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, which ultimately led to the AFL-NFL merger. The two leagues agreed to have their respective champions meet in a unifying professional football title game after the 1966 season, and would follow with a common draft beginning in 1967. Teams from both leagues were also free to schedule preseason exhibition matches against one another that same year. (History of New York Giants Place Kickers: Drop Kicks, Placements and the Sidewinder)

The Chasm

The Giants 1966 preseason was an unmitigated disaster. Frederickson strained knee ligaments in a scrimmage with Green Bay and sat out almost all of the remaining practice sessions. He returned for the final preseason contest, a 37-10 annihilation at the hands of the Packers, and was lost for the year when that same knee was severely reinjured.

The season opener, a 34-34 tie at Pittsburgh, was at the very least entertaining. The New York Times likened the proceedings of the turnover- and mistake-filled game as a skit by either Laurel and Hardy or Abbot and Costello. The dour Sherman was more succinct, “Sloppy.” Statistically, New York was terribly outplayed. The Steelers had the edge in first downs 25 to eight and rushing yards 138 to 32. Big plays kept the Giants close. Despite being under constant pressure, Morrall connected with Jones twice for touchdowns – one for 98 yards, a new club record, and the other for 75 yards.

There were no such silver linings the following week. The Giants traveled to Dallas and were so soundly beaten (52-7), that the New York media for the first time since Red Grange’s New York Yankees in 1926, began to turn their attention to another team – the New York Jets and their flamboyant young star Joe Namath. The Giants two biggest problems would haunt them the entire season: a weak offensive line that provided no pass protection, and porous defense that offered no resistance and couldn’t get off of the field.

Chuck Mercein (29), New York Giants (October 16, 1966)

Chuck Mercein (29), New York Giants (October 16, 1966)

The points allowed in succession following the Cowboy game were 35, 28, and 24 – all losses. For one game, somehow, the Giants defense plugged the leaks in a game against Washington. New York’s front seven played as if they were inspired by the presence of old friend Sam Huff, and held the Redskins to 179 total yards and nine first downs. Giants quarterback Gary Wood, who entered the game in the second quarter, was battered by the opposing pass rush and gave way to original starter Morrall early in the fourth quarter. Morrall led the Giants to 10 points and a 13-10 win.

That was the season’s highlight, as the following week the point parade marched on. A five-game span in November and December saw the Giants surrender a mind boggling 250 points, an aggregate higher than four teams yielded over their entire 14-game schedules! In two of those games New York scored at least 40 points and still lost. To put this perspective, the average points allowed for the NFL in 1966 was 301. The Giants surrendered 501, a record for a 14-game season. The 500-point plateau has only been passed twice since the 16-game schedule began in 1978: the 1981 Baltimore Colts and the 2008 Detroit Lions.

The entire 1966 campaign was best symbolized by the November 27 game at Washington, a 72-41 loss. Three records were set that still stand today: 113 total points scored, 16 total touchdowns, 72 points scored by one team in a regular season game. The record scoring cost Washington $315 in lost footballs. Thirteen of the 14 were lost on point-after attempts kicked into the stands and the other was thrown into the stands by an enthusiastic Redskin player after a touchdown. The embarrassment reached a ludicrous level when Huff called a time out with 0:07 left in the game and sent the field goal unit onto the field, despite Washington being comfortably ahead 69-41.

Huff remained unapologetic years later: “On the field before the game, Kyle Rote interviewed me for his pre-game radio show. ‘What do you think about the game?’ he asked. ‘We’ll score sixty,’ I said into the microphone for all my friends back in New York. As we were doing our calisthenics, (Head Coach) Otto (Graham) asked me what I thought. ‘Otto,’ I told him, ‘we’re gonna kill ‘em’. And Otto, I want to ask you one more thing: show no mercy. Show no mercy to that little son-of-a-bitch across the field, because this is our day.’”

Regarding the time out call, Huff said, “While Otto was talking to (quarterback) Sonny (Jurgensen), I took it upon myself to yell for the field goal team to get out there. After the game, Otto took a lot of heat for kicking the field goal and rubbing it in. But that wasn’t Otto’s decision, it was all mine. The 72 points we scored were for a lot of people: me, Mo, Livingston, Rosey, and all the old Giants. That was a day of judgment, and in my mind, justice was finally done.”

Giants fans seemed to begin to see things thought Huff’s eyes. The derisive “Good-bye Allie” sing-along (to the tune of “Good Night, Ladies”) began to echo through the Yankee Stadium. At the conclusion of the season’s final game, Sherman required a police escort to walk off of the field through angry mobs of fans.

The Trade

The move to assuage the fan base, as well as divert the city’s fascination with the ascending Jets, was as bold as it was costly. On March 7, 1967, the Giants dealt for Pro Bowl quarterback Fran Tarkenton.

