Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Giants: 30,000 foot view

Some thoughts on the big picture.... a broad view of the Giants and the season just completed as provided by my good friend and fellow Giant analyst, Ray, copied and pasted from an email he sent me. As you will see, this was sent right after the Redskins game, before Mara confirmed in the locker room that Coughlin would be coming back. Ray's prediction of his return was accurate. His thoughts to follow....


Though I do not think Coughlin will be fired, because 10-6 is actually pretty respectable, this was a team with 13 win talent that underachieved. I understand that there were some major injuries, but that is what depth is for. Both coordinators should be replaced, but I doubt that will happen either.

The QB had a good year, especially with the makeshift receiving corps, but: 1-he is wild-high too often, 2-his decisions are often awful (the lack of a slide on his first half run and the late lateral to Bradshaw were yesterday's examples) and 3-he did not complete a long ball ( over 40 yards in the air) all year (he badly missed Manningham yesterday).

The linebackers are really awful against the pass, allowing the quick release completions that were the staple of opponents game plans late in the year. How does Grossmqn throw for over 300 against this defense? We have three good cb's and three good safeties, but we have to stop trying to use them to cover for poor linebacking.

Special teams coach also has to go, and we need a new punter.

Also need some new blood at rb. Bradshaw ran out of gas - he is not physically up to the load he carried this year, and he was not very good late in the year. Jacobs was very inconsistent -some good games/runs, and some not-so-good ones.

And, we were pretty bad for the last nine quarters of the year. We never did recover from Philly (a three point win over a bad team was not impressive). I just hope that we can be fresh mentally next year.

One more point - we have to begin to compensate for players still recovering from injuries Osi was bad last year - almost got traded - and look his 2010. Phillips will be much better next year - he was only so-so this year, and Smith and Hixon, and maybe Seubert, will have average-at-best recovery seasons next year. So we will need help at c and wr next year.

It was a season of great opportunity, fumbled away by both players and coaches.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Giants: The offense is too complex

You've been hearing me whining for months on this blog that a big reason for the offense's many turnovers and Eli's many INTs is the complexity of the passing routes. There are too many reads, adjustments, passing rules and route running variations made at the line of scrimmage pre-snap and even after the play starts if the defense covers up what they are doing and the pre-snap read is incorrect. This leads to indecision on the route to be run by the WR and leads the QB to hold on to the ball a beat longer to see what the WR will in fact do. That is why - when things go well and the WR runs the expected route, Eli's talents take over and he makes great throws completing 63% of his passes. But when there is hesitation and indecision, the QB waits to see where the WR will go and throws the ball flat footed with his arm only not stepping into the throw, which makes the ball sail or come off inaccurately. Think about it - it is completely illogical for a QB to throw a high percentage of completions AND have a lot of INTs; these stats should be directly correlated. If you are an inaccurate passer, toss the ball over the lot and throw a lot of INTs, your inaccurate passes should also lead to a bad completion percentage. Conversely, if you have a high percentage of  completions because you are a good passer, you should have relatively lower INTs. There are certainly statistical anomalies that can affect this logic and other factors that could influence this, but as a general principle it is true.

Aside from the high INT rate, I assert that there is another proof for the overly-complex passing offense and that is the length of time it takes for a new WR to get inducted into the offense. There are lots of examples - it took Barden a year and a half before he could get on the field. Manningham was idle his first year. Rookie Calhoun made the team this year and was a ST player, but could not be promoted to the offensive system when there were injuries, the Giants had to re-sign Derek hagan who had previously been in the offense for a year and was familiar with it. Clayton joined the team as an emergency fill in and while he may not be a star, he was a former first round draft choice with a  resume of decent  performance at the NFL level and also was completely unproductive in this offense.

By contrast, the Chargers had a ton of injuries at the WR and TE position and kept rolling new guys in and out of their offense. Each one was productive almost immediately and Rivers and the Chargers offense hardly missed a beat. This is because Norv Turner's offense is elegant in its simplicity and easy to learn. This simple design doesn't cost them anything in efficiency or productivity, because the Chargers offense was near the top all year long.

After all these hints and clues to my assertion, I heard the coup de gras, the ultimate word this morning. While in my car, listening to morning sports talk radio, Boomer Esiaison said the exact same thing when explaining Gilbride's offense and Manning's high INT rate. He said that if Eli were playing in a better designed offense, where both the WR and the QB could be more decisive about the routes, and aware of what the other was going to do, Eli would be at the top of the league. He spoke specifically about the Colts, Patriots and the Chargers offense as examples of QB friendly passing schemes.

I do computer work and design systems. When you're confronted with a problem, the hardest thing to do is to design a simple, elegant solution that solves all your needs. Somewhat paradoxically, it's easier to build a complex system that staisifies every requriement, by piling one Rube Goldberg trap onto another, but hard to have the vision to design something simple. Simplicity is elegance.

Gilbride is apparently being considered for HC of the UCONN Huskies football team. All you UCONN alum - send a strong letter of recommendation to your alma mater to go and hire Gilbride as the next HC of your football team. Maybe then we can get a smart, open minded OC to redesign the passing offense. Josh McDaniels is unlikely to get a HC offer after the mess he made as HC in Denver. We'll take him.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Giants: Redskins game

I'll get to a seasonal review a little later in the week, but for now will just look at the Redskins game.

