Lots of collected thoughts about the NY Giants as they face the remaining 5 games at 4-7.
1) Pat Traina had a very good breakdown of the Offense's struggles. The focus of her analysis was Kevin Gilbride. The conclusion is not a shock to this NY Giants blog... Mr. Gilbride is making mistakes and not putting players in a position to succeed. We have been arguing that point and others for many years. Critics of this blog call us haters (of Gilbride). What they do not want to do is confront the brutal facts- that the team wins DESPITE Gilbride and that when you have situations now where the hand he is playing is less than full, that he cannot make the necessary adjustments.
1a) I had a comic laugh the other day when watching The Big Bang Theory. Genius nerd Sheldon drinks a few beers and the connection to his childhood (where he was watching a lot of football with his father) comes alive. He is asked what he would be playcalling, and remarks that since the defense is bringing blitz pressure, that a slant is called for! Where have you heard that one before- that 5 recommendations vs pressure are slants, screens, flares, draws and play action?! I bring this up because Todd Haley was singled out on ESPN for the adjustments he has made to help a faltered Pittsburgh OL. Coaches look their best when they have the full hand. It is when they have holes in their roster that they have to plug people in and adjust their schemes/playcalls to compensate. We talk about this often. Traina talked about this in (1) above. Maybe we won't have to talk about it anymore next year (because he'll be gone)?
2) In the writeup on Sunday after the game, we referred to "the meek pass rush of JPP." According to PFF he had a combined total of zero <<pressures + hits + sacks>>. His snaps were also cut in half. Who received more snaps as a result? Mathias Kiwanuka. For his part, Kiwi got 1 sack and 2 pressures. But looks are deceiving. Kiwi is at the very bottom (and I mean DEAD LAST by a wide margin) in grades this season for the Giants defense. JPP is at least playing the run very well, containing his edge extremely well. RADICAL CONCEPT: play JPP on run downs, and in clear pass situations, give the rookie Moore some snaps there to help the rookie prepare for his second year. If JPP starts doing better vs the pass (he'll still see some pass- ironically, if I were scheming, I would PASS WHEN JPP WAS ON THE FIELD), then you can increase his snaps.
3) Now that the Giants' playoff chances are approaching ~zero, who do you want to see cut from the roster next year? I'll throw out my names for rebuilding without their services... Webster, Baas, Kiwanuka, Diehl, Snee and Nicks. It may not sound fun to be parting ways with so many players who helped this team to deliver a total of 9 rings (Kiwi hurt in '07) but to quote Don Corleone: "this is the business we have chosen."
4) The Cruz strip for 7 pts vs Dallas hurts so much. As we noted on Sunday's recap, it created the lost tempo which the Giants could not recover from. I am reminded of the NFC Championship game in Jan 2012 when Giants players knew that the SF defense would be going for turnovers. How many times did we see Cruz seemingly collapse in a heap in front of SF defenders? He gave away a yard (if that) to get 100% certainty of no turnover. It was great coaching vs a ball hungry team in wet conditions. Here vs DAL, perhaps such draconian measures weren't necessary, but we would think that Cruz would not be fighting for that extra yard while wrapped up vs 2 players. Is that 20-20 hindsight? Perhaps. We're not holding it against Cruz, just asking aloud why Cruz wasn't going down. We know that the bigger WRs and TEs pride themselves on fighting for extra yards, but this is clearly not in the job description of Cruz. Cruz is much smaller, and does not break tackles once he is wrapped up.
5) JFoster remarked that the "2 Super Bowls covered up a multitude of problems." I would argue that XLVI covered up a multitude of problems, not XLII. In 2007 the OL was strong and had a few years left. Tuck was young and had just got re-signed etc..2011 was the problem, where winning a title was fantastic but the team was 9-7 and the Oline was aging. And I know I won't gain any love from the peanut gallery on this one, but Pete was all over this in 2011. All of this just reminds me of "Who Moved My Cheese." Some people are just looking around the corner for new cheese well before others.
