Dear fellow New York Giants fans,
Chill. The heck. Out.
The New York Giants have for sure been a disappointment over the last two seasons since they ran the table in the playoffs and won the Super Bowl in 2007. In the process, they knocked off the top two seeds in the NFC and the 18-0, “team-of-destiny” New England Patriots.
In 2008, the Giants started off 11-1, were on top of the world, then ended up 12-5, one-and-done in the playoffs, due in part to Plaxico Burress’ accidental shooting of himself.
And this year, a 5-0 start that was so promising, but a 3-7 run to follow. The Giants are now mathematically eliminated and their run of making the playoffs for four straight years has ended. It’s the first time they will miss the playoffs with Eli Manning as their full-time starter.
So why did it happen this year? A few glaring reasons. On the offensive side of the ball, ironically, the Giants one question mark for the whole team heading into the season was their receiving corps…it ended up as the team’s greatest strength.
Steve Smith has become a top-tier possession receiver in the NFL. Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham are slippery threats who are deadly after the catch. Kevin Boss is a huge tight-end target. These four young players all have Pro Bowl potential.
But what all Giant fans had assumed to be the team’s rock, running the ball, faltered this year. Brandon Jacobs had an off year, averaging less than 4 yards per carry. It has been revealed that Jacobs has played on a bad knee all year. He has run visibly less hard this year.
Additionally, change-of-pace back Ahmad Bradshaw has played on two broken ankles, and was serviceable, but nothing more. The Giants’ offensive line, which was so hailed during the 2008 season, did not do a good job at all executing in 2009. And finally, Kevin Gilbride’s playcalling was often spotty and questionable. But the Giants’ problems cannot be blamed on the offense, despite some issues.
The Giants’ defense was as big an enigma as the NFL saw all year. After the 5-0 start, no one was worried about the Giants’ defense. It had dominated four bad teams, and although it gave up 31 points to the Cowboys in week 2, it was glossed over because the Giants won the game.
Since the 5-0 start, the Giants defense has been good just twice, first against the Cowboys (17 points plus a garbage touchdown) and the Redskins (utter domination, 12 points). Besides that, the defense was blown out for forty points for times (twice by the division rival Eagles), blew 6 and 14 point leads late against the Chargers and Falcons and were dominated by a good but not great Broncos offense.
The problems the Giants encountered all affected and compounded upon each other. The defensive line was ultimately the root of the problems. End Osi Umenyiora gave a pedestrian 2009 effort coming off knee surgery, and possibly due to some complacency and no Michael Strahan around to push him.
Justin Tuck played with one arm in a sling all year. Mathias Kiwanuka was average. Defensive tackles Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins were also average, and new signings Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard could hardly stay on the field and were near-invisible on the field.
The Giants’ defense on the whole was marred by injuries. New signing Michael Boley missed five games due to injury, weakening an already suspect linebacking corps. Aaron Ross missed much time for both development and becoming comfortable in Bill Sheridan’s team, and the Giants’ deep secondary was killed by the loss of promising young safety Kenny Phillips.
Hopefully, Phillips can come back healthy next year. Michael Johnson was average, and the “anti-dream team” of CC Brown and Aaron Rouse was forced to fill in the majority of the time. And time after time, the Giants were burned on deep balls in which they could get no pressure, and thus their below-average safeties were exposed.
Similarly, the Giants were hurt by a poor defensive scheme put together by Bill Sheridan. It’s impossible to figure out exactly how much fault should be put on Sheridan. But time and again, Giants fans were left questioning scheme moves. Lineman were in coverage all the time.
The Giants blitzed much less than under Steve Spagnuolo, and were very uncreative with their blitzes (simple straight-up the middle linebacker blitzes that were easily predictable). Sheridan may or may not be gone after the season.
Over the course of the season, the Giants constantly stressed that things would get fixed “eventually.” It didn’t happen. But that’s nothing that fans can freak out like they have.
In recent days, the Giants have been lambasted for their lack of effort in Giants Stadium’s final game. But aside the lack of effort, there isn’t much more to write home about. The defense was poor this year for reasons that are easily pinpointed.
The one maddening fact is that many fans are calling for “blowing up the core,” for Tom Coughlin’s, and others’, heads. I’ve heard fans say that “aside from one run, the team has done nothing in this decade.”
Giants fans seem to be turning to the same attitudes as New York Yankees fans. They act as if the Giants are entitled to win every year, and anything else is failure. I have news for you: this is the NFL. That kind of dominance never happens, and nothing should be expected or taken for granted. They play the games for a reason. Anything can happen…any given Sunday…etc. with the clichés.
Everything bad that happened to the Giants this year happened for a reason and was explainable. So there’s no sense losing sleep over the Giants’ 2009 season.
They still have one of the strongest cores in football with a quarterback who is finally becoming an elite passer; two solid running backs; one of the top young receiving squads in the league; a very solid, and at best, great offensive line; a similar defensive line that just needs to be healthy; a serviceable linebacking corps (whether or not Antonio Pierce returns); and a young, talented secondary.
The organization, as it always does, will make moves to improve in the offseason. Jerry Reese has been one of the best GM’s in the league in his short tenure, and his moves have almost always worked out well. This year, the Giants were not so lucky.
It’s really simple; there’s always next year. Perhaps the good will from the Super Bowl has run out. But the team knows how to win and will always be committed to it.
So…just chill, everybody. Take an example from Easy Eli.