It could be a long scoring drive for a touchdown. It could be one blown assignment resulting in a big play. It could be key pass completion given up without getting any pressure on the quarterback.
It doesn't really matter what it is. Honestly, it could be be just about anything. Every time something goes awry for the 2009 New York Giants' defense, just about every Giants' fan will have the same gut reaction.
"Would that have just happened if Steve Spagnuolo was still running the defense?"
You know it. I know it. Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese probably know it. Bill Sheridan, the new defensive coordinator with the unenviable task of replacing the popular and amazingly successful Spagnuolo -- now head coach in St. Louis -- definitely knows it.
We have good players. There is no tip toeing around that, we have quality players. We have had them. And Jerry and Marc Ross and Dave Gettleman continue to bring them in and we have good players. Probably more comforting is that we have a fantastic coaching staff, a returning staff and add Jim Herrmann (linebackers) to the mix; I couldn’t have fallen into a better situation.
Sheridan coached the Giants' linebackers for Spagnuolo the past two seasons. He knows the story.
He knows Spagnuolo turned a passive, under-performing unit under the direction of Tim Lewis into an attacking, dominating unit that helped the Giants win a Super Bowl in 2007. He knows that last season Spagnuolo used his creativity to help a unit that lost Osi Umenyiora to injury and Michael Strahan to retirement remain among the league's best.
He knows Spagnuolo did it with a no holds barred, get after the quarterback at any price style. He knows he was hired because Coughlin expects his defense to continue that style, and to be built around pressuring quarterbacks from a variety of places and in a variety of ways.
He knows the Giants loaded up in the off-season, adding defensive linemen Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard, and linebackers Michael Boley and No. 2 draft pick Clint Sintim. He knows Umenyiora will be back this season, fully recovered from knee surgery.
He knows, in other words, that failure is not an option. He has the pieces to run a dominant, championship-caliber defense. He know that is what will be expected, and that is all that is acceptable.
Here is a great exchange in a recent Q&A with Sheridan.
Q: Is that additional pressure on you, like "I don’t want to screw this up" kind of pressure?
A: No, and I really don’t think like that. That is a fair question. I’m licking my chops; I can’t wait to get going in the fall. We have 10-15 really important practices coming up this spring with the OTAs and the mini camp. And those are very important. Anything we do is important. We don’t ever just do things to put time in. So that will all be important because we will have some new wrinkles. Each year you study other teams in the league and you modify some of the things you are doing. So we will add some new installation and the players will be fired up about that because it is new. And those practices are important. And we are developing players for the spring as well. But I don’t view it that way as far as additional pressure to screw it up. I just know that we are in a very good situation with good players and a fantastic, experienced coaching staff. And so I’m just licking my chops and can’t wait to get going. We are going to be good.
I think Sheridan is right. This Giants' defense should be very good -- provided its coordinator is up to the challenge in his first season ever in that capacity.
If this defense does not perform up to expectations, we all know where the finger will point.
Sheridan knows it, too.