the new york football giants
12 January 2007 ¬
" Purgatory, Continued "
We've all been waiting to see who was going to have Tom Coughlin's job next season. The wait is over. The answer.. is Tom Coughlin.

The most outcoached man in football (according to his own loyal troops, anyway) was offered a one-year extension, rather than the pink slip and swift kick in the pants that most of us expected. This followed unsuccessful attempts (and/or rumors, depending on who you talk to) to lure Scott Pioli, Bill Belichick, and Bill Parcells into a whole shmorgesborg of GM/Head Coach combinations. In the end, Coughlin keeps his job for at least another year, and frontrunning insider Jerry Reese (the man who brought you Brandon Jacobs from out of left field) will assume Ernie Accorsi's former position.

Maybe the Giants figured there were no significant upgrades to Coughlin on the market - which may be true, but his locker room cred is nonexistent. Which may mean that they're going to pursue Bill Cowher heavily in 2008 and don't want to tie themselves up in a marginal coach who'd only be in it for the short term.

Who knows. I don't like this move for three reasons:

One, this team (for the most part) just plain doesn't like Tom Coughlin, despite the mandatory lip service he occasionally receives when shifty journalists corner role players into a sound bite.

Two, there's no guarantee Bill Cowher will be looking for a job next season, and even if he is, he will no doubt command the heftiest price tag we've ever seen at the coaching position (eat your heart out, Steve Spurrier.)

Three, Elijah was essentially stagnant this season. What is this going to mean for his development? Or, for that matter, Brandon Jacobs? I get the feeling Coughlin doesn't trust Jacobs as an every-down back (a role in which, I'm sure, he'd excel.) I really, really, really don't want to see a Jacobs/Derrick Ward platoon next year.

So, there it is. We've officially secured bad vibes throughout the 2007-2008 season.
07 January 2007 ¬
" Game Over, Man "
What really amazes me is how much the 4th quarter of Sunday's game was a microcosm of New York's entire season.. a team battered by penalties, with its offense struggling throughout much of the contest, manages to put together a dramatic scoring drive to tie the game in the waning moments - only to watch the defense give it all back on the final possession. When the offense is up, the defense is down. When the defense is up, the offense is down. When yardage is scarce, there's yellow laundry all over the field.. and when it's all said and done, the Giants are a day late and a dollar short.

Imagine the things we'd be saying about Eli Manning if New York can hold Philadelphia on that final drive. First and 30 (first and 30! It might have become part of the New York vernacular in and of itself!) off of three consecutive penalties before clawing their way to a game-tying touchdown late in the 4th quarter. It would certainly have done wonders for Plaxico's image, as he complemented Elijah with several spectacular plays to keep the offense moving. And what about the little guy, putting up 150+ from scrimmage in a gutsy effort to keep his career alive for one more week?

In the end, however, what we've suspected all season long turned out to be the case - that this team would eventually collapse under the weight of all the season-ending injuries and all the locker room strife. It just so happens that there was enough magic in this world to will New York into the playoffs before the wheels came off for good.

After getting over the initial disappointment, I admit that a lot of what I'm feeling now is relief. There's no one to blame. There's no sense in pointing fingers. There's no feeling that you've just been kicked in the stomach, a la last year's disaster against the Panthers. This football team has been hurting, both mentally and physically, for a very long time, and even the most credulous fans couldn't have been thinking about a championship this year - not even deep down, in their safest and most reality-proof places. A lot of forces conspired to sink this season.. and the Giants still managed to come within 3 points of advancing to the second round of the playoffs.

It's time to recuperate, and to restructure, but not to rebuild. The potential for great things is still on the horizon.. we'll just be forging ahead minus one or two familiar faces.
01 January 2007 ¬
" For Auld Lang Syne, My Dear "
The New York Football Giants are going to the postseason.. by a hair. By the skin of their teeth. By thiiiiiiiiiis much (visualize index finger and thumb nestled closely together.) Last year, no NFL team made the playoffs with a record worse than 10-6; this year, 8-8 is good enough.

In 2006, the Giants were wildly inconsistent. A 6-2 start, and a 2-6 finish. And the symmetry extends beyond the numbers; really, the full Ying and Yang of on-the-field performances and off-the-field distractions, epitomized by their miracle 4th quarter comeback against the Eagles in Week 2 and their subsequently catastrophic 4th quarter collapse against the Titans in Week 12. To paraphrase from Longfellow -- "when they were good, they were very good indeed. But when they were bad.. they were horrid."

But 2006 is over, and there's an opportunity for this football team to prove that the preseason hype wasn't just a bunch of hot air. An opportunity to make some real New Year's resolutions -- isn't that what January 1st is all about? Maybe things will be different in 2007.. maybe the front four can stuff Brian Westbrook and put some real pressure on Jeff Garcia. Maybe Eli Manning can have an outing where he doesn't put a pass at Jim Finn's feet, or throw a lame duck into triple coverage. Maybe Tiki Barber can put this team on his back the way he did this past Sunday against Washington, and keep his career going for at least one more week. Maybe in 2007, we'll even dare to dream of a "Subway Series" Super Bowl..

Or maybe, like most New Year's resolutions, this one won't quite make it to the weekend.