Tag Archives: Tom Coughlin

Tom Coughlin’s Final Days

I don’t plan on this being an indictment of Coughlin as a head coach, but rather an argument that his time as head coach for the Giants has come to an end.

In professional sports, unless the man is brilliant at X’s and O’s (and even then there is no guarantee) his time as head coach is limited. You can’t shout the same things over and over again and expect to get the same response from your players. I do believe the Giants respect Coughlin, but I don’t believe he can adequately motivate them anymore.

There are two games that come to mind when making this point. The Eagles game against Vince Young, and, more recently, the match against the Redskins. In both cases the Giants had a winnable game on their hands, but failed to capitalize. This wasn’t an issue of talent, but an issue of motivation. In both games, it seemed like the Giants opponents were playing harder than the Giants.

On top of his lost voice in the locker room, Coughlin has shown an inability to pick adequate NFL coordinators. On offense he handpicked John Hufnagel. Hufnagel was never thought of fondly by fans or media covering the Giants, and, after the 2006 season, the Giants forced Coughlin to fire him. Since then, Hufnagel has failed to find a job in the NFL and now coaches in the CFL.

Coughlin replaced Hufnagel with current offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride (a man more commonly referred to as Killdrive). Gilbride is not nearly as bad as Hufnagel was, and if he was fired I’m sure he’d find another job in the NFL, but he is not a great fit as offensive coordinator for the Giants. His expertise as a coordinator is in the “run and gun” offense, an offense that is not a match for what many consider to be “Giant Football” (the whole ball control, pound the rock type offense).  This probably explains why Gilbride has a tough time getting the offense into a rhythm. Having him call plays just seems to be like fitting a square peg in a round hole. He doesn’t have a feel for the run game and it either causes him to stubbornly run with no success causing 3rd and long situations, or to neglect Eli and fail to get him into a rhythm (this was seen much more early on for Eli. More recently, it has been easier for Eli to get into a rhythm). His best season as coordinator came in 2008 when the offensively line was so strong they were able to run no matter what the defensive set was. (Honestly check the tapes. There weren’t complex schemes, just an offense that could run it down its opponent’s throat. No one could stop it.)

To add to those problems Gilbride tends to run a more complicated offense than is truly necessary. Receiver routes rely heavily on options. Basically, on any given play a receiver isn’t told to run a slant, or a deep post. Instead they are told multiple different routes and to adjust based on coverages. This leads to the receivers and Eli expecting different things. (This season the big culprit has been Manningham…last season it seemed to be everybody). The most frustrating part about this is Gilbride’s insistence on running the same plays with so many young receivers the last few years. Instead of adjusting his offense to make it easier for the younger guys to pick it up, Gilbride ran the same system, and the Giants turned the ball over a ridiculously high amount of times.

Gilbride is not a terrible offensive coordinator, but his inability to adjust to his team has hurt his time with the Giants.

As for defense, Tim Lewis, Bill Sheridan and Perry Fewell were big mistakes.

Let’s start with Lewis. Since Lewis’ time with the Giants he has held the role of secondary/defensive backs coach with three different teams. He hasn’t lasted more than two years in any place. He was a good defensive coordinator early on with the Steelers, but for some reason reverted to a more conservative defense and was then fired by the Steelers (the only defensive coordinator Cowher fired in his 15-year tenure). With the Giants he resembled the conservative coach that was fired, rather than the aggressive one Cowher originally hired.

I’m not gonna waste my time talking about Sheridan…he was that bad.

Now for current defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. Like Lewis he started out aggressively, and has become more conservative. He has blamed this new approach on lack of playmakers, but that seems ridiculous. First off, the Giants have plenty of playmakers. Secondly, the defense has performed astronomically better when they have brought pressure. The best performance they had by far was against the Eagles week 3. Remember that game? The one where Vick basically cried after the game because the Giants hit him so many times? How can our secondary hold up so well against that explosive offense, but we couldn’t afford to blitz Alex Smith and the 49ers. Perry Fewell is a serviceable defensive coordinator, but he is in no way anything special. His best attempt at getting creative led to a lopsided loss to the Colts a season ago. (Remember that game? No defensive tackles, just ends playing all four spots. More corners than linebackers. It took Caldwell Peyton all of 3 seconds to realize if he ran the ball they would win).

The only good hiring Coughlin made was Steve Spagnoulo. The thing is, Coughlin seems to be more concerned with hiring someone he is friendly with, then someone who is legitimately good at his job. In addition, he only fires them if management forces him to.

I like Coughlin, and I’m not entirely happy saying he should be fired, but this team is in need of a makeover. With the potential for a third straight collapse, no seems to be the perfect time to switch things up.

