The New York Giants, at the halfway point of the 2011 NFL season, stand atop the NFC East with a 5-2 record, two games ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys. Being caught in the midst of a competitive divisional race and a daunting upcoming schedule against six teams, none of which possess a losing record, every game the New York Giants face during that stretch will come down to strong teamwork, discipline and successful execution, which all fall on the shoulders of a successful coaching staff.
The Giants haven’t made the playoffs since 2008, coming one game—and perhaps, one play—short last year. This year, the Giants have their work cut out for them, and if they fail again, some are going to be calling for the heads of coach Tom Coughlin and other members of the New York Giants staff, including the underwhelming Perry Fewell.
Let’s analyze the efforts of the coaches and coordinators as the season hits the halfway point.
Kevin Gilbride’s star shines brightly in New York this year, as the New York Giants offense has been outstanding and has turned around very strongly from last season’s sub-par performances. With a looser style, calling for more big passing plays and a well balanced attack, the superb play of Eli Manning has led to the New York Giants being among the top 10 teams in the league in most passing categories, as well as fourth in passer rating, sixth in net passing yards per game, and most impressively third in yards per attempt.
Although the rushing game has fallen significantly from the prominence it had during the 2010 season, the strong and dynamic play of the passing game has led the Giants to a 5-2 record. Kevin Gilbride, although loosening up the passing game, has not allowed anywhere close to the amount of turnovers and interceptions that were made last year, which ultimately cost the Giants a playoff spot last season. If Gilbride can fix the problems within the rushing game, the Giants will be a very difficult team to beat for the second half of the season.
Passing Offense: A
Rushing Offense: C
If you were to name one person who has the most potential to be blamed should the Giants miss the playoffs, two names might leap quickly to mind; Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin. The Giants have been the type of ego-free, virtuous team that have been able to make sure that blame is not thrown around lightly. One might recall that when Matt Dodge made a costly error against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010’s letdown, he was not fired as many thought he would be.(Just cut earlier this season) That being said, Fewell has been the most disappointing Giant of the season, and the defense is in a slump that betrays their 5-2 standing.
Last season, they ranked among the top 10 in many relevant defensive categories, and this season, they rank 16th or worse, and are in the bottom 10 of categories they excelled at last year, including points, points per game, rushing yards and rush yards per game. This type of output is completely unacceptable if the Giants want to beat the more competitive teams they are going to face in their upcoming six game stretch.
The Giants’ rush attack helped seal a victory against the Miami Dolphins, and Fewell is going to have to bring their A-game against an electric New England Patriots offense next week. If Fewell continues the present course, he is going to be the sole reason the Giants are not successful in the 2011 season. With injured players coming off the bench, Fewell and the Giants defense are going to have to shake off the rust.
Passing Defense: C+
Rushing Defense: D-
Talk about a break for Quinn, the New York Giants have been a major beneficiary of the new NFL rule in which kickoffs after touchdowns have been placed five yards ahead. Steve Weatherford can simply boot his way to a touchback on command more frequently, giving the special teams a much needed break from their disappointing habit of ruining entire seasons.
The return game has also been pretty solid, averaging among the top 10 in yards and yards per return. The good return game has set up the high powered offense, and if their defense could get their act together and work in tangent with the special teams, the special teams would complement the overall game quite nicely.
Tom Coughlin has been stellar thus far; his coaching skill and Eli’s superb play have brought the Giants to their 5-2 record, and the performance of his team has shown through in ways that can only be chalked up to good coaching. This includes several come from behind victories, good discipline with few penalties, and a strong turnover ratio.
Coughlin has taken great care in ensuring that much of the demons that had haunted them in the previous season had been exorcised, including the turnovers, and a changing of the much maligned conservative style of offense into a well balanced attack that also includes big plays that put up a lot more touchdowns on the board than field goals. When the Giants need big plays from the offense or defense, they also tend to step in and help each other out, providing critical defensive stops against the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins as well as last minute drives against the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills. That type of teamwork and stepping-up of performance can be attributed to good coaching.
The biggest challenge Tom Coughlin continues to face as the season moves forward is improving the team on a consistent basis, particularly the defense, which needs to live up to the 2007-era Giants football standards that the fans have come to expect. Coughlin and the Giants came into the season with low expectations from fans and the media, and emerge the top of their division, and for that, they must be applauded. Now here’s hoping they can keep it up for another half.