Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Closing thoughts on last season

There's so much to talk about besides another rehash of last season. We have the uncertainty of the labor situation, the draft, the status of the Giants roster and the apparent big holes that still remain (does Jerry Reese know that there is a row of defenders in between the DL and DB-field called linebackers ????) . But still - I need to write about it. Again. Because I am still so bummed out about the events of last season that I need to write about it some more. Think of it as a cathartic experience. I need closure before I can move on. I better get to the meat of this blog post, before you guys stop reading and think that I am totally loonie.

Last year ended in the worst possible way - Giants had a record that was just good enough to lower their draft position to the bottom half of each round, but it was not quite good enough to sneak into the playoffs. The record of 10-6 is probably the very definition of mediocrity or maybe just a hair above that. (Giants were 10-6 in their Superbowl season, so maybe I'm being a little too hard on them.) The disappointing thing for the Giants, or maybe the telling thing - is that the team beat (more or less) the teams they were supposed to beat, but never beat a team that was pretty good and that was a challenge. I guess that's another definition of mediocrity, but it is also an indictment of the coaches.

Everyone hated the DC from 2009, Bill Sheridan, who was unceremoniously fired after only one year on the job. He wasn't aggressive enough, he didn't relate to his players, he wasn't a good x-es and o-s guy, yada, yada, yada. You name the deficiency, he had it. Then Perry Fewell comes along and everyone is in heaven. He's aggressive, he believes in blitzing and attacking the opposing QB, players love him and his aggressive schemes. Great. Except, looking back at the defensive performance for 2010, you would have to say that the defense did exactly what the whole team did - beat up the bad offenses and get whacked by the good ones. Kind of like A-Rod's HR statistics. The Giants defensive performance of 2010 can be summed up as follows: if the Giants DL was able to get a big pass rush and dominate the opposing OL, then the Giants defense had a dominating performance. If, however, the opposing OL neutralized the Giants DL just a little and the DL was unable to dominate, then the defense crumbled. It seems like there was no in between.

In many ways, the Eagles game at (the new) Giants Stadium was a microcosm of the entire season. During the first three quarters of the game, the Giants defense controlled the line of scrimmage, kept Michael Vick contained, put all kinds of pressure on him through aggressive blitzes from the LBs and the DBs and looked like they were golden. However, the game plan was completely one dimensional and did not have a second gear or a backup plan. Giants were up 31-10 and kept on blitzing. When the Eagles adjusted to the blitz and when Michael Vick started finding running lanes to avoid the blitz, the Giants DC had no answer. Eagles put up 21 points in the blink of an eye against the defense. Then to make matters worse and further highlight a season-long problem, the punter made a horrible kick, the ST made coverage errors and DeSean Jackson ran back a walk-off punt return.

That's why it was a microcosm of the season: do-or-die blitzing defense; punting errors; not enough help from the offense when the team needed it most.

On the offensive side of the ball, I have written so often about what a high risk offense Gilbride has designed, that I sound like a complete whiner. My point has always been that the Giants have a lot of run-and-shoot elements in their offense, a system that has long-since gone out of style and been discredited for use in the NFL. The WRs have to do a lot of reading of defenses, adjusting of routes and freelancing that males the system naturally prone to the WR and QB not being on the same page and therefore, a high chance for error and turnover. I sound like an Eli apologist when I say this, because it makes it seem like I am giving an excuse for his league-leading 25 INT performance. But consider - think back to how many INTs were a result of bad reads and bad routes and you will have to agree. The one killing play that comes to mind was the 100 yard pick-6 INT against the Cowboys when Hakeem Nicks cut off his short slant route at the goal line resulting in the turnover and TD. Maybe with a short preseason, with the same WRs coming back from last year, knowledge of a complex offense will be an advantage to the Giants in comparison to some other teams who will play more vanilla because of lack of preparation time. We'll see.

I promise this is the last look-back to last season, except when it's important to evaluate players, coaches, etc for the new season.