The 2012 season for the New York Giants had a drastically different ending compared to the close of the 2011 season 11 months earlier. While the Giants were hoisting the Lombardi Trophy last February, this past season ended in December with Big Blue not even qualifying for the playoffs.
It's not surprising then that many major on-the-field contributors to last year's Super Bowl run were big disappointments in the team's failed attempt to return to the postseason in 2012.
Here are the five most disappointing players of the season that was for the Giants.
It seems cruel to put Hakeem Nicks on this list given the foot and knee issues he battled through the entire season. Staying healthy, though, is part of being a good player and meeting expectations.
Nicks simply wasn't the same force in 2012 that he was the previous two seasons, where he totaled over 2,200 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. The soon-to-be fifth-year wideout failed to crack 700 yards receiving last season and only found the end zone three times.
He also produced just one impact performance in the 13 games he suited up—a tremendous 10-catch, 199-yard effort against the Bucs in Week 2 that also saw him find paydirt. By comparison, Nicks had six 100-yard games two seasons ago, including three in four playoff games.
The 25-year-old will hopefully get healthy in the offseason and return to form in 2013. I'm sure Nicks, like the fans that root him on, want to put 2012 in the rear-view mirror.
Jason Pierre-Paul was one of the best defensive players the Giants had last season.
How was he a disappointment then?
Well, when you only record 6.5 sacks a season after taking down the quarterback 16.5 times, disappointing is the only way to sum up the performance.
The dynamic defensive end was considered one of the best at his position coming into 2012, but he simply didn't live up to expectations. Facing constant double- and triple-teams, Pierre-Paul was unable to adjust to being a marked man for the first time in his career.
The sacks weren't the only thing lacking in his game. He also registered 20 less tackles in 2012 and only had four quarterback hits, compared to 14 in 2011.
Most importantly, Pierre-Paul was nonexistent during the Giants annual second-half swoon. He didn't record a sack, force a fumble or register a pass defense in New York's last seven games.
It wasn't all bad, as Pierre-Paul had a solid 23.7 Pro Football Focus rating, which bested the 22.4 rating he had in 2011. He also hurried the quarterback 44 times, up from 26 a year earlier.
Still, so much was expected from Pierre-Paul in 2012 and his lackluster season was a big reason why the Giants didn't make the playoffs.
Overall, Justin Tuck was a disappointment in 2011. His strong late-season performance, however, that included 5.5 sacks over the Giants final two regular-season games and four-game playoff run, brought renewed hope that the eight-year veteran was going to have a strong 2012 season.
As it turned out, Tuck actually managed to regress.
He only recorded four sacks in 15 games compared to 8.5 sacks in 16 games in 2011. He also didn't move the needle when it came to pressuring the quarterback, recording six quarterback hits and 21 hurries.
The season before, in three fewer regular season games, he had eight hits and 20 hurries.
Tuck was solid against the run with a solid 1.3 PFF rating. This is a bit misleading, though, because the big impact play was missing from his run-stopping arsenal.
Tuck had seven tackles for a loss in 2011. From 2007 to 2010 he had at least 18 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in each of those years. He didn't have a single tackle for a loss in 2012.
What the future holds for Tuck is unclear.
He turns 30 in March and it appears his best days are a distant memory. While he'll likely return to Big Blue in 2013 for the final year of his contract, you can no longer consider him as one of the better defensive ends in the NFL.
Sensing a theme here?
The Giants pass rush was lackluster in 2012 and you are starting to see why.
Osi Umenyiora has always been considered a one-trick pony, but it was a pretty good trick. He's never been good against the run, but he's always been able to get to the quarterback.
Until last season that is.
The 31-year-old averaged only 0.38 sacks per game in 2012, his lowest per-game sack output since his 2003 rookie season. He also continued a disturbing trend of not being able to force fumbles off his sacks.
From 2004 to 2009, Umenyiora averaged 4.5 forced fumbles per season (not including the playoffs). For the second straight year, he only managed to strip the ball twice.
Though still possible, it appears that Umenyiora's 10th season with the Giants was his last. If it is, it was a good run that simply ran out of gas at the end.
Corey Webster emerged as a standout cornerback during the Giants' first Super Bowl run in 2007. He carried that momentum into his best year as a pro, 2008, when he was one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, yet somehow didn't make the Pro Bowl. He followed that season up with a stellar stretch from 2009 to 2011.
Then it all fell apart last season.
Webster went from being one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL to one of the worst. His minus-11.3 PFF rating ranked 214th out of 217 cornerbacks graded. He gave up 988 yards receiving on 16.7 yards per catch and allowed eight touchdowns.
All these numbers ranked in the bottom five among cornerbacks who played in at least 25 percent of their team's defensive snaps.
The question now is will Webster be on the Giants in 2013? I tackled this question in detail last week. Whether he is on the Giants or not, Webster will have to dramatically improve his play next season if he wants an opportunity to remain a starter.