Breaking Down A Defense Of Giants' Special Teams Coach Tom Quinn

If you have been here at Big Blue View for any length of time, you understand that I am not exactly enamored with New York Giants special teams coach Tom Quinn. I have beaten the drum for a while now for the Giants to move on from Quinn.

Like I did on Jan. 2nd of this year:

I can't imagine how anyone can find justification for special teams coach Tom Quinn keeping his job. The Philadelphia debacle with the onside kick the Giants were unprepared for and the game-winning punt return on the final play by DeSean Jackson should be the final straw. Overall, the Giants special teams have been among the league's worst the entire time Quinn has been in charge, which is a terrible indictment of a team that believes it has one of the league's best rosters.

On Sept. 28th of last year:

The Giants have shuffled special teams players again and again the past couple of seasons, and still the problem remains.

It mystifies me that the Giants have never been able to see that the biggest problem on special teams is not the players they are using. It's the guy trying to coordinate them.

On. Jan. 10th of 2010:

Please, don't try to tell me poor special teams play is an indication of a dearth of talent. It can be, sure, but not with this team. The Giants won the 2007 Super Bowl, were 11-1 at one point in 2008 and were thought to have championship level talent entering 2009. They have had plenty of talent to get the job done.

So, why haven't they? Whether it is poor schemes, poor strategic choices, poor use of available personnel I don't know. I just know it has to fall on Quinn. And a change needs to be made.

So, why does he still have a job? Beats me.

So, admittedly I do not come to any debate about Quinn objectively. Thus, when Yahoo! Sports recently published what amounts to a defense of Quinn in its latest 'Giants Team Report' I was curious to see how that argument was going to be framed. In fairness, the writer does raise some good points regarding the Giants' special teams. I am still, though, far from convinced that the blame, ultimately, does not lie at Quinn's feet.

Let's take a look at some of the arguments raised in the team report.

The writer points out that the Giants averaged just 6.1 yards on punt returns while surrendering 14.9 yards per return. Rightly, the article mentions the loss of returner Domenik Hixon and the struggles of inconsistent rookie punter Matt Dodge.

That argument has merit since Hixon averaged 14.2 yards per return in 2009 and with Jeff Feagles punting the Giants surrendered just 247 return yards, vs. the 536 return yards compiled with Dodge punting.

Dodge's inconsistency is, of course, one of the major issues. The articles states that "While Dodge tried his hardest to learn how to kick directionally, he struggled with ball placement."

My problem is this. Blame Dodge all you want, but whose idea was it to completely break down the mechanics of a rookie seventh-round draft pick and make him change everything about the way he kicked the ball? If GM Jerry Reese drafted the guy, the Giants must have thought he had ability. So, why not let him settle in before trying to change him? Plus, why try to make Dodge the holder for Lawrence Tynes, heaping another responsibility on him that he did not need and, ultimately, could not handle.

Those things are, in my mind, on Quinn.

The writer also points to "the constant changing of the personnel each week" as a potential reason for problems in coverage on both punts and kickoffs. To be fair, the writer does acknowledge that every team faces weekly changes.

I am not buying the "changing personnel" theory. Every team in the league does, of course, have new players on its special teams units each week due to injuries and decisions about which players will/won't be active. Coverage techniques are not rocket science, and some of the players brought in mid-season -- like defensive back Brian Jackson and receiver Devin Thomas -- were among the better coverage guys.

One other area is kick returns. Yes, you can make the argument that the Giants simply did not have an explosive return man. Darius Reynaud was awful, averaging just 18.4 yards on 21 returns. DJ Ware was not much better, getting just 20.6 yards per return. How much can be blamed on the returners, though, and how often were they simply buried at the 15-yard line. Even in 2009 the Giants were 28th in the league in kickoff returns. My question: Why can't the Giants figure out how to block kickoff returns? Is that on the players, or is it the scheme. Since the rules changes disallowing the three-man wedge on kickoff returns prior to the 2009 season the Giants have been awful.

Using Pro Football Focus numbers, the Giants were -3.7 on special teams in 2008, -7.5 overall in 2009 and -20.2 in 2010.

Using Football Outsiders DVOA stats, the Giants ranked 19th in the league in special teams play in 2007, 11th in 2008, 27th in 2009 and 30th in 2010.

So, by whatever measure you choose in Quinn's four seasons the best the Giants special teams have ever been is adequate and, in the last two seasons, they have been among the worst in the league. Sure, some of the 2010 struggles are due to the losses of Hixon and Feagles.

I believe, though, that the entire body of evidence during Quinn's tenure makes it clear that those two losses are not the only problem.

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