By Neil Keefe
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I have been downgraded from John Beckwith status.

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After a few days to let the worst loss since the 24-point blown lead-Trey Junkin-Pass interference game against the 49ers on January 3, 2003 (the biggest comeback in NFL playoff history), I have picked myself up off the mat and am hoping the Giants have too.

In about 15 minutes real time on Sunday, I went from being upset that I didn’t hammer the Giants at -3 to being upset that I just watched a division title, first-round bye and possible postseason berth be taken away altogether like I was living through It’s A Wonderful Life and hoping Clarence could return the Giants to the postseason.

My love/hate relationship with Tom Coughlin is back to hate and if the Giants lose to the Packers on Sunday and miss out on the playoffs, I hope Coughlin enjoys a job doing something other than coaching the Giants because I don’t think I can honestly take missing the playoffs again. Sure there is a downside to Coughlin leaving since Eli Manning has only known one coach in the NFL and who’s to say that someone else will do a better job? But another year without postseason football with this team and I think I’m ready to find out.

You know who I’m not mad at from Sunday’s loss? Matt Dodge. That’s right, Matt Dodge. And I’m not mad because every time I write about the Giants I write about how bad Matt Dodge is or how untrustworthy he is or how at the start of every Giants game I hope that Jeff Feagles will come running out of the tunnel with his No. 18 jersey shining in the sun. It’s no secret that Dodge should be anything other than a professional football punter, but for some reason Tom Coughlin has kept him on the team for 15 weeks and is prepared to lose his job and career with Matt Dodge as his punter.

Following DeSean Jackson’s punt return, Coughlin went right after Dodge, belittling him for everyone to see on FOX. I don’t have a problem with a coach doing what Coughlin did, but the circumstances didn’t really warrant that type of response from Coughlin. Did I miss something on Sunday? Did Matt Dodge allow 21 unanswered points in a handful of minutes prior to the punt return? Was he the head coach for the most obvious onside kick situation in NFL history? Was he careless with the ball and fumbled on the sideline to ignite an Eagles’ comeback? Just checking. Because I didn’t see anyone get in Coughlin’s face when he fell asleep during the Eagles’ onside kick or when he changed his offensive plan in the final minutes to make sure the Eagles would get the ball enough times to tie the game.

So here we are. A few days away from a game that will likely decide the fate of Tom Coughlin’s future with the Giants and a game that will determine if the Giants miss the playoffs for the second straight season, and will determine if for the sixth time in seven years under Coughlin the Giants don’t win a playoff game.

The only thing I wanted for Christmas was Cliff Lee, and when he decided to sign with the Phillies I didn’t know what I wanted. Then I realized that the Yankees rotation is still in shambles and the Giants went out and took their own playoff berth away from themselves, and I decided to redo my Christmas list since I suddenly wanted new things. And if I can’t have Cliff Lee, which I can’t, then this is what I want.

Something That Resembles A Starting Rotation That Can Compete In the AL East
Brian Cashman has backed himself into a corner. First Cliff Lee turned down Yankees money and then Zack Greinke was traded to the Brewers, so for those of you scoring at home, let’s recap Brian Cashman’s offseason:

1. Let contract negotiations with the face of the franchise and the most iconic Yankee in generations turn public and messy, and then told No. 2 to “test the market” if he wasn’t happy with the Yankees’ offer. History! Tradition! Pride! Power! Pinstripes!

2. Only wanted to offer the greatest closer in the history of baseball a one-year deal (because you know, the Yankees have someone waiting in the wings to be the closer in 2012). This move forced the greatest closer in the history of baseball to talk to the Red Sox about becoming their closer, and only then did the Yankees decide that No. 42 was worth a two-year deal.

3. Rappelled off a building in Stamford, Conn. pretending to be an elf.

4. Had dinner with Carl Crawford. Hours later Crawford signed a seven-year deal with the Red Sox.

5. Offered Cliff Lee a six-year deal and said he would not budge. Then the Red Sox signed Crawford and he upped the deal to seven year. Then he lost out on Cliff Lee, which was the Yankees’ only expected move of the offseason.

6. Signed Russell Martin, who is coming off a season in which he hit .248 with five home runs and 26 RBIs. Then says Martin will be the starting catcher instead of Jesus Montero – the one player aside from Austin Jackson (who Cashman traded) that all Yankees fans have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of for several years.

7. Watched as Kerry Wood took a one-year deal for $1.5 million from the Cubs instead of what would have been a reported two-year deal for $10 million from the Yankees.

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8. Impersonated Axl Rose by telling Yankees fans that the team is going to be “patient.”

