By Ernie Palladino
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Tuesday night was the time for making New Year’s resolutions. Wednesday is the time for starting them.
We all know how that goes. Once that hair-of-the-dog remedy clears the haze of midnight celebration, the reality that actually keeping those resolutions takes work hits us. It doesn’t take long before all those good intentions become a pile of fiction, maybe even lies, forgotten and forgiven within days if not minutes.
So perhaps Wednesday is as good a day as any to lay out five real truths concerning our two football teams. No phony resolutions, but real things that have happened or need to be done in order to avoid a repeat of a sad, unproductive 2013.
TRUTH No. 1: Tom Coughlin will coach the Giants in 2014 and beyond, for as long as he wishes. Both co-owner John Mara and GM Jerry Reese were straightforward Monday in saying they wanted Coughlin back, and Coughlin said he definitely wants to be back. Whatever discussions they’ll have to have will involve extending a contract that runs out after 2014, not immediate job security.
The bottom line here is that Coughlin will probably get a nominal extension, which he’ll happily take. Mara and Reese are smart enough to know that Coughlin hasn’t turned dumb since 2011, and that his work ethic at a ripened 67 knows no equal. They love the guy. And those two Lombardi Trophies in the Quest Diagnostics Training Center lobby indicate that it ultimately will be Coughlin who decides if and when he steps down as the Giants’ leader.
TRUTH No. 2: Now that we’ve settled Coughlin, let’s talk about Reese. The heat is on him to replenish the holes that are going to pop up in the lineup. Hakeem Nicks, a talented wide receiver who spent much of the season cutting off routes, lollygagging after imperfectly thrown balls and short-arming Eli Manning’s catchable throws cannot be re-signed at the numbers he’s talking about.
Although Jerrel Jernigan played well in the finale against Washington, it’s a big question whether he’s the complement Victor Cruz needs. Taking a wide receiver high in the draft wouldn’t be an outlandish pick. It had better be a good one, though. In fact, Reese needs a good draft, period. Less than 20 of his 47 selections since 2008 remain with the squad, and only a handful of them have made significant contributions. If he doesn’t give Coughlin better stock this year, the GM could be out of a job come 2015.
TRUTH No. 3: Speaking of drafts, Jets GM John Idzik shouldn’t feel too confident now that the Rex Ryan issue has been settled. No matter how famously he and his coach get along from here on, that relationship will soon sour if he doesn’t find a quarterback. Geno Smith proved this year he’s not the answer, so Idzik must start all over again. He wanted to put his stamp on the squad last year with Smith and it blew up on him. It happens. He gets a mulligan.
But if he doesn’t come up with the Jets’ quarterback of the present and future in this quarterback-rich draft, he’ll need to start thinking about his own job security. As many as four quarterbacks could go in the first round. One of them had better come Idzik’s way. Must do. And that’s no resolution, that’s the truth.
TRUTH No. 4: Ryan’s defense was fine this year, up to a point. The secondary needs help. Even if Dee Milliner takes that next step and starts to consistently play like a first-round cornerback, that position lacks depth. It might be time to spend some free-agent money on a wily veteran who can step in if Milliner stumbles again. Besides, Antonio Cromartie could be heading for hip surgery, and we all know how tricky that can be.
The safeties are fine, but the cornerback and nickel spots definitely need upgrading. He’ll have to use some of the $26 million of cap space he’ll clear by releasing Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes and hitting Cromartie with a pay cut on the secondary. Another must do on Idzik’s list.
TRUTH No. 5: Three straight playoff misses for the Jets, four out of five for the Giants. That’s a combined seven-of-eight for those keeping score, and those numbers add up to nothing but bad. The Giants may be on the way down despite a 7-3 finish.
The Jets, supposedly on the way up, have yet to prove it. Both teams had better come around, or the teams’ respective ownerships will be greeting a lot of hostile fans and empty seats at MetLife Stadium. That’s an owner’s worst nightmare, and that’s the truth.
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