Well, not a game I’d classify as one of the greatest ever played, but sure wasn’t unhappy with the outcome. Had a great time over at my parents’ place, eating too much, hanging out with the Dalys, trying not to gnaw my nails off entirely watching Big Blue absolutely dominate that first half…and yet still come away down one and giving the Pats the ball to start the second. Told my dad when they punted late in the 2nd quarter, “They’re gonna let Brady pick them apart and score, then go down by eight in the third and have to start throwing more.”
Sure enough, they did. I don’t care how big a Giants fan you are, you hadda be watching that offense do nothing possession after possession, then settle for field goals, wondering, “Are they gonna choke?”
Luckily, this is the Eli Manning I was happy to see the Giants deal for back on draft day and pass on the chance at Phillip Rivers. Rivers may have great stats, but I always thought Eli could be the type of QB the Giants have needed since Phil Simms retired. Calm, no nonsense, efficient, and smart. No, he’s not the stat machine Peyton is, but…who’s got more rings and more MVP awards in the game that really counts? Who’s got the better playoff record? Who’s still got far fewer postseason starts, with the chance to keep getting better with more time left in his career?
Something else. And, I tweeted about this last nite to Adam Schefter. Hey, before people start lionizing Tom Coughlin as some legendary head coach, let’s remember, for the past 2.5 seasons, he’s been coaching for his job on a regular basis. Deservedly so. Yes, he earned credit for the 2007 Super Bowl season. But by the same token, he absolutely deserves the criticism that comes from having his team totally fall apart around him in the wake of the Plaxico Burress debacle, and then two second-half collapses during the regular season that *earned* him his place on the hot seat. This year? Let’s take off the Giants fan hats for a minute and look at this season. 9-7. That was it. And, that includes two horrendous losses to a Redskins team that wasn’t going anywhere, a reprehensible loss at home to the Eagles—a severely beaten up team playing with their backup QB, and that miracle game in Dallas, where they were losing by 12 with 3:30 to go. Dallas doesn’t choke (which they did a *lot* this season), year is over and done with right there. I know, I know, it *could* have been an ugly ending to the season. But, that’s something to keep in mind. This Giants team is pretty talented. But are they, with the beaten up secondary and Justin Tuck not being 100% a good portion of the year, and the various injuries on offense, *better* than the teams that absolutely folded like lawn chairs after starting 6-2?
Nope, and that’s the point. Coughlin was hailed by retired QB Steve Young a few weeks back after the Atlanta win as a “great motivator.” Okay, fine. Where was that motivation the past three seasons? I know winning the big one gives you the free pass the following year, I don’t mind that. But Tom Coughlin has been on the hot seat repeatedly in his Giants career for one reason—he belonged there. His teams weren’t performing.
Listen, winning a Super Bowl is hard. Everyone knows that. But…other Super Bowl winning coaches have gotten fired. Mike Shanahan won two in a row and still got fired. John Gruden won a Super Bowl and got fired a couple seasons later. It happens. And, if your team has a habit of being streaky and inconsistent (and, a 9-7 regular season finish this year, I would bet my writing career, would have been his last had he not won the division. (Largely thanks to the choking ways of the Cowboys and the Eagles absolutely turning in the underperformance of the past ten years).
This year was all about Eli Manning. His ability to bear down and do things on 3rd down you rarely see this frequently. I’m not about to go jumping for joy about Kevin Gilbride calling the offense, either. Let’s face it—you don’t draw up that David Tyree miracle catch from their last Super Bowl meeting with New England, and you don’t draw up yesterday’s Mario Manningham grab late in the 4th, either. The Giants offense, which looked amazing against the Falcons and Packers, was far from potent today. If Wes Welker catches that gimme touchdown? In all likelihood, game over. Tough to say whether or not the Giants offense would have scored another TD had Bradshaw gone down in the final minutes, too. I think it’s accurate to say the Pats gave them the score, because it made sense. But besides that first quarter touchdown and some nice, individual passing plays, did you ever get the feeling the Giants O could take charge? Nope, and I really think a better coached team would have run away with this thing early. Not often you get those kinds of gifts and possessions with the opportunity to tear out a team’s throat. And yeah, penalties are part of the game. But this Giants offense was going up against a pretty poorly rated D. Middle of the pack in points allowed? Okay, let’s just take that stat. Giants drives were bogging down regularly, they were inconsistent moving the ball, they got a 2 point gift on a Patriots penalty in the end zone. Hardly what we saw in Green Bay 3 weeks ago, was it?
So, not to be overly critical, because all that counts is getting the W when there’s only one game left to play. They did it, and deserve the congrats and the free pass the coaching staff gets next year. But lets at least be honest about how this team played over the entire season, remember why it was that the coaching staff were getting hammered by fans and pundits alike, and remember that the Giants are the first 9-7 team to win the Super Bowl. Giants have two Super Bowl wins with Coughlin and Manning. Belichik and Brady are now only 3-2 in Super Bowls, but…wouldn’t you want the Patriots kind of consistency and a *shot* at having Coughlin and Manning in *5* title games as opposed to going 9-7, 8-8, 8-8 over the past couple of years?
I know what I want, and that’s for a Giants 2012 team that should only get better to get at least 10 regular season wins, play tough game-in, game-out, and make the playoffs. The D should be improved, as Jason Pierre Paul keeps getting better, Osi and Tuck get time to heal up in the offseason, the secondary can get back to 100%, and management shores up the LB position. There’s the draft, and a good corps of receivers we can add to. Maybe some O line help and finding a piece or two to help out at tight end. We just won a Super Bowl—and there’s plenty of room to improve. We don’t have to win three in a row, but I’d sure like the chance to be in the playoffs as regularly as a team like the Steelers or Patriots have been the last several years, wouldn’t you? I’m a lifelong Giants fan. I bleed blue. But I’m also a realist. The playoffs are where the Giants have made noise, and getting there regularly?
That’s the kind of thing that usually keeps your coach off the hot seat.
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Currently listening to: Dragula by Rob Zombie