What Have You Done for Me Lately?

It would be easy to jump on the Giants for failing to make a splashy move while their close rivals scoop up every free agent on the market, but it wouldn’t be smart.

First off, it is very rare that a team goes on this kind of offseason splurge and wins a championship. The only times I can remember a team bringing in this many big names in one offseason, and it working out well, were the 2004 Eagles and the 2007 Patriots. Both teams did very well, but failed to win the SuperBowl that year, or any year after it for that matter. Most teams, however,  end up the way the Redskin, Cowboys and Raiders have with these attempts. (perhaps another indication of a supposed sports god?) Usually there is a combination of overconfidence, poor chemistry on the field, and sometimes a divided locker room. This season, those issues seem to be exacerbated with such little time to prepare before the start of the season. Think back to all the interviews during the lockout. All players, coaches, and people in the media kept saying, is the teams with the least amount of changes are set up the best to do well this season.

On the other hand the Giants have tried their best to re-sign their own players, and make a few small depth moves in the process. While none of these moves can be considered “splashy,” they each helped the Giants inch closer to their goal of a SuperBowl title.

Releasing Shaun O’Hara, Rich Seubert, and Shawn Andrews was a tough blow for the veterans on the team. O’Hara and Seubert have long been stalwarts on the offensive line and in the locker room. Their injuries and age, however, made it impossible for the Giants to keep them. In comes David Baas and Stacy Andrews. Neither one of those players have made a Pro Bowl yet, but both are more than adequate to fill their designated roles. Baas instantly upgrades the offensive line, as O’Hara, Seubert and Adam Koets (the three players who took snaps at center last season) all were coming into training camp with lingering injury problems. Baas will not only be a healthy option for the Giants, but he is coming off a pretty successful season for the 49ers. In his first season at center Baas had some growing pains, but ultimately was viewed as one of the top 10 players at his position. He was a player the 49ers were hoping to get back, and a player that will hopefully improve and play well for the Giants. Stacy Andrews has not had as big of an impact with his former teams, but is still a reliable offensive tackle in this league, and offers a nice security blanket for a team going into the season with an unproven starter (Will Beatty) and an aging veteran (Kareem McKenzie).

Other notable transactions include the signings of tight end Ben Patrick, defensive tackle Gabe Watson, quarterback David Carr, punter Steve Weatherford, and running back Andre Brown.

In my opinion, Patrick could be one of the more underrated signings of the offseason. I have been high on this guy for a while now, as I hoped the Giant would draft him when he originally entered the league. He has been used mostly as a blocker for Arizona, but Coughlin raved about his hands in his workout. He has a big body and has proven he can block in this league, something no Giants starter outside (including?) Boss has proven, and he is a better receiver than most realize. With the loss of Boss to the Raiders, it seems the Giants are going to have to rely on him as their primary tight end, unless Beckum shows he can handle the role in camp.

Watson is another “high reward” type player. While I’m not as high on him as I am Patrick, I was also in favor of drafting him when he came out. The guy was a great college player with a quick burst, and strong body. Problem is he hasn’t really shown it in his limited action in the NFL. The big concern about him coming out of college was his work ethic. It was enough of a concern that he fell to the fourth round despite having first round talent. There are a few reasons why this signing could work out for the Giants. First off, he played the nose tackle position for the Cardinals in their 3-4 set. As Warren Sapp can attest to, this is not a fun position for penetrating tackles. Perhaps a return to a 4-3 defense can help him find his footing again. Secondly, this guy is on a one year minimum salary deal. Money has a funny way of motivating people and if Watson ever wants to see a big payday he better start playing well. (admittedly he should have realized this when he dropped to the fourth round. Second times the charm?)

Carr does not have high upside, but he played very nicely as the Giants back-up. Nicely enough that the 49ers thought he might have the potential to be a starting quarterback again. (that was until he actually showed up in camp) With Sage Rosenfels and Carr on the roster heading into training camp, you can rest assured that the Giants will have at least a serviceable back-up if anything were to happen to Manning. (KNOCK ON WOOD!)

Last season the Giants’ two biggest concerns were their turnovers and special teams. Matt Dodge has a lot of talent, but struggled his rookie year. The Giants could have pinned their hopes to him again this season, but realized the importance of the position and made a move to ensure steadier production. In comes Steve Weatherford, a punter who had a very successful season and a guy who won’t smack line drives when we desperately need the field position. An under the radar signing sure, but an important one nonetheless.

