April 5, 2010
With draft day rapidly approaching, and NFL free agency in full swing, those who are lucky enough to call themselves Giants fans have been treated to quite the entertaining offseason.
Within the past few months, New York has seen their big blue squad in the midst of stadium controversy, personnel turnover, and enough draft day speculation to fill out a mock draft 100 different ways.
It all began back on January 4, 2010, when New York ended their season on a sour note and set owner John Mara on a mission for change.
"This is probably as disappointed as I've ever been in my life at this team, given the expectations that we had this year, given the roster I thought we had, and given the way we started out, given the embarrassment of the last two weeks," Mara told the New York Post.
Within hours of Mara expressing his disgust and promise of change, Giants defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan was relieved of his duties after only one season. The former linebacker coordinator led the defense to one its worst showings in franchise history in which New York surrender over 30 points seven times during the 2009 season.
Running parallel to the Sheridan headlines was the curious case of Osi Umenyiora. The former Pro Bowl heir to Michael Strahan had fallen out of favor with his former coordinator, and possibly New York, in a rather short period of time.
It was no secret he and Sheridan had their differences throughout the season, but after an embarrassing 41-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Umenyiora revealed things were as bad as they could get, telling the Associated Press, "I thought I was the problem. It's an unbelievable situation, last game at Giants Stadium, probably as a Giant, just the way everything has unfolded has been unbelievable."
Obviously, Giants fans were stunned to learn their defensive gem was hinting he had seen his last days in New York; however with the departure of Sheridan, there was hope of rebuilding the stature of Umenyiora in New York.
With Sheridan gone, Umenyiora under a microscope, and Tom Coughlin entering the back-end of a four-year deal, rumors began to swirl around Bill Cowher and his possible future with the New York Giants.
According to former running back Jerome Bettis, Cowher was "holding out" for the New York Giants head coaching gig and had the "inside track" because of his relationship with the Mara family.
While there may have not been any solid evidence to justify the comments Bettis made, the story caught on like wildfire mainly because of the promise John Mara had made about change.
As the Cowher story lingered, New York was still pressed to find a replacement for Sheridan, and as the list of potential suitors grew, it only took one interview to find the next defensive coordinator.
Ten days after Sheridan was fired, Perry Fewell, a former defensive coordinator and interim head coach with the Buffalo Bills was hired.
"I have a lot of confidence in the staff that's presently here," Fewell told the New York Post. "Both secondary coaches have a Super Bowl ring. One guy has two Super Bowl rings. Our linebackers coach is well-known and is an excellent linebackers coach."
With the Fewell regime in effect, the Giants had to now turn their attention to finding a replacement for quarterbacks coach Chris Palmer, who left for the UFL to coach the New York Sentinels.
As the Giants searched for the next coach to aid Eli Manning
's development, New York turned their attention briefly to address a dilemma that had lingered since the end of the 2009 season; the future of linebacker Antonio Pierce.
Pierce had been the cornerstone of the Giants' defense for five years, and had lead the team in tackles from 2005-2008. With Pierce trying to recover from a bulging disc, and his contract expiring, the New York Giants felt his services were no longer needed, and they parted ways with the middle linebacker on February 11.
Two days after Pierce was released, the Giants found Palmer's replacement within the organization, and promoted receivers coach Mike Sullivan to quarterbacks coach.
Sullivan served as the Giants receivers coach for the past six seasons, and had developed a solid relationship with Eli Manning in his time with New York.
With major changes to the coaching staff, including a new offensive quality control coach in Kevin Gilbride Jr. and new defensive line coach Rober Nunn, the Giants were set to address their needs on the field.
As the free agency loomed, New York had major questions to address within their defense; most notably the secondary.
It was no secret New York struggled against the pass due to lack of depth and injuries.
As free agency opened, so did the Giants wallets, as they made a former Arizona Cardinals
defensive back the highest paid safety in NFL history.
The addition of Rolle confirmed the Giants uncertainty in Kenny Phillips.
Phillips had suffered a serious knee injury in 2009, and his return was a major cause for concern. With Rolle now added to the roster, the Giants could feel comfortable with Phillips taking the proper amount of time needed to recover from such a severe injury.
The Giants however did not stop with Rolle, as they signed quarterback Jim Sorgi and released the unpopular Aaron Rouse.
With the gaping hole at middle linebacker still unfilled, Giants fans hoped that free agents Gary Brackett or Karlos Dansby could be lured to play in New York next year, those hopes quickly faded as both were taken off the market rather quickly.
Amongst the free agency period and combine concerns, the New York Giants were also dealing with perhaps the most unnecessary dilemma at the time: opening day.
The in-state rival New York Jets
became obsessed, and slightly psychotic, over the rumors that the Giants had already been slated to open the new Meadowlands Stadium.
While the Jets called for a coin toss, the Giants went about their business in-house and never made a fuss over who would open the new stadium.
In a cruel twist of fate, the Jets actually got their way and received a coin toss to determine who would play host to the new stadium, unfortunately for them, their idea may have cost them the honor as they fell on the wrong side of the coin.
Big Blue won the right to christen their new home on September 12, and while the Jets didn't get their way, they will play host for the first preseason game.
As draft day draws near, and irrelevant drama fades into the distance, New York has certainly taken part in an unusual yet all too familiar offseason.
With Jeff Feagles re-signed, the middle linebacker spot unfilled, Osi Umenyiora's fate still undecided, draft day approaching, and Tom Coughlin's contract expiring at the end of the 2011 season, it's safe to say the circus that is the New York Giants has just revealed its opening act, and the main event is still yet to come.