Palladino: Not Enough Incentive For Giants To Play Hard
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By Ernie Palladino
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While Rex Ryan continues to thwart the ever-growing (and ever-silly) notion that Matt Simms is some kind of answer to the Jets’ quarterback question, we turn now to the Giants and their problems.
To wit: Their season is all but over, and everyone believes that except a schedule guy who insists they play five more games. The Cowboys’ last-second field goal put an end to any playoff pipe dreams Sunday, at least any inside the outer circle where the longest of longshots reside.
Sitting 4-7 at this point in the season, the Giants need a world of things to happen to Philadelphia, Dallas and others to even think about the postseason. And even at that, it’s all predicated on Tom Coughlin’s team winning all five, three of which come against San Diego, Seattle and Detroit.
So, yeah, one can readily see exactly where this Giants season lies. Right in the dumpster.
Coughlin did spend some time talking about playing for pride, that the playoffs aren’t the only thing team members play for. You’d like to think he’s right. You’d like to think the Giants will go out these next five games and give it the old college try, even if that attempt looks more like Columbia University circa 1985.
But Coughlin also talked about accepting the realities of the situation. He was really talking about the record, and the all but irretrievable distance between the playoffs and 4-7. But he also could have been talking about the Giants’ character. That’s where this season gets even tougher than it has been.
Football players tend not to like the spoiler role. In truth, throwing a log across another team’s playoff road holds little merit. Better, always, that it should be your team risking a spoiling. The Giants aren’t in that position. Yet, Coughlin expects that his roster — battered and aging as it is — will play hard and win one for, well, the sake of winning.
It could happen. More likely, though, we’ll see the same lackluster, mistake-prone Giants that have disgraced every playing surface on their schedule. Only now, there won’t be half as much effort behind it.
The players and staff will argue that point. But the fact is, there is no reason for the Giants to play hard. After sitting out their fourth postseason of the last five, this team will be in for a major shakeup. So no one, save for a handful of younger players fighting for jobs, will have any reason to go out there and bust it.
No matter what happens, certain players must necessarily be shown the door. Too old, too hurt.
Players like David Diehl, who did the best he could but still fell well short of effectiveness, has met his time. He’ll have to go. Corey Webster, injured much of the season, wasn’t getting younger to begin with. Now that he’s 31 and hurt, the hope that he’s going to step up to his former level next year appears as dim as the current playoff possibilities.
Is it so far out from reality that the Giants could bid free agent Hakeem Nicks farewell after yet another subpar season? At the beginning of 2013 one would have thought that impossible. But now, with Nicks not having tasted the end zone once in 11 games, questions arise about whether he’ll ever again duplicate his high-water years of 2010 and 2011.
Chris Snee may never play again after hip surgery. Brandon Jacobs is clearly at the end. And Justin Tuck, hard as it is to verbalize it, is simply not the player he once was.
It happens like that. Teams get old all at once. Teams get hurt. Playoffs go out the window.
When it happens enough, players lose jobs. That’s what will happen to the Giants after they wrap it up Dec. 29 at MetLife Stadium against Washington.
So why would a player bother risking injury if he all but knows his fate?
The stock answer is, “Because they’re keeping score.”
But Coughlin spoke about his team having to accept realities. This is one. The old coach simply can’t expect his team to play hard the rest of the way.
There’s just not enough on the line.
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