6) Of the 6 people mentioned in (3) above for cutting ties, only Nicks has fuel in the tank, and that is a special situation. Nicks is brittle, he is hurt every year, and I do not like what he is giving the team in his contract year. Take your pick- either he is truly hurt and that is evidence he needs to go, or he is protecting his body to show he can play. It frankly has been a disaster. You walk away and if he does well somewhere else, you have to know that it wasn't happening here.
7) Speaking of Pete, we'll dredge up another diddy he shared with us. He explained when analyzing the draft that RB could not be drafted high. We have argued this point, that if for ONLY the reason that the Giants draft RB so well in the later rounds that it does not make any sense to be drafting RB in Round 1. We liked Wilson the player, but "philosophically" we noted when he was drafted that RB would not be the position we would target. (Duh, OL, LB were highlighted, and Lavonte David was noted as 1 of 3 players we liked, even if it was a little high at 32. How would that have worked out?!) In a future post we will be modifying the "Rules For Winning in the NFL" with a new rule spelling out what we have been advocating for years: Do Not Take RBs in Round 1. Look at the list of RBs with Super Bowl titles. Look at the list of RBs taken in Round 1. This is not a 21st Century NFL position. Injuries, blocking for the passing game, platooning, shorter careers, finding capable players later in the draft... these are all reasons for why RB cannot be given the allocation of resources that are made by so many NFL teams. Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs are two Round 4 picks who are more than capable. Bradshaw in Round 7 has 2 rings. Wilson is already hurt and his neck injury implies that his career has a serious question mark. Assuming Wilson can make a recovery, he still can contribute meaningfully, especially with a new offensive coordinator who knows how to run a screen pass. But that does not mean we need a Round 1 RB to do that job.
This is why I hate Tom C so much. This is from the Pat Traina article Andy put a link to above.
" Head coach Tom Coughlin always talks about the importance of balance, so when asked after the game if he was tempted to run the ball more given the success that phase of the offense was having, he replied, “No. We’re a balanced team. We play for balance.”
This goes directly to comments made earlier on this blog about why not stick to the run when it is working. Killdrive is not the only problem on this team. Tom is the driving force of stupidity and he needs to go. Without overwhelming superior talent and the greatest luck of anyone ever, he will just kill this team for years to come. His stubbornness will be our undoing as noted in the above quote. Hell, in toms eyes, why stick with what works.
Great coaches use their personnel wisely. Kevin Gilbride is a poor coach because he doesn't adhere to that philosophy. I always believed Pat Riley was a great basketball coach. Why? He won with different types of players. In the late 80's & early 90's he had "Showtime" in L.A. Fast break exciting B.Ball. They won! He came to NY and with players who had a completely different skill set he won again when his teams held down their opponents with hard nosed defense. Great coaches realize personnel dictates how you should play. "Put players in a position to succeed" All Kevin Gilbride has ever earned in my opinion, is the dubious nickname of....say it loud guys....KEVIN KILLDRIVE!!! we all know too well why. We all have heard the stories of how Coughlin was nearly fired after 2006. He created the leadership council, changed the way he communicated and it worked out fortunately for Big Blue. We can owe that to John Mara who let his coach know that change was coming one way or another. Well, I hope Mr. Mara has another talk with T.C. and lets him know he has to alter his approach moving forward. I'm hoping that Killdrive is the damaged collateral.
The sad thing about Nicks is that when he was healthy, or motivated, he was a true #1 WR, and players like that don't grow on trees. Big and physical enough to hold his own on the outside, great route runner, outstanding hands. Not super speedy, but as he showed in playoffs two years ago, he had that extra gear, so that he could take a simple crossing route to the house. And for the first few years at least, he seemed to be a total professional, without the diva quality that made Plaxico and so many top-flights WRs so maddening. Randle may turn out to be good, but I've seen nothing yet to indicate he has Nicks's overall skill set. And Cruz, invaluable as he is, is a slot receiver.