Finally, there is Brown. Like Carr, Brown is a player who has worn royal blue before, as he was originally drafted by the Giants in the 4th round. He was quick and a good receiver out of the backfield, what seemed like a nice replacement for Ward. Unfortunately, he ruptured his Achilles tendon and was released the following season. He bounced around quite a bit, but now he is back. If he can prove he is healthy, he might be able to fulfill the promise he showed giving the Giants a nice security blanket in case of an injury to Jacobs or Bradshaw. Or we can flashback to 2008 and try another three-headed monster. (would that make Brown wind?)

None of these moves are real splashy, but they help to bring depth and stability to an already stacked roster. If the Giants can re-sign their remaining free agent (Steve Smith) the Giants should be in good position to make the playoffs, even though the Eagles are in their division.

Honestly the most important thing for the Giants is going to be the maturation of their young talented players. I’ll touch on that in another post sometime soon.

Collapsing

With the NFL’s lockout ending I thought I would put up a football post:

Something that has bothered me a lot during Tom Coughlin’s tenure as head coach is how poorly this team plays in the second half of the season. The lone season they performed well in the second half was 2007 when they won the SuperBowl, and even then I wouldn’t say they avoided the second half collapse we’ve come to expect.

In 2007 they started the season like almost every other season at 6-2 . They finished that season 10-6, posting a 4-4 record in the second half. Their victories came against the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills. Only the victory against the Bills was by more than six points. Of those teams, only one of them had more than 7 wins, and that team was the Eagles at 8-8. Not really anything inspiring. Making matters worse, 2007 was the only season the Giants have won a playoff game under Coughlin.

So what is it about these teams that causes them to collapse?

I think the common point most people turn to is injuries. To their credit, 2007 was probably the healthiest they have ever been in the second half. That doesn’t really explain why they played so poorly before the second half of the Bills game that season. Remember, when playing the Redskins a week before, Eli Manning threw so many incompletions he made JaMarcus Russell look good. (I’m half convinced someone told Russell to watch tape of a SuperBowl winning quarterback and he accidentally stumbled on this game tape. It would explain why he didn’t think he needed to improve on his 48.8 completion percentage) That was also the season Eli completed more touchdown passes to the Vikings defensemen than his own receivers in thier game. In addition, I don’t think injuries caused the Giants to miss the playoffs this past season.

I used to think the Giants’ problems were with Eli’s poor performances in the wind in December; however, Eli has been arguably the most consistent part of this team in both 2009 and 2010. I’d even say he was the best part of the team in 2009.

This has caused me to try to think of another explanation: The Giants’ play-calling. Let’s be honest. The Giants really have not had stellar coordinators in the past couple years. John Hufnagel was terrible and so was Tim Lewis. Kevin Gilbride hasn’t been a lot better, and I still have reservations about Perry Fewell. The only years I was confident with a coordinator was 2007 and 2008. That coach of course was Steve Spagnuolo. While they collapsed with him as coordinator in 2008, that was entirely on the offense.

The biggest problem I have seen with the coordinators is their lack of adjustment. When Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick were coaching the Giants, they were spectacular at understanding what the other team was trying to do and adjusting. This has not been the case with coordinators under Coughlin.

I think the best way to show this, is the fact that whenever the Giants start to play poorly, they never turn it around. In 2006 they started 6-2 and finished 8-8. Those two wins came against an injury riddled Panthers team and a abysmal Redskins team that finished 5-11. In 2008, after the offense was stymied by the Eagles, the only win came against a Panthers team that bombed worse than the Giants in the playoffs. In 2009, they won three games after the Saints exposed them in their sixth contest of the season. My point is, aside from the playoff run in 2007, when this team starts to play poorly they never turn it around. That screams lack of adjustment.

In 2007 the big adjustment was inserting Bradshaw into the lineup and trying to pound the ball with the run, a strategy that worked well into the 2008 season. Of course Bradshaw only made it into the lineup because of an injury to Ward and a lack of a better option (even though he was spectacular every time he saw the field. It astonished me how stubborn the Giants were being with his playing time. I hate to say it, but thank god for Ward’s injury. That could be the reason we eventually won the SuperBowl) It also didn’t hurt that Eli matured significantly during those playoffs, severely limiting his turnovers compared to his career averages.

This season was the worst

case of poor adjustment. Early in the season the Giants were guilty of several turnovers. Instead of addressing this issue Gilbride mainly kept his offense the same, which lead to more and more turnovers throughout the season. I just couldn’t understand why Gilbride didn’t make the offense simpler. Perhaps this isn’t fair, but there have been a few people who point out that Gilbride’s offense is one of the most complex in the league. This can have its advantages, but when your young receivers are having trouble staying on the same page as your quarterback, you need to make a change. Gilbride never did and the turnovers kept coming.

