Sunday, January 25, 2009

Yo, Meathead!

Okay, it’s been two weeks, so I guess I’m ready to talk about the Giants’ big failure against the Eagles two Sundays ago. Of course, it almost seems passé, now that the Eagles lost to the Cardinals—I know, can you believe it? The Cardinals!—last week.

There are a lot of people who think that the Giants’ season ended the night that Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg. Maybe there’s something to that, but I don’t buy it completely. The Giants have plenty of talent, and they have a deep receiving corps, even though none of them has the height or the hands of Burress. I suppose it can’t be argued that Eli Manning only had one touchdown pass to a receiver after Burress was suspended for the remainder of the season. Likewise, all of the team’s offensive numbers went down starting with the first game after the shooting. But even though the G-men lost three of their last four regular season games, it seemed that they could come together when it really counted, as they did against the Panthers in Week 16, when the game was for the top seed in the NFC playoffs.

There were a few factors besides Burress’s absence that led the Giants to their embarrassing loss against Philadelphia. Two things that contributed went hand in hand: the fact that Manning was having a bad game and missing his receivers, and the terrible play-calling by Kevin Gilbride, the offensive coordinator. Yes, Eli was throwing into swirling winds at Giants Stadium in January (even though that didn’t seem to stop Donovan McNabb from having a good game). Do I think that Eli should know at this point how to deal with the winds at the Meadowlands? Absolutely. I have no excuse for him except that he was having a bad game. I will still allow him a few stinkers, even though this came at the most inopportune time. However, even if Eli was not having a rotten day, why the heck did Gilbride choose to get away from the Giants’ bread and butter, the running game? Even when the G-men did run the ball, they gave it to Derrick Ward as often as to Brandon Jacobs. What was Gilbride thinking? Jacobs is needed to steamroll and soften other teams’ defenses before Ward should be put in the game. It was New York in January, for goodness sake! Did Gilbride really think any great Giants team got to be that way by throwing the ball in the frozen tundra that is Giants Stadium? Run the darned ball! I was watching the game at home by myself, and many was the time I muttered to myself, “Run it! Run the ball!” Coach Tom Coughlin shares as much blame as Gilbride. He should have seen what was happening and ordered Gilbride to call more running plays with Jacobs.

Another factor was the defense. What happened to Steve Spagnuolo’s aggressive, attacking scheme? Why was it that the Giants’ defensive line couldn’t sack McNabb once this entire season? The Giants’ defense had been stellar this year—fifth in the league in yards allowed, I believe. Yet they allowed the Eagles to drive down the field again and again. By the way, what did that have to do with Plaxico Burress?

Finally, as small a factor as it was, John Carney’s poor kicking must have demoralized the Giants not once, but twice. The guy had missed three field goals all season, and two were blocked. But he missed the final one of the regular season, which might have given the Giants a victory over Minnesota, and it seemed that it shook his confidence enough to keep him from making more than a single field goal out of three attempts in the playoffs. The Giants did lose by more than six points, but still…

So there it is. The Giants have the potential to be good for several years to come, but there sure are some ways they could strengthen the team for the 2009 season. First, they should hope that Gilbride leaves to be head coach of the Raiders. Then they can hire a better offensive coordinator. Gilbride did a good job in 2007, when Big Blue made their Super Bowl run, but after this year, it seems as if the game has passed him by. New defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan was the linebackers coach, and my gut feeling is that he will be fine keeping continuity with Spagnuolo’s system. Second, they need to find a tall, fast number-one receiver with good hands to replace Burress. True, GM Jerry Reese said, “Never say never,” when asked if Burress could return, but frankly, if Plax manages to avoid jail, I think the Giants organization has too much class to keep him, even if it gives them a better shot to get another ring. Third, find another linebacker or two to shore up that unit. Antonio Pierce may or may not have lost a step, but he sure wasn’t playing like himself by the end of the year. This was the weakest defensive unit on the Giants, and it could use some help.

As for you naysayers who got all up in arms at the thought of Eli getting a new, stupendously large contract—who needs you? You were probably all saying Eli was the toast of the town last year when he was Super Bowl MVP. Does he still have bad games? Yup. Is he as good as his brother? Probably not. But you can’t argue with the ring—it can never be said that Eli doesn’t have what it takes to win a championship. Heck, Trent Dilfer was a Super Bowl–winning QB, and Eli Manning is a heck of a lot better than him!

I’d also like to take a jab at the fans of my two other favorite teams—the Cowboys and the Eagles. (Note the heavy sarcasm.) To Dallas fans—yeah, I bet you thought you had it made when EVERYONE and their mother picked your team to win it all this year. To that (and to Jerry Jones) I say, “Ha, ha!” (Imagine Nelson from The Simpsons laughing.) It takes more than a few predictions to make a Super Bowl team, wouldn’t you say? How many of the so-called NFL prognosticators do you think picked Arizona to go to the Big Dance this year? To Philly fans—yeah, yeah, you beat the Giants. Yeah, yeah, you beat them twice at Giants Stadium this year. Yeah, yeah, you sure acted like your team was hot stuff going into the NFC Championship Game before the Cardinals—the CARDINALS—made them look like chop suey. All I can say is this: at least the Giants won the Super Bowl last year in one of the greatest upsets of all time. At least the Giants have won three Super Bowls. How many Super Bowls have the Eagles won? (Hint: 0.)

For the upcoming Super Bowl, I will root for the Cardinals. Not that I have anything against Pittsburgh, and I won’t be upset if the Steelers win, but come on—the Cardinals haven’t won a championship in 61 years. They’ve been through three cities in that time. The only team that’s been around that long without a championship is the Cubs, and they’re going on 101 years and counting. Also, with Bruce Springsteen as the halftime show, the Super Bowl this year can’t possibly be as good as the last couple. I like the Boss’s politics, but his music? As my grandfather used to say, “Feh!”

If I don’t get a chance to write again before the game (I have to travel to New York this week on business), everyone enjoy!

And go, Cards!

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