By Neil Keefe
» More columns
If you wasted part of your Sunday watching the Giants, I don’t feel sorry for you. I don’t feel sorry for anyone like myself that watched the Giants game because we all should have learned by now. We should have known better than to think that the team that had their season saved in a span of five minutes and 41 seconds of improbable events last Sunday night would do anything other than take their second chance for granted.
I was prepared for the Giants season to be over with 5:41 left last week and the Giants trailing the Cowboys by 12 points. But then they had to come back and win and suck me in and make me believe they could make the playoffs and maybe go on the sort of run we saw from them four years ago. I’m a sucker. No really, I am. I have fallen for this same act year after year and I fell for it again because of last Sunday. When will I lean? Better yet, will I ever learn?
The Redskins had absolutely nothing to play for on Sunday. Absolutely nothing. Other than that the game was on their schedule and that it was their one of their last three chances to add to or improve their season stats and that a win would screw up the Giants’ season, they had no incentive to win on Sunday. But maybe playing for nothing was enough for them.
The Giants had everything to play for. They were given a second life in their season to make the second season and three games in a row at home to win and set up an easy path to the postseason where they would host a playoff game for the first time since 2008 and just the second time since 2005. But maybe playing for everything wasn’t enough for them.
I watched Mean Streets on Friday night and I can’t stop thinking about how the New York Giants are Johnny Boy (Robert DeNiro) from the movie and how the fans are Charlie (Harvey Keitel). Johnny Boy is a screw-up that everyone else knows as a loser and a joke and someone they wouldn’t want to associate with, but somehow Charlie sees the good in him after growing up with him and feels the need to support him and vouch for him and his debts by giving him unlimited chances to turn his life around. But Johnny Boy takes Charlie for granted and never changes his reckless lifestyle.
Like Johnny Boy telling Charlie he will pay off his debts next week and then the week after that and then the week after, the Giants keep promising to be prepared next week and the week after and the week after that. Following the loss to the Redskins they made their excuses to the media and then preached change for their Christmas Eve game against the Jets. The same change they have promised after the other six losses this season. And if they lay an egg against the Jets and the Cowboys lose to the Eagles, they will tell us that the Week 17 game against the Cowboys is the only game that has mattered all along. It won’t end until there isn’t another week for them to prepare for. It won’t end until Tom Coughlin is packing up his desk and office into empty Amazon and Dell cardboard boxes and wondering what he’s going to do in 2012.
I honestly wish the Giants lost on last Sunday night against the Cowboys. I’m serious. It would have made this loss a lot easier knowing that the season were over and would have given me an extra week to accept the idea that the Giants wouldn’t be playing in the postseason for the third straight year and would have allowed me to try and fathom how another year of Eli Manning’s prime has been wasted by this team and this coaching staff.
I don’t understand “optimism” when it comes Giants fans. This team isn’t good. Their 7-7 record says so. Their 1-5 run since beating the Patriots says so. Their -38 point differential says so. Their two losses to Rex Grossman and losses to Charvaris Whiteson, Alex Smith and Vince Young say so. By the end of Sunday’s game I was so depressed that I needed a good laugh and with 4:12 left, Corey Webster provided it when he broke up a pass in the end zone for a would-be touchdown and then celebrated to the fans sitting in the back of the end zone. The Redskins were leading 23-3 at the time. (Granted Webster and Jason Pierre-Paul have been the only two consistently good defensive players this year, but really? Save the celebrations for another time.)
It was the same old song and dance from the Giants after their embarrassing loss to the Redskins that reopened the wound they stitched up last Sunday. Tom Coughlin and his players threw out a lot of clichés and a lot of promises to blow smoke up everyone’s ass that cares about this team and to those that have wasted 15 weeks waiting for some form of consistency.
Let’s look at some of the postgame quotes from the Giants as they search for answers as to how Rex Grossman (you know the guy who lost his job to John Beck this season) beat them twice in the same season.
Chris Canty on blowing an easy opportunity for a win: “We had a tremendous opportunity here against a division opponent and we let it slip through our fingers. We didn’t take advantage of it and we did not play New York Giants football.”
