Yessir, its that time again. Had a SOTU at the beginning of the year (which you can find right here, and again, midseason (which you can find right here. Only makes sense to get one at the end. I'll also refer to some fanposts that I wrote as the season wore on, as a sort of look back to this season.
This is a long post, because it contains a lot of my thoughts and emotions regarding this season, so its just a disclaimer, I guess. And I have a lot of thoughts and emotions towards the season, ha.
Here we go.
My fellow Americans (and brisulph and other canadians),
Here we are again, at the end of another season. This one was special because it was intrinsically linked to a watershed moment in league history - the lockout.
Do you remember those days? We stood together - us fans - for what seemed like ages. Every single day, we listened to the same news recycled by Sportscenter. We essentially earned law degrees just to understand the jargon that was spit out, day after day. We watched as arguments between the players union and the NFL ownership flared up, then faded, only to flare up again, a bitter indictment towards the greed that had overarched over the entire sport.
We were captivated, held breathless in wonder and fear - what would "no football" mean? Surely, it wouldn't happen. It couldn't happen. Doubt crept in, until eventually we got tired of it. Anxiety turned into anger, which eventually dissipated into resignation. We didn't want to hear it anymore. We didn't care anymore. Just end it already! And in its darkest hours, it was through the leadership of a couple owners that pushed for an end. They too, were tired of it. Two owners, to be exact. John Mara and Robert Kraft. Little did they know that their leadership that brought about a fruition to this season would pay off in what seemed like destiny just five months later....
In an earlier SOTU, I mentioned that us getting Mark Herzlich would dramatically increase our karma. While that definitely seems true, I forgot to mention the great deeds by John Mara as well. Along with becoming a key figure in ending the dreaded lockout, he was one of the few owners (along with esteemed co-owner Steven Tisch) that kept all his employees on the payroll throughout the offseason. Make no mistake, the Giants are a business, but of the shark infested waters that the NFL is, the Giants proved why they are one of the few (along with the Packers, Steelers, and Patriots) Great Whites. Class. History. Power.
But enough of that. I'd rather forget those tedious summer months - I'm a Mets fan, so any proposition towards baseball only gets me more depressed - let's get on with the season.
Finally, the season is here! After tons of fretting about the Eagles, about our own faults at linebacker and at offensive line, about how the Cowboys were going to make a comeback, we can finally put aside our posturing and get on with the games. Better yet, we get to start off with a powderpuff! We get Rex Grossman and the Swinging-Gate-loving, lets walk all over 'em LOLskins!
So the season didn't start off as a rousing success. It was still only one game. We played the Rams next, and while we beat them, we hardly looked dominant. It was then that I wrote this fanpost. It wasn't my "best written" or longest fanpost, but its certainly the one that I was most proud of. Why? Because my words were somewhat prophetic that day. The quotes that stand out the most:
What this team brings to the table is resiliency. We may be the sloppiest team out there. We may play terribly for most of the game. We may be decimated by injuries. But our one saving grace may just be this mindset.
In the pregame, during John Gruden's interview, Tom Coughlin gave this quote: "We need that mental toughness...to go along with that physical toughness." I'll admit, when I saw that, I chuckled a little. No duh. But damn, after tonight, those words resonated the most strongly.
Toughness. Grit. Scrappiness. Fight. Overrated words, sure, but ones that fit this team perfectly.
Tom Coughlin in another interview was asked if the team was going to tank because of the pressure and the injuries. He said: "We cannot give up. We will not give up. There are no excuses in this locker room"
And as long as the Giants don't give up they have a chance. Despite all the step backs they'll take, if they fight on, there will be hope for this season.
That would be the key to the season. Our resiliency and our fight. We needed to take things personally. We needed to be punched in order to punch back. Well, the next week, we got our chance. The hated Philadelphia Eagles, led by none other than Lady Gaga herself were up next. We were their punching bags for the last three years. They destroyed our season last year with the Nightmare at the Meadowlands. Oh yeah, it was personal. We needed to kick ass and take names.
What did we do? Eli Manning threw for 250 some yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs and never looked back. We exposed them for the frauds they were. We stomped on them. It was one of the best feelings in the world.
After that, we reeled off a 3-1 record before heading into Foxborough. It was our biggest test yet, it would test our resolve the most. Once again, people doubted us. The great and handsome Tom Brady, coming off a loss to the Steelers, would not allow a second loss in a row, much less in the confines of New England. We didn't have chance. 7 point underdogs, even though we had the same record. What did we do? We punched them in the face.
