While the Saints Bounty gate and Peyton Manning's release are making arresting headlines, let us talk about the Super Bowl Champions.
The Giants decided to tag punter Steve Weatherford. With Weatherford handling the punting duties in 2011, the Giants got much needed consistency. Over the last several seasons, the Giants special teams have not been too special. Having Weatherford was a breath of fresh air. And he was splendid in Super Bowl XLVI. Three of his four punts landed inside the Patriots 10 yard line.
WR Domenik Hixon was resigned. This means it is over for Mario Manningham. Since Victor Cruz has emerged as a top notch receiver, especially in the slot, Manningham has become expendable. Having Hixon return also helps the Giants special teams return game. As a team, the Giants averaged 6.1 yards per punt and 23.3 yards per kickoff return respectively. Here are links to see how the Giants fared in kickoff and punt returns. After seeing we are at the bottom of the NFL, let us hope Hixon can help the Giants improve in these areas.
Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw had some work done on his ankle. He received an injection to help his ailing foot. Sheesh! With multiple surgeries performed on his wheels, it is amazing he has been so productive for the Giants. Over his NFL career, Bradshaw has had surgery on both his ankles and feet. Being that feet are a running back's life blood, as an outsider, is Bradshaw's best days behind him?
Speaking of the running back position, the Giants have RELEASED RB Brandon Jacobs. This does not come as a surprise. Once a bruising runner, Jacobs has been limited due to serious injuries. Over the last two seasons, Jacobs was relegated to a reduced role. Last season, Jacobs gained a disappointing 571 yards. Since Jacobs publicly expressed an interest in playing with the Jets, ESPN's Jets reporter Rich Cimini compiled some statitstics on Jacobs. And Cimini caputured a snap shot of Jacobs' unimpressive 2011 numbers:
1. Jacobs had one rush for 20 plus yards.
2. For a 265-pound man, Jacobs doesn't break many tackles. His yards-after-contact average last season was 1.66, which ranked 44th in the league. (In fairness, we should point out he brought it up to 2.25 in the NFC playoffs.)
3. The Giants finished last in rushing and next-to-last in short-yardage rushing, with only a 52-percent conversion rate.
With Eli Manning restructuring his contract and Jacobs being released, the Giants appear to be under the projected salary cap. So what are their immediate needs?
Pro Football Focus examines the Giants major areas of need. Needless to say, after crunching their numbers, the Giants have to revamp the guard, tackle, and slot cornerback positions. It is evident, the Giants have to address the offensive line. On Thursday, reliable RT Kareem Mckenzie was told to go shopping. With no McKenzie, William Beatty recovering from surgery, and Diehl coming off an awful season, the Giants have to retool their offensive line.
As for the cornerback position, I think the Giants are okay in this area. Since 2007, Giants GM Jerry Reese has invested a lot of high draft picks in the secondary. Ross in 2007. Thomas in 2008. Prince in 2011. Reserve Bruce Johnson was resigned. And they will most likely retain Justin Tryon. Recall, this guy played with a broken arm against the Dolphins this year.
As the March 13th free agency signing period inches closer, the Giants have to think about the TE and RB positions. In Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants lost not one but both of their tight ends. Right now, the Giants have Bear Pascoe as the only effective TE. Look for Reese to sign a TE. And with the news of Jacobs' release and the uncertainty of Bradshaw's injury situation, the Giants have to upgrade the running back position. Let us not forget RB D.J. Ware has been concussed twice. He suffered a concussion in 2009 against the Broncos. And this year, he suffered another one against the Packers. Without question, Ware could be one hit away from being out of football. The Giants may have their future starter already on the roster- Da'Rel Scott could be the Giants next star running back. In the meantime, Reese has to pick up a veteran running back as insurance.
To sum up, Reese will use free agency to shore up the TE and RB positions, while using draft picks to stabilize their offensive line.
While the Saints Bounty gate and Peyton Manning's release are making arresting headlines, let us talk about the Super Bowl Champions.
