New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese took the podium in the late July heat, faced a crowd of stewing reporters gathered outside the newly named Quest Diagnostic Training Center—located in a North Jersey swamp-turned-NFL Graceland called the Meadowlands—and denounced the idea of another underwhelming season in 2013.
Reese said everybody is “on notice,” himself included, via ESPN New York:
Was head coach Tom Coughlin shaking in his boots?
Probably not. There is no head coach across the league more familiar with the hot seat—and Coughlin’s teams have historically become timely overachievers when his job is on the line.
But Coughlin should not believe that his track record alone warrants an indefinite pink slip immunity, as many argued after his Giants’ most recent Super Bowl victory. He coaches in New York, where, with one postseason appearance in the last four years, it will not be long before his fans start to ask, “What have you done for me lately, Tom?”
Still, it’s hard not to look forward with a dose of optimism when considering Coughlin’s 2013 squad.
Why? Because it’s a new and changing team, full of young stars primed to make an impact.
Of the 53 players named to the final roster on Saturday, Aug. 31, about half of them were not on the active roster two seasons ago. Only nine men have been Giants since 2007.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The Giants are poised to turn the page, starting a chapter with a new band of characters flanking the stalwart protagonists, Coughlin and trusty first mate Eli Manning. Past heroes have moved on, and—aside from Aaron Ross—the Giants have not pursued reunions. Not even for old times' sake.
Jake Ballard cleared waivers. Surprised the Giants didn't claim him.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) September 1, 2013
Why would they, though? The Giants are currently flexing their youthful muscles, and several young players are looking to deliver a knockout blow. Some are practically begging for the chance.
We gotta start throwing on 1st down— Rueben Randle (@RuebenRandle) September 1, 2013
Sure, more first-down passes would ultimately yield more targets and, potentially, receptions for Randle, since he’s already sharing the field with the likes of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. But more first-down passes also mean fewer first-down runs, which would severely dip into David Wilson’s projected 2013 workload.
Pick your poison.
Cruz’s salsa and Nicks’ stiff-arm will be familiar, but much of New York’s offense will be unrecognizable from a season ago. Heck, the Giants are even expected to start a rookie, Justin Pugh, at right tackle for Week 1. How often does Coughlin allow that?
Will Tom Coughlin and the Giants make the playoffs in 2013?
On defense, it is more of the same. Any of the five linebackers could rise to foreground; rookie Damontre Moore could become the next great pass-rusher in a storied lineage of pass-rushers, and Prince Amukamara could prosper as the league’s next game-changing shutdown cornerback.
Of course, the operative word is “could.”
So Coughlin has a very full plate. Even if he cannot finish his food, it will take a lot of poor cooking for the entire meal to spoil.
I’m hungry—and the Giants are, too.
The majority of the past four seasons have served as a substandard appetizer. Will Coughlin bring out the main course in 2013?
Kevin is a New York Giants Featured Columnist and 2013 Game-Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter here.