In a football sense this made sense, as the fearless and mobile Tarkenton would be able to be productive behind New York’s weak line. However, the cost of their first and second round choices in the 1967 draft, first round pick in the 1968 draft and a player to be named later was exorbitant. This signaled the start of an era Wellington later termed “the patchwork system”, a repetitious cycle of get-better-now moves that eschewed long term growth and ultimately stability. The 1967 Giants were far from a win-now team that would become a contender with the addition of a single player, even if that player was a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback.

Wellington Mara confessed years later: “I didn’t want to have a loser while the Jets had a winner.”

For his part, Tarkenton did everything he was brought to New York to do. He gave the Giants instant credibility – on and off of the field – and stabilized the quarterback position, something that was desperately needed, as the majority of the roster seemed to be a revolving door over his tenure.

Schematically, the Giants became a diagonal offense, employing short routes and slants to get the ball out of Tarkenton’s hands quickly. He developed a certain chemistry with Homer Jones, who had his most productive years with Tarkenton. Jones set team records in 14-game seasons that stood for decades, even though his penchant for freelancing routes got on his quarterback’s and coaches’ nerves.

The 1967 and 1968 seasons were an even 14-14 for New York in the won-lost column. The difference between the 7-7 campaigns was the latter season had New York 7-3 with a chance for a trip to the post season in the realigned NFL. A four-game losing skid to close the schedule had the anti-Sherman throng at full throat again. Meanwhile, the Jets shocked the world at large with their victory over Baltimore in Super Bowl III.

The pressure on Sherman to turn the Giants around was unprecedented, as was the hype before the August 17, 1969 preseason game between the Giants and Jets at the Yale Bowl. Giants President Wellington Mara posed alongside his Jets counterpart Philip Iselin, each holding their respective team’s helmet, as if it were Super Bowl 3½. The New York Times featured a column speculating what the world would be like if Namath were a Giant, alongside an article expressing traffic concerns of the New Haven Police Department and providing contingency plans and alternate routes. Nobody in the world could be convinced this game didn’t count for something, if not everything.

Both teams were prepared and up for the game in front of a standing room only crowd of 70,874. However, once the game started, the mistake-prone Giants must have felt helpless under the wheels of a green steamroller. Namath and the Jets led 24-0 two minutes into the second quarter and cruised to a 37-14 victory that gave them the neighborhood “bragging rights.”

Despite the one-sided score and Giants frequent ineptitude, the game remained a gritty and spirited affair. The New York Times game summary stated: “Although the contest was in truth a mere preseason game, the coaches, Weeb Ewbank of the Jets and Al Sherman of the Giants, used their personnel as though a Super Bowl were at stake. Perspiring regulars on both sides stayed in action until late in the fourth period.”

New York Giants vs. New York Jets (1969 Preseason)

New York Giants vs. New York Jets (1969 Preseason)

Aside from botched kick returns, poor punts and turnovers, the Giants main culprit was again their ineffective defense. Namath enjoyed a pristine pocket to read through progressions and deliver strikes to open receivers. He finished the day 14-of-16 for 188 yards with three touchdowns and a clean jersey. The Giants were humbled and humiliated, and several of the Jets, including former Giant Don Maynard, said the win over the Giants was more gratifying than Super Bowl III. “The Super Bowl was one thing, but playing in the Yale Bowl before 70,000 people for an exhibition…that was another kind of Super Bowl,” said Maynard.

The dismal preseason began to take on the feel of a funeral procession as the dispirited Giants trudged along and accumulated losses. New York was 0-5 after dropping an awful 17-13 game to Pittsburgh in front of a sparse crowd in Montreal on September 22. Coupled with the 0-4 slide to close the 1968 season, the Giants had gone winless over their last nine contests. Wellington Mara’s sense of loyalty and patience had reached its limits.

The Change

The next day Sherman was fired. A sullen Mara said at the press conference, “Sometime between 2am and 6am I reached my decision. There was no straw, no camel’s back. We just weren’t winning enough football games. The sole reason for our existence is to please our fans. If we’re not pleasing our fans we’ve got to find out why.”

Sherman said, “I was a little surprised, but, heck, that’s football.”

The new coach was offensive assistant, and longtime star fullback, Alex Webster. While Sherman had five years remaining on his 10-year deal, Webster was given a two-year contract to run the team. He said, “I feel like I’m part of the family. We’ve got one of the best offensive teams in the league. We’re going to win some games.”

Mara also said there would be a new hire to work between himself and Webster. This person would focus on “evaluation, selection and procurement of players” and feature “a more distinct approach, a new outlook.” However, it would be several years before Wellington actually added this new director of football operations position.

Later Mara confided there was another candidate strongly in the running for the head coaching job “It was late in the preseason, and we didn’t have a wide choice to begin with. Somebody I would have considered very strongly was Andy Robustelli, but he was in Japan at the time and we just had to do it immediately.”

The former Giant great-turned successful businessman Robustelli years later said, “My biggest disappointment was not being made the head coach of the Giants when Sherman was fired. I was the right choice. I would have done the job.”

