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New York Giants: Choosing Steve Weatherford over Matt Dodge Paid Off in 2011

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 22:  Steve Weatherford #5 of the New York Giants celebrates after the Giants won 20-17 in overtime against the San Francisco 49ers during the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park on January 22, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Doug RushSenior Analyst IJanuary 24, 2012

Usually, the punter doesn't get much attention in the NFL.

It's not an attention-grabbing position like the quarterback or running back.

But the punter is very much a big part of the team because special teams in the NFL are a very key part of the game.

For seven years, the Giants had perhaps the best punter in the NFL in Jeff Feagles.

Feagles wasn't just a good punter, he was a master of his own craft. He knew exactly where to kick the ball and when he needed to, pinned oppositions inside their own 20 and even inside their own 10.

The term "coffin corner" punt was Feagles specialty, and the Giants knew what they had in him.

Feagles retired after the 2009 season, ending his 22-year career in the NFL at age 43 with two Pro Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl trophy from 2007 with the Giants.

So in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Giants selected Matt Dodge in the seventh round out of East Carolina University to be Feagles' successor.

Dodge lasted one season with the Giants before being cut in the summer of 2011.

For those new to following the Giants, there's good reason why Dodge didn't stick around for a second season in New York.

Coming into the NFL, Dodge was known for having a powerful leg and could kick the hell out of a football, but that's not everything you need a punter to do.

First, Dodge had a lot of trouble handling snaps, which caused him to put on gloves to handle snaps better from the long-snapper.

Dodge had a lot of trouble directional punting, which was a huge contrast to Feagles, who mastered the craft. People said it was because Dodge was a rookie and needed to learn.

But for many Giants fans, Dodge's nail in the coffin was December 19, 2010.

The Giants were tied with the Eagles 31-31 in the fourth quarter and the Giants were forced to punt the ball with seconds left on the clock and Eagles punt returner DeSean Jackson waiting.

Jackson may be the fastest guy in the NFL with breakaway speed and can bring a kick back for a touchdown, but all Dodge had to do was kick the ball out of bounds and not to Jackson.

And Dodge did the opposite. He not only kicked it to Jackson for a 36-yard punt, he kicked a low line-drive punt to Jackson as fast as any punter can kick it to a return man, and Jackson was off.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 19:  DeSean Jackson #10 of the Philadelphia Eagles eludes Matt Dodge #6 of the New York Giants and returns a punt for the winning touchdown as time runs out defeating the Giants 38-31 during their game on December 19, 2010 a
Al Bello/Getty Images

Jackson returned the punt 65 yards, avoiding Giants tacklers and while taunting the Giants special teams unit, ran into the end zone as time ran off the clock and the Eagles won 38-31.

"The Meltdown in the Meadowlands" is the name I have dubbed that game because that's exactly what it was. And Dodge finished the job for the Giants.

After the game, there was talk of Tom Coughlin cutting Dodge for the final two games because he was so upset with him for failing to do the job, but Coughlin didn't make the drastic move and let Dodge finish the season.

But in the summer of 2011, following the lockout, the Giants signed and brought in former Jets punter Steve Weatherford, who left after a falling out with the team.

Weatherford was brought in to compete for the job with Dodge and on September 3, eight days before the Giants' first regular season game with the Redskins, the Giants went with the veteran Weatherford over Dodge.

A lot of people didn't complain about going with the veteran over the younger Dodge because the memory of that Eagles game stuck in their minds.

Dodge did not get picked up by a single NFL team and sat out the 2011 season.

Weatherford ended up being the right choice, as he showed a lot of similarities to Feagles, being able to directional-kick and pin opponents deep.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 22:   Lawrence Tynes #9 and Steve Weatherford #5 of the New York Giants celebrate after Tynes kicked the game-winning field goal in overtime against the San Francisco 49ers during the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park o
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers on Sunday, Weatherford kicked a high 37-yard punt to Kyle Williams, which allowed the Giants second teams unit to get downfield quick to go after Williams.

Because of it, Jacquian Williams got to Williams and knocked the ball out of his hands. It was recovered by Devin Thomas, which set up Lawrence Tynes game winning field goal from 31 yards, a kick that Weatherford was the holder for.

Weatherford's punt turned out to be a pivotal one in the game and changed the momentum of the overtime period.

The Giants will now have a chance to win a second Super Bowl in four years and Weatherford has been a big reason behind the Giants winning games.

Plus, at age 29, I think the Giants have found their long-term punter in Weatherford.

Special teams are that important in the NFL. How your punter performs can really impact a game.

It's a good thing Coughlin decided to go with Weatherford over Dodge.

The Giants are better for the decision.

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