Well, let's examine Graziano's point. Are the New York Giants, as currently constructed, built to win?
Graziano's main belief seems to be that general manager Jerry Reese has not done a good enough job giving coach Tom Coughlin a competitive roster to work with. A couple of weeks ago I wrote that Reese deserved 'kudos' for not panicking when the Giants had a rough preseason. I still believe that, for the scope of that discussion, he does.
Certainly, though, not all of Reese's moves have panned out. He is a good general manager, but there is undeniably room to criticize what he has done -- both in acquiring free agents and his use of the middle to late rounds of the NFL Draft. Here is part of what Graziano wrote:
The Saints destroyed them. They rolled up 577 yards of total offense and moved the ball at will on their way to a 49-24 victory behind Drew Brees and his ensemble cast of seemingly interchangeable offensive weapons. And all night, from the very beginning, there was nothing the Giants could do to stop them.
The only reason this might possibly be a surprise is because of where the Giants were three weeks ago. After beating the Patriots in Foxborough, they were 6-2, well in front of the NFC East and feeling as though they could beat anyone. But that was the mirage, and this is the reality that has underlay this Giants season since their stagnant offseason and the start of training camp. They don't have enough, personnel-wise, to hang with a team like the Saints.
That's not on the coaching staff, folks. That's on GM Jerry Reese. The Giants aren't one of those teams on which the head coach has final say over personnel moves. With the Giants, Reese does. And while he seems to get a bit of a free pass from his fan base, he hasn't done a good enough job making those moves over the past few years, and the cracks in the roster are showing it. ...
The problems aren't scheme-related or coach-related. The Giants' problem right now is that their roster was too thin to begin with and is seriously fraying due to the rash of injuries that has befallen it.
I didn't mean for this to become a referendum specifically on Reese, rather an examination of the roster itself.
Let's look at the defense that was torched by New Orleans for 577 yards. The pass rush is what the Giants are built for, and for whatever reason you want to pin that on Perry Fewell's unit is badly exposed when that rush does not control games.
Coach Tom Coughlin said Monday that the Giants "didn't cover very well," which is true.Despite the rash of season-ending injuries (Terrell Thomas, Bruce Johnson, Brian Witherspoon, Justin Tryon, Michael Coe) cornerback is not the problem. Corey Webster, Aaron Ross and Prince Amukamara give the Giants three good ones.
The problems in this defense are at linebacker and safety.
Linebacker -- Everyone was excited when the season began and the Giants had four promising rookie linebackers on their roster. Well, without Jonathan Goff and Michael Boley that honeymoon is over. There is a reason why Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger and Greg Jones were late-round draft picks or undrafted free agents. While each has shown some ability, not one of them is ready to be an every-down linebacker in the NFL. Their mistakes, and their weaknesses, have proven devastating to the Giants.
Mathias Kiwanuka is a veteran, but also still an inexperienced linebacker. He has been an incredible force against the run, but zone reads in coverage are still tricky for him.
Safety -- Simply put, the Giants do not have enough speed at this position. Their safeties cannot cover people, and they often aren't fast enough to fill the gaps in their zone coverage responsibilties. Deon Grant is a statue, and any time teams need a completion they target him. Antrel Rolle has been miscast as a slot corner much of the season. Tyler Sash is not the answer -- at least not right now. Do you really want to throw another rookie, and not a fast rookie, into a defense which already has a lot of inexperience and can't get lined up?
Could Reese have done a better job at those two spots? We have talked seemingly forever about how the Giants have not taken a linebacker early in the draft, and they did pass on Mason Foster in the third round this year to select wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan. The Giants are now bringing back former backup Chase Blackburn, a move they could have made as early as Week 2 and you could say they have paid for the decision not to the past couple of weeks. Reese, though, can't be faulted for the misfortune that befell Chad Jones.
On offense, the problem is in the offensive line. Releasing Rich Seubert and Shaun O'Hara at the beginning of the season simply had to be done, and it is telling that neither player has gotten an NFL job since. The problem is that center David Baas, Reese's one big free-agent acquisition, has not met expectations, that Chris Snee and Kareem McKenzie appear to be on the down sides of their careers, and there are no young, able replacements in sight. Mitch Petrus, drafted in the fifth round two years ago, is hardly ever active. James Brewer, fourth-round pick this year, is not ready and -- if preseason was any indication -- may never be an NFL player.
So, sure Reese can and should take a hit for some of those decisions.
Back to the question of whether or not the Giants are built to win. They have a roster built initially for the purpose of winning, and built with many of the proper pieces to give them a chance. I think, though, that Graziano is right when he says "this roster just isn't good enough." At least not good enough to be championship-caliber. I believe this roster -- thin though it is in some spots -- is good enough to get to the playoffs.
If they don't make the playoffs it won't be because they aren't good enough. It will simply be because the guys they have left did not play well enough.