Behind the scenes, dissatisfaction and frustration were percolating. Wellington’s nephew Tim Mara, who had been passive with the franchise since his father Jack’s passing, began to feel the need to interject his influence. “From Allie’s later years on, I felt like I wanted to be more involved. And when we finally had to let Sherman go, I was one hundred percent for it. A change was really necessary.”

What Webster the coach lacked in organizational experience, he made up for with personal connections. Wellington said, “I thought the guy on our staff who could get the most out of the players, the guy they would most want to play for, was Alex. Alex had a great grasp of people and players and of offensive football. He was a fine offensive coach. The players knew what a great player he had been, too, and they respected him for that.”

Webster said years later, “Basically the team I took over was an average team. There were some players, but not enough. We had a few…they were offensive players, the defense was weaker. The hardest thing was taking over nine days before the season. I couldn’t put in anything of my own, I had to go along with Allie’s theories.”

Despite the sudden change and numerous challenges to overcome, the season opener at Yankee Stadium was as rousing as it was surprising. A thrilling come-from-behind win over the powerful Minnesota Vikings was highlighted by two late fourth quarter touchdown passes by Tarkenton, the second with 0:59 on the clock. The dark cloud that had hovered over the Giants since the previous November parted, and the jubilant players carried Webster off of the field on their shoulders. Yankee Stadium reverberated with cheers rather than boos and sarcastic sing-alongs.

The celebration was short lived, however. The Giants were whipped 24-0 in Detroit the following week. A seven-game losing streak in the middle of the season buried New York in a deep hole, but a three-game winning streak and a season ending win over rival Cleveland gave some hope going into the offseason.

Fred Dryer, New York Giants (December 21, 1969)

Fred Dryer, New York Giants (December 21, 1969)

Webster’s first move to mold the Giants in his image was obtaining a reliable running back. To that end he traded the prolific, yet inconsistent, receiver Homer Jones to Cleveland for halfback Ron Johnson, defensive tackle Jim Kanicki and linebacker Wayne Meylan. The idea was to have more balance on offense, and hold the ball to keep the defense off of the field. To assist Webster with game planning and scheming, former Giants tight end Joe Walton was promoted, and he coordinated the new passing attack and based the offense around the I-Formation.

The new-look 1970 team had an up-and-down preseason, but it included a win over the Jets (who were without an injured Namath). The Giants endured a disappointing 0-3 start to the regular season and inspired little optimism. But, before going down in flames, Webster’s team started to click. Johnson had the Giants first 100-yard rushing game in three years during a win against Philadelphia. The next week’s 16-0 win over the Boston Patriots was New York’s first shutout since 1961, and the following week Tarkenton became the first Giant to throw five touchdown passes in a game since YA Tittle in 1962. Finally, comparisons to the past were favorable. After evening their record at 3-3, the first regular season showdown with the Jets took place at Shea Stadium on November 1.

Some of the luster of the matchup was missing as Namath watched the game from the sidelines in street clothes, but the demand for tickets was so strong that the Jets management installed temporary seating to meet the demand.

The Shea Stadium record crowd of 63,903 witnessed a mostly non-descript game until a fist-fight erupted between Tarkenton and Jets linebacker Larry Grantham. The Jets led 10-3 in the third quarter and just halted a Giants drive when they stopped Tucker Frederickson on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line. Tarkenton felt he had been hit after the whistle by Grantham, and the two ignited a skirmish between the teams. After order was restored, Jim Files tackled former Giants running back Chuck Mercein in the end zone for a safety. Now with momentum with the Giants, Tarkenton exacted some revenge by hitting Johnson down the sideline for a 50-yard gain and then Bob Tucker for a 9-yard touchdown. The two-play drive following the free kick gave the Giants a 12-10 lead.

Fran Tarkenton and Tucker Frederickson, New York Giants (November 1, 1970)

Fran Tarkenton and Tucker Frederickson, New York Giants (November 1, 1970)

Cornerback Willie Williams then intercepted Al Woodall’s first down pass after the kickoff and returned it to the Jets 29-yard line. Three plays later Tarkenton connected with wide receiver Clifton McNeil for an 11-yard touchdown and 19-10 advantage. The 16-pojnt eruption came with just 77 elapsing from the clock. The Giants added a field goal in the fourth quarter for the 22-10 final score. More importantly, the 4-3 Giants were in playoff contention.

Back-to-back come-from-behind wins at Yankee Stadium against division rivals Dallas and Washington set the Giants up for a meaningful December. The Giants had won nine of their last 10 games heading into the season finale against the Los Angeles Rams, and a win would earn their first division title and playoff berth since 1963. Their prospects looked good after Gogolak gave New York a 3-0 early in the first quarter but the game unraveled quickly after that. Los Angeles led 24-3 at the half, as they took advantage of numerous Giants miscues. New York lost five fumbles on the day and lost 31-3.

Regardless of that final game, the Giants had a lot to feel good about. The 9-5 record was their first winning mark since 1963, Johnson was the first 1,000 yard rusher in franchise history and Gogolak set a team scoring record with 107 points.