It just wouldn't be a Giants game without a tipped ball INT on one of Eli's throws and we had one of those Sunday in the game against the Redskins. Manningham dropped one that hit him right in the hands. I think the ball may have been thrown a little too hard, or perhaps Manningham didn't get his head around early enough to locate the ball. But the ball was not thrown behind  Manningham and was not out of his reach, he just missed it. Eli had a great game throwing the ball and this season has been really weird for Eli - he threw 31 TDs, had a high completion percentage and threw for more than 4,000 yards. But those 25 INTs were a killer. A lot of them came on tipped passes, but I can't just blame the WRs for having slippery fingers. I also can't just blame the QB for slightly off target throws that led to the tips. I think you also have to look at the offensive system which has many components that lead to high risk attempts. The Giants use a lot of timing patterns, a lot of sight adjustments, route adjustments and defense reading by both the QB and the WR. If they are off on their communication by a fraction and they run a route in the middle of the field, it can lead to an error and a tipped ball. It goes on the QB's record, but it just as well could be a misread by the WR and most important, is a flaw in the system due to its complexity.

One thing Gilbride has never learned how to do is to play offense from ahead. He knows what to do when the Giants are behind or when the game is close, but never what to do when the Giants have a 10 or 14 point lead. This week, on their first 7 possessions of the game, covering the first half and the first possession of the second half, the Giants gained 290 yards and scored 17 points. However, once they gained that 17-7 lead on the 92 yard Manningham TD, on their next 7 possessions, they gained only 35 yards total. To be completely honest, that seventh possession was a kneel down by Eli for -2 yards, so on the 6 prior possessions, they gained 37 yards and had all of 2 first downs. The pass/run sequence was completely predictable, the type of running play was predictable and the OL blocking was weak. Perhaps the fact that the Giants had Boothe in at C who had never played the position before in a real game made things worse, especially against  a 3-4 defense that he had probably not even practiced against. But still, the running game has absolutely no deception in it. It is based almost entirely on perfect execution and physical dominance.

Manningham has great speed and apparently the TD pass was an improvisation at the line. CB Hall was playing man to man press coverage, Manningham made a great move at the line to get a clean release and just put his hand up in the air to show that he had beaten his man and was changing his route to go deep. Eli read it and hit him easily for a TD. I think the Giants need to simplify their passing offense a little bit and find another deep threat to complement the WRs they already have.

Derek Hagan ran some nice routes and made some nice catches, especially on a critical third down when Eli led him perfectly and hit him right on his fingertips, with a defender underneath the route. Hagan is a decent player, but is not a deep threat and perhaps showed why he was out of the NFL for a few weeks, when he dropped an easy 4 yard pass for a sure TD in the first qtr.

Osi had a great game and really an excellent season. The S group which was so good this year against the run and made so many nice plays at the beginning of the year was picked on yesterday in the passing game. Most of the successful passing routes by the Redskins, including their 65 yard TD play, were right up the middle of the field. I think Fewell fell in love too much with the 3 S alignment and overused it. The S were too anxious to bite up to defend the run and left many passing plays exposed. At the end of the day, the Giants defense was too reliant on the DL. When the DL dominated, the defense looked great. When they didn't, they could be beaten.

Tuck had a great game and knocked down a few passes at the line. The first time he did that, Ross had jumped the route behind him on the sideline and if Tuck hadn't knocked the ball down, Ross would have had an easy INT - TD.

Giants running game was really weak yesterday and has been inconsistent from one game to the next. When the Giants had a lead, they could not protect it with the running game, even though they ran the ball against the Redskins easily back in NJ. Jacobs was not dominant this year and is certainly not fast enough to be more than a complimentary role player in this league.

The Redskins organization showed absolutely no class by not showing the progress of the Bears-Packers game on the scoreboard until the Packers were ahead. It was really a bush league move.

Clayton caught his first two passes of the season. I guess there is so much to learn in Killdrive's offense, that you need a PhD in nuclear physics to learn the routes and adjustments.

I still don't get why DJ Ware didn't play more this year. Every time he got a chance to play, he seemed to do well. I guess he doesn't fumble enough.

Punter Dodge should be kept - I think he led ST in tackles this Sunday. Of course, that may have been because every punt he kicked was very returnable and he had to make a saving tackle. If he hit them long, he out-kicked his coverage. When he didn't kick them too long, he hit low line drives which gave the Washington return man a chance. When he punted from the plus side of the 50, he nailed a perfect 60 yard kick through the end zone instead of kicking it out of bounds on the 10. When he kicked it out of bounds, it was at such a sharp angle, that it landed out of bounds by 15 yards and was only a 30 yard punt. Give him another few years and he'll get this punting thing down pat.

Tynes missed his first FG in about 20 tries, making every one since Rosenfels took the job as holder.

Eli threw another gorgeous pass to Hagan on the sideline, over the CB, in front of the S and two feet from the sideline. Boss made a gorgeous catch on a beautiful throw by Eli right before Jacobs 2 yard TD run, but dropped several. He has made some big plays for the Giants this year, but also has dropped lots of passes.

Cofield had an outstanding game as did Rocky Bernard. Cofield has had an outstanding season. The labor situation could really confuse things, since the Giants have several players whose contract expired at the end of 2010 season.

Coughlin is a good coach, but it may be the coaching that has led to this second half-weaker-than-the -first-half syndrome that the Giants have been living under the last few years. Seems to me  that the other teams in the league figure the Giants out and the Giants coaches don't adjust.