Archive for January, 2009

NFL Films: Endangered Species?

Monday, January 26th, 2009

I felt compelled to write about this because of my huge affinity towards NFL Films. By the end of today, employees of the NFL in New York, NFL Network in Los Angeles, and also at NFL Films in Mt Laurel, NJ must decided on accepting layoff packages offered to them. I’m no accountant, but by the amount of money the NFL takes in its hard to fathom this mega-entity needing to do this. Alas, I know, it’s a business in a capitalistic society and they are allowed to do what they want. But I must say it’s a direct reflection on the economic times we live in.

Also connected with all of this is the growing rumor that NFL Films is being phased out. All I can say is, “wow.” Growing up, watching NFL Films tell a football story along with that great music was sometimes better than the actual games. In fact, I think I looked forward to the highlights more. The music, the footage, Harry Kalas.

So what exactly does this mean? My instincts tell me NFL will simply absorb NFL Films and still produce the same type of work only on a smaller scale, in an obvious attempt to save money and make profit margins larger. But that’s only my guess. Rumor has it that NFL Films President Steve Sabol was offered one of those package deals. Could it mean the complete demise of NFL Films? Part of the allure the NFL has is courtesy of Sabol’s group. I can tell you, if there is one certainty, an overwhelming percentage of fans would feel part of their NFL is being taken away from them if NFL Films is dissolved. Include me for sure.

Spags, Sheridan, and Kurt

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Steve Spagnuolo left the Giants to become head coach of the St Louis Rams. Any true Giant fan wishes this guy the best of success. He took a talented group of players and showed them how to play defense. Spags was a big part in the Super Bowl run last year, and while it would have been great to see him succeed Coughlin one day as the head coach, the truth is you have to jump when given this type of chance. Many people are skeptical of the Rams, but as we’ve seen it doesn’t take a lot to turn a franchise around (see Miami and Atlanta). He’s seen first hand with the Eagles and Giants that building your teams from the inside-out is the way to succeed. He’s got talent at QB, RB, and WR. Spags will make it a priority to build the trenches first.

With Spags gone, the Giants made a smart move in promoting Bill Sheridan from linebacker’s coach to defensive coordinator. Staying in-house was the way to go. The players know him and he knows the system, having worked closely with Spags. I don’t see the Giants defense taking a hit with this change because this defense has young talent across the board. Three good corners. Three blue chip defensive ends. I’m hoping that Sheridan, having coached the LB’s, now will have a say in the team finally spending a high pick at that position in April.

There’s been plenty of debate about Kurt Warner being a Hall of Famer. I’ve gone on record as saying he isn’t. But after Warner’s great day in the NFC Championship game versus Philadelphia (and the entire playoffs for that matter), I think he may have just stamped his ticket to Canton. Three Super Bowl appearances and two NFL MVP’s is an impressive resume. The thing with Warner is, his career has been so disjoint. He literally came out of no where to lead what I believe is the best offense I ever saw for a single season in the 1999 Rams. A second Super Bowl berth seemingly had Warner destined for greatness, but then a thumb injury caused him to become erratic throwing and handling the ball and he eventually lose his starting job 2002. From there, he was unable to secure a starting role in the NFL until just last year. And here he is again, leading this time a underdog Cardinals team to their first Super Bowl appearance ever. Some will make the case he’s played with two of the best receiving corps of all time in an era where the rules favor the passing game. Still, there’s no denying what he has accomplished. A win versus the Steelers and any debate of his belonging ends.

Some More Post Mortem

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

I’ll be writing about free agency when it gets started on February 27. Before then a few thoughts about what’s happened since the loss in the playoffs.

There was instant reaction to Plaxico Burress after the loss. GM Jerry Reese chimed in, saying in no uncertain terms that not having the lanky wideout was a factor in the Giants performance, or lack there of and he’d be willing to have Plax back. Multiple players also spoke out on Monday that they would be willing to have Plax too, most notably Eli and Justin Tuck. Tom Coughlin, however, on an interview with WFAN, wasn’t so quick to forgive and forget. He admitted he’s still part of the team, but he has 52 other guys to think about. This was Coughlin protecting his own turf, as he has to deal with the guy more than anyone. And Reese’s admittance is a bit trickier. Would he really consider having Burress back, or is he just protecting the Giants’ interest in a potential future trade if Plax doesn’t land in jail?