Pat Traina's weekly analyses for BR this year have been first-rate. There have been so many games over the years where the offensive playcalling has driven me batty, but last Sunday's game may have taken the cake. The only consolation was that I never really believed this team had what it takes to make a serious run. The OL just isn't good enough, in my opinion. And Eli just looks out of sorts. I couldn't agree more with Andy's postgame wish to see if another offensive coordinator can help him turn his career around.
Great article. A little clarification. When I said that the 2 superbowls cover a multitude of problems, what I was referring to was when people defend Gilbride, for example, by saying, 'hey, he brought us 2 SUperbowl wins. Often when players or coaches are criticized the 2 superbowls are brought up. I think the Giants earned those superbowls and weren't just lucky as some history revisionists now try to say. But at the same time winning those 2 superbowls doesn't give the coaches or players involved a lifetime free pass. That was my thought when I said that
Good stuff. Thanks. Can't disagree. I'm hoping JR sees it that way too. He needs to go into 2014 knowing what he has to work with, and TC ought to help him out by playing Hankins, Moore, Hosley, Taylor, James, Brewer, Mosley, Donnell, ARob, Cox, and yes... Nassib too, as much as is prudent under the circumstances. All those guys would substantially benefit from many regular season reps, and JR would understand with greater certainty what he needs to focus on in the 2014 draft and in FA. Personally, I'd like to see him go O-line in the first round again, since the O-line shares a large portion of the blame for this season's failure to reach the playoffs. I'm not asserting 1st round O-linemen are immediately effective. On the contrary, PFF rates Eric Fisher 71st, Luke Joeckel 59th, Lane Johnson 67th, D.J. Fluker 31st, and our Justin Pugh is 55th of 73 OTs. The Giants already have O-line work-in-progress guys on the roster, and we all hope one or more of them takes that next big step up with continued playing time this season. But with Diehl, Snee and maybe Baas very much on the down side of their careers, they need to make O-line their highest priority. Eli's much more likely to return to his winning ways with a stout line in front of him.
Eli is having a bad year, plain and simple. Gilbride is as bad (or good) as he has always been--for me, a little better. But this team will not win without Eli Manning being a star. Instead of winning games, this year he loses them. Giant fans hope next year he be Eli again. If not, get used to this.
@jfoster completely agree. winning is the best deodorant. We beat Dallas 21-17 in the NFC Divisional round, but no one remembers how Gilbride took a 4 pt lead in hand and did the CLASSIC RRRK at 9:27 instead of a normal offense. There was WAY TOO MUCH TIME to be coaching differently just because you had the lead for the first time since Q1. Yet he did, and got a 3 and out. We won the game. But if Patrick Crayton doesn't cut off his route etc.. those are the mistakes that cost you more often than not.
@mezzanine Here's something I almost hate to ask - have we already seen the best of Eli? This is now his 2nd year that has been sub-par, at least compared to 3 years ago when they won the super bowl. I think we assumed that he would continue to get better as his career continued in the NFL. But maybe we have already seen the best Eli. Don't misunderstand - that is not a knock on Eli - he has been a great QB for the Giants and I would still take Eli over at least 2/3 of the QBs out there. But I'm just wondering if we have already seen his best.
This goes along with the criticism of Gilbride. I would love to see how Eli would do under a new OC that had some progressive, forward thinking approaches. Like has been said in different places, the Giants often win in SPITE of Gilbride. In the same way, I think Eli has done well, in SPITE of Gilbride's play calling at times. I just hope that by the time the Giants finally go with a new OC, that it isn't too late for Eli.