We pulled a 2007 on them because that is the way it hurts the most. It showed that, as a team, the Giants were one to be reckoned with in the NFC. Of course, you know what happened next. We lost four straight.
Perhaps it was to be expected. The hallmark of a Tom Coughlin coached Giants team was inconsistency, and that was certainly something all year. We had become arrogant after the New England game. A close loss against one of the class of the NFC, San Francisco, then brought us to New Orleans. We walked in without a care in the world. We know what happened next.
As high as the high was from the New England game, equally low was the low that came from that debacle. I was angriest at that moment, in this fanpost right here. Same old Giants. Same old, inevitable collapse. I hadn't wavered in my belief into getting into the playoffs, but damn, if I were to lose it, it would have been then. I was frustrated. Angered. Perhaps the arrogance that we had shown had gotten into my head...into our heads... I think we lost sight of what made the Giants the Giants.
We may be Big Blue, but hell if I had known any better, the Giants should be Hulk-colored Green.
Well, whaddya know, there's a blue Hulk!
In any case, my point is...we need to be angry. And at that point, the team was seething. The coaches were seething. The fanbase, especially, were seething. We faced the Green Bay Packers, and boy, did we give them a run for their money. Amid questionable referee calls, we came within a final 30 second Aaron Rodgers game-winning drive from potentially winning the game. Suddenly, we felt again we had a chance against anybody. Amazing how a loss can do that sometimes.
Until, of course, you lose to Rex freaking Grossman again.....
(Yeah, I can't even begin to explain it)
So there we were, our backs against the wall, and the rest is...as they say...history. I won't go into much detail about the final six games, because, hell, what is there to say? Some things are better left just appreciated, rather than described, so I'll leave you with this:
New York Jets - Win
Dallas Cowboys - Win
Atlanta Falcons - Win
Green Bay Packers - Win
San Francisco 49ers - Win
New England Patriots - Win
That seems like a who's who tour of teams I'd love to beat down. Ideally, I'd replace the Falcons with the Eagles. Alas, that team wasn't good enough to make the playoffs, so it couldn't happen. The final game of the season - Super Bowl XLVI - was a microcosm of our entire season. Fast start, followed by a lull where the enemy catches up...only to be crushed by a 4th quarter comeback. Those last six games were our overarching 4th quarter comeback, they were our masterpiece, the perfect storm of anger, opportunity, health and focus, the piece de resistance, you get the picture.
In my first SOTU, I mentioned the identity that the team needed to take. Here's what I said:
The Giants....the front office has the look of being ruthless and professional. That is our identity and we need to seize it. Ruthless....and professional. You look to the leaders...Tuck and Eli.....professional, definitely. Ruthless? Not with those turnovers. We all know about our famed killer instinct....or lack thereof.This is the mindset the players need. Once we have this identity, the rest of the league will have no choice...
In the middle of the season, we lost that ruthlessness. That killer instinct. We didn't do what Coughlin had been saying from day one...."finish, finish, FINISH." With our backs against the wall, something clicked. I don't know how or why, whether it be from desperation or something. We realized that we were better than everyone else. We were not that soft serve cone that New Orleans made us out to be. We caught and held on to that resiliency.
We realized that if we were hungry enough, if we were angry enough, we'd be the ones with the foot on the throat of the opponent. And hell, the playoffs were a f***ing massacre.
After the revenge tour was over, I heard every excuse under the sun.
"We got hot at the right time"
"We got so lucky! Look at those lucky bounces the Giants got!"
"The best teams did not play in the Superbowl"
All of those are hilarious. For one, the whole "hot" thing. I don't know why that's even used by opposing fans as an indictment on overall team talent. To get hot, you need momentum. To get momentum, you need good play. To get good play, you need to be a good team. Not a talented group of individuals, a good team.
Similarly, what exactly is the difference between "luck" in these types of games, and opportunism. Every team makes mistakes. We've fumbled plenty. We had some bounces go our way, sure, but a lot of it was due to hustle in recovering our own mistakes. We caused plenty of fumbles, and recovered them as well. On both Kyle Williams fumbles, it took a good eye, and even better hustle from Devin Thomas to recover both fumbles. On top of that, we had more than a few individuals (Manning, Nicks, Cruz, Tuck, etc) performing at an extremely high level.