Here’s an interesting juxtaposition between Lawrence Taylor and Plax. LT has had his problems, too, as we all know. But the similarity between Plax and LT is not far off. Take a look:

  • LT suspended in 1988 for the first four regular season games (Giants started 2-2). Then the next offseason, was caught on the side of the Garden State Parkway, parked and asleep after drinking all night.
  • Plax suspended for last five games and playoffs in 2008 (Giants went 1-4). Also had police called to his house multiple times for domestic disputes earlier in the summer.
  • Both players missed meetings (or in LT’s case, slept in meetings), and marched to their own beat. Both players perform very well on the field, particularly LT. (I also did not mention LT’s problems between 1985 and 1986 which were his first go around).

So why is that people assume the Giants wouldn’t reinstate Burress, when they have a precedence of tolerating this type of difference maker? They certainly did with LT. And could you make the case that Plax is almost as important to this team as LT was to those Giant teams? Maybe a stretch. If you presented this before judge and jury and had them rule on whether Plax should be reinstated by the Giants or not, I think the decision would be made in Burress’ favor. Mind you this is after all the dust settles concerning his gun charge which could make everything moot if he goes to jail. And I do realize that these are different times, with franchises and leagues keeping a closer eye on how their players are perceived in the public eye. In this age of ESPN News, the Internet, and camera phones, nothing seems to go unreported. In that sense, LT probably had an advantage.

Eli versus the wind. Now all we are hearing is how Manning does not throw a suitable ball for the conditions presented by Giants Stadium. I call bullshit. Remember when Eli couldn’t win on the road in his second year? Then it was he wasn’t strong enough to sustain a 16 game season, referring to late season swoons. Then it was Eli can’t win a playoff game. Then Eli can’t play QB in cold weather. Now it’s wind. Manning simply played poorly last Sunday, and complicating matters was his receivers really weren’t getting open against a good defense. Throw in an offensive coordinator who wasn’t processing this and you have an ugly offensive effort. I’m not sure how much wind there was. It certainly was there in the first half, and affected both offenses. By the time the Giants went into the wind, if any, in the fourth quarter the Eagles had already sucked the life out of a Giant team that blew opportunities. That game was already over.

Third and Twenty

Monday, January 12th, 2009

It’s complete and utter disappointment to be knocked out of the playoffs as the number one seed, especially to a division rival. The Giants have no one to blame but themselves in a game that was eerily similar to the previous meeting with Philly.

The key play in the game was easily the third and 20 play that McNabb converted from deep in his own end in the third quarter, and it was big. The Giants led 11-10, and a hold there would most likely have gotten them great field position to finally cash in that TD they desperately needed. Instead, the Eagles went down the field and into the wind to grab a 13-11 lead. Then when Manning finally hit a big 34 yard play to Dominik Hixon to get the Giants in Eagle territory yet again, another stalled drive resulted in Jon Carney’s second miss. Game over. If you aren’t going to score TD’s, you don’t deserve to win. And if you don’t hit your makeable field goals, you certainly won’t win.

Let’s get to the particulars. Eli Manning played a bad game. He missed Steve Smith twice in the first half which could have been big plays. Still, those two plays don’t make a football game. Beyond that, I didn’t see many receivers breaking free the rest of the day. Was Manning just throwing into coverage, or was everyone blanketed? I think the latter. And it’s quite clear not having Plax affected the way this team played down the stretch. The evidence is very apparent and that played to Philly’s strength: their secondary. While Manning’s performance disappointed for sure, I really was actually more annoyed with Kevin Gilbride’s game calling. Cases in point:

