New York Giants: 4 Reasons Why the Team Is Primed to Repeat
Last January, the New York Giants squeaked into the playoffs with a paltry 9-7 record. From there, the team went on a tear, knocking off the Atlanta Falcons in the Wild Card Round followed by the heavily favored Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round and NFC Championship, respectively.
Four seasons earlier, in January of 2008, a mediocre 10-6 Giants squad went on a similar playoff run, upsetting seemingly far superior teams away from home on the road to the Super Bowl.
Both seasons ended with an unpredictable one-score Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots and an MVP honor for Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
At times during the 2011 season, New York didn’t look like a playoff-caliber team, let alone the future Super Bowl champions. After a 6-2 start, the Giants went on a four-game losing streak, which included an ugly performance against a Philadelphia Eagles team in disarray and a Monday Night throttling at the hands of Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
However, the Giants were able to right the ship and win seven of their final eight games with playoffs included. Many believe the hot streak will continue into next season and New York will be an early favorite to repeat in 2012.
Due in large part to their off-putting regular-season record last year, the evidence to support such a claim is not insurmountable. However, come September, the chips may still lie in the Giants’ favor.
The New York Giants benefit from one of the best coaching staffs in the NFL. Since head coach Tom Coughlin took over for Jim Fassel in 2004, New York has made the playoffs five times and brought home the Lombardi Trophy twice.
In recent years, Coughlin has ditched the drill-sergeant routine and started building relationships with his players, all while preaching simple principles such as execution and discipline.
Coughlin has surpassed Patriots head coach Bill Belichick as the NFL’s top coaching guru, as he has defeated Belichick on the games biggest stage not once, but twice.
For New York, the supporting cast is just as important as the head coach.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride guided one of the league's best passing attacks, allowing Manning to throw for nearly 5,000 yards last year despite a plethora of wide receiver injuries to start off the season.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell rectified a struggling defense to turn them into one of the league’s stingiest by the end of the regular season and into the playoffs, as they didn’t allow their opponent to score more than 20 points in each of their final six games
The Giants coaching staff has proven that they can either let their players play or make the proper adjustments to ensure a win, both of which are important to guiding a Super Bowl squad.
Despite throwing for 4,933 yards in 2011, on paper, Giants quarterback Eli Manning may not blow you away. However, it’s not his stats that make him a great quarterback; it’s how he leads his team.
In 2011, Eli Manning threw 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes, a total that broke the old NFL record of 14 held by Johnny Unitas (1959) and Peyton Manning (2002). Manning’s strong play in the fourth quarter lifted the Giants to victory on multiple occasions during the 2011 season, including a Week 14 thriller in which Manning conducted two scoring drives in the game’s final minutes.
Manning has shown steady improvement in every statistical category since he entered the league in 2004. He has thrown for at least 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns in each of the past three seasons.
The one knock on Manning may be his interceptions—which were sky-high in 2010 with 25 but dropped to 16 in 2011—and his completion percentage—which has hovered around 61 percent the past four seasons and is a far cry from Drew Brees’ 71.2 percent completion percentage in 2011.
However, given Manning’s late-game heroics, the Giants cannot be counted out in any close games in 2013.
Depth at the Skill Positions
Over the past few years, GM Jerry Reese and the rest of the Giants front office have stockpiled players at both the offensive and defensive skill positions.
At running back, sixth-year veteran Ahmad Bradshaw is expected to carry the majority of the workload. The Giants also used their first round-draft choice on running back David Wilson out of Virginia Tech, so expect him to be worked into the mix. And don’t forget about D.J. Ware who saw an increased workload in 2011, for there’s a good chance he will also be getting touches.
Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks broke his foot on the second day of OTAs, and the recovery period is cutting it dangerously close. Luckily for the Giants, they used their second pick of the 2012 draft on LSU wide receiver Reuben Randle. If Nicks can’t play come Week 1, expect Randle to step in and play opposite Victor Cruz, while players like Domenik Hixon, Ramses Barden and Jerrel Jernigan duke it out for the third spot.
Defensively, the Giants have no shortage of players who can get to the quarterback. Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora (if he’s with the team in 2012—but that’s a whole other story), Mathias Kiwanuka and Chris Canty have all proven to be effective pass rushers.
With the league becoming more and more passer-friendly, a team can never have enough cornerbacks. Returning stars Corey Webster, Prince Amukamara and Terrell Thomas will be part of the cornerback rotation, in addition to free-agent acquisition Antwaun Molden and third-round draft choice Jayron Hosley out of Virginia Tech.
With such incredible depth at the offensive and defensive skill positions, the departures of running back Brandon Jacobs, wide receiver Mario Manningham and cornerback Aaron Ross hold little to no bearing on the Giants’ success next year.
In the end, what comes in handy the most come playoff time is experience. The majority of the Giants’ roster in 2012 will have at least one Super Bowl ring and a good portion of the team will have two. Led by two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, the Giants veterans will know exactly what it takes to make it to the big dance.
That experience showed last January as New York rolled over less experienced teams in the playoffs.
In terms of experience, or lack there of, no position is more exposed than the quarterback. While Matt Ryan failed to convert two fourth-and-short situations, Aaron Rogers could not hit his mark, and Alex Smith failed to complete a pass to a wide receiver.
Manning was nearly flawless, throwing nine touchdowns and only one interception during the Giants' playoff run.
Many of the Giants remember what it feels like to fall short. In 2008, after winning the Super Bowl the previous year, New York shot out to an 11-1 start before dropping three of their final four games and, after a first-round bye, suffering a divisional-round playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The team finds itself in a similar situation this fall with a chance to rewrite history in a sense.
The Giants players and coaches have been through nearly every scenario in recent seasons, and many times they’ve come out on top. The experience they’ve gained through the years is priceless as they move towards the 2012 season.