NFL News: Despite the New York Giants hard-to-miss season-ending flops over the past three seasons, Tom Coughlin supporters still exist, if not en masse.
They point to this seasons 10-6 finish while ignoring the horrifying way the team fell from the lofty week fourteen perch of 9-4, with their playoff destiny fully in hand, to the dead as a doornail position of outsider looking in by the final week of the season at Washington.
"Oh no," these observers say. "We can't have a change at the helm. Then everything else will have to change as well!"
To which we respond: Yikes! Good Golly Miss Molly. Great Caesars Ghost! As if that exact confluence of events is some entirely unknown entity within the NFL and has never been enacted to the greater good of one of the leagues 32 franchises.
Change is as much a part of life, a part of the National Football League as continuity is. When things get tough that inevitable choice has to be made.
Fish or cut bait. It's no easy decision to come to but to say change is implausible because of it's inevitable detrimental effect is complete and utter nonsense and one only needs to take a quick look at this post seasons landscape to verify as much.
Rex Ryan is a no brainer for the change is good or oust Coughlin side. He's come to the demanding city of New York, immediately instituted his own (relatively bizarre) culture to great effect and now the Jets have a shot at their first Super Bowl berth in 42 years.
The 2010 NFC regular season champion Atlanta Falcons are helmed by third year man, Mike Smith. He took a franchise in flux and has never stopped winning from Day 1 to the tune of an overall 33-15 mark. Only last seasons injuries to both Matt Ryan and Michael Turner have kept the Falc's from three straight playoff berths under his ever fiery guidance.
And who did the Falcons barely beat out this year for an NFC South Division Title?
Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints that's who. You remember them. A flameout in this years first round, but Super Bowl Champions in only their fourth season under the clever Bill Parcell's disciple. (Of course, the addition of magic man Drew Brees was an excelerant, we'll be getting to that in part two.)
You can look at Baltimore head man John Harbaugh, (superb job since 2008), and certainly Pittsburgh's icy cool Mike Tomlin who transitioned in smoothly from Cowher's staff in 2007 and has never done anything but win since is another vivid example of change in leadership and the positive result that may ensue. (43-21 in the regular season, 7-1 W-L in playoffs, one Super Bowl under his belt with another one of those babies quite possibly on the way.)
Now this doesn't mean all of the above are better men than Tom Coughlin, or that tenured coaches Lovie Smith, Mike McCarthy or Andy Ryan haven't done superlative coaching jobs themselves in 2010.
What it does mean is there is merit to either side, change or stability.
In this case, keeping Coughlin means keeping Special Teams Coach Tom Quinn. That's the handsome fellow Giant fans see on the sidelines who's directed the worst return/coverage units any Big Blue fan — even centurions — can recall in all their years of watching the team.
Secondary Coach Pete Giunta is another very questionable case. Certainly his stock has dropped immeasurably since the departure of Steve Spagnuolo, and even D Coordinator Perry Fewell (whose side played like true Giants in some spots but the 11 dwarfs in others), is a question mark heading into 2011 as avid followers of the team have been left to wonder what exactly can be done to preclude the habitual tailspins if not altogether dead efforts that have plagued this franchise too frequently during Coach Tom Coughlin's tenure.
Which brings us to the offensive side of the ball, loaded with skill players, armed with a truly resilient offensive line, plagued by endless turnovers in 2010 and essentially led by the combination of pass happy Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride, and of course, quarterback Eli Manning.
In the aftermath of the great Super Bowl run of 2007, Giants fans expected more of the same in the years to follow. But Plaxico Burress pulled a gun on himself in 2008, and that season went quickly down the tubes.
Any hope the 5-0 start in 2009 brought about was quickly dispelled by a fiasco like 3-8 finish and you probably have to go back to the days of Allie Sherman to find a time when another Giant team has been so utterly and completely awful for an elongated stretch. (Sherman was fired post 1969 with a 57-51-4 record.)
In both of these seasons, Giants fans saw good and bad sides of Eli Manning. Pocket periods of greatness, usually in the mild weathered, early portion of the season, mixed in with periods when he appeared to be the possessor of a pop gun arm, if not one lacking the necessary accuracy to hit the broad side of the barn.
Again in 2010 he showed incredible flashes—a much strengthened arm in fact—but the 30-plus turnovers directly attributed to the QB would have to put a damper on even the most positive-minded fan's sense of enthusiasm for Easy Eli.
The problem in a bigger picture sense is Manning, (at least for a professional), is un-athletic and almost completely immobile. If you look around the league right now, you look at the quarterbacks left standing—Rodgers, Roethlisberger, Sanchez, even Jay Cutler—they're all mobile and athletic to varying degrees.
For us, Rodgers is the best example of what we call a five tool quarterback. He can run for positive yardage at any time. He can pump off the defense endlessly while looking downfield where he has the touch for little dumps and the rifle for anything beyond that.
He is the prototypical quarterback of the day, when the challenge includes eluding speedy behemoths who would love nothing more than to devour you whole.
To be sure Eli Manning will never vaguely resemble Rodgers. Equally disturbing is the fact that he frequently gets endless time to throw, (which should be the great equalizer for his lack of athleticism), and in many cases even that won't do.
Blame Manning, as many have come to do, or blame Gilbride, which many love to do, but if you start to contemplate the inevitability of the franchises immediate future you only naturally have to be concerned because it's reasonably apparent something is not quite right.
What's more is key cogs Steve Smith and Ahmad Bradshaw are both free agents and will certainly be the apple of other NFL executive eyes. Will they come back to the Giants for another grinding season under Coach Coughlin? Or will they flee on the big moneyed wings of angels?
Will Jerry Reese be able to fill all the season-ending leaks via the draft and/or free agency?
In essence, the Giant organization is stuck with Eli Manning, at least for the time being. They're into him for big money, and they desperately want to believe he is the QB who can lead them back to the promised land.
Giant fans want to believe that, too, but after a period of time their brains will be overwhelmed by what their eyes take in.
From our point of view that means the combination of Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning is lacking.
Does it also mean mean it is the time for finite change? Maybe not, but to say change is implausible because it implies upheaval is absurd, and the Giants universe may very well find that out the hard way in 2011.
That's it for now,