But New York soon discovered their success was fleeting. Distractions that made the action on the field seem secondary in importance were lurking just around the corner.

The Move

On March 25, 1971, to the surprise of all, The New York Times published an article stating the Giants had forged a verbal agreement with the state of New Jersey to explore future options of constructing a football-only stadium on the other side of the Hudson River.

Backlash came fast and hard. Editorials in all the area papers criticized the Giants for “abandoning” the city and accused the Maras as being “opportunists.” All of these emotionally based assaults ignored the fact that the Giants had indeed explored options construction in Uniondale and Yonkers, New York, and only after refurbishment requests to the city to upgrade the aging Yankee Stadium were refused.

The official announcement of the Giants partnership with the newly created New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority (NJSEA) came on August 26, and ended a summer of rumor and speculation.

Immediately following the announcement, New York Mayor John Lindsay attempted to evoke a clause in the Giants contract with the Yankees, after finally authorizing a $24 million upgrade to Yankee Stadium, to evict the Giants from the city limits. Lindsay also petitioned NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle to bring an expansion franchise to New York and demanded the Giants drop “New York” from their name.

In a public statement, an irate Lindsay said, “In taking this action the Giant management crossed the line that distinguishes a sport from a business. I am today directing the Corporation Counsel to initiate proceedings to restrict the rights of the Giants to call themselves the name of the city they have chosen to leave.”

The expansion prospect proved unrealistic. The NFL established home markets as a 75-mile radius from the location of home game sites – regardless of political boarders. Any team staging a league contest within that radius would need the approval of both the Giants and Jets. This concept also played into the Giants keeping their identity with New York after moving the short distance to New Jersey.

At the press conference with New Jersey Governor William Cahill and NJSEA chairman Sonny Werblin (former owner of the AFL New York Titans), Wellington Mara cited the positive aspects of the new football-only stadium: more and better seating, easy access from the highway and more parking close to the stadium. The football Giants had been perennial tenants to the baseball Giants and Yankees since 1925, and they were ready for a state-of-the-art home of their own.

William Cahill, Wellington Mara, David Werblin; Meadowlands Announcement (October 27, 1971)

William Cahill, Wellington Mara, David Werblin; Meadowlands Announcement (October 27, 1971)

Wellington Mara said: “In going around the circuit, we felt other clubs were able to take a lot better care of their fans. We had a lot of obstructed view seats in Yankee Stadium. And we had a huge waiting list for tickets. We thought if we could get better locations for more people, it was something we were very interested in.”

No doubt, part of the vitriol public officials directed toward Mara and the Giants came from the sting still felt by the departure of the baseball Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers in 1957. The financially troubled city that was struggling to compete with other markets just learned they were losing their third professional team in 14 years. Bronx Borough President Robert Abrams curtly stated, “We made them a successful operation, now they want to leave. If they want to play in a swamp, let them play in a swamp right now.”

All of this commotion obscured the actual game of football for the next several years. In retrospect, that may have been a blessing in disguise. The surprise winning season of 1970 proved to be little more than a mirage, as the 1971 Giants crumbled on the field and were a discontented rabble off of it.

Johnson appeared in only two games while rehabbing a knee injury, and Tarkenton and defensive end Fred Dyer forced their way out of New York via trades after the season. A rift between Tarkenton and Mara over a financial disagreement caused the quarterback to go AWOL during the preseason, and apparently affected his performance during what would be his statistically poorest campaign. Dryer was simply fed up with what he considered a poorly-run operation, “I had to get out of that place while I had my sanity.”

The Giants rebounded to their second winning record in three seasons in 1972, as the healthy Johnson returned better than ever and had another 1,000-yard season. However, that too turned out to be another tease. While the 1966 embarrassment remains the single-season low point for the Giants, the 1973 and 1974 seasons are the worst back-to-back campaigns in franchise history. The combined 4-23-1 record bridged the Giants exodus from Yankee Stadium – where they started the 1973 season with a win and a tie – to the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut.

Ron Johnson, New York Giants (September 23, 1973)

Ron Johnson, New York Giants (September 23, 1973)

The Giants had explored many options for a location suitable for their temporary home games. These included Downing Stadium at Randall’s Island, Michie Stadium at West Point and Palmer Stadium at Princeton University, but all proved unsatisfactory for one reason or another. While the Yale Bowl lacked its own locker room facilities – the teams changed and showered at a field house approximately 200 yards away – the seating capacity accommodated just over 70,000 patrons.

The Giants residence at Yale featured two head coaches (Webster was released after the 1974 season), one victory (24-13 over the St. Louis Cardinals on November 18, 1973) and zero Pro Bowlers – the first time since that event’s inception in 1950 that no New York player was invited.

Linebacker Brian Kelley recalled, “My rookie year was ’73 and the first couple of games of the regular season we played in Yankee Stadium. From there, it started going downhill pretty quick. We went to the Yale Bowl. Not that it’s a bad place, but it was more like an away game, because we had to drive two-and-a-half hours from our practice fields to go to a home game.”

