Monday, December 27, 2010

Giants: Packers game; the party's over

Life in the NFL is really crazy. They call it a week-to-week league, more than any other sport, and that assessment could not be more accurate. Giants were half a quarter away from winning the division, would have had a lock on the 2nd seed and the best chance of all the other NFC teams to knock off the Falcons and go to the title game. Instead, the worst 8 minutes of defensive play, coaching blunders, ST mistakes and player errors leads to what probably could be called the worst loss in NFL history. Then, in a game where everyone expects the Giants to be professional, to play with heart and to come back with a gritty performance, the team follows it up with an even worse performance, giving up 45 points and making 6 turnovers yesterday in Green Bay. Two of the turnovers came in desperation time when the Giants took ridiculous gambles to try to get back in the game and one of the turnovers was not really a turnover, the ref missed the call when the Green Bay DB was out of bounds and did not make a legal catch. But 6 turnovers is still 6 turnovers. The scoreboard and the stat sheet don't lie. The exact same thing that has been plaguing the Giants all year, turnovers, continued to be the Achilles heel yesterday. There are some things that coaches can fix and somethings that they can't. If the team has a severe player weakness at one position or another, there is not much a coach can do to "coach 'em up" to get around it. If the OL can't block, if the DL doesn't have pass rushers, if the RB doesn't have speed, no amount of coaching can make the OL bigger, the DL quicker or the RB faster. But turnovers - teaching ball security - sitting guys down if they don't listen - that's something that a coach can work on. This coaching staff didn't do it.

The question that needs to be asked is why did this happen and how do the Giants fix it? Is this a coaching failure, a player's failure or the front office. Frankly, I think everyone has to play a part. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I love Eli and think he is a top QB, but he had a miserable season. Thirty TD passes is a great number and if he throws for 250 yards next week against the Redskins he will go over 4,000 yards again, but twenty-four interceptions is just horrible. Tom Brady has gone more than 300 pass attempts without throwing an INT and I doubt that Eli has gone 30 throws this year without an INT. His 24 INTs have come on 522 attempts, which is an average of 1 INT every 21.75 throws. Ridiculous. Somehow it looked to me at times that Eli lost some arm strength this year. There were some times where he under-threw receivers on deep balls and did not get enough zip on the underneath routes. I am not sure if this is true or if there were some other circumstances that made it appear this way. Another reason that offense had so many INTs and so many up and down games comes from the coaching staff. The passing offense is too complex, requiring too many on-the-fly reads and adjustments so that it is too easy for the QB and WR to not be in sync. Even yesterday, there were several times when Eli came to the sidelines talking to his WR, motioning with his hands that he should have gone outside instead of inside, and Gilbride was yelling at Hagan that he should have run his route differently. This was week 16. When exactly are the players going to master the offense? It's either because the offense that the coaches have designed is too complex or the coaches can't teach it to the players. Either way, Gilbride's offense is not as effective as it should be. Finally, I am not letting the WRs and the front office off the hook. As much as we liked the WR group early in the year, when all three, Smith, Manningham and Nicks, were humming, they sure took a dive when Smith went out. As much as I like each one, there is not enough pure, raw speed on the offense at WR, or at RB for that matter. Look at the Eagles and Packers, the teams Giants played last two weeks and both create enormous matchup problems for defenses. You can play them great for 3 quarters, but if you make one or two mistakes, they burn you for TDs. Giants rarely do that . Too much of the Giants passing offense requires perfection - the perfect route, the perfect back shoulder fade, perfect timing between the QB and WR. Look how simple the Packers passing offense was - when the Giants were playing zone or giving a cushion, they ran quick slants. When the Giants were up tight and playing pressure with their CBs, the Packers WRs would try to go deep. Simplicity is sometimes beauty - but you need the speed threat and depth at WR to pull it off and the Giants don't have that.

The worst part of the coaching is the inability and unwillingness to change things up, both over the course of the season or within a game. The Giants Fewell was given high marks for the 3-S look and for the aggressive blitzing, but he didn't know when to adjust. He did not dial back the blitzes against the Eagles, and the league caught up to the Giants 3-S look as Rodgers, last week and a few others earlier, burned it for a few big plays. The 3-S look gets the best defenders on the field, but it makes the edgy, leaning forward and aggressive, anxious to come up hard and fill the lanes on a running play. When that happens, a play action fake makes them get beat on their pass defense responsibility which is what happened to Rolle yesterday.

I don't think Coughlin is a terrible coach. In fact, I think he has a very good football mind, is a good organizer and motivator. I also admire him personally, especially for the community and charity work he has done. But I think the coordinators he has are not great: Gilbride is not creative enough and Fewell is too inexperienced and not a good game manager and adjuster. Therefore, I think Coughlin needed to be a stronger influence with them and a better manager of his coordinators for the team to succeed. He wasn't. If it's possible to change coordinators and have Coughlin a little more hands-on with his coaches to exert his influence a little more, I think Coughlin could survive. Alas, I don't think it works that way in the NFL. If the Giants should win next week and somehow sneak into the playoffs because of some help from other teams, Coughlin might survive. Unlikely.

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