Of Shakespeare & Football

Much ado about nothing?

Much ink has been spilled about the Coughlin-led Giants famed second-half of the season collapses. We Giants fans have witnesses these unfolding train wrecks year after year, wringing our hands, gnashing our teeth’s, with the colorful among us throwing in a few expletives. And off course calling for the heads of our Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/Defensive Coordinator/Special Teams Coordinator/Water Boy (you pick). To be sure, there are plenty of possible answers, and some combinations too. Coughlin is clueless. Injuries (both nagging and serious) mount, as the season goes along. It’s tough playing quality football as the season turns cold, when you don’t have a run game (and can’t stop the run). It’s all Reese’s fault. The players lose motivation in the second half of the year, and the coaches don’t crack the whip. The Giants are Karma’s bitch. And on & on. To sleuth this in detail, I used the NFL site to research the Giants’ fortunes (as well as those of some other teams). Turns out, it is a familiar tale…with some unfamiliar twists

The fault my dear, lies not with Coughlin, but with the schedule-meisters (I am not sure if Shakespeare would have used words like schmuck, or meister, but then again, it is possible that he invented them)

To be sure, Coughlin’s Giants have always started out strong out of the gate. The worst year (if you can call it that) was a 5-3 start in 2009. But mostly it has been 6-2, with one 7-1. And quite uniformly, they have faced sub-par opposition, as measured by the End of Year (EOY) won-loss (W-L) records. In fact the only year in which Coughlin led Giants have faced quality opposition in the first half of the year was 2006(combined opposition record 74-54). In the rest of the years (between 05 & 12), they have faced the lowest quality opposition in the first half of the year (measured by W-L records) of perhaps most of the teams I examined.

YEAR 2005 2006 2007 2008


GIANTS RECORD, 1ST HALF 6 2 6 2 6 2 7 1

OPP RECORD, 1ST HALF 55 73 74 54 57 71 50 77

GIANTS RECORD, 2ND HALF 5 3 2 6 4 4 5 3

OPP RECORD, 2ND HALF 78 50 72 56 75 53 77 49

TOTAL, GIANTS 11 5 8 8 10 6 12 4

TOTAL, OPPOSITION 133 123 146 110 132 124 127 126

YEAR 2009 2010 2011 2012


GIANTS RECORD, 1ST HALF 5 3 6 2 6 2 6 2

OPP RECORD, 1ST HALF 61 67 55 73 55 73 60 67

GIANTS RECORD, 2ND HALF 3 5 3 5 3 5 3 5

OPP RECORD, 2ND HALF 76 52 78 50 78 50 73 55

TOTAL, GIANTS 8 8 9 7 9 7 9 7

TOTAL, OPPOSITION 137 119 133 123 133 123 133 122

So, what happens after the intermission? Well, you have to always pay the piper, as the saying goes, and the Giants do indeed, in spades. Since 06, the G-men have faced the most brutal gauntlet in the second half of the year. Without respite, year-in, year-out. Also, equally predictably, they swoon in the second half of the year. Only exceptions when the Giants were able to hold their head above water was in 2007 (4-4) and 2008 (5-3). In every other year since 05, it has been a losing cause in the second half of the year.

This scheduling snafu is no easy feat, mind you. One natural conclusion is, well they face quality opposition in the NFC East…but this fact typically cancels itself out, as they play the same teams in both halves of the year. Also, the failure of the opposition record at the time of the game to be a reliable predictor of W-L records by season halves lends credence to the idea that there is more than NFL East division rivals leading to this anomaly. Another explanation (I trotted this out to myself) is well, duh! They typicall face powerhouse out-of-division/conference teams in the second half of the year (NO, GB, NE ATL come to mind). But going thru individual records of each year, you find out that even within a division (AFC, NFC it doesn’t matter) the rankings of different teams changes over time. And invariably, the schedule-makers give the Giants the easy teams in the first half, and the tough teams in the second half. How they do this, without collusion, is indeed a mystery.