An Anguished Disorganization

The Giants – somewhat reluctantly and not without consternation – named Andy Robustelli as their first Director of Football Operations prior to the 1974 season.

Robustelli said of his hiring, “During the previous week Well and Tim had discussed what might be done to revive the team, and Tim suggested someone with a football background was needed to run that side of the organization. When Wellington and Jack ran the team, Well was the vice president, but in effect his duties were those of a director of football operations. When he succeeded Jack as president, Wellington thought he could continue to specialize in that area and allow Tim to take over the business side; as club president Well would continue to oversee as necessary. Those plans fell apart when everyone in the organization turned to Wellington to solve every problem.”

Wellington Mara said, “It became obvious to me that I had to step back, that I had to bring someone in to run the team. Because of the closeness and length of my association with all of the people on the staff, where I thought I was just giving an opinion, it was being taken as an instruction. It wasn’t meant to be that way.”

Tim Mara said, “I It became clear we needed a football man to run the team, a general manager. I suggested that and Well agreed with it…(Robustelli) was what I thought we needed…during that time I was still more or less dealing with the business aspect of the team.”

Robustelli said the most difficult aspect of integrating with the organization was the displacement of Wellington’s long-time friend Ray Walsh, who possessed the title of general manager. In Robustelli’s words: “In reality, he was the business manager. Unlike most general managers in professional sports, he did not deal with the players’ contracts, make trades or involve himself in any way with the football operation.” Walsh received a vice president title and continued to deal with non-football responsibilities.

Robustelli’s first major move was finding the Giants next head coach, and for the first time since 1930, a candidate from outside the Giants organization was chosen. Bill Arnsparger, the architect of the Miami Dolphins dominant defense, was a hot commodity following three consecutive Super Bowl appearances, including two victories. Arnsparger was renowned for both his tactical skills as well as his patience, a necessary trait for the massive rebuild that loomed.

Wellington Mara said, “Tim, Andy and I drew up lists (of the) men we thought should be considered as the new coach. Bill Arnsparger was at the head of all three lists.”

Once Arnsparger was on board, Robustelli got to work on a complete overhaul of the Giants organizational structure. This included everything from player personnel evaluation (which included the difficult removal of the current head of player evaluation – Jim Lee Howell), building modern training facilities (which led the forging of a partnership with Pace University in Pleasantville, New York) and right up to the division of responsibilities between the team’s two owners. Robustelli even had a hand in the Giants new look on the field, and radically changed their logo and uniforms in time for the 1975 season.

The Giants on-field fortunes were not unexpectedly familiar. The lingering effects of the back-to-back 2-11-1 and 2-12 seasons were at least temporarily assuaged after the removal of Lindsay from the mayor’s office. New Mayor Abe Beame allowed the Giants back into New York to play at Shea Stadium in 1975. Robustelli said, “Nothing ever compared to Yankee Stadium, but in 1975 any permanent move was at least a year away, and we needed an immediate psychological boost.”

Not surprisingly, under Arnsparger’s direction, New York’s defense began to show significant improvement. Players either acquired or developed under Arnsparger included: defensive end Jack Gregory, defensive tackle John Mendenhall, linebacker Brian Kelley, linebacker Brad Van Pelt, punter Dave Jennings, defensive end George Martin and linebacker Harry Carson.

Bill Arnsparger (1974)

Bill Arnsparger (1974)

Unfortunately, at the same time the once-potent offense began to falter. Finding a long-term replacement for Tarkenton proved to be both difficult and costly. Norm Snead, who came from Minnesota in the Tarkenton deal, had a strong 1972 season (where he set a franchise mark with a 60.3 completion percentage) but slumped badly in 1973 while struggling with knee troubles and weak pass protection. His seven touchdown passes to 22 interception ratio underscored the need for new blood.

The Giants number one draft choice in the 1975 draft was sent to Dallas for quarterback Craig Morton, who had battled on and off for years with Roger Staubach for the Cowboys starting position. Morton possessed all the necessary physical attributes required for the position, but lacked some of the intangibles the rebuilding Giants needed to reverse their fortunes.

“We needed Morton, we had to have a competent quarterback. Maybe we paid too much for him. We probably did. But there was no choice, not really, and I’d do it again,” Robustelli said years later. “I think Morton was the right guy but on the wrong team.”

Arnsparger echoed that assessment, “It was the feeling of everybody that we had to have a quarterback of (Morton’s) capability, and we had to spend an awful lot to get him. But we were trying to do something that had to be done, but I don’t know if our team was ready for him. We probably needed a different type of quarterback, because we weren’t good enough to play with Craig.”

Robustelli said, “Craig often needed a kick in the ass to get his attention and let him know he couldn’t call his own tune. Instead of being the positive influence I had sought, the opposite occurred. I take nothing away from Craig’s football abilities, but he was not the kind of leader we sought.”