As far as the "best teams not playing," that's garbage. It's the reason we have the playoffs. Some teams lose, and some teams win. Simple as that. That reasoning is why the BCS is so controversial.
Whatever excuses/whining there is from detractors, it cannot take away the fact that the Giants have won the most superbowls out of anybody else in the past five years with 2. They are the only NFC team to go to the Superbowl more than once, going 3 times, since the turn of the century. They are one of only three teams to win multiple superbowls (the others being the Patriots and Steelers) since 2000. They have the best record in the NFC since 2005.
Nobody will ever admit to it, because quite frankly, it doesn't look like it...but the facts don't lie. The Giants are one of the dominant teams of this era. Like it or not (I get the feeling alot of BBVers love it).
One thing that I didn't do (did you notice), in my description of the season above was mention a lot of players. Or mention them with any sort of detail. That was done by design. My point?
To become world champions, you win as a team. No one can do it by themselves (though it's looked like it a couple times this season). Each win or loss can be credited and blamed to, and ONLY to, the team as a whole.
That being said, I'd like to mention a few players/coaches/general managers that helped make this dream of a season possible.
Eli Manning - This season starts and ends with Manning. The much maligned central figure for most of his career, he was cast into an exclusive group - a group of QBs with SB rings that were laughed at, pooped on, and generally disparaged. He joined the ranks of Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson. He suffered what I thought was the ultimate insult in not being included in the NFL Top 100 - a list compiled by his own contemporaries.
Manning, however, in true Eli Manning fashion, shrugged it off as easily as he does his shoulder pads after every throw. He went total FU mode all season, he captured that ruthlessness that we talked about. That killer instinct. That drive and desire to succeed, and went on to create a historic performance in the fourth quarter this season. Its crazy to think that he has not one, but two superbowl MVPs. Only five quarterbacks in the history of the game share that honor. All are either in the Hall of Fame or are assuredly Canton-bound. No reason to see why Eli doesn't fit the argument. The ice to Peyton's fire, he has quietly (and yes, its been quiet) ascended to being the best QB that New York has ever seen.
Ahmad Bradshaw - He didn't have a great season. Didn't even have a good season. But I read an article by Ohm Youngmisuk (which at this point, I cannot locate, so just trust me on this one), which detailed how every single day, Bradshaw, with nary a complaint, came into work. 5 minutes early, of course, and always with a smile as he saw teammates. He always came in smiling, laughing. He would always head to the trainer's room, every day, and his smile would turn into a grimace. He came in pain every. single. day. He'd get his foot worked on each day, having to skip practice on Wednesdays and Thursdays for fear that the cracked bone in his foot might devolve into something much worse and sideline him for the rest of the year, if not for his career. Michael Strahan called him "pound for pound the toughest guy he's ever seen." I don't know the man personally, but I'd be inclined to agree with him. He deserves a shoutout for that, which is why I included him here.
Hakeem Nicks/Victor Cruz - Mentioning both together here, because by now, they are intertwined. They together form the most dangerous WR duo in the NFL (formerly a trio, but losing Mario Manningham seems like a foregone conclusion). I won't say that one is better than the other, because that is a pointless argument. Some people will say Nicks has done it for longer, is more consistent. They'll say that Cruz is a one-hit wonder. Others will say that that was one hell of a hit. Both are right. All I'm going to do is enjoy the golden age of Giants offense, because we are most definitely in it. These guys both strike fear the hearts of the opponents, and that's quite the rare feat for a Giant WR. They are the ones responsible for pushing us over the top and keeping us in the lofty company of the offense juggernauts that are the Saints, Packers, and Patriots. What they have done this year, is simply remarkable. Cruz throughout the regular season, with big play after big play. Nicks with one of the best postseasons for a WR in NFL history in terms of yardage.
Jason Pierre-Paul/Osi Umenyiora/Justin Tuck - Again, I'm going to cop out and mention all three. Why? Because all three are connected to each other invariably. JPP has been the bell cow of the defense, and rightfully so. He's as close to a monster as humans can genetically get. Yet he's still raw, and still learning. Who is he learning from? Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. Tuck and Osi have been injured, and not always been 100%. They still were troopers and played their hearts out when they were on the field, regardless of effectiveness. Who opened up weaknesses for them? Jason Pierre-Paul. They are symbiotically attached, destined to play off each other, all coming together to swallow opposing offenses alive. And holy hell, has it been a thing of beauty to watch.