This pattern of first half & second half W-L record of the Giants does not correlate with record of opposing teams at the time they played them (not EOY). Nor does it correlate with points scored by them, or the opposition; individual game or cumulatively. What this means is that, it does not seem to matter if you run into a team with a hot winning streak at the time you play them, and either succumb to it, or put an end to it. And vis-à-vis, running into a team that can’t seem to tie its shoelaces at the time you play them, and either help them out by playing miserably or seemingly prolong their misery by piling up a win on them. Without fail, the competition that the Giants have faced is much stronger in the second half than the first. Without exception, in these years, they have faced teams that have mounted a combined mid-seventies win record, while losing in the low-fifties. So the natural question that must be asked is, is this common among other teams in the NFL? To answer this, I picked a few teams over the past 7 years & looked at their first half opposition, versus second half opposition. Caution – not all team records were examined, and this is not random. To get on this list, teams must have, in the previous year been playoff teams, usually conference champs, division champs, or superbowl winners/losers. And herein, lies the startling fact. Among the (bakers) dozen cases studies, only PIT in 2008 & GB in 2010 faced a tougher second half schedule, compared to the first. In no other case, could I detect as significant a bias in segregating winning teams versus losing teams in the two halves of a season. I haven’t studied every teams’ schedule, but something that happens 8 times out of 8 years on Giants schedule, doesn’t happen but twice else in dozen-odd other tries with other teams? Huh?

YEAR IND 2006 ARI 2008 CHI 2008 ATL 2009


TEAM RECORD, 1ST HALF 8 0 5 3 5 3 5 3

OPP RECORD, 1ST HALF 66 62 65 63 63 64 68 60

TEAM RECORD, 2ND HALF 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 5

OPP RECORD, 2ND HALF 62 66 63 65 58 70 61 67

TOTAL, TEAM 12 4 9 7 9 7 8 8

TOTAL, OPPOSITION 128 128 128 121 121 134 129 127

YEAR PIT 2009 NO 2009 NYJ 2010 NO 2010


TEAM RECORD, 1ST HALF 6 2 8 0 3 5 5 3

OPP RECORD, 1ST HALF 65 63 60 68 63 65 59 69

TEAM RECORD, 2ND HALF 2 6 5 3 5 3 6 2

OPP RECORD, 2ND HALF 60 68 52 76 63 65 61 67

TOTAL, TEAM 8 8 13 3 8 8 11 5

TOTAL, OPPOSITION 125 131 112 144 126 130 120 136

YEAR DAL 2010 NE 2011 PHI 2011


TEAM RECORD, 1ST HALF 1 7 5 3 3 5

OPP RECORD, 1ST HALF 63 65 65 63 61 67

TEAM RECORD, 2ND HALF 5 3 8 0 5 3

OPP RECORD, 2ND HALF 68 60 50 76 64 64

TOTAL, TEAM 6 10 13 3 8 8

TOTAL, OPPOSITION 131 125 115 139 125 131

What the schedule-man taketh away, he also giveth (what is with these Olde World sayings, anyway?)

As it happens many times, when you research a topic, you come away with a serendipitous insight, or at least, a thought for the day. Consider the following table



RECORD, 1ST HALF 6 2 6 2 5 3 6 2

OPP RECORD, 1st HALF 57 71 61 65 61 67 55 73

RECORD, 2ND HALF 4 4 6 2 5 3 3 5

OPP RECORD, 2ND HALF 75 53 72 55 72 56 78 50

TOTAL, TEAM 10 6 12 4 10 6 9 7

TOTAL, OPPOSITION 132 124 133 120 133 123 133 123

Of all the superbowl winners since 2005, these 3 teams stand out. In terms of facing a rough second half of the year. And getting their act together and going on to win a superbowl. The only explanation I can offer is that when you face a daunting set of challenges, and you come together as a team, and forge an identity, then the rest (walk down Canyon of Heros in your city of choice in February) is the easy part. Navy Seal training. Trial by fire. Whatever you want to call it. So rather than bemoan your fate, or curse the schedule-meisters, rejoice in the fact that the NFL is giving the Giants a chance every year….to be Superbowl Champs! Or it could just be coincidence. Happenstance. It turns out, this schedule quirk is neither a necessary, nor a sufficient condition for superbowl victory. Just an indicator that has worked 4 times in the past 5 years. And has not happened in the prior years, that I studied. And oh! BTW, none of the superbowl losers, since 2005, share this trait.

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