At the same time, Robustelli began to have concerns with Arnsparger’s sometime passive approach in dealing with issues. He also sometimes thought the Giants were a soft team and undisciplined team. “Bill was very stubborn about many things and very fixed in his ways, often unwilling to change or even compromise. It was exasperating at times.”

The Giants record improved marginally to 5-9 in 1975. The next desperate move caused reverberations that initiated an irreparable rift in ownership.

New Home, Old Ways

Fullback Larry Csonka, former Super Bowl MVP and associate of Arnsparger in Miami, was a free agent following the demise of the World Football League (WFL). New York’s major overseers, the head coach, general manager and principal owner were all interested in adding him to the roster for both his muscle in the run game as well fostering some as instant credibility with a disenchanted fan base.

Typical of the Giants internal climate at the time, how the Csonka signing came about is a matter of whom you believe.

Tim Mara: “We had a meeting, the three of us, and went over the players that were available.” After reviewing what were believed to be unreasonable contract demands, “…we decided not to pursue it; it might have been the shortest meeting we ever had.”

Later that week, Tim Mara said that while attending a meeting with the NJSEA, Wellington called and informed him the Giants were close to signing Csonka. Tim was incredulous, believing the patchwork system of paying for today’s short-term fix later had to stop. He attested that Wellington assured him the deal would be called off.

“But then the next call I got was that we had signed him, and we were having a press conference that night,” Tim said.

Robustelli: “Wellington became more and more enthusiastic as the negotiations progressed…Tim Mara was another matter. He didn’t even involve himself in the negotiations despite my urgings. During the Csonka negotiations, he chose to be a ‘convenient’ owner – one who was visible in the good times but never around to help make the tough decisions or take his share of the flak when (things went) badly. I believe his non participation was strategic; he left himself in a perfect position to second-guess the move, which he frequently did.”

Robustelli also said this pattern repeated itself during the renegotiation of Brad Van Pelt’s contract and the signing of first round draft pick defensive end Gary Jeter.

As uncomfortable as things were in the front office, they may have been even worse on the field during the 1976 season.

Harry Carson recalled the climate of his first NFL training camp: “Coach Arnsparger indicated that all positions were up for grabs. He wanted players to compete and didn’t care who started as long as they could get the job done. Arnsparger really didn’t have a choice; he needed players willing to shake things up as he had experienced two prior seasons that only netted him seven wins against 21 losses. He knew his ass was on the hot seat and he was in jeopardy of losing his job if things didn’t get better fast.”

The Giants began the season with a four-game road trip. Despite outplaying the Redskins for 59 minutes, New York collapsed late and surrendered the deciding touchdown with 45 seconds left in the game for a tone-setting 19-17 loss. The games at Philadelphia, Los Angeles and St. Louis were never that close, and neither was the home opener. All the compliments following the 24-14 loss to Dallas were paid to the brand new, state-of-the-art football-only stadium. Nobody had anything good to say regarding the overmatched team on the field.

“It became a growing concern, that Andy was right, when the 1976 season started. The lack of success had gotten to the point that, not that he didn’t have the respect of the players, but he couldn’t command their attention,” Wellington Mara said. “The idea of changing in midstream was not appealing, but I felt that if we continued to go downhill, some of the good young players might have been lost beyond recall.”

After closing 1975 with three straight defeats, and opening the 1976 with seven more, it had been over 11 months since a Giants team had tasted a victory. The strain was becoming unbearable.

Carson said, “The team had not won one game, and it was frustrating to lose week in and week out. I could sense that the coaches were under pressure to win…The atmosphere between coaches and players, as well as between offense and defense, was getting more hostile than earlier in the season,”

The time for change came the Monday morning after a 27-0 loss to Pittsburgh.

Arnsparger said, “…when we lost our first seven games, I came in one morning and Andy told me it was over.

Starting Over…Again

John McVay, who had head coaching experience in the WFL and had been brought to the staff as an insurance policy as a coach-in-waiting by Robustelli, was quickly promoted as head coach on an interim basis.

McVay recalled the moment: “(Robustelli) looked at me and said: ‘Bill’s leaving, and you’re it.’ Just like that. They never told me anything beforehand, never asked me if I’d take the job. I mean, they fired Bill and they decided I’d be the coach…It was the most painful, dire circumstance in which you can be cast into the job of head coach. There has been no time to anticipate it, to prepare for it, to even think about it. The shock and surprise are, well, indescribable.”

Following two more losses, McVay’s first win, a 12-9 win over Washington, was a milestone on several levels. It ended an 11-game losing streak to their division rival, marked their first win at Giants Stadium, and ended the franchise record nine-game losing streak.

Wellington Mara, Giants Stadium (1976)

Wellington Mara, Giants Stadium (1976)

Carson said, “With that first victory, you could feel the weight being lifted off our backs and especially off the shoulders of the coaches. With a win, people start to smile and feel better about themselves.”

