If there is one thing resonating throughout Big Blue Nation since Jan. 3, it is this: What the hell happened this season?
Well, there are several explanations, but you already know all of them—Injuries, no running game, some guy named Bill, invisible pass rush.
I won't get into anymore details about the issues with 2009. What I will do is present some productive ways to correct all of the problems with last year.
First off, lets take a look at what the Giants have already done so far.
Firing of Bill Sheridan and Mike Waufle
The day after the season ended, John Mara made a strong statement to the media and to the entire organization. He made sure to reiterate that changes are to be made and stated that no one in the organization is immune from accountability.
The first to see the repercussions from this statement were defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan and defensive line coach Mike Waufle.
The first year under coach Sheridan was an absolute failure, nobody can dispute that, but I can't help but feel like it was not all his fault. The first five healthy games, though against bad teams, the Giants looked like they were going to be just as dominant defensively, aside from generating zero pass rush.
Once the injuries started to pile up, the inability to rush the passer began to exploit the entire defense. It's difficult to play tough "D" with second and third string players.
Mike Waufle was the defensive line coach for six seasons, but the circumstances behind his firing can hardly be considered a surprise. He was hired by the Oakland Raiders shortly after his release, the very team he had problems with before he came to New York.
The firing did not come with pleasant responses. Osi Umenyiora actually might have hinted that his time is done in New York. If he really feels that way, good riddance, I know GM Jerry Reese will get what he can out of him.
If he decides to stop being a baby and work on his run defense, then he will actually be a starter again and all will end well for the team.
I am not sure if the Giants plan on letting go of any more assistants, but I can speculate that they would have already done so if they planned on it.
Who (or What) to Look for in Free Agency
This section will not simply be a list of players to look for, it will also be just the type of player the Giants need to turn their fortunes in the opposite direction.
As much as I love Antonio Pierce, if he cannot come back successfully from his neck injury, the team will have to look for a replacement. I won't commit to the Giants cutting him loose, but I'm sure if they tell him he won't be the starter, then he will look to exercise other options.
The Giants need a leader on defense. They had Strahan in the past, but ever since he left there has not been one person who stands out other than Pierce. When he went out with an injury, the team lacked passion and focus.
The team will need to find someone who is not only vocal, but can lead by example, someone who is a destructive force in the middle as well as an emotional mainstay who can pull the team through tough times, and keep them honest when the road gets smooth.
I honestly don't trust any of the players on the current roster to step up and be this type of player.
The first free agent who comes to mind who fits the mold I'm describing is Karlos Dansby, who will become an unrestricted free agent on March 5.
Dansby has been a primary factor to the recent success of the Arizona Cardinals. His leadership is unquestioned, and his ability is exactly what newly acquired Perry Fewell needs to succeed.
He had 100-plus tackles the last two seasons, and will be a quick fix to the porous run defense. The Giants need help at all three levels of the defense, but getting some veteran leadership at the Middle Linebacker or Safety position has to be priority number one.
What to Expect Moving Forward.
The Giants entered 2009 with the highest of expectations. After a disappointing playoff exit at home the previous year, the team had more than enough motivation to bring home the Lombardi Trophy.
After the hot 5-0 start that included beating Dallas in the opening of Jerry Jones' masterpiece, fans were dreaming of yet another deep playoff run.
For the reasons explained previously, the team fizzled out to finish 8-8, losing eight of its final 11 games.
The team had better be able to put all of this behind it. The last thing this team needs is any distractions. After dealing with the Plaxico Burress incident in 2008 and all of the injuries last year, it would be nice to have a normal season.
Despite all of the negatives, plenty of positives came out of last season.
Eli Manning had the best season of his career, and with that came the maturity of all the young receivers. It's ironic that the one question entering 2009 ended up being the best part of the season.
I expect Manning will continue to grow individually, and so will his confidence in his receivers. If Ramses Barden and Travis Beckham can come in and be the end zone threats they are supposed to be, we may see Manning's first 30-touchdown season.
With any team that suffers injuries, the backups and young players get a chance to prove themselves. Unfortunately, that is a two-sided coin. Not only did we get to see Jonathon Goff improve his game, but we were forced to witness the awful display of "talent" by C.C. Brown.
The problems that have faced the Giants in recent years (poor secondary and linebacker play) do not necessarily have to be fixed in free agency. That said, they have better be prepared to take one of each in the first three rounds of the draft should they opt to not sign a player like Dansby.
Trust in Jerry Reese Giants fans, his judgment is rarely misguided.