The first seven things made me think that maybe 2011 would be a lost season in the Bronx, but the eighth one pretty much put a guarantee on it. I watched Theo Epstein and the Red Sox front office tell Bostonians about “pitching defense” and “run prevention” the past two years following the missed Mark Teixeira deal in which the Red Sox really had no backup plan until they could get Adrian Gonzalez. But this season the Red Sox finally decided to spend some of the money that was nearly stolen in The Town and because of it have shifted the power in the AL East back in their favor. We are looking at a similar situation with Cashman in that he doesn’t know what to do and is using “patience” to buy some time with the fans before he decides that Jeff Francis would be a good fit for the rotation. Ask Jeff Francis who Dustin Pedroia is.

With each day that passes with Andy Pettitte still unsure about his 2011 plans, I have to suffer thinking about a rotation of CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes, and then A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova and who knows who else? If you are in the group that trusts A.J. Burnett and for some reason thinks that he will be anything other than average at best, you are way too optimistic. In two seasons in New York he has gone 23-24 with a 4.62 ERA on a 103-win team and a 95-win team. He has won once in six postseason starts and had the worst statistical season of any Yankee pitcher in history! In the words of Mugatu, “Doesn’t anybody notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”

It would be nice to make a deal for Felix Hernandez or Josh Johnson or someone that would make this rotation a force. But since that’s unlikely, I will settle for Fausto Carmona or someone from that next tier. But please, not Jeff Francis. Anybody but Jeff Francis!

The New York Football Giants To Make The Playoffs
When the Giants were up 31-10, everything was beginning to fall in place for them, at least I thought it was, when in reality everything was really about to fall apart.

The Giants were going to beat the Eagles, win the NFC East and possibly get a first-round bye in the postseason just four weeks after losing to the Eagles and igniting a series of second-half collapse stories. The Giants were going to clean up the Yankees’ mess of not getting Cliff Lee for me the same way that they cleaned up the Yankees’ mess my senior year of college by beating the Patriots after the Yankees destroyed my freshman year in 2004.

Sometime after the Giants looked like they had driven the final dagger through the Eagles, my roommate Redz texted me and said, “The Giants are going to the Super Bowl. This is sick.” And I couldn’t help but think, “This just might happen this year. The offense is strong, the defense is back and the pass rush looks unbelievable.” Then in 15 minutes it was all over.

I don’t think you can have your wife cheat on you, take all your money and find out your kids aren’t really your kids and decide to get back out and start dating the following weekend. It just doesn’t work like that. And I don’t know if the Giants can come back from such a devastating defeat and win in Lambeau Field this Sunday no matter what Antrel Rolle says or guarantees.

But that’s where we are. One win away from the playoffs or one won loss away from watching jobs be lost and accountability take on a whole new meaning. With eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter on Sunday this scenario was unimaginable because according to the game clock and the score it was impossible unless every single play fell inline. And they did.

January and February are bad enough. I don’t need to have to watch the NFL playoffs without the Giants participating while the Jets dominate the sports talk in the city and while my Boston friends get to sit back and enjoy a first-round bye with the Patriots. I don’t want the Giants to make the playoffs. I need the Giants to make the playoffs. Please make the playoffs!

The Knicks To Land Carmelo Anthony And The Garden To Keep On Rocking
I wasn’t sure if I would ever say this, but Knicks games are fun to watch again. Like really fun. It’s fun to see people going crazy and having a good time as the MSG cameras pan the arena with “Rock and Roll (Part 2)”echoing throughout the building. Sure, the Garden is about 15 years behind on their music collection, but then again, that was about the last time people cared about the Knicks, so it’s understandable. The Garden is finally rocking the way people thought it would if LeBron James came to the city to revive basketball, but it’s doing it even without him.

Carmelo Anthony has made it clear that the only place he will play for more than a rental is in the Garden. He is doing his best to hold up the Nuggets for any deal that isn’t to New York, and so far it’s working. Anthony is going to be a Knick whether it’s next week or the week after or at the trade deadline or after the season, but it’s going to happen, and the sooner it does, the better.

I am torn on the idea that by the Knicks picking apart what they have right now for Anthony will hurt them, but when it comes down to it, it’s obvious the Knicks aren’t ready to win right now (shown by their home losses to Boston and Miami), but a move for Melo is a move in the right direction and a step closer to the building a team that can win.

I want the Garden to keep playing “Rock and Roll (Part 2)” and “Born to Be Wild” and “Takin’ Care of Business” and “Strike It Up” and every song from every Jock Rock and Jock Jams CD, and the best way to do so is if the Garden becomes Carmelo Anthony’s new home.

Merry Christmas!

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