Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Giants: Spagnuolo, coaches, Cowboys


It is no surprise that Steve Spagnuolo left the team. With all the HC job openings, and his impressive accomplishments, it's hard to imagine any other result. In fact, although I hate to see him go, I am happy that he went to the Rams this year, instead of, say to the Cowboys or Redskins next year. Furthermore, I am really happy that Jason Garrett did not get the Rams job, for which he too was being considered. If Garrett had left the Cowboys, it would have given Jerry Jones the opening to make some coaching staff changes. Specifically, he might have brought in Gruden or Shanahan and moved Wade Phillips over to be the DC. With Garrett still in place, as OC, with the title of Assistant HC and the putative future HC designate, there is less room for Jones to maneuver. You can never tell with Jerry Jones - he might make a move with Wade Phillips and his coaching staff anyway, but the movement of Garrett might have given him the opening and the stimulus to act now.


There are rumors flying around that the Cowboys are going to cut TO, but that is more likely if the Cowboys were to make a coaching change now and bring in a legitimate, big name coach that does not want to put up with the daily TO soap opera. It is amazing with TO - the same act plays itself out over again and he has now undermined seriously the locker room chemistry on all 3 teams of which he has been a member. He excelled on the field, played nicely with his friends and was a good citizen for his first few years on the team. But after a while, when things did not go perfectly to his liking, he reverted back to his modus operandi, demanded the attention that very diva requires and made the team explode. It is not surprise that he behaved when Parcells was in charge, because he is a strong willed, hands-on, take charge coach, that does not put up with nonsense from his players. Wade Phillips is not a good disciplinarian or strong leader of men, so it is equally not surprising that TO started acting up with Phillips in charge. It is a little surprising that Andy Reid could not keep him in line in Philadelphia, but I get the feeling that he is not a strict coach and relies on picking players that are internal team leaders to keep things clean. Nevertheless, when TO calls out the qb, the coach, the play calling and the OC, it has several negative affects on the team. First, it forces the team to take sides: some defensive players and some other offensive players agreed publicly with TO that the team was not feeding him the ball enough and was not getting Roy Williams involved enough in the offense. The charge that Romo and his TE Witten were conspiring to keep TO and Roy Williams out of the offense was so insane that it should not have been dignified with an answer. But, when Romo, Witten and others did respond, denying the charge, it gave the story just enough legs and credence that it may have made players on the team actually mumble about it, if only amongst themselves and consider whether there may be some truth to it. There may have even been a racial component to the unrest thus created, though it was surely unintended. But more important, it gave confirmation, if only tacit, that the game plan was a mess. Romo and Witten only replied that they were not hijacking the game plan secretly. They did not say that the game plan was fine and that TO should shut up. So - the discussion on the team became: "Who is messing up the game plan? Romo and Witten?". The denial by Romo, Witten and even the coaching staff was in effect saying: "Romo and Witten are not secretly messing up the game plan; the coaches are doing that all by themselves". I think this creates a mood and an air of denigrating the coaching staff's ability and we saw other statements by other offensive players consistent with that. Romo was quoted as saying that the coaches did not figure out how to attack particular defenses or make mid-game adjustments to the game plan. It's not good when the qb is doing that. I hope Phillips, Garrett et. al. stay in place for a while. Cowboys fired their DC but if they stand pat and the Cowboys have another down year in their new stadium, Jones will surely make a coaching change next year.


I am very happy that the Giants promoted from within and moved the LB coach Sheridan up to replace Spagnuolo. It creates continuity with the defense, it creates good feelings with the coaches on the staff, who then feel that they have an opportunity to advance where they are and will work hard and diligently to get recognized. I liked and preferred the DB coach Giunta, rather than the LB coach, but Sheridan is also very well respected and will do a good job. Giunta was a DC before and you have to be very impressed with how well the DB-field has improved. He never gave up on Corey Webster and has turned him into a star. Aaron Ross had some unsteady moments this year, but is a very good CB and Terrell Thomas has great promise. You could simply say that this is a result of good drafting, but each player has improved his fundamentals, especially Webster, since Giunta took over. The defense is not just a product of the schemes and blitzes that Spags put in, but is a product of the individual players improving their techniques and their play at their position. In my opinion, no unit improved as much as the DB-field and Giunta gets credit for that. I would like to seem some movement on the offensive coaching staff. Gilbride is a solid OC and is a capable play caller, but is not as imaginative or creative as I would like. I am not saying he should be fired, but he is not very creative and there have been times when the play calling lacked deceptiveness. The Giants offense is simply the sum of its parts. When Burress went out and they lacked the deep threat, the offense declined - not surprising - but there was nothing there to replace it. No deception, no trick plays, little variation in the type of routes that were run, no injection of new blood from Moss or Manningham and most of all - no new schemes to replace the Burress threat at the goal line. I would like to see Coughlin get more involved in scheming and the offense and making it more dynamic. It's easy to say that the Giants need a big play WR, which they certainly do. But even if they get one, Giants offense succeeds when they dominate or simply outplay the other team; they never get any cheap scores with deception. Did you see the Colts-Ravens opening wild card game? Peyton Manning got a cheap TD by hurrying his team to the line, calling a play and running it before the defense was set. Giants never do something like that. A little creativity is important.

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