On defense the Giants lost because teams realized they could attack the overaggressive safeties. When Spags had trouble at safety he devised ways to protect the back end of the defense. I will never forget the games against the Eagles and Bears in 2007. The offense was sputtering and the entire season could have been lost, but Spags kept his defense up to the task and, with Craig Dahl and Michael Johnson at safety, the defense kept the Eagles and Bears to 13 and 16 points respectively. Wow.

I truly believe if the last game this season was against a better team than Rex Grossman and the Redskins, the Giants would’ve been torched for the third consecutive week. Listen, I like Fewell. He is a huge upgrade over Sheridan (then again who isn’t), but he hasn’t wowed me yet. I don’t think the Giants have won a single game BECAUSE of him. Then again, it was his first season with the team, and I have to believe with another year he should be able to mold this defense into one of the top units in the league.

For better or worse the Giants chances in 2011 are hanging on their coordinators ability to make adjustments. They are clearly a top 3 team in terms of talent. Now can the coaches mold that talent into a SuperBowl winning team.

Update On Tiki

Via ESPN

Barber, who had two years left on his Giants contract when he retired, will not be making his comeback with New York.

“We wish Tiki nothing but the best, and when we are able to make the transaction, we will release him from our reserve/retired list,” team spokesman Pat Hanlon said in a statement.

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“I didn’t get a chance to get to know who Tiki Barber was the person,” Pierce said. “I know him as a player and the guy was great and we always congratulate each other, the way we played.”

“But what he did in that locker room my two years with him, he didn’t do anything but deteriorate that team,” Pierce added. “And he didn’t help us out. I don’t see this guy as a leader or somebody that can help you out. And that’s my problem with him. That is why I believe they [the Giants] will release him because he is going to cause nothing but problems for that team.”

The Giants already have Brandon Jacobs and DJ Ware under contract at running back and plan on trying to re-sign Ahmad Bradshaw once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

While Barber was an outstanding player for the Giants, the always forthcoming running back has been critical of Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning since his retirement.

Interesting new bits of information. First I guess the Giants decided it wasn’t worth having a 36 year old running back who hasn’t played football in four years on the team. I can’t say I blame them for that. I was all for offering him the veteran minimum and seeing if there was anything left, but secretly I was hoping he’d get cut in training camp and just retire again.

Now the more interesting part of the article was Antonio Pierce lashing out at Tiki. He had some real unflattering words for him, and kind of put to light what a lot of us were thinking. Tiki is not a leader and not a good presence for the locker room. I’m not sure if it was a product of his dislike for Coughlin and playing for a young inexperienced quarterback, but Tiki was not a good teammate.

I wonder if he gets to play for the team he wants, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, if he will be better in the locker room. Either way I guess it is not something we really have to worry about anymore, as he is not going to be playing for the Giants.

What do you guys think? Happy he isn’t coming back? Wish we took a chance on him? Anyone think Tiki begged the Giants to release him?

Tiki Returns

Via ESPN

“After seeing my brother still have fun at our age, it reignited the fire,” Tiki Barber said, according to FOXSports.com. “I’m really looking forward to the challenge of seeing if I can get back to the level of where I was. I started working out again recently. It kind of shocked myself. I still had a lot of the strength I had before. I’m really looking forward to making a return.”

Barber went out on top, rushing for 1,662 yards and five touchdowns in 2006. He ran for 10,449 yards with a 4.7 yards per carry average in his career.

He rushed for a career-best 1,860 yards in 2005 when he made one of his three Pro Bowls.

After he retired, he said Tom Coughlin’s coaching style was part of the reason he stopped playing. The Giants won the Super Bowl the year after Barber retired.

Wow just wow. I will admit I am in complete shock over this one. Barber claimed the reason why he retired was so he could go out on top. I don’t see how at age 36 he can be close to the player he was when he retired.

I find it funny that he now says the reason why he retired was because of Coughlin’s coaching style, even though it was that style that made Tiki the great player that he was. Also it was that style that won us the SuperBowl the season after Tiki retired.

Important to note is the Giants still have the rights to Tiki. So one, would Tiki come out of retirement if it meant playing for the coach that caused him to retire, and the team he has badmouthed ever since he left? Two, would the Giants even want him back considering they have Jacobs, Ware, and are planning on re-signing Bradshaw?

I guess If I’m the Giants I take him since I can’t see his salary being that high, and it is never a bad thing to have depth. Who knows, maybe he still has another good year in him.

Still that doesn’t answer if he’d want to come back to the Giants, and more importantly how would he affect the chemistry. Do the players still like him? Would they accept him back? It is a pretty interesting story.

What do people think? Would you want Tiki back? Would the players want Tiki back?