In two weeks, the New York Giants can officially be put out of their misery, as they have guaranteed themselves their first losing season under head coach Tom Coughlin since 2004, the first year of his tenure.
What has been the biggest reason for the Giants' poor performance on offense this season?
Instead of focusing on the last two games, talk has already reached a fever pitch about what direction the Giants are headed, as they stand before a crossroads following their second straight season without a playoff berth.
Changes are definitely coming, but perhaps there’s no hotter topic making the rounds of the sports radio and newspaper circuit than New York's coaching situation.
There have been valid arguments made that Coughlin, who will be 68 years old in August, should probably move on after this season if the Giants are heading toward a rebuilding phase. However, the chances of him leaving the Giants after this year are extremely slim for two reasons.
One, his competitive nature and pride probably won’t allow him to bail on the team when it’s at its lowest point under his watch.
Two, it’s also unlikely that ownership will try to force Coughlin out considering he’s kept the team competitive and has won two Super Bowls.
The same can’t be said for his coaching staff. As I mentioned in my reviews of the offensive and defensive/special teams coaches, I think there could be as many as two assistant coaches and one coordinator gone after this season based on historical trends and the job done developing players.
The two biggest changes that I think need to be considered on the offensive side of the ball are the quarterbacks coach, Sean Ryan, and the receivers coach, Kevin M. Gilbride. I also believe that special teams coordinator Tom Quinn will be relieved of his duties at the end of the season.
Jordan Raanan, of NJ.com, thinks the Giants might go for a little more gusto with coaching changes, suggesting that signs are pointing toward offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride being replaced after the season.
While things are subject to change, I’m not so sure that Gilbride's departure is a given, unless he has another job in the works.
His system, however antiquated it might be, closely mirrors what Coughlin, an offensive-minded coach, prefers.
Coughlin, who many times this year has mentioned the roster changes that have been forced upon him due to injuries, did so again during his Monday press conference with reporters when he was asked about Gilbride.
It certainly hasn't been a connect-all-the-dots-from-day-one type of year. But Kevin's a pro. He's been around. He's done this a long time. We continue to try to find ways to take advantage of things, but it hasn't been easy.
I’ve covered Coughlin enough to know that when a change might be in the works, Coughlin usually provides a vague answer.
Given how he responded affirmatively so quickly when asked if he still believed in Gilbride’s ability to orchestrate the offense, I do not believe he’ll fire Gilbride unless management forces the issue.
Could things change? Sure.
However, I think that since Eli Manning has had enough success in this system to where he’s comfortable with Gilbride, the first order of business for the Giants will be to bring in people that can help the passing game.
NFC East Playoff Scenarios
The Giants, who have been eliminated from the playoff race, will secure a third-place schedule regardless of what happens in their final two games.
This will hold true even if they were to end with an identical record as Washington, since they would benefit from the tiebreaker (after the head-to-head record), which is the division record.
As such, the Giants' non-divisional opponents next year will be as follows:
|San Francisco||St. Louis|
|Tampa Bay or Atlanta (NFC South 3rd-place team)||NFC North 3rd-place team|
Current Giants Injury Report
|WR Victor Cruz||concussion/knee|
|RB Peyton Hillis||concussion|
|DE Jason Pierre-Paul||shoulder|
|S Cooper Taylor||hamstring|
|CB Corey Webster||ankle (placed on injured reserve)|
|CB Terrell Thomas||knee|
|LG James Brewer||ankle|
New York Giants
The passing game can ill-afford to be without Cruz, the one receiver who has been consistent this season. Head coach Tom Coughlin did not have an update on Cruz’s status.
However, Cruz has traditionally been tough when it comes to dealing with injuries. If he can pass the necessary concussion protocol, chances are that he’ll try to get back out there to contribute and get those last two yards he needs in order to reach 1,000 for the third consecutive season.
That might not be this week, however. The Giants called up receiver Julian Talley from their practice squad after placing Webster on season-ending injured reserve. This transaction likely indicates that there is concern about Cruz's status moving forward.
Coughlin also didn’t have updates on Hillis or Pierre-Paul. If Hillis can’t go, the Giants' running back rotation would be down to starter Andre Brown and rookie Michael Cox, though fullback John Conner could carry the ball in a pinch.
As for Pierre-Paul, even though he’s said that he’s “never going to shut it down” and that if he “can go, [he's] going to go,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Pierre-Paul has been advised by doctors to not play again this season.
Doctors have recommended to Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul that, due to his shoulder injury, he not play again this season.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 13, 2013
Taylor, the rookie who has been fighting a hamstring strain all season, is probably not going to play again this season, as he was spotted using crutches as recently as last week, which would indicate that his latest hamstring issue is more than just a tweak.
That likely means more snaps on defense for veteran Ryan Mundy, who last week had a decent game against the Seahawks.
What Must Improve
The Giants have turned the ball over in all but one game this season (vs. the Minnesota Vikings). This is a big reason why they’ll be packing up their belongings in two weeks for what will be a long, cold offseason to reflect on what went wrong instead of getting ready for the postseason.
Here’s the scary part: Of their 36 giveaways, opponents have scored 17 touchdowns and four field goals. That’s 131 points handed straight to the opponent.
Deduct those points from the scoring stats, and instead of being outscored 334-251, the Giants would actually be outscoring opponents by at least 251-203 this season.
Another statistic that is causing angst for head coach Tom Coughlin is that quarterback Eli Manning has been sacked at least once in every game this season.
As a result, the 10-year veteran signal-caller has been dropped a career-high 36 times for 256 lost yards—and there are still two games left for that total to increase.
There’s not much else the coaches can do with the personnel currently on roster, as Coughlin has pointed out numerous times in the second half of the season.
Considering how poorly the interior of the offensive line has played, apparently Coughlin believes the depth he has at those positions is a lot worse, which in itself is a frightening thought.
So what can they do to protect Manning? Other than to sit him down for the rest of the season, which is unlikely to happen, they’re simply going to have to hold their breath these next two weeks and hope that Manning doesn’t suffer a serious injury.
If the unthinkable were to happen and he were to have an injury this late in the season that would require months of rehab, that would probably jeopardize the start of next season—another scary thought in itself.
Starting Field Position
The New York offense seems to need every advantage it can get this season. Yet one area that hasn’t been of much help has been special teams, particularly the return game, which has rarely won the starting field position battle this season:
Per the above table, the Giants have only won the position battle twice this season, both wins. They are 3-9 in games in which they either draw even or lose the starting field position battle.