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Coughlin needs to re-assess offensive approach

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Tom Coughlin has to accept responsibility for the Giants' ineptitude Sunday, and also for their recent offensive struggles. (Getty Images)
Tom Coughlin has a lot of explaining to do in the wake of the Giants' dismal performance Sunday against the Washington Redskins. Largely, he needs to explain why the Giants threw the ball 52 times on a freezing, blustery night where throwing the ball and catching it were difficult at best.

Coughlin, justifiably, took a lot of heat from the media Sunday and Monday in regards to the play calling.

Perhaps the best rant came from Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News in his Blue Screen blog.

The play-calling and game plan on a frigid night with high, swirling winds was, to say the least, bizarre.

It was as if they either didn't check the weather report or simply forgot who their quarterback was. We've all seen Eli Manning struggle on calm, 70-degree days, and then they come out throwing on a night with sustained winds of nearly 20 mph? They talk all week long about establishing the run and needing to rely on Brandon Jacobs, and then open the game in a five-receiver set? Then, after a moment of sanity sees Jacobs run for 17 yards on the second play, they throw again on the next three plays, including three throws deep?

My complaint isn't even about the numbers, though throwing 52 times and running only 28 was way out of whack for a game that wasn't that out of reach. It's about situations. It's about series like the one near the end of the first half when they threw on 2nd and 1, and then threw deep on 3rd and 1 (the series where their ineptitude was bailed out by Redskins safety LaRon Landry's stupidity).

And what about when the Giants trailed by only 12 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter and the offense was beginning to click. They have a 1st and 10 from the Washington 20 and not only do they not run once, but they go for it all and throw for the end zone twice? In that wind? With that quarterback? On a day when he was completing only 34.6%?

Or the next series, with plenty of time still left, when they throw on 2nd-and-1, 3rd-and-1, and 4th-and-1? On a night when Jacobs carried only 25 times for an impressive 130 yards? And on a night when Ahmad Bradshaw and Reuben Droughns were well rested since they each only carried the ball once?

When did the Giants start running the run and shoot?

It would be easy to throw offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride under the bus here, but the truth is we don't yet know whom to blame. Remember, when the Giants came out throwing in the second half in that quagmire in London two months ago everyone screamed about Gilbride's play-calling until it turned out Manning audibled out of two runs.

Coughlin deserves his share of the blame, too. He's heavily involved in the offensive game-planning, and if the run-pass balance is that out of whack, it's his responsibility to get it back under control. Someone desperately needed to do that last night, because that's not the way you win a game at Giants Stadium on a cold and windy winter's night.

That plan wasn't smart at all.

I happen to agree with every word Vacchiano wrote. Perhaps one of the reasons why the Giants have struggled in December under Coughlin is simply this. He's a pass-happy head coach who seems to want to run an offense ill-suited to the swirling winds of Giants Stadium in December, especially with a quarterback who struggles to throw the ball on target under the best of conditions.

Truth is, the Giants have been struggling to score for weeks. To be honest, I think that has a lot to do with their approach. Too much Eli Manning and trying to get the big play, not enough Brandon Jacobs, Reuben Droughns and Ahmad Bradshaw and trying to control the clock.

The Giants use the run, but never commit to it totally. A game like Sunday's, and December football in the Northeast in general, is made for a back like Brandon Jacobs. Yes, he carried 25 times. But perhaps if he had carried a couple more and Reuben Droughns had 8-10 carries the Giants would have been more consistent on offense.

Also, there is no excuse for not getting first downs with 2nd and 1 or 2. Run the ball, take the first down and move down the field.

The Giants have the weapons both offensively and defensively to play smash-mouth, grind it out, beat the opposition down December football.

It's about time Coughlin learns to use them.