Although the playoff field is yet to be determined and a champion has yet to be crowned, one thing is certain; this January, there will be no postseason magic for the New York Giants.
For the first time in five years, and only the second time during the Tom Coughlin era, Big Blue will be at home watching their NFC rivals compete for a right to go to the Super Bowl.
The 2009 Giants will be remembered for their inconsistent play, which most recently resulted in one of the most embarrassing performances in the 35-year history of Giants Stadium.
In a game with so much at stake the Giants defense, led by first year coordinator, Bill Sheridan, allowed 41 points to a team without its Pro Bowl running back and its starting quarterback.
Sheridan's unit gave up 206 yards on the ground to Jonathan Stewart and quarterback Matt Moore threw for three scores. It was the fourth time the Giants have given up more than 40 points in a game all year, and the sixth time they have given up more than 30.
With the return of former Pro Bowler Osi Umenyiora, who missed all of 2008 with injury, and only two years removed from sacking Tom Brady five times en route to a Super Bowl victory, the Giants were predicated to be one of the most formidable defenses in the NFL.
That prediction never materialized, and Umenyiora and the other star defensive end, Justin Tuck, have combined for a total of 13 sacks, four fewer then the league leader, Elvis Dumervil.
Umenyiora was recently taken out of his longtime starting role and now only plays sparingly. This has led to much frustration out of the defensive end and he has expressed his displeasure with Bill Sheridan and the defensive schemes on multiple occasions.
The offseason additions of Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard were supposed to bolster an already excellent line, but Canty has only played in 8 games due to injury and Bernard has been a non-factor this season.
Factor in the decline of a once stellar defensive tackle, Fred Robbins, and the Giants defensive line is no longer the premier unit it once was.
Injuries to defensive leader Antonio Pierce and second year starting safety Kenny Phillips have also contributed to the poor performances of 2009. No longer do the Giants have their defensive captain, and communication problems have resulted due to the absence of Pierce.
The loss of Phillips and starting cornerback, Aaron Ross, has impacted the Giants secondary. The Giants have become susceptible to the big play and they're secondary was greatly exposed three weeks ago when, Donovan McNabb, hooked up with DeSean Jackson and the Eagles receivers on deep ball after deep ball.
Although this defense was supposed to be able to harass even the best quarterbacks that the NFL has to offer, it will be remembered for missed tackles, blown coverages and mind boggling inconsistency.
Some may blame the departure of Steve Spagnuolo for the defensive struggles and I would agree.
Spagnuolo was known for his ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and although Sheridan was brought in to pick up where Spagnuolo left off, his defense has looked baffled at times, and Sheridan has been unable to find ways to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks and shut down the run game. It is hard to imagine that Sheridan will be retained going into next season.
During their 2007 Super Bowl run, the Giants were so successful due in part to their running game. Their big bruiser, Brandon Jacobs, would wear down opposing defenses and make way for Ahmad Bradshaw to come in and break big runs. Their ability to be so successful running the ball lied with their consistent, durable offensive.
Led by center Shaun O'Hara, the same unit started 38 consecutive games and controlled the line of scrimmage when it counted most. However, this year, three members of their line have missed time due to injury. Brandon Jacobs is only averaging 3.7 yards per carry as opposed to his 5.0 yards per touch the previous two seasons and has not rushed for over 100 yards in a game all year.
Once considered the best rushing attack in football, this year’s Giants have looked far from it and Jacobs has had a very disappointing 2009.
The Giants have many holes to fill on both sides of the ball and there is no quick fix. However, not many in the game today are better than Jerry Reese at finding talent in the draft. The same man who orchestrated one of the best overall drafts in recent memory during the 2007 draft must put together a repeat performance for the Giants to make a run at the title in 2010.