Archive for the ‘2008 Season’ Category

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.

Preseason Game #5

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

That’s what it felt like, with some of our marquee guys sitting down at halftime. I thought Coughlin played it right. Next week is the bye, get everyone who is healthy some playing time and start resting up. It was nice to see Derrick Ward rewarded with his 1,000 yard season, a pretty terrific milestone. Jacobs and Ward become only the fifth tandem in NFL history to do it.

As far as the game, only two things caught my eye which worries me. First, the defense continues with the alarming trend of giving up big plays. It dates back to the second Eagles’ game. Westbrook two big plays. Rookie RB in Dallas breaking off clinching run at end of game. Another long TD run by Carolina. And this week Adrian Peterson going the distance. Overall, the defense hasn’t played that badly during this streak, but allowing these big hits is a no-no come playoff time. The second item is the starting position of the opposition. Jon Carney’s kicks have become shorter as the weather has gotten colder, and compounding matters is the play of the coverage team. Almost every time, the opposing offense is taking over around their own 40 yard line. Again, come playoff time, that’s a recipe for disaster. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Tynes on the active roster for kickoffs, especially with cold weather most likely in East Rutherford.

Mojo Back?

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

I certainly think the Giants did, racking up over 300 yards rushing in just a fantastic and entertaining game. Both teams were playing for the top seed and did not disappoint a national audience. From a personal standpoint, it’s one of the more memorable games I’ve attended.

Derrick Ward was an absolute monster, accumulating over 200 yards just by himself on only 15 carries. It was one of the best rushing performances I have seen by a Giant, ranking right up there with Tiki’s December 2005 performance versus Kansas City (and others I’m forgetting at the moment). The thing that made Ward’s efforts amazing was, and I saw this after watching a replay of the game, that he simply wasn’t on the field that much. Jacobs had more carries (21) but Ward made the absolute best of his playing time. Throw in the fact that four of those 15 carries were in the OT, and you can see where I am coming from.

While the running game carried the offense, there was some improvement in the passing game from the previous two weeks. Protection was better, although not completely clean (three sacks, some pressures). The receivers and quarterback appeared to be adjusting to life without Burress and that will need to continue. TC also deserves some praise in this game. First, he stuck with the running game even with the team down 21-10 at one point in the second quarter. Then, he made a great decision not to go for two when the Giants pulled to 21-19. Had they failed on that attempt, the Giants probably don’t win this game, plain and simple. The fact is, never go for two until you absolutely have to. It’s still a basic mistake made by NFL head coaches. And the two point conversion play to tie it at 28 was a beaut. As always, I do have some criticism. First, running Madison Hedgecock on third and one when you Brandon Jacobs is never, I repeat never, a good idea. And I also was befuddled when the first play of OT resulted in a Ward seven yard run, followed by two incompletions. Why throw? You’re absolutely controlling the line of scrimmage and also moving in the direction least advantageous to passing. At least the Giants got it right the next series. The ball never went in the air.

Now to the defense. This unit is tired, and the loss of Osi is finally starting to show. Not having that rotational option is putting more and more pressure on Tuck and Kiwi. That’s why getting the bye was so important. Some of these guys need rest, and hopefully, it will help galvanize this team for a playoff run. Early on, Carolina moved at will and at one point looked as if they were going to run the Giants right out of the building. But a couple big mid-field defensive stands in the third quarter allowed the Giants to get back into it. And Jeff Feagles’ punt (with the help of Terrell Thomas) which pinned Carolina at their own one late in the fourth was possibly the biggest play in the game.

Shake Yourself, Giants

Friday, December 19th, 2008

First let’s evaluate the good news. A home win versus Carolina next Sunday night clinches the whole enchilada as far as home field advantage through the playoffs. That’s where the good news ends.

For a second straight week, the Giants’ offense has looked terrible. Last week I blamed it partially on wind and a desperate Eagles team. Sunday night against an equally desperate team in the Cowboys, there were two eye popping weaknesses. The first, and unexpected, was the play of the offensive line which surrendered eight sacks (their most since Game 2 of 2006). Manning had very little time to setup and throw, and when he did, weakness number two appeared. Giant receivers are getting little to no separation in their pass patterns. This indeed is a recipe for disaster. Throw in the fact the running game for a third straight week was ineffective and the warning lights are starting to flash. To Dallas’ credit, they have played very well defensively since coming off their bye week and are still one of the fastest teams off the snap. They were in the last game against the Giants and were again on Sunday night.

