Dec. 30, 2015
A Giant Fall From Grace
Though the memories of Super Bowl XLII and XLVI will forever shine bright, an era in New York seems to finally be ending
Written by Jake Elman
Despite a season full of bad playcalling, immaturity from the players, and just a general sense of disappointment, the New York Giants entered this weekend at 6-8 and the slimmest of playoff hopes. Key part of that sentence is the slim part of slimmest, because even an American model was big compared to those chances. Sure, a lot would have to go right for Eli Manning's boys to sneak into the NFC playoff picture, but remember, this is the same organization that's had late-season magic before.
Remember 2007, when the Giants went 4-0 in road/neutral-site games in the postseason to win their first Super Bowl since 1990 and upend the undefeated New England Patriots in the process? What about 2011, where the team overcame a negative point differential to win three of their final four games, upset the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers in the NFC playoffs, then beat the Patriots again? 2011 was four seasons after 2007, and with 2015 being four seasons after 2011, the corpse of Harry Houdini could easily have risen from the ground and given the Giants the magic necessary to be a playoff team.
Well, Houdini was still resting after a Christmas party hosted by Tupac Shakur, so the Giants were pretty much in trouble from the time week 16 started on Thursday night.
Without Houdini, the Washington Redskins clinched their first NFC East title with a 38-24 win over the rival Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night, eliminating both the Eagles and Giants in one knockout punch. So, in what really came down to a game on NBC's Sunday Night Football that had no impact on anything but their pride, quarterback Eli Manning and head coach Tom Coughlin both did what they've done best the past few years: roll over, play dead, and let the other team beat them to a pulp.
People will usually call one week a game ugly, but what happened on national television on Sunday night made the Elephant Man look like Katy Perry. At first glance, you see the final score of 49-17 and it's easy to think the Giants were embarrassed, but that may be too light of a word to describe the game; Eli Manning was Bad Eli and threw for three picks, the defense couldn't stop a nosebleed, and the Vikings won with such conviction that they nearly had two running backs (Adrian Peterson and Jerick McKinnon) rush for one hundred yards each against a once-vauled New York defense.
"We had an opportunity to play for pride and to regain some respect, and I thought everybody was on the same page. Tonight is just very difficult for me to explain," Coughlin, who has won two Super Bowls with the organization, .
And so, after eleven years with the New York Giants, the partnership of Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin is most likely going to be seeing their final game next Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. It's a sad end for a duo that won 97 regular season games, two Super Bowls, and reach the playoffs five times, but four consecutive seasons without a postseason game will do that to a relatively successful partnership.
People are going to look back at the end of the Coughlin-Manning partnership in New York and ask, "wow, what could have went wrong?" Well, Eli Manning definitely has a role to play here because, no, he's not an elite quarterback even if he's thrown for 4,134 yards in the air and has a solid 33-14 TD-INT ratio on the season. Too often when watching Eli Manning, you see the guy make passes that are either entirely questionable, not interceptions because of misplays by the defense, or both; some of the mistakes we saw early on in Eli's career he's still making, and I can't give him an elite grade for that reason.
"Well, you're just hating on Eli Manning because you're a Jet fan and he's on the Giants." No, I'm not. Eli Manning is a good quarterback, but great? ELITE? Not in the slightest. And look, I like Eli Manning and I give him plenty of props for being able to succeed and turn his career around so quickly after that horrible 2013 season in which he threw 27 interceptions, but the guy is not an elite quarterback. You don't believe me? Go and watch the tape from last night and tell me how many passes that weren't picked off could have easily been intercepted and added to his three turnovers.
Even then, the guy is not fully responsible for the Giants' collapse and he's not as bad of a quarterback as people make him out to be, so leave him alone, kids. Eli Manning is not what destroyed the Giants organization, so don't come to me with that belief unless you have genuine proof and you're not just upset because he beat the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl.
Really, the thing that destroyed this organization and any hopes they may have had about making playoff runs in recent years wasn't poor drafting or bad playcalling -- though both certainly had an impact -- but the idea that the Giants would find the same magic they did in those 2007 and 2011 runs to Super Bowl titles by trying to relive the magic. It's one thing to hope that you'll find the luck you had in those years by going over similar schemes and maybe bringing back a play or two that worked, but the Giants were doing the equivalent of putting on your wedding dress for a date you have with your husband in a failing marriage that likely is going to lead to divorce. You know it won't work, I know it won't work, your husband knows it won't work, and your hope of it ending in a nice night full of magic turns out to be one where your husband -- or players -- are looking at other women/teams rather than you.