@mezzanine I don't know... maybe you're right. But I tend to think of Gilbride as obstinately dedicated to that playbook and route tree react scheme of his, no matter who happens to be on the field to successfully execute his plays. The problem with that approach is players aren't all interchangeable plug-n-play parts with nearly equal capabilities and limitations. When Gilbride determined his O-line couldn't with any consistency sustain their blocks for Eli's 5 step drop backs (he knew that a long, long time ago), he needed to fervently work the alternatives and counters (as stated in 1 and 1a above). The Steelers were faced with the same dilemma, but their OC did what Gilbride as far as I can tell hasn't been able to do. I find it hard to believe that none of the 4 TEs and 4 RBs on the Giants roster can do anything close to what Heath Miller and Le'Veon Bell did to counter the Ravens' D line pressure against the Steelers' weak O-line... 15 receptions for 149 yards at 10 yards a clip. Or, what's even more frustrating is Gilbride calling plays that strive for "balance" while his running attack is racking up over 200+ yards against a Lee-less defense with little indication Dallas is going to adjust their plan to shut down Cruz and Randel with bracketed coverage. As Lombardi said, coaches who can draw out the Xs and Os are a dime a dozen... the real coaches get inside the players heads and get them to perform.
@jfoster @mezzanine First, I'm pleased there has been as much response. JFoster: No, I don't think we've seen the best of Eli. We very well might see some of the real Eli on Sunday night. The pressure is off. But for 11 weeks we've seen Eli near the bottom of the league in the 4th quarter. The 4th quarter! No more has to be said. He is having a bad year so far. I honestly don't think a different OC or different plays would change that fact.
@jfoster @mezzanine I will not defend Eli's weaker play here in 2013. He's a big boy, a rich one at that, so he can take the heat. What I will say is that you can see his clock is completely different this season. He has no confidence in the amount of time he can hang back there, and that affects his play. He's got the intelligence, the skills, the experience, frankly everything to win another ring. I barely spend any time in the recaps on him. I just feel he is not what is holding the team back. If he were better, on the level of a Brady or Rodgers, he would be able to do more with less (of an OL). But part of this is also imo on KG.
@mezzanine @jfoster I appreciate your opinion, but I find myself respectfully disagreeing. Eli with an OC who's comfortable departing from his standard Xs and Os in order to counter a defense's scheme, who assured his offense could proficiently execute a screen play, and who appreciates that "balance" in play calling is an objective, not an inviolate principle of physics (watching Gilbride play away from the extremely effective 200+ yard running game when Dallas had no answer for stopping the run was heart breaking), would be a different Eli. As a displaced New York resident living in San Diego, I've watched Gilbride run off after stubbornly ruining the Chargers, and I don't see a much different Gilbride today. He's a great position coach, a bad coordinator, and a horrible HC. His career should have mirrored coach Pope's... be the best position coach in the league, and just stop there.
@ultimatenyg Agree, Eli is not the issue. I believe you only get better in the NFL at QB the longer you get to play and start. That is until the body begins to break down. Mentally, guys like Eli and Simms and other true drop back QB's just get better with experience. Simms last few years with the team were his best by leaps and bounds. ( I will never ever forgive Reeves for cutting him. Dave Brown??? OMG)
WIth out time to throw, Eli's entire game is thrown off and without Nicks out there to help bail him out and without a TE also, he is just in to deep for his skill sets.
Rogers is way way better than Brady, Brady just plays for a great coach with plays to his skill sets. Hell, Belichick made Matt Cassil into a star.
@jfoster @ultimatenyg @mezzanine you may be right, but I tend to doubt that's all of it. Eli isn't the problem for sure. I think he's frustrated and overcompensating for the lack of diversity in what plays are available to call when a defense demonstrates what they're conceding. I'm sure Eli knows how to counter a D line with their ears pinned back, hell bent on getting to the QB with the added confidence that Gilbride's offense isn't able to make them pay for their over aggressiveness. Gilbride can't orchestrate a screen pass, or employ a pass catching TE over the middle ala Witten and others, or employ a pass catching RB in various options. This lack of a wide breadth of play options to execute is most dramatically witnessed in the red zone, where opposing defenses can count on one hand Eli's options to walk off with 6. We all watch other NFL games, and I find myself yelling at the TV "why can't Gilbride run that play?!" when it's obvious that play is just not among the list of options... because in 11 weeks I've yet to see it. I think Eli can run any play ever invented, and make any throw to any part of the field. He knows how to make defenses pay. Anybody'd be frustrated and lose confidence in Eli's shoes with this Gilbride offense.