Days like today do not happen very often. The NY Giants are Super Bowl Champions! Today, we raise a new banner for the blog.
We keep score with titles. This is the 4th Super Bowl championship for this franchise. That is pretty rare air. We specifically designed the logo to be part of planned obsolescence. It was part of the plan to make us "work" at another banner. Go ahead, give us some trouble, make us take this one down too. And quick!
31 teams lose. Only one team wins. These are the memories that we will have for a lifetime. XLVI gave us some moments that will be savored. Who can forget the drive to beat the Patriots in Week 9?! JPP blocking the FG to beat the Boys?!! Victor Cruz in Week 16 vs the Jets?!!! Hakeem Nicks running away from 38 defenders vs the Pack?!!!! Mario Manningham getting a perfect pass from Eli Manning to midfield in the Super Bowl?!!!!! We'll remember them all.
Eli Manning had an incredible year. Could the Giants have gotten to the playoffs, let alone won a title without him? Impossible. A year like that gets you on the banner forever.
THE NY GIANTS ARE SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS!
Considering how long bounties have been used in pro football, is there a double standard in enforcing the NFL rule prohibiting the use of them?
Mark Kriegel of Fox Sports asks a lot of good questions and gives us a lot to think about. He paints a picture where Tony Dungy and other players (see Joe Horn video in next link) corroborate that bounties have been prevalent for years but (players and coaches) quietly never snitched and ratted out violators.
Then there are the words of John Lynch, the Pro Bowl and future HOF player:
"Over the past few days I've heard a few people, including former players, say that this is a league-wide problem. That's total BS. I played in the NFL for 15 years for two teams and never once was offered money to knock someone out of a game. If I had been offered money, I'd be a really wealthy man today. I even called some of my friends that played to see if they ever had been offered any bounties. None had. Don't get me wrong, we had player-generated incentives within our locker room, like $500 for interceptions or forced fumbles, but never, ever for hurting someone."
But Lynch circles back to the same points that Kriegel makes, the question about hypocrisy with respect to the NFL glorifying hits while simultaneously preaching safety:
".. if player safety is the way the league is going to go, then the first step needs to be for the NFL to admit that the rules have changed."
As everyone knows, football is a contact sport. What happens when a player is hitting a guy low enough to miss the head, but then the offensive player drops his head and helmet to helmet contact is made? We've watched more than our fair share of plays recently where some hits are fined incorrectly and other hits that should be flagged/fined go unpunished.
There has to be a way for the NFL to bring in more safety to protect the players and remove the inconsistency/hypocrisy, without compromising the game. Maybe what this means is that ESPN can't go on an endless loop where they keep showing incredible hits, glorifying the punishment being dished out. Maybe the NFL doles out punishment to the Saints and all others for 2011 only, thereby putting everyone on notice that going forward the enforcement is going to be there. Antonio Pierce talked on radio about the past and going forward. Maybe that has to be where the line is drawn, pre-2011 and 2011+. That will catch the Saints and probably a few others, but will also allow the NFL to move forward and get greater consistency in its priority for player safety.
The Saints are SINNERS! Only a few years removed from their first Super Bowl Championship, the New Orleans Saints franchise is in hot water. After being warned by the NFL about engaging in illegal activity, the recalcitrant Saints organization continued their abhorrent behavior. According to the NFL's official report, in 2010, the NFL warned Saints owner Tom Benson of their findings. STOP THIS NONSENSE!
According to the NFL's clandestine investigation, when Benson directed Loomis earlier this season to ensure that any bounty program be discontinued immediately, Loomis did not follow Benson's directions. "Similarly, when the initial allegations were discussed with Mr. Loomis in 2010," the report continued, "he denied any knowledge of a bounty program and pledged he would ensure that no such program was in place. There is no evidence that Mr. Loomis took any effective action to stop these practices."
