Eli Manning of the New York Giants walks off the field dejected as Richard Sherman of the Seatle Seahawks celebrates after defeating the Giants 36-25 at MetLife Stadium on October 9, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
If you ever listen to Carl Banks during radio broadcasts of New York Giants games, or during any of his other radio or TV appearances, you know that the former Giants' linebacker is not shy when it comes to dishing out pointed criticisms of players or coaches. His career accomplishments allow him to do that, and while I don't always agree with him what he says can often be thought-provoking.
Banks' comments will be in italic, followed by my thoughts.
Banks said the Giants should have run the football on first down from the Seattle 10, trailing 29-25, "instead of running a predictable pass play."
I saw some of you say the same thing in post-game comments. I see the logic considering there was more than a minute remaining and the Giants had three timeouts. I have to go back to this, though. The Giants had not been able to run the ball all day, what makes you think they could have run it there?
My issue is not with the throw, but with the mid-range pass thrown designed to go in the middle of the field. Getting to the five really does you no good, it's just a wasted play that limits your number of chances to get into the end zone. Plus, the middle is where bad things -- like deflections -- turn into game-deciding interceptions returned for touchdowns. Throw the ball into the end zone. Or, try a screen out wide for Ahmad Bradshaw that might create open field running space for him.
"Lack of discipline is when you make a bad decision with the football when you don't have to," Banks said. "Lack of discipline is being too predictable. Every time you (the Giants) come off a penalty you are passing the football."
Banks is opining there that quarterback Eli Manning made a bad decision with the football. I totally disagree. He has to throw that ball to Cruz as the break is being made, and he did. Cruz was open, and would have been right where the ball was placed without the slip. Again, I think the larger issue there is the mid-range play call with Cruz as the primary target is probably not the right call.
The second part of Banks statement -- passing the ball every time they come off a penalty -- might be accurate. Again, I don't have a problem with a pass in the first-down at the 10 scenario -- just the mid-range, middle-of-the-field play call itself.
"When you see the play there were three defenders there (around Cruz). Hindsight is always 20-20, but you had another option - Ahmad Bradshaw was standing to the back side of that play wide open, nobody covered him."
Well, sure. It is incredibly easy to see from hundreds of feet above the field, or on All-22 film, that Manning had another option. Cruz, though, was the primary target on a play designed to get about half the distance the Giants needed and he was open. The quarterback is only coming off of him to a safety valve like Bradshaw if he looks and the guy is not open. Bradshaw would likely be the last guy Manning would locate on the play, so ripping him for not going there isn't really fair.
On the fact that the Giants now pass to set up the run: "To be honest it's Tom (Coughlin) and (Kevin) Gilbride (the offensive coordinator), they go over the game plan. You know Tom likes passing the ball, too. It's all good when it works. Look, I can see where they're frustrated because they don't run the ball very well, but I think they've got to figure it out."
Yes, it is the head coach and the offensive coordinator. Yes, TC loves the pass despite his constant preaching about running the ball. Yes, Gilbride is a former run 'n shoot coordinator whose instinct is to turn to the pass when he needs a play. That's how it is, and everyone has known that for a long time. Yes, they do have to figure out the running game. They know it, and it is obvious they are trying.
Here is the thing I have to go back to. When the game is on the line in the closing minute why would you do something (run the ball) that has not worked all season and take the ball out of the hands of a quarterback (Manning) who has been playing mostly spectacular football for the last month? If they run the ball there, probably on a shotgun draw, and it goes backwards I can just hear the screaming about the stupidity and predictability of the play call.
"First-and-10 defense for the Giants has been horrible. They haven't stopped the run since the first game of the season. You'll never even see third down if teams can run the ball for seven or eight or 47 yards on first down."
Banks is 100 percent right here. Let me put it this way -- the honeymoon is over for Giants' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. There are too many blips, too many inconsistencies, too many mistakes from a defense too talented and experienced to play that way for me not to be critical of the second-year defensive coordinator. This defense, even with the injuries, should be better than this. The fact that it isn't lands at the feet of the defensive coordinator.
Coughlin has talked for weeks about defenders failing to maintain "gap responsibility." I really, really hate to go here, but you know what that makes me think of? The 2009 season with Bill Sheridan as coordinator, when guys admittedly did not believe in what was being taught or called, and started doing their own things in efforts to make plays.
There is a huge difference between the incompetent Sheridan and the professional Fewell, but the problem remains the same. Guys don't jump out of their gaps or abandon their responsibilities if they a) trust their teammates and b) believe in what they are being asked to do.
"You can win in spite of mistakes. But in football, it normally manifests itself all at once when you least need it," Banks said. "Last season special teams were bad, especially the coverage teams, but they were winning in spite of. But when you needed it to be good you couldn't count on it."
Banks is exactly right here. Occasionally you can get by with mistakes, when the opponent is inferior or makes bigger ones than you do. You can't be a consistent, winning, playoff football team when you are your own worst enemy and continue to make the same undisciplined types of errors.