By Neil Keefe
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For a team tied for first place in their division, the Giants are in trouble. They are in trouble because they couldn’t win at home against the Cowboys, a team that had nothing left to play for. They are in trouble because now they head to Philadelphia to face the hottest team in the league – in a tie for first place with the Eagles rather than a game up. They are in trouble because their final seven games are all against quality opponents.
I wouldn’t be thinking like that if the Giants didn’t go out and lay the equivalent of an A.J. Burnett egg last Sunday, but they did. And they did in typical New York Football Giants fashion, by making sure they were always within reach of turning the game around only to come up short. It was the type of Giants tease that I have grown accustomed to over the years. The type of tease they displayed last year when they beat the Cowboys and then trailed the Eagles 14-0 early the following week – only to take the lead and then blow the game and their season. They did it the year before that when they lost Plaxico Burress, went on a losing streak only to come back against the Panthers and win in overtime in the best game of the season before losing in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Aside from those four magical games in a row in the 2007-2008 playoffs, I am used to the Giants getting my hopes up and then crushing them and then getting them up again and then crushing them even harder. I can’t even imagine what Jets fans have had to deal with over the years.
The Giants suckered me in again on Sunday. They had me telling my friends that they were the best team in football for an entire week only to lose to the 1-7 Cowboys who were just looking to close up shop if they got behind. And when the Cowboys got a commanding lead, the Giants began to creep back to make sure you stuck around to see what would happen. And when the Cowboys failed to put the Giants away with interceptions and missed field goals, you thought “Hey, maybe they will win this game after all.” It never happened.
The Giants’ embarrassing performance on Sunday can be directly correlated to the fact that the media started to believe in the Giants. They took over in Vegas as favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl and many of the sports outlets had them sitting at or near the top of their power rankings.
In the second episode of Friday Night Lights this season, the East Dillon Lions are coming off a 2-8 season and no one believes in them. Then in their first game, they knock off the No. 8 team in the state and they open eyes around Texas. But the following week, the Lions are nowhere to be seen on the state rankings, and it has the whole team flustered and annoyed that even though they beat a top team, they aren’t being recognized. So Coach Taylor (played by Kyle Chandler, who I still believe is really a high school football coach and would like to make him an offer to coach the Giants once Coughlin retires) flips out on his team for caring so much about what a stupid poll says rather than the results on the field. His team finally understands him and they go out and win again.
So that’s what I believe frequently happens with the Giants. They are always so concerned with how they are viewed by the public, and it can be traced back to 2007 when Antonio Pierce used to make a point to mention to the media that no one believes in the Giants.
Last season the Giants started 5-0, and were a unanimous choice as the top team in the league. Then they went down to New Orleans and the Saints embarrassed them and the G-Men never recovered. In 2008, Trent Dilfer said on ESPN before the start of the season, “The Giants would be the biggest disappointment in the NFL,” after winning the Super Bowl the year before. The Giants started out 10-1 and everyone was riding high on them, then Plaxico brought a gun out with him one night, the season fell apart and they lost to the Eagles in the playoffs once again. In 2007, no one believed in the Giants. After they lost to the Packers in Week 2, I told my friend Red that the Giants might not win a game all year. Then they had the goal-line stand against the Redskins in Week 3 and things began to come together. But once they made the playoffs, no one gave them a chance to win on the road in Tampa Bay or Dallas or Green Bay or in Arizona against New England, and they went out and ran the table. The moral of the story is that the Giants just aren’t good when everyone is so high on them, but when no one pays them any attention, they go out and shock the world
Following the loss on Sunday, Justin Tuck made some comments that at first I was upset about since the Giants were just embarrassed, and I had to watch this loser in a Jason Witten jersey dance around at the bar where I was watching the game. But the more I thought about what Tuck said, the more it made sense.
“I’m not mad, and I’m not sad about this game,” Tuck said. “Actually, I’m kind of glad. Maybe this is a wake-up call that we needed. This is a chance to look at ourselves and say that maybe we aren’t as good as we thought we were.”
Tuck is right. It’s a good thing this loss happened because it reminded the Giants that people telling you you’re good doesn’t make you good. And people predicting you will win, doesn’t mean you will win. Not in this league of parody where the consensus top team seems to get knocked off every single week and an unusual amount of teams are currently in playoff contention.
