Today is a very disappointing day for New York Giants' fans.
The season has ended much too soon, sooner than it was supposed to. Perhaps we were spoiled by last season's unexpected Super Bowl title, and most definitely by the 11-1 start this team got off to.
As the season unfolded it felt like this team was on the cusp of something special, something historic. This proud, original NFL franchise has never won back-to-back titles, and we thought this would be the year. We thought the Giants of the past two seasons might go down as the most special New York Giants team of all time.
Alas, the Philadelphia Eagles had other ideas. The Eagles came to the Meadowlands and shattered the dream Sunday, ending the Giants' dreams with a well-earned 23-11 victory.
I won't succumb to being bitter today, though. An opportunity has been lost, but there is hardly reason to throw around words like disgrace, to start calling for the firing of coaches or to start demanding wholesale changes on either side of the football. I know losing to the Eagles makes it hurt more, but take time to look at the big picture.
No matter what team you root for, you wish your team could win every single game and be the champion every single season. It simply doesn't happen that way, however.
However you rank them, the Giants were unquestionably among the best teams in the NFL this season. They will be among the best again next season, and quite possibly for many seasons to come.
As 'queler' said in his Fanpost "that was one of the greatest 365 days of Giants football I can remember."
Indeed it was. Be thankful for it.
Be thankful that you still have a deep, talented roster that has quality young players at almost every position.
Be thankful that, despite his struggles Sunday, you have a quarterback in Eli Manning who isn't done winning big games.
Be thankful that you have a terrific head coach in Tom Coughlin who has taken his team to the playoffs four consecutive years, and isn't done winning yet.
Be thankful that you have a great general manager in Jerry Reese who can identify the weak spots on this roster and has proven he knows how to fill them. Oh, and be thankful he has some extra draft picks to play with this April.
The season did not turn out the way we wanted, or hoped, or maybe even expected. But I do not think the final chapter has been written for the core group that leads this Giants' football team.
I think there are plenty of good memories still to be made by this team. I am thankful for that.
Now, on to the traditional 'Kudos & Wet Willies.'
Kudos to ...
There's plenty of crummy stuff to talk about. Let's start with some of the good things, though.
- Terrell Thomas: A brilliant special teams play to down a ball inside the 5-yard line, and a couple of quarterback pressues while blitzing. It appears that GM Jerry Reese struck gold with Thomas, his second-round pick in 2008.
Run defense: Gotta give it up for what the Giants did in this department, basically making Brian Westbrook (18 carries, 36 yards) a non-factor. I didn't think that was possible, but the Giants did it. I also didn't think it was possible to do that and still lose, but the Giants did that, too. Michael Johnson and Antonio Pierce, in particular, had excellent games defending the run. It was a total team effort, though.
- Brandon Jacobs: Gained 92 yards on 19 carries, and should have had a huge day. The only problem Jacobs had is the Giants simply did not give him the ball nearly enough. The big fella ran really well. Now, the Giants need to pay the free-agent to-be and lock him up for the next few seasons.
- Ahmad Bradshaw: A game-opening 65-yard kickoff return, and some nice efforts on a couple of other run backs. Only one question, Ahmad. Where has that been? That was the Bradshaw we expected to see all season -- and that we need to see next season.
Justin Tuck: The All-Pro defensive end gave everything he had, creating a safety and making five tackles while playing on one healthy leg. Tuck needs more help next season, which he should get with the return of Osi Umenyiora.
Wet Willies to ...
Now we get to the ugly stuff. I think these are pretty predictable if you watched the game, but we have to go through them.
- Eli Manning: As good as Eli was during last season's run to the Super Bowl, he was that bad Sunday. Not Jake Delhomme bad, mind you, but bad. Eli was just 15-for-29 for 169 yards and 2 interceptions. He threw only a handful of quality passes all day. The winds were awful at Giants Stadium, and they obviously affected Eli. For whatever reason -- arm strength, lack of a consistent spiral, I don't really know -- Eli always seems to struggle with the wind. It didn't help that he was consistently being asked to throw the ball down the field instead of short, but by the end of the game even his short throws were off target. Manning connected on one long pass to Domenik Hixon, but there were several plays to be made where Eli simply could not get the ball there. And the interception he threw that turned into the Eagles first touchdown was a horrible throw, matched only by the incredibly stupid play call.
- Kevin Gilbride: Let's get this straight right now -- Gilbride had a crappy game Sunday. I wanted to jump through the TV, rip his headset off and start calling the plays myself. But, Gilbride is not going to get fired. . TC and JR simply won't do that. The only way he isn't the offensive coordinator next season is if Al Davis is silly enough to hire him to be Oakland's head coach, and I think the chance of that is slim. All of that said, I'd like to know just what the devil Gilbride thought he was trying to do Sunday. Deep ball after ball despite the fact that it was obvious Eli could not accurately make the deep throw. A stupid deep pass play when the Giants were backed up and going into the wind that ended up in an interception that Philly turned into 7 points. The stubborn refusal to ride Brandon Jacobs, who was obviously fresh and frisky, and let the Giants do what they do best. Overall, I will still say Gilbride has done a good job as Giants OC. The number of points they have scored this season backs that up. But, KG does not adjust well to weather conditions, and he never fully adapted to the Giants not having Plaxico Burress anymore.
- Plaxico Burress: Speaking of the idiot wide receiver who shot himself in the leg, it seems he also shot the Giants season in the heart. Missing Burress was not the Giants only problem Sunday, but you have to be honest with yourself and admit that the Giants could have used a big, tall No. 1 receiver who could go up and grab an off-target pass or two in traffic. Fact is, whether you can pin it on Plax or not, the Giants offense was never the same after his nightclub fiasco.
- John Carney: At 44, Carney was a great story and had a great season for the Giants. Sunday, though, Carney's veteran consistency could not make up for his lack of leg strength. He missed from 46 and 47 yards, with the second kick being particularly bad. It simply died on the way to the goal posts without nearly enough on it to cut through the wind. I have to wonder why Lawrence Tynes wasn't summoned for the last attempt. Those misses were devastating. Have fun in Hawaii, John, then have a nice retirement.
- Pass rush: OK, another thing we have not wanted to admit, but that has been obvious for a while now is that the Giants desperately missed Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan. Justin Tuck is great, and Mathias Kiwanuka is OK at defensive end, but the Giants simply have not been able to generate a pass rush from their front four for about two months now. The only way they get near a quarterback is to sell out and send six or seven guys. Plus, the lack of depth left Tuck and defensive tackle Fred Robbins gassed by Sunday. Neither one was nearly as effective as they had been the first half of the season.
- Offensive line: All year long we heard about how the Giants' offensive line was probably the best in the game. They nicknamed themselves the 'New York Blocking Department,' got on magazine covers, got Pro Bowl invitations and All-Pro recognition. But twice when it mattered most in the fourth quarter the vaunted NYBD could not budge the Eagles on fourth down runs. Forget the play-calling. If your line is supposed to be that good, you have to be able to gain six inches, and the Giants couldn't do it.
That's all I can do for now. Don't jump off the bridge, Giants' fans. This is a team that won a Super Bowl, followed it with a division title, has lots of young talent, a great coach and GM, and extra draft picks thanks to the Jeremy Shockey trade. The future remains bright.