There’s no truth to the rumors that Chris Canty will be hosting a HBO comedy special this offseason. The guy is hilarious, isn’t he? Wait, he was serious when he said, “We did not play New York Giants football?” Is this real life? You didn’t play New York Giants football? Umm, actually that’s exactly what you did. I know you’re semi-new around here, but what happened against the Redskins is what Giants football is. Being humiliated at home and losing to four-win teams and playing .500 football and being undisciplined and unprepared is Giants football.
Antrel Rolle on the frustrating loss: “I have said that we are the better team but they [Washington] beat us twice so clearly they’re the better team at this moment.”
It doesn’t matter what Antrel Rolle says at the end of the day. He can say that Washington sucks or that the Giants will do this or that they will accomplish that, but none of it matters at the end of the day. At the end of the day, does anyone believe anything that Antrel Rolle says anymore at the end of the day? If Rolle told me that Christmas is this Sunday, I wouldn’t believe him at this point.
Last week we had to here about how he was mad at Cris Collinsworth’s analysis of him not covering Dez Bryant. According to Rolle, he was right where he was supposed to be. But then this week, Rolle missed several tackles and many big plays happened on his side of the field. Was he where he was supposed to be on every play against the Redskins? Maybe Collinsworth was on to something?
Rolle has spent most of his time this year guaranteeing stuff like Ray Zalinsky. Does he even know what “guarantee” means? It means, “to promise or assure a particular outcome.” Can we just use guarantees in sports for significant events like playoff games and championships? Antrel Rolle shouldn’t have to guarantee postseason berths. With this team and this talent, that should be a given at the end of the day.
Tom Coughlin on the lack of running plays in the first half: “We planned to do more and have more. The first three plays were three incomplete passes in a row and had we have gotten a first down, you would have had a good mix of run and pass but that didn’t take place. You didn’t see many plays in the first half. The first 15 probably had more passes than runs but not to an excessive extent. It just didn’t work out the way we would have liked it to.”
How can you plan to do more running and not do it? You do realize that you are the head coach and therefore you have the final say, right? And you do realize that your team calls its own offensive plays, right? So, if you plan on running it more, you can. You can run it as many times as you want. You can run it on every play if you want. You can run it on zero plays if you want. What does that answer even mean?
Tom Coughlin on how to improve the pass coverage: “You just keep working at it and keep trying. We keep maneuvering around and changing coverages and trying to get people in the best possible spots. We are trying to understand what the opponent will do to us. That continues.”
I take it Coughlin didn’t fully grasp the “trail and error” method in school. If you try something and it fails, try something else. It doesn’t seem like the defense keeps working at anything other than just playing the same way they have played all season.
Prince Amukamara on how tough it was for the secondary: “The quarterback made plays, the receivers made plays and they completed passes on us.”
Ah, nothing like Prince Amukamara going with the “Bill Belichick” in the postgame. (The “Bill Belichick “is saying “They made more plays than we did.” It’s the ultimate copout.)
I’m glad he noticed that the Redskins completed passes on the Giants since most of those passes were on his side of the field. I remember when everyone was talking about the defense’s struggles earlier in the season, but the consensus was “the secondary will get better when Prince is healthy.” Is it possible that the secondary is worse off with the Giants’ first-round as part of it? I think it’s certainly a question that can be asked. It seems funny now that I included him as part of the devastating injuries when I talked with the Daily News’ Ralph Vacchiano prior to the start of the season.
Brandon Jacobs on the emotion and passion from the Giants: “We didn’t play well. We were disappointed in each other. We disappointed our fans. We just have to play better. We didn’t want it bad enough the first time we played these guys and we didn’t want it bad enough this time.”
How is it possible that the same guy who gave us that quote also gave us this one just a few weeks ago?
“I’m playing for my teammates, my brothers. That’s who I care about. I don’t care about anybody else to be honest with you. I don’t care if [fans] cheer for me another day. They could boo me every day.”
So the guy who doesn’t care about the fans and doesn’t care about being booed all of a sudden feels bad that he let the fans down? If there’s only two games left in the Giants season, at least there’s only two games left of Brandon Jacobs as a Giant.
Justin Tuck on the loss: “Obviously the one word that comes to mind is disappointing, a little bit embarrassed. Knowing what we had at stake, it is disappointing.”