I’m not sure what will happen this Sunday night in Philadelphia. When I get too down on the Giants they prove me wrong and when I get too high on them they do the same, but there is no in between and there is no balance for me as a Giants fan.
I did midseason awards for the Yankees, so I thought it would be a good idea to do them for the Giants as well. (Yes, I know we are a game past the midseason point). These aren’t your standard awards and not every member of the Giants received one, but for those who didn’t receive one, there’s still seven games left to prove yourself.
The Rudy Award for “No One Believes In Him Because They Can’t See It Every Week”
“My father loves Notre Dame football more than anything else in the world. He doesn’t believe I’m on the team … because he can’t see me during the games.”
That quote is from Rudy, and when I think of Eli Manning, I think of that quote.
I am always defending Eli Manning against the haters (and there are a lot of them), who see the numbers at the end of the day, but don’t realize how good he is. No, he is never going to put up the numbers that his brother puts up or the numbers that Philip Rivers puts up because the Chargers lack a running game, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t an elite quarterback in the NFL.
No, 13 interceptions in nine games isn’t good, but if you have watched every minute of Giants football this season and you have seen how those 13 picks have been compiled, then you would understand Eli a little better. The majority of his picks have been tipped by his receivers on balls that should have been caught. He isn’t throwing picks directly to the opposition the way that Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb do, but the box scores don’t provide the video necessary for those who can’t watch Eli to see exactly why he has thrown as many picks as he has this season.
Eli is better than the numbers suggest. Much better.
The Robbie Cano, Don’t Ya Know Award for “Being The Smoothest Player There Is And Having All The Talent In The World But Making Mental Mistakes”
Robinson Cano might very well be the AL MVP for 2010, but it took him long enough to finally put it all together and limit the amount of times he would make fans scratch their heads and wonder what is going through his mind. These instances still happen, but at a much lesser degree than they were happening two and three years ago.
Like Cano, Hakeem Nicks has all the talent in the world, and has the potential to be the best wide receiver in the league. The only problem is that he has these brain farts where he stops his route short, tips or drops a pass or just flat out misses a wide open catch for a huge gain. All three of these things happened to happen in the same game on Sunday and it’s no wonder that the Giants suffered their most embarrassing loss of the season.
I am a huge Hakeem Nicks fan and I think anyone that likes the Giants would say the same. But for all the talent the abilities he has, he needs to minimize the mistakes. If he does that, it’s scary how good he will be.
The Dennis Green Award for “He Is Who We Thought He Was”
Before the season began, I talked with Ralph Vacchiano, Giants beat writer for the New York Daily News, about Jacobs taking the backup role, and we both assumed there would be trouble on the horizon for Jacobs and his bad attitude. So far, there hasn’t been much complaining from the man who once made Giants fans forget about Tiki Barber, but he has been as ineffective as we thought he would be. Sure, he has a handful of TDs from the goal line that make his numbers look somewhat decent, but he has rarely made the necessary play to extend a drive or get the first down, and there was never a better example than in Sunday’s loss.
Jacobs was given the ball on fourth-and-1 and instead of moving his legs and plowing to get just three feet, the big back sort of just fell forward and the Giants turned the ball over at a crucial point in the game. It’s not all Jacobs’ fault though. You can’t put Jacobs into the game on a fourth-and-1 and not expect the defense to just clog the middle knowing that he isn’t going anywhere. With Jacobs in the backfield on fourth-and-1, there is one option and that is to drive his way straight forward. If Bradshaw had been in that situation, he could have gone to the outside if the middle was clogged or stayed up the middle if the defense was worried about him going to the outside. With Jacobs in the backfield, the Giants are one-dimensional when he gets the ball, and three years ago that wasn’t a problem, but he is nowhere near the same player he was three years ago.
The Late Night With Jimmy Fallon Award for “It’s A Mystery As To How You Still Have A Job”
This award could have easily been called the Sergio Mitre award because like Jimmy Fallon, no one is sure how Mitre is able to keep his job with the Yankees. I always figured that Mitre had dirt on Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman or compromising photos, and maybe the same goes for Jimmy Fallon and the NBC executives. The man ruined every Saturday Night Live skit by uncontrollably laughing to the point where Will Ferrell would give him the look like, “Hey stop ruining my show,” and then NBC gave him his own show to take over for Conan O’Brien. Fallon’s version of Late Night is so bad that my roommate and I will do my Jimmy Fallon Test a few times a week in which we put his show on at a random time and watch for five minutes to see if either of us laugh. We have never laughed.
I never understood why NBC didn’t just give Conan the same money he was making on the Tonight Show to go back to Late Night in New York, and then everyone would have had a show that had one before the Tonight Show debacle began, except for Jimmy Fallon. But no one would have cared.
Anyways, back to Reynaud. Now that he is hurt, the Giants actually have a chance to gain somewhat decent field position without him returning kicks and punts since I think the most yards I ever saw him get off either was maybe three yards. It’s pretty amazing that the Giants were winning the way they were when Reynaud was healthy given the terrible field position they would start with whenever he actually attempted to a run a kick or punt back.
The Chad Gaudin Award for “It’s Never Good To See You In The Game”
Another case of possibly blackmailing the front office, Matt Dodge is still a Giant after nine games. I had the under on three, so I lost a long time ago, but if this man keeps his job throughout the season, a lot of people will be surprised, including me.
I couldn’t believe that after how bad he was to start the year that the Giants didn’t just call up Jeff Feagles and say, “Hey, a blank check is going to be arriving in your mailbox today. Fill in the amount you want and cash it, and we’ll see you at practice tomorrow.”
I am scared that what we are seeing with Dodge after having Feagles for so long will be like life without Mariano Rivera (still hoping that never happens). Because when you have someone as good as Feagles who was just automatic and now you have a kid who basically rolls the dice every time the ball is snapped to him, well it’s just hard to watch. Nothing is automatic anymore. Nothing.
The South Park Award for “Being Wildly Popular And Then Falling Off The Face Of The Earth Only To Become Wildly Popular Once Again”
When I was in sixth grade, South Park took the world by storm. It was as big as Jersey Shore, Four Loko and Lady Gaga combined. Then over the next few years, the show began to fade and was ultimately forgotten about even though it was still on the air. Once it became an afterthought and pretty much a non-factor in pop culture, it slowly climbed back into the spotlight with its comedic take on current events and then grew so popular again that it made everyone wonder why there was ever a gap in success for the show since the talent and abilities were always there.
The same goes for Osi Umenyiora. Following Super Bowl XLII, Osi became a household name with sack after sack; he was dating Victoria’s Secret supermodel Selita Ebanks and was basically just living the dream as a Super Bowl champion. Then he was forced to miss all of 2008 when he tore his ACL in preseason and never became the same player in 2009 after fighting with defensive coordinator (not sure if putting that title in front of his name even makes sense) Bill Sheridan and eventually became a bench player for the Giants. Umenyiora made it public that he wanted out of New York and no one knew if he would be the a Giant in 2010, and if he was, which Osi would we see?
Well so far this season, Osi has been every bit as good as he was before the season-ending knee injury in 2008. He has nine sacks in nine games, which is already more than his 2009 total, and he is on pace to have a better season statistically than he did in 2007. It’s good to see the old Osi back along with his old attitude.
The Tom Coughlin Award for Undergoing The Scrutiny That Only Tom Coughlin Could Undergo
Only Tom Coughlin could have an award named after him in the midseason, and only he could win the award named after him. Mike Francesa likes to talk about the terrible treatment and injustices Coughlin has had to deal with since becoming head coach of the Giants, and I would have to say I agree. No other coach in the city that has had the type of success Coughlin has had and has had to deal with as much as Coughlin has. It seems like his job is in question multiple times a year, and he always seems to deflect the questions with wins (except for the 2009 meltdown).
This season Coughlin’s job security became the topic of discussion after the Giants started the season with a 1-2 record and Bill Cowher’s name began to come up in Google searches for New York Giants. But Coughlin got the Giants back on track with the help of Perry Fewell (aka the anti-Bill Sheridan), and now the Giants are tied for first place in the division after nine games.
My relationship with Tom Coughlin is an odd one. It’s a love/hate relationship I guess, but I think the hate end of the relationship is a lot more extreme than the love. If I were to write about Coughlin on Sunday night or Monday morning after the Dallas loss, it wouldn’t have been pretty. But when you’re a fan and you watch a man decide to go for some 4th-and-1′s and not others, despite being exactly the same situation, well it will make you a little angry.
Coughlin was the head coach of one of the best days of my life, so he will forever get a pass in my book. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get angry with him from time to time.
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