Subsequently, Benson supposedly gave Saints GM Mickey Loomis a direct command to disband this illegal bounty program. Apparently, at this point, Loomis did not carry out Benson's order. If this is true, the entire Saints organization which includes Loomis, head coach Sean Payton, and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams have to be held accountable. Being warned by the NFL to cut out this untoward behavior, then defying the League is plain stupidity. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has no choice. Throw the book at them.
But the NFL has a problem here too. Keep in mind, if Loomis carried out Benson's order, this bounty scandal does not see the light of day. Buried under the rug by the NFL. This Saints bounty gate gives weight to the numerous lawsuits filed by former players. Former players have filed suit based on the League concealing information about concussions engendering long term neurological damage. Late last month, the Duerson family filed a wrongful death suit against the NFL.
As for the Saints, besides being so damn stupid, the Saints defensive players including former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams circumvented the salary cap. By having an organized bounty program, players received cash payments. These cash payments are illegal. And one can be sure, these "bonuses" were not reported to the IRS.
Speaking about reporting, the media in New Orleans is totally missing the point. The main radio station in New Orleans WWL 870AM had former Saint Darren Sharper on as a guest. Recall, Sharper was a player on the 2009 and 2010 Saints. Instead of being contrite, Sharper called the firestorm a vendetta. Sharper and Saints analyst Bobby Hebert are in denial. They are minimizing the behavior of the Saints organization. Both whined about someone was out to get the Saints. This is total bullbleep. For an objective analysis , LA Times' Sam Farmer wants Saints head coach Sean Payton to suffer consequences for his lack of leadership. As many analysts in the media, Farmer expects Goodell's punishment to be severe. Farmer believes Payton could miss up to eight games. On the other hand, I strongly believe Goodell is going to go to the extreme. Because Tom Benson does not have the clout of a Robert Kraft, (remember the Patriots and Bill Belichick were fined and lost a number one draft pick), the Saints could expect Payton and Loomis suspended for an entire year. If this happens, this would fuel speculation on Payton's controversial purchase of a home in Dallas. Despite signing an extension through 2015, the specifics of his contract were not revealed. Peyton very well could have an opt out clause. Who knows? He could be the Dallas Cowboys coach in 2013.
In the meantime, the NFL will put down the Saints with suspensions and fines. Then, most likely, prop them up with playing the Giants on opening night on September 5. The Super Bowl Champion New York Giants will play the Steve Spagnuolo lead Saints. Go figure. Stay tuned.
We have all heard about the bounties before. Defensive coaches would offer up smaller cash rewards for taking a player out of the game. Heck, any Giants fan (who's old enough) remembers that Buddy Ryan did it all the time back in the 80's.
On Friday we learned that DC Gregg Williams of the New Orleans Saints offered bounties on taking opposing players out of the game. This allegedly occurred while he was there in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
So why is it different this time?
Welcome to the NFL of 2012, where player safety cannot be taken seriously on one play when a player's head is taken off and then ignored when a coach is offering up bounties. If player safety is going to be a priority for the league, it must be enforced 100% of the time without inconsistent enforcement.
All eyes are on Roger Goodell. When the NFL's own site, NFL.com is talking about enforcement, you know it is a pretty large story.
My own take is simple. If you want to remove (or add) anything from the league, start taking away draft picks. George Young never liked trading away his #1 pick for anything because of two reasons: (1) they can never second-guess you for the trade you never made (something which I inherently disagreed with, a topic for another post) and (2) it hurt your organization the following year when you could not participate in the renewal of the draft. So taking away a team's first round draft pick is painful punishment. It's your lifeblood. Taking away draft picks hollows out your organization, and it guts your soul.
If the evidence confirms that the Saints offered bounties, take away draft picks. The Saints will surely get the message and so will the rest of the league too. Money, fines, and suspensions are one thing. Take away those draft picks and it really hits the organization at its core- that will get the attention of all 32 teams and the bounties will disappear swiftly.