Disappointing? Why that’s a nice way to put it. But just “a little bit embarrassed?” You lost to the four-win (before today) Redskins at home. You lost to Rex Grossman again. I would say you could use “embarrassed” without “a little bit” in front of it. We’re way passed being “a little bit embarrassed.”
And, how about Tuck and Rolle’s war of words after the game? If the season is going to go down in flames, they might as well make a spectacle of it.
Antrel Rolle is in no place to criticize or call anyone out on this team. He has made a lot of public promises and has acted as a leader to the media, but in reality he has been one of the team’s biggest defensive problems. How many shots of a wide open receiver catching a third-and-long pass and then Rolle and Aaron Ross entering the pictures five seconds later are we going to see?
Justin Tuck is in no place to get mad over criticism. Yes, he has been injured, and I’m not going to say he hasn’t been as injured as he has led people to believe like other members of the league and the media have suggested, but Tuck has been a disappointment. He was supposed to be the face of the defense starting when Michael Strahan, but he has had a hard time living up to that status consistently.
I’m just glad we can add locker room divide and using the media to as a trash-talking messenger to the problems this Giants team faces. It wouldn’t be a second-half collapse without it!
Justin Tuck on if the Giants can make the playoffs: “I still have the most confidence in this football team. Sometimes we come out and lay an egg and today we laid an egg but I have seen us rebound so many times in my short career here and I know the character of the guys in that locker room.”
There were a lot of times during Will Ferrell’s Saturday Night Live career when I wondered how he was able to keep a straight face. There was his Robert Goulet and Gus Chiggins and Mr. Tarkanian and hundreds of others. Most of the time I wondered how he was able to keep a straight face while other cast members (mainly Jimmy Fallon who actually used Saturday’s SNL monologue to make fun of himself for this) laughed at Ferrell’s performance. Well, Justin Tuck used his best Will Ferrell SNL impression with this quote. Seriously, how do you say you “still have the most confidence in this football team?” I think I have less confidence in this team than I did in last year’s team that starred in the Week 15 Eagles debacle, or 2009′s team that started out 5-0, finished 8-8 and gave up 85 points in their last two games. Confidence? I don’t think so.
I could see “Sometimes we come out and lay an egg” painted on the Giants’ locker room wall or on a sign hanging in the tunnel on the way from the locker room to the field. But sometimes the Giants lay eggs? The Giants have lost five of six. That means in the last six games they have laid an egg 83.3 percent of the time. Is that “some of the time?” OK, if you don’t want to use a sample size, then they are 7-7 and have laid an egg 50 percent of the time this season. Half of the time, isn’t “sometimes” it’s “half of the time.”
Tuck’s “short career” is now seven seasons. That’s not exactly “short.” In that time the Giants have lost 20-0 at home in the first round of the playoffs; lost in the first round in the playoffs; had maybe the best Super Bowl run in history; lost in the first round of the playoffs at home; missed the playoffs; missed the playoffs; and right now might miss the playoffs again. So aside from the glorious 2007 playoff run, they have rebounded in exactly zero other seasons. Somehow, Tuck must have erased this from his memory.
Eli Manning on what to tell the fans after the loss: “We’re competing and we’re trying to win. We didn’t play as well as we needed to today and Washington played better than us. We’re sorry about that, but we’re going to get back to work and get ready for the Jets.”
I have nothing negative to say about Eli Manning. Yes, he threw three interceptions and had his worst game of the season in a game the Giants should have won. When it rains, it pours with the Giants and every Giant seemed to have their worst game of the season today. But Eli is also the reason for the team’s seven wins, so he’s allowed to have a bad game every once in a while. The rest of the team gets to have one every week, so it’s not surprising that he finally decided to have one too to balance things out. (He also made the perfect pass to Hakeem Nicks that Nicks dropped for a would-be touchdown, which was the turning point of the game. If Nicks catches it, the Giants take a 7-3 lead, and suddenly the Redskins, who have nothing to play for are playing a meaningless game from behind rather than with house money.)
Like Eli said, the Giants are sorry, even if sorry doesn’t make it and doesn’t make a team make the playoffs. But don’t worry, everyone, the Giants are going to get back to work and get ready for the Jets next week, just like Johnny Boy telling Charlie he will have the money for his debts next week. And the Giants will keep telling us this until they run out of weeks to prepare for. They always do.
Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilKeefe