Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Giants: Injuries again

All the papers are making a big deal about Giants second half swoons under Coughlin. It's such rubbish - you can't just look at a few seasons and the second half record to determine the coach's ability. The worst second half results that Coughlin had with the Giants, statistically at least, were in 2006 and 2009. In 2006, Giants started 6-2 and finished 2-6. In 2009, Giants started 5-0 and finished 3-8, but in both seasons the Giants were absolutely decimated by injuries. I won't go over the details, but the injuries were focused on the defense and they had no chance to win. It wasn't about coaching, it was about injuries.... and they certainly didn't seem to fold in the second half of the 2007 season. If you want to look at Coughlin's coaching record from the macro level, you just need to realize that he was a successful, winning coach everywhere he coached and in each case he took weak or nonexistent programs and built them into winners. He came from the Bill Parcells coaching tree and was an assistant coach on the 1990 Superbowl team. He developed a close bond with Bellichick, as Coughlin was the WR coach and Bellichick was the DB coach. They worked long and hard together figuring out how to make each of their opposing units excel. In Jacksonville he was the first coach of the expansion team, meaning he built everything form the ground up, and he took the Jaguars to two conference championships. He got into some salary cap problems there and was fired. He took a year off coaching and went to coach at Boston College. When he took over, the program was in a shambles and he built it up so that it was a strong winning program again and he beat Notre Dame, still a college football power when he played them. He came to the Giants and took over a 4-12 team from Jim Fassel. He tutored a rookie QB in 2004, made the playoffs in 2005 and 2006, with the 2005 season being a division championship. I don't have to tell you what he did in 2007. In 2008, the team was 12-1 and was undone by the Plaxico Burress shooting incident. In the 5 years that Eli was a starting QB for the full season, he made the playoffs 4 times and won 1 title. That's a good record and talk of second half declines are just stupid. Maybe we could say that the team reached its true level and his expert coaching elevated the team in the first half of the season. That would be stupid also, of course - each season needs to be considered on its own merits and analyzed separately. He is a good coach, with some flaws to be sure, but certainly one of the better coaches in the league.

The worry we should have about the Giants is the injuries cropping up again, all focused on one side of the ball. Last year it was the defense that got hammered and this year the injuries are focused around the offense. Giants came into the season pretty deep on the OL but now have lost Beatty, Diehl, Koets and O'Hara. Only Koets is done for the season, so perhaps when the other guys come back, the Giants can be strengthened again. Certainly the difficulty running the ball Sunday against the Cowboys was contributed to by the loss of OL-men. O'Hara was a beast in game one against the Cowboys and he freed Seubert to pull and do his best work of the year. With Seubert doing duty at C, Giants used Boothe at G and he is much less mobile and capable than Seubert at that position. I don't have to tell you that Boothe got called for the crushing holding penalty that nullified the Nicks TD. Giants need to survive until these guys get back.

Another key injury is the Steve Smith pectoral muscle tear. It looked like Barden was really stepping up and filling in competently in his first significant action of the season, but now he is gone for the year with torn ligaments and a broken ankle. Giants resurrected Derek Hagan who made the team last year and was a surprise cut at the end of training camp this year. I hope he's been keeping in shape.

As with the OL injuries, Giants don't need Hagan to play at a pro-bowl level. We need him to play well enough so the Giants offense doesn't really suffer; the Giants can at least win the games that they need to win and hold down the fort until the starters get back.

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