By Curt Macysyn
Fans of the New York Football Giants have been extremely patient. The team has suffered through three straight non-playoff campaigns, and the past two seasons, the team ended up with a sub-.500 record. This year the agony has intensified as the Giants dropped two games, where they held 10 point leads in the fourth quarter both games.
Against the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants’ offense mismanaged the clock and gave Tony Romo too much of a buffer to come from behind and down Big Blue 27-26 in Big D. This past week, the defense could not control All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones, as he had a career-high 13 catches against the Giants.
Jones had a key 37-yard catch that set up a Devonta Freeman two-yard plunge with 1:14 left in the game, and then the Falcons’ defense held off Eli Manning and company en route to a 24-20 victory at the Meadowlands.
The questions become: Have the Giants simply been a victim of bad luck? Has the team tuned out coach Tom Coughlin? Does Big Blue have adequate personnel to challenge for the division title?
For the record, the Giants are the first team in NFL history to lose their first two games of the season, after having a ten-point lead in both contests. After the heart wrenching loss to the Cowboys, where clock management and coaching were called into question, the Giants essentially repeated some of the same mistakes in losing to the Falcons this week.
Not unlike baseball teams, football teams rarely throw a “perfect game”. In fact, according to the Mini-Tab Blog, the odds of throwing a baseball perfect game are approximately 1 in 18,192. The point is that “perfect” football are rare occurrences, if they occur at all. Eliminating penalties and unforced errors, like dropped passes, certainly make the chance of victory greater. But at the end of the day, many players and coaches have uttered this truism, ” BIG-TIME players make BIG-TIME plays in BIG-TIME games.” Big plays have the tendency to eradicate bad penalties, bad play-calling and bad luck.
While there might be a small element of bad luck involved in the Giants’ first two games, the fact of the matter is that, with the exception of Odell Beckham, Jr., this roster is mostly devoid of play-makers. The discussion of removing mistakes and not committing penalties is merely coach-speak. More often than not, the games are decided by the big plays, which is why turnover margin may be the only statistic worth paying attention to.
It may be nice to have more first downs than your opponent, or lead in time of possession, but proficiency in those areas rarely guarantee a victory. Sometimes the ball does not bounce your way, but in the first two games of the season, the Giants’ players fell victim to their own inferior play, end of story.
Tuning Out The Coach
The New York Giants’ Tom Coughlin is the oldest coach in the NFL at age 68, and as everyone knows, Coughlin has led the G-men to two Super Bowl titles. Chances are very good that without the goodwill created by those NFL championships, that Coughlin would not be coaching Big Blue today.
When teams have clock management issues, the brunt of the criticism usually falls onto the head coach and coaching staff. Against the Cowboys, Coughlin took responsibility for the mess, even though his quarterback was largely to blame for what happened. On the other hand, his starting running back almost immediately threw the quarterback under the bus. When teams are teetering on the edge of disaster like the Giants are. then usually the chatter begins that the squad is beginning to tune out the head coach, and those rumblings have begun in Giants Nation.
If the team was tuning Coughlin out, then last week’s game against the Falcons would have been a blowout, with the Giants on the short end of the final score because they have zero margin for error. The real proof will be how the team plays against the Redskins in the most winnable game of their first three contests. If, by chance, the team lays an egg, then there should be concern that the players have stopped playing for this coaching staff. Which would make for a very long season with a lame duck coaching staff and front office.
If someone took an anonymous poll of NFL general managers, how many would cast their vote for the Giants as a playoff team? The short answer is not many, and the case of Preston Parker brings up two separate issues regarding personnel decisions on the New York Giants. For those who have not been following, Parker was cut by the team on Tuesday, after two games with five dropped passes. Cutting Parker only makes sense at this point in time, but it also raises the question why the team kept him at final cuts to begin with. Parker certainly did not outplay veteran receiver James Jones by any stretch, and the necessity of keeping him because of his abilities as a return specialist were negated by the presence of Dwayne Harris on the roster.
Paul Schwartz of the New York Post had this to say about the Parker – Jones controversy. “The Giants kept Parker over Jones because they value Parker’s work on special teams and Jones does not play special teams. Ordinarily, this is very important for the fourth, fifth and six receivers. But the Giants messed this one up. With Cruz coming off major knee surgery, they needed a fallback guy, a legitimate pass-catching receiver. The Cruz calf injury makes the need even more critical.”
Cornerback Jayron Hosley is another prime example of what is wrong at the Quest Diagnostics Center, as the Giants’ 2012 third round draft pick has rarely, if ever, played well enough to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. Hosley consistently grades out in the red according to Pro Football Focus, but yet he remains with the team. When looking at depth players like Parker and Hosley, one should understand that due to injuries these players are asked to fill key roles while Victor Cruz and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were sidelined with injuries. But the dropoff is so significant that the coaching staff has to make miracles happen on a weekly basis just to remain competitive.
Inferior personnel is not limited to Parker and Hosley, as borderline NFL players litter the roster at almost every position Because of the lack of quality starters, the team was required to over-rely upon rookies like Landon Collins and Ereck Flowers, who are being asked to play pivotal roles on the 2015 squad. Flowers has been graded as a (-9.3) by Pro Football Focus, and Collins is a (-5.2) by PFF. Maybe these players will one day become stars in the NFL, but right now, they are in over their heads because the roster has been difficient for several years now.
There is little doubt that this roster makes Tom Coughlin’s job of making the playoffs difficult at best. As Jordan Raanan of NJ Advance Media said, “It’s hard to imagine this is what general manager Jerry Reese was thinking about when assembling this roster.”
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past four seasons for Examiner.com, and he is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Born and raised in New Jersey, Curt attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, N.J. and is a graduate of Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Follow him on Twitter @CurtMac23 for the latest NFL and New York Giants news.