The Giants finished the season winning three of their last five games. McVay received a new two-year contract to coach the Giants, though not necessarily on a permanent basis. McVay was seen as someone who would ascend to management and run the Giants football operations when Robustelli, who was growing weary of being caught between the bickering Maras, ultimately left to return to his private businesses.

Once again, the paramount offseason need was a new quarterback. This time around however, character was deemed the higher priority above physical ability. The Giants looked north of the border to find their man, Joe Pisarcik, a three-year veteran of the CFL.

Robustelli said, “Pisarcik was a very methodical, strong-armed quarterback who was never going to be exceptional, but he was tough and he’d fight right to the end of the game. I liked him right from the start because I thought he was the right kind of player for our situation – someone who was could hang tough and absorb some of the pounding while we bought time, upgraded other positions and got ourselves the star quarterback of the future.”

The 1977 Giants had a roster that had been largely turned over since the 1974 season. One of the pre-Robustelli players, tight end Bob Tucker, forced a trade in the middle of the season by acting out as a malcontent. His frustration was understandable – most of the promising talent on the team was on the defensive side of the ball, and the offensive line was a perpetual ongoing project. Ageless veteran offensive lineman Doug Van Horn was still reliable, but the pieces around him always seemed to be shuffling as draft picks and free agents came and went. The 5-9 season marked the fifth-consecutive sub-0.500 record for New York, but things did seem to be stabilizing. For the first time anyone could remember, there was hope heading into the offseason.

We’ve Had Enough

The 1978 Giants were 5-3 at the halfway point of the NFL’s first 16-game season. Granted, most of the wins came against the lower half of the league echelon – two of the losses came at the hands of the defending Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys. A three-game road trip turned into a three-game skid. Yet, the Giants still in remained in position for wild card contention at 5-6. A home victory against Philadelphia would tie the division rivals for second place.

For just over 59 minutes, that seemed to be a near certainty.

The Giants Stadium sensed all was right, to the point where many began leaving their seats to beat the traffic.

The Giants defense had just turned the ball over to the offense after stopping Philadelphia on fourth down just inside the New York 30-yard line.

Then everything began to go wrong.

On first down, Pisarcik fell on the ball for a three-yard loss, but Philadelphia linebacker Frank LeMaster blitzed and hit Pisarcik while he was lying on the ground, breaking the normal protocol on such a play. The officials stopped the clock to separate the two teams as members of the Giants, who were angered by what they believed was unnecessary roughness, defended their quarterback. Giants center Jim Clack said, “Usually, when the quarterback is just going to fall on the ball, we tell the other team to take it easy and not bury him.”

The Giants ran the ball on second down, ostensibly to protect Pisarcik from an over-aggressive defense. New York players in the huddle disagreed with the call, and told him to just fall on the ball. Pisarcik though, ran the play from the coaches as directed, and Csonka ran behind left guard for an 11-yard gain, setting up a 3rd and two. Philadelphia used their third and final time out. All that was required for New York to secure the victory was run one more play, keep the ball in bounds, and allow the remaining time to expire.

What could possibly go wrong?

The same run play was called. The results changed the fortunes of the Giants forever.

The fateful play was run with 0:31 on the clock from their own 29-yard line.

The snap from center was slightly off, Pisarcik said it was high and hit his right forearm. Unable to handle the ball cleanly, Pisarcik never had firm control as he pivoted to hand-off to Csonka, who was charging toward the hole full-speed. The mistimed exchange caused the ball to hit Csonka’s right hip and bounce away on the hard artificial surface. Eagles safety Herman Edwards scooped up the loose ball after its second bounce and sprinted across the goal line with 20 seconds left on the clock for the game-winning score.

McVay explained the controversial play call after the game, “We didn’t want to get the clock stopped by them faking an injury. Our thought was to get the first down and not have to worry about it.”

Offensive coordinator Bob Gibson said, “It was a safe play. We’ve used that play 500 times this season. It was safe. Csonka never fumbles.”

Others who were there recall the moment vividly.

Jim Clack: “Never in my life have I seen anything like it. It’d make a good movie. We’d write a good book on how to lose.”

Pisarcik: “I should’ve fallen on it. That’s what I should have done. But my job is to call the play that comes in. I don’t really have the freedom to change a play just because I don’t like it.”

Doug Van Horn: “But damn, we beat that team yesterday. Physically we beat ‘em up, only to lose in a horrible, horrible way.”

Harry Carson: “I was stunned, just like everyone else in the stadium. At the conclusion of the game I could not move. I sat on the bench for another 15 minutes staring at the ground.”

Andy Robustelli: “Using the clock in the final minutes of a game is a delicate art, even when your team has the ball and your opponents have no time outs. Plays must be called that use a maximum of time with a minimum of risk.

“However, the play that required Pisarcik to make a reverse spin – that is, he took the ball and spun in the opposite direction from where Csonka was running before wheeling around and placing the ball in his hands. I cringed when I saw that reverse pivot. I would have accepted even a simple handoff with its smaller margin of error, particularly with a back like Csonka who had done it thousands of times in his career.