  • Electing to throw from deep in their own end on the first play, into the wind, on their second possession that resulted in an interception and subsequent score. Yes, that ball either needs to be thrown away, and certainly not delivered with an off balance throw. But why are you being bold in that situation? Establish power and run the ball.
  • You’ve just moved down to the Eagles’ 21 yard line at the two minute warning, down 7-5. The next three plays are passes? So not only do you end up settling for a FG, but you leave enough time for the Eagles to potentially get points at the end of the half…which they did, taking their own 10-8 half time lead.
  • With eight minutes and change to go in the fourth quarter, and down by two scores, the Giants were running their offense as if they had all day to come back. The three straight runs at one point, including going for it on fourth and two, was exasperating. If you desperate enough to go for it on fourth down in your own territory, that tells me time is a factor and you should be passing the ball, regardless of wind conditions.

Poor in-game play calling, simply put. The coaching staff failed to realize that the passing game was not in rhythm and failed to adjust. I’ve been critical on this blog of the team’s pass happy tendencies. It’s about putting your players in a better position to be successful.

The defense played reasonably well, but that third and 20 was the killer and the drive at the end of the half by the Eagles hurt as well. Good enough to win, but not an “A” game IMO. And no sacks again (sans the safety).

There were a multitude of woulda, coulda, shoulda’s in this game, just like that second meeting between the two teams. In fact, there were plenty more opportunities in this contest, and the Giants whiffed on every single one. Last post season they made them. This year, not even close.

That’s the problem with winning a Super Bowl. The next season, unless you repeat, you’re dissapointed.

Some Bye Week Thoughts

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009
  • With Philly on the horizon, it’s obviously the one team of all the NFC opponents I didn’t want to face. The Giants are the better team, and I think they’ll win on Sunday but it will be a slugfest for sure. The biggest matchup problem, in my estimation, is the Eagles OL versus the Giants DL. Last year, the Giant defense was based on a pass rush. This season, the pass rush has slowed as the season has progressed, and that is directly attributed to a few reasons. First, the Giants hadn’t had a bye since Week 3. Last year, they had the bye smack in the middle of the season. Secondly, the loss of Osi (as I’ve said before) is starting to show itself. And this week, Osi would be the perfect weapon versus the Eagles. Osi combines power and outside speed, and as I saw last week, the Eagles struggle with that type of pass rush. Both Kiwi and Tuck are more straight ahead, power rushers and both John Runyeon and Tra Thomas match up well with guys like that. It showed in the first game and definitely in the second game versus the two teams. I’m hoping that the off week will be a factor. The Eagles traveled, played a physical game, and will be traveling again. The Giants will be fresh.
  • I love the NFL Network, but was pretty annoyed at a comment made by analyst Jamie Dukes. Dukes was commenting on the Panthers and talked about how they “dominated the Giants”. Come again? The Giants ran for a mind boggling 300 yards and won the game. If you want to talk about how Carolina was impressive and could have won themselves, that’s one thing. But dominate? Talk about irresponsibility.
  • All the love for Ed Reed kinda irked me over the weekend. In particular, ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said he’s the one player he’d take to start an NFL team (minus a QB). Ed Reed is a tremendous safety, particularly at returning picks. He’s also all the second best safety in football. Say hello to Troy Polamalu. He hits and tackles better than Reed, and ball hawks just as good. Watch a Steelers’ game. He’s everywhere, and always in your picture.
  • The Giants made a change in how they manage their Ticket Exchange program. The Exchange was a great way to get unwanted tickets from season ticket holders at just above cost, in many cases the same week of the game. You could print the tickets at home, and had a chance to sit in different areas of the stadium. But now the seller is allowed to set their own price and tickets were going for more than triple their face value for this weekend’s game. Was this an attempt by the Giants to help season ticket holders pay for their PSL’s? This latest stunt, along with PSL’s, continue to be examples of sports pushing out the common fan. Sad indeed. The one excellent vehicle the Giants established for reselling tickets has gone down the drain. First the waiting list goes by the wayside with PSL’s, and now this.