Defensively for the Giants, there was improvement as the Cowboys were held to 14 points for most of the game. However, it was quite disappointing that they let Dallas convert a first-and-twenty situation on their final possession, not allowing the offense to get the ball back for a potential game-winning drive. And the last TD run they gave up was plain and simple a lack of pride, per Carl Banks.

The worrisome thing now is with two tough opponents still on the horizon, the Giants have not locked up any sort of bye week. Could these final 10 games against opponents with winning records (the longest such stretch in NFL history) finally be wearing the Giants down? This team needs a win in these last two games to grab one of the byes (or a Minnesota loss to Atlanta). One thing is for certain: don’t expect the Giants to go anywhere if they enter the post season on a losing streak. They sucked it up last year in Buffalo, and face similar circumstances in this year’s version of Week 16.

Webster Inked To Extension

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

The Giants made an important move that will play an vitale role in the construction of their roster this offseason. Corey Webster, who has established himself as one of the better corners in the league over the last year, was signed to a seven year extension. Webster’s meteoric rise has helped make the Giants’ secondary a team strength. Webster may not have been a Pro Bowl selection this year, but he certainly has performed like one. In fact, Webster is rarely seen if you watch a game because teams don’t throw his way.

I think the Giants played this exactly right. Webster was fantastic during last year’s run, but I think they wanted to see him continue his strong play into this year and not be a one-hit-wonder, so to speak. Webster didn’t dissapoint and Jerry Reese rightfully decided not to give Webster a chance to hit the open market where he could have easily been lost.

This signing now allows Reese and company to turn their attention to the other important free agents this offseason: namely Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, and James Butler. More on this in the offseason.

Clunker Theory

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

I don’t subscribe to the theory that the Giants were due for a clunker, but it sure looked like one on Sunday. This has been a very tough stretch of games dating back to the Pittsburgh game, but playing at home with a chance to clinch the division (plus the all important bye) should have inspired a gut check performance even while the Giants didn’t bring their “A” game. It never happened. Despite having emotion during the very early part of the game, the Giants settled into the look of a team a team that was tired both physically and mentally.

The key to the game was the Eagles controlling the ball for most of the second half, so much in fact, that the Giants had the ball for only three possessions (and that’s counting their garbage time drive in the waning minutes). While the offense was clearly not clicking, you still need to get your offense the ball more than three times in a half. The Eagles consistently got themselves into manageable third down situations and converted an amazing 12 of 18. That is something that this defense has been very good at preventing over the last two seasons. It was missing yesterday. While the first half was basically played to a draw, the Giants struggled to contain the Eagles in the second half, who methodically moved the ball by consistently running and throwing short passes.

That leads me directly into my final point. How much does the lack of a pass catching threat in the backfield hurt the Giants on day like last Sunday? Westbrook is the perfect weapon, turning swing passes and short passes into bigger gains on a windy day. Inpsection of McNabb’s throws on Sunday reveals that only one pass completion traveled over 10 yards (and predictably that was with the wind). Other than Derrick Ward, the Giants don’t really have that, nor choose to use that option. They throw primarily to their WRs and to the TE. They have the power running game (even yesterday, they averaged nearly five yards a carry), but there comes a time when you will have to throw the ball and yesterday the Giants really struggled in the conditions. The lack of a viable screen game also hurts (you’ve heard that before from me). And let’s face it, not having a player the stature of Burress on this kind of weather day really doesn’t help. Let’s hope home field advantage doesn’t turn into a disadvantage in the playoffs from what we call The Hawk.

How about another theory, although by definition this can’t be considered scientific. But it’s rather interesting. Upon retrieving my tickets for Sunday’s game, whose picture appeared on the ticket? Plaxico Burress of course, the center of attention all week. And while getting gas to venture up the Turnpike, how much did I pay for gas? $17.17. Really weird, huh?