Tom Coughlin/Perry Fewell/Kevin Gilbride - I've doubted all three several times this season, as I'm sure many a Giant fan has, and with good reason. The coaching has been far from perfect. Fortunately, you don't need to be perfect to orchestrate the perfect ending. It's funny how if the Giants had lost one game from the last six, Tom Coughlin's legacy would be totally different. But that didn't happen, and Coughlin deserves accolades as much as any. When all is said and done, you'll have a bronze bust in Canton, staring disapprovingly at everybody for eternity, Tommy boy. And you know what? You deserve it. You represent the lowercase ny with as much class and honor as anybody.
Jerry Reese - The current iteration of the legacy of legendary general managers of this franchise. Starting with George Young, than to Ernie Accorsi, and than finally to Jerry Reese. You have two rings to your credit, Jerry. I don't think its a stretch to say that you are the best General Manager in the National Football League. You have had your detractors, but don't worry, I got your back. Had to do it twice, too. Here and again here.
I believe in Jerry Reese. He may be frustrating. He may look like he's twiddling his thumbs while his competitors make big splashes. But at the end of the day (thanks Antrel), he knows what the hell he's doing.
I had just wanted to touch on those guys for a little bit. Some extra thoughts, I suppose that I wanted to get out. That's not to say that players like Corey Webster, Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle, Brandon Jacobs, Mathias Kiwanuka, Chase Blackburn, Chris Canty, etc., didn't contribute to the title run. They all did just as much as the guys I talked about.
From Eli Manning, to the players in the scout team, each member of the New York Football Giants contributed, in some way to this glorious season. Yes, even the much maligned Travis Beckum and Clint Sintim. At the end of the day (again, thanks Antrel), they represented the lowercase ny with class and dignity. They all did their parts, and they are all worthy of their fans' admiration and respect.
Amidst the glow and fervor of the franchise's 4th Lombardi trophy (4th most all time) and 8th championship overall (3rd most all time), we look towards the future. More specifically, a title defense, which will be tougher than ever.
I've already touched upon the difficulty regarding our financial situation in a fanpost here.
With a well run organization like the Giants, there's no such thing as a closing window, or even a rebuilding period (though we've had several of those in the past). That doesn't mean that there won't be change, however. I feel like in the next three or four years, we'll have a changing of the guard. It has certainly started in many respects with the offensive line. By the start of the 2013 season, I don't expect to see anyone except Chris Snee from the 2007 championship run. We'll see the young guns on the defensive line take over. We know that will be the case with Linval Joseph and Jason Pierre-Paul, and I have high hopes for Marvin Austin.
There's been a revolution at LB, no doubt, with Jacquian Williams leading the pack. Similarly, Prince Amukamara will pave the way for a new dawn in the secondary in the coming years. However, with all the change coming, the biggest piece of the puzzle is still undoubtedly Eli Manning, who appears firmly entrenched for the next 6 to 8 years, barring any catastrophes.
He will have to be the rock, with Coughlin's time drawing to a close in the coming years as well. Though, Eli will be accompanied by the front office, who is as rock solid as ever, and will supply him with whatever is needed to succeed.
Next year is a new year. A year that will show the regression of a few players (like with McKenzie this year) and the emergence of others (Cruz, Pierre-Paul). We will have new fan favorites, new trials and tribulations. We look for impacts from Prince Amukamara and Marvin Austin. From Ramses Barden and Jerrel Jernigan. We'll look to see if Herzlich can take the next step in becoming a starter, we'll see who we bring back from free agency. We'll hope and pray that finally our LBzez will be set with Boley, Kiwi, and JWill. We'll have an entirely new draft class to look forward to (more on that in the weeks to come).
The title of my post lied. There really isn't an end. I think writing this was therapeutic for me. I'm still enjoying the beauty of this past season, but now I'm ready to move on.
I've already been mock drafting, reviewing film, and doing some amateur scouting. I've got a ton of new draft prospects to look at and talk about. We're about to start a new season. Our title defense is on the line. The biggest hindrance to it is complacency, the enemy of success. Our players need to be hungry, they need to be out looking for blood. And with Coughlin coming back, I have no doubt they will be. For us fans, its time to look to the draft.
Time to lock and load, guys. There is no offseason.