Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Giants: Osi and Sheridan

I keep telling you guys to stick with this blog, because the information and analysis you get here is definitely ahead of the curve. (My accuracy in reporting and analysis is exceeded only by my modesty and humility.) Some recent examples:

  • I told you about Eli trumpeting Manningham's talents in that for-PSL-holder's only conference call and now we can clearly see that Manningham has emerged as a favorite target of the Giants in their passing game. I am not saying he has arrived as a star, I am just saying that the Giants are focusing on developing him as a real weapon.
  • I posted here about how the Giants were having trouble selling their last group of high priced club seat tickets, based on some of their apparent heavy handed marketing programs. Then, we see the same article in the NY Times earlier this week.
  • I posted very early on how I saw no chance for Tyree to make the roster and shortly after that all the beat writers picked up on this story. Tyree surely seems to be on his last legs as a NY Giant. It would be sad, ironic but somehow fitting if the last catch that Tyree makes in his career with the Giants is the helmet catch, the greatest single play in the history of the Super Bowl.
Now here comes another one which is really interesting, something which I just alluded to in yesterday's post. Specifically, I said that:

I am worried about the defense because of lack of continuity and practice time due to all the injuries. If Spagnuolo was still coach I would be less worried but Sheridan is an unknown quantity.

Then today, we get the story about Osi and Sheridan having a disagreement and Osi storming out of practice and playing hooky for a day. This is not good. Sheridan may be a very good X-es and O-s coach, but there's more to coaching than chalkboards and formations. He was on the staff with Spagnuolo and he is largely keeping the same defense in place, with some tweaks and refinements here and there. He has the same staff of position coaches, with the exception of the LB coach that he added to replace himself at that slot. We won't know until the regular season how he calls a game, rotates his players and uses the strategies that are at his disposal, so that is as yet unresolved. But the other key thing that a coach, or really a manger in any profession, needs to do is to relate to and motivate his players. Without getting too personal, I can say that I manage a staff of IT people. In addition to telling them what to do and coaching them on how to do it, I have to relate to them in a way that makes them feel good about their jobs and motivates them to perform at the highest level. My concern is that Sheridan is an old school guy that believes only in knocking down his players when they make a mistake. Spagnuolo was soft spoken and got the most out of his players by teaching, coaching and positively reinforcing good plays. While you must surely chastise your players at times to motivate them, that can not be the only tool in your tool box. Let's hope I am wrong and this was a momentary explosion, but I am fearful that Sheridan will not motivate his players positively and they will hate playing for him, which can affect on-the-field performance.

We got another little hint that Sheridan is not a player's coach and had a different style than Spagnuolo when he announced that he wanted to coach the game from the coaches box upstairs. You get a better view of the game and can see what defenses work and what the offense is doing from upstairs. That was worrisome to me. It was too antiseptic and was a possible sign that he doesn't believe that relating to and motivating his players is important. I am sure everyone remembers DC Spagnuolo in one of the most touching, human scenes that we will ever see in sports. It was the end of the Dallas playoff game in 2007, Giants ahead 21-17, 3rd down and 11 from the Giants 23 with 26 seconds left in the 4th quarter; then 4th down and 11 from the same spot with 16 seconds left. There was incredible tension in the air, Spagnuolo was kneeling on one knee on the sideline, head bowed and lips moving as if in prayer, hoping his team can hang in there for just one more play..... and then one more play after that. Don't you think the players were inspired by the sight of their coach on the sideline, into the game as deeply as they were? Would they have dug down as deep and come up with the big plays that they did, knowing that their coach was in the antiseptic booth in the sky, not motivating them, but looking down on them, literally and figuratively; not coaching them and motivating them but calling plays and looking for their mistakes? Sheridan wanted to coach the games from the box and Coughlin quickly stepped in and told him that he was going to be on the sidelines. Coughlin fixed it, but my point is that this may not be a good sign that Sheridan knows how to lead and motivate men. He wanted to be a God to them sitting and judging from the sky. That's not a good way to relate to players.

I was willing to let the sidelines/booth question go, but the Osi incident is another little nugget of information that adds to this picture and has me worried. Even if Osi was wrong in leaving and too sensitive in his reaction, it is not a good idea for the coach to get the team's best defensive player (or one of them) ticked off at him. Coughlin's reaction to the Osi situation was also very revealing. If another player, oh.... let's say a star WR, had left the team's practice without permission, we know how Coughlin would react. He would suspend the guy and fine him. But in this case, Coughlin said something dismissive like: "it must have been a personal matter for Osi. I have not talked to him about it." He obviously was trying to trivialize the incident, divert media attention from it and not have it explode into a major issue dividing the team. But if he thought the player was wrong and wanted to support his coach, he would have come down hard on the player, which he did with Plaxico in the past. I think he senses that Sheridan is at a delicate point in his relationship with his players and he wants to give Sheridan a chance to patch things up. Coughlin has to do a good job at coaching his coaches, not just his players.

Tim Lewis, the DC before Spagnuolo was a screamer, a belittler and a bad football coach. He was not effective, partly because he was not a good technical coach, but mostly because the players did not relate to his berating and yelling at them being the only tool-in-his-tool box. One of the reasons Spagnuolo was so effective is that he had the exact opposite style - thoughtful, analytical but firm - and the players really took to it after their Tim Lewis experience. I am concerned that Sheridan is a throw back to the Tim Lewis days and the players will reject it, especially because of the contrast to the recently departed and well liked Spagnuolo.

We'll see.

2 comments:

Ray said...

As you know,I have been concerned about the defensive coaching for a while and am very worried that they will miss Spags greatly this year. But that brings up another issue - Coughlin's choice of coordinators. As you note in the post, Spags predecessor was no winner, and I am not much impressed with Gilbride. It would seem to me that a NYG coordinator job would be very attractive, but Coughlin does not seem to make much of an effort to beat the bushes and find the best. Yes, I know it is always easier to give a job to someone you know well and understand, but that is often a mistake.

Spags seemed to be really a "people person", always talking to players on the sidelines, encouraging them, etc. But, even on the sidelines, I have seen almost none of that from Sheridan. So your point about motivation could be right on. Of course, Couglin himself is not much of a people person (his only player interaction during games seems to be after a mistake), so this could be a missing ingrediant.

wolfman said...

Ray,

Great points. Perhaps the most important thing a HC has to do is to pick/develop a great staff of assistant coaches. Sometimes it's hard to be bold and pick someone grea.... but risky. I would think that Coughlin could have gotten a great OC. I don't think Gilbride is awful, but he's not great.

-wm