Between bringing back former Super Bowl players like running back Brandon Jacobs and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks to fill holes and signing Super Bowl XLII defensive coordinator Steve Spagnulo to return to his old post following some years in Baltimore, it really was quite clear that the Giants were stuck in a time warp. Oh, Kevin Gilbride was on the Super Bowl teams? Let him keep coaching. A three-headed rushing attack worked for the 2007 Giants? Let's try to replicate that!
The Giants, simply, just weren't that good. Remember when the Giants boasted about being "road warriors" during their Super Bowl runs and how no one could beat them when the blue and white were away from the Meadowlands? Well, they were 3-5 on the road this season and haven't had a non-losing season on the road since 2011's 5-3 mark, so what happened to those road warriors
Oh, and some of the drafting by general manager Jerry Reese in recent years has been questionable. Taking Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft was a smart move and obviously one that's paid off, but why take Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft when there was no desperate need for a quarterback at that point? Even if Virgina Tech's David Wilson hadn't retired early on in his NFL career due to neck issues, was it necessary to take a running back at the end of the first round in 2012 when you could have went for someone to help the offensive line, maybe a Jonathan Martin?
Yes, the Giants have found some playmakers and key pieces to the future through the draft, but it just seems like Reese fails more than he succeeds when it comes to any type of offseason move. Obviously if the Giants were winning, we probably wouldn't be talking about this, but the Redskins managed to win eight games and win the NFC East this year in part because of solid drafting; the same goes for the crosstown New York Jets, who field a defense that contains plenty of players they drafted (counting Darrelle Revis, who left the team for two years but came back this past offseason).
Reese and Coughlin may have been instrumental to those two Super Bowl teams, but if either of these men are back next year, then the Giants are really throwing their playoff chances away pretty early on. Coughlin had no business coming back after the 2014 season and even I thought he should have called it quits following the 2013 campaign that saw his Giants go 6-10. I understand why the Giants were reluctant to officially fire him, seeing as he's an older man and he won the team two championships, but blind loyalty by front offices does not work and will not work.
Coughlin has been outcoached the past few seasons and it seems like no one wants to admit it because he's an older man and he's done a lot for the franchise, but come on. It wasn't long ago that Giants shined in the late parts of games, but they've been horrendous in those situations this year and seem to forget how to play defense come the fourth quarter. Let's also not forget Coughlin's hesitance to remove Odell Beckham Jr. from last week's game and show that he still had some strong bones left in him; there was no reason at all to keep a guy in the game who was intentionally throwing himself at someone's head and, again, it reflects poorly on you as a coach.
"Regarding Coughlin, I've never seen a disciplinarian come up so soft," Peter King of NBC Sports and the MMQB . "Not taking Beckham out of the game - even to cool him off for a series, or to warn him that one more scuffle and he'd be out of the game for the day - is a black mark on Coughlin.
Was Tom Coughlin a good coach a few years ago? Yes. Is he a coach I would consider signing if I were an expansion team and I wanted some veteran leadership? Maybe, possibly yes. But when you are an organization that tries to pride themselves on winning and has not only missed the playoffs four years in a row, but has had three consecutive sub .500 seasons and is slowly diving into football purgatory, the lightbulb containing the idea of parting ways with Coughlin has to turn on at some point for the Mara family.
"I just look at it as, if I was running a company and things weren't going the way I wanted them to go, of course I would think I had to make changes," cornerback Prince Amukamara, who won a Super Bowl as a rookie with the team in 2011, .
Believe me, I have all the respect in the world for Tom Coughlin and I think that he's a great person who does his best by his family -- both by blood and the ones he has via coaching -- but the Mara family cannot volunteer for another season like this. Players are , , and overall making one of the league's most respected franchises look awful on and off the field.
Now, is the Giants' fall from grace entirely Tom Coughlin's fault? No, of course not, but him and Jerry Reese are the ones that have to pay for four consecutive playoff-less seasons if the Giants have any hopes of becoming contenders again. It may not seem fair, but the NFL is a business and when you aren't doing what's asked of you, the time for you to leave may have arrived.
As you'd expect, Coughlin has players coming out to support him, with Pugh saying, "I think, if you look at what he did all year and the way he's coached this team, it speaks for itself. I know when I look back, I'm going to know I played for one of the best coaches of all time -- a Hall of Famer."
You're right, Justin, the way Coughlin has coached this team does speak for itself and it doesn't look too pretty. Once upon a time, the Giants prided themselves on discipline and talking with their field on the play, but the only talking that Coughlin's job has done this year is him saying, "we are no longer the New York Giants."
What do you think was the biggest thing to kill the New York Giants and send them into football purgatory? Make sure to chime in on the conversation by leaving a comment or tweeting me, and if you want to properly join the Mix, give me a follow on Twitter at @