“I was stunned to the point where I didn’t want to believe that the impossible had actually happened.”

New York’s post-game locker room was frenetic. The press badgered players for an explanation, but most wanted the same answers themselves. Many were too shocked to respond, others lashed out in anger. Pisarcik was coaxed out from the solitude of the trainer’s room by Robustelli and into the fray.

The next morning the decision was made by Robustelli and Wellington Mara to fire Gibson, the man responsible for the call. McVay defended his coach and offered to resign himself.

McVay was retained but fired shortly after the season’s conclusion as the Giants lost three of their four remaining games. The 6-10 record was their sixth consecutive losing season, and the fourth within that streak with losses tallying in the double digits.

Robustelli, as planned, officially resigned early in the 1979 offseason, allowing ownership to initiate their quest for a new successor. Many of the plans Robustelli had made in modernizing and restructuring the Giants organization were underway and beginning to bear fruits, especially the overhauled player development department. But he was unable to overcome the uneasiness and lack of trust between the two feuding owners who had been on non-speaking terms for nearly a full year.

The pathos became overwhelming during the Giants final two home games.

Prior to the game against the Los Angeles Rams on December 3, approximately 100 fans held an organized burning of their normally prized season tickets in a trash barrel on the sidewalk adjacent to the stadium. Their protest was, “in memory of Giant teams of the past,” fan Ron Livingston was quoted as saying in the next day’s New York Times.

Wellington Mara said, “You never like to know that what you’re trying to sell is not what they want to buy. And that’s what it means to me. You listen and you read your mail.”

The following week, during the game against the St. Louis Cardinals on December 10, another fan made sure Wellington got the message loud and clear.

Leaflets were passed out in the parking lot to tailgaters that alerted them to look skyward during the first half of the game. If they agreed with the messaged, they were encouraged to stand and cheer.

Indeed, probably the loudest ovation in the first three years of Giants Stadium occurred when the single engine plane towing the sign that read “15 YEARS OF LOUSY FOOTBALL…WE’VE HAD ENOUGH” slowly and agonizingly circled the stadium. The majority of the 52,226 fans in attendance (there were over 24,000 no-shows) not only stood and applauded, they spontaneously erupted in a thunderous chant of “We’ve had enough…We’ve had enough…” for several minutes.

After the game, the Giants humiliated principal owner Wellington Mara said he was aware of the plane, but did not actually see it, and uncharacteristically declined to comment further.

The Giants looked ahead in need of the three vital components of any successful football program: a general manager, a head coach and a quarterback. The strain they were now under would make the next two months feel like another 15 years.

************************************************************************
Sources:

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Tex Maule, Sep. 7, 1964, Sports Illustrated

“The Giants Grow Up”
Mark Mulvoy, Dec. 4, 1967, Sports Illustrated

7 Days To Sunday: Crisis Week with the New York Football Giants
Eliot Asinoff, 1968, Ace Books

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New York Football Giants, Inc., 1971

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Tex Maul, Feb. 7 1972, Sports Illustrated

New York Football Giants 1972 Press, Radio and Television Guide
New York Football Giants, Inc., 1973

“It’s Just One Man’s Family”
Robert H. Boyle, Sep. 25, 1972, Sports Illustrated

New York Football Giants 1973 Press, Radio and Television Guide
New York Football Giants, Inc., 1973

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New York Football Giants, Inc., 1974

New York Giants 1975 Media Guide
New York Football Giants, Inc., 1975

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New York Football Giants, Inc., 1976

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New York Football Giants, Inc., 1977

New York Giants 1978 Media Guide
New York Football Giants, Inc., 1978

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Roger Treat, Suzanne Treat, Pete Palmer; 1979; A. S. Barnes & Co.

Giants Again!
Dave Klein, 1982, Signet

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Ron Fimrite, Jan. 26, 1987, Sports Illustrated

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Richard Whittingham, 1987, Harper Collins

Once A Giant, Always…
Andy Robustelli with Jack Clary, 1987, Quinlan Press

Tuff Stuff
Sam Huff, 1988, St. Martins Press

The Pro Football Chronicle
Dan Daly & Bob O’Donnell, 1990, Collier Books

No Medals for Trying: A Week in the Life of a Pro Football Team
Jerry Izenberg, 1990, MacMillan Pub Company

The Whole Ten Yards
Frank Gifford with Harry Waters, 1993, Giff & Golda Productions

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Michael Eisen, Gameday, Sept.29, 1996, New York Football Giants, Inc.

Wellington: The Maras, the Giants, and the City of New York
Carlo DeVito,  2006, Triumph Books

Nothing Comes Easy: My Life in Football
Y.A. Tittle, 2009, Triumph Books

Captain For Life
Harry Carson, 2011,  St. Martins Press

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Micheal Eisen, Dandre Phillips, Corey Rush; 2015; New York Football Giants, Inc.

Official 2015 NFL Record & Fact Book
2015, NFL Communications Department

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