I listen to way too much talk radio, though blabbermouth Mike Francesa is on my 'avoid at all costs' list. I have even learned, in small doses, to tolerate ESPN's Colin Cow
dung, er, herd
I guess this is what happens when you have as much time on your hands as I have had for the past year or so.
Anyway, I don't bring this up to discuss the quality of sports talk radio (although I will say I miss Tony Kornheiser on the radio). I bring this up because of a discussion Cowherd has Monday with ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer.
Dilfer was discussing the New England Patriots, and why they continue to be a dominant force year-in and year-out despite loads of changes to both the personnel and the coaching staff.
Dilfer was a middling quarterback, but he is a terrific analyst. He made the point that Bill Belichick and the Patriots identify the strengths and weaknesses of their personnel better than any team in the NFL, and do a tremendous job of making sure players are asked only to do things they are good at.
It's a great point. The job of a coaching staff is to put players in the best possible position to succeed. That means identifying what they do well, and what they do poorly, and not putting them in positions where they are bound to fail.
This brings me, of course, to the New York Giants. After four straight losses, the direct question has to be this. Have head coach Tom Coughlin and coordinators Bill Sheridan and Kevin Gilbride been consistently putting the players in the best position to win football games?
Before I answer, a little disclosure. You guys know I come at this debate as a huge supporter of Coughlin. Four straight playoff appearances and a Super Bowl title means I think he deserves support. Not to mention eight playoff appearances in 13 season as a head coach. There are a lot of NFL teams who would love to have TC on their sideline. TC is not perfect, but he does know what he is doing.
You also know that I have supported Gilbride on many occasions, and will continue to do so when it is warranted. He is hardly to blame for every ill that befalls the Giants. That said, I am not blind to his imperfections. As for Sheridan, he has a lot to prove before anyone can say he is up to his job.
Anyway, back to the original question. Has the Giants' coaching staff consistently been putting players in the best possible position to succeed?
Undeniably, the answer to that has to be no. During the four-game losing streak I would say not even close.
- How many more times are we going to see the zone blitz before Sheridan understands that Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora cannot cover tight ends, and should not be asked to?
- The final San Diego drive Sunday included two ill-conceived defenses. Mike Garafolo nearly had a stroke going off on Sheridan for leaving Corey Webster singled up on Vincent Jackson on the decisive play. The other badly-designed defense was asking Michael Boley to cover Darren Sproles one-on-one, which resulted in a huge play for the Chargers. Boley had no chance, and no help.
- We watched the Giants try to use C.C. Brown as a deep cover safety for weeks, despite the fact that in four years in Houston he was never asked to do that. Brown is terrible, sure, but that was never going to work. The Giants should have known that.
- We are seeing blitzes, sure, but we are seeing blitzers run straight into blockers. That means the offenses are seeing exactly what is coming. We are also seeing a lot of blitzes that come from way off the ball, and will never get there.
I do not believe offense is the biggest problem for the Giants. I have said that repeatedly. That said, there are things that deserve to be picked on.
- Brandon Jacobs is the Giants best offensive player, and the tone-setter for the unit. Yet, week after week he is under-utilized. The past three weeks Ahmad Bradshaw has carried 35 times for 92 yards, a 2.6 yards per carry average. Jacobs has carried 44 times for 229 yards, a 5.2 average. He had 20 of those carries in the blowout loss to the Eagles, which is kind of bizarre. I love AB, but Jacobs has got to see the ball more often. Eleven carries against the Chargers, when Bradshaw had 14, are not enough.
Steve Smith is a great short-yardage and intermediate receiver. The Giants use him that way, but a couple times each game they try to push the ball to him deep. It never works. Let Smith do what he does, and throw that deep ball to somebody else. You might actually connect on one.
The Red/Green Zone. I don't have all the answers here, but it has been a problem for years.The Giants seem to have no real answer for how to fix it. In any type of short-yardage, though, I want to see the Giants stop trying to just blast straight ahead. To say the least, they don't do it well.
- Can we please remember to use Kevin Boss as a weapon all the time, instead of just in the Red/Green Zone?
- Breakdowns every week, it seems. I want to focus on the punting game, though, and I am going to hit Coughlin here. Jeff Feagles has been terrible in recent weeks, and I am pinning some of the blame for that on TC. It seems he has become afraid of his punt coverage unit, and wants everything kicked out of bounds. I know the kickoff return coverage can be suspect, but when is the last time the Giants gave up a big punt return? I think part of why Feagles has been shanking punts all over the place is that TC has him paranoid about leaving anything in bounds, which is silly for one of the game's best directional punters. Show some faith, Tom!
There are plenty of breakdowns that can be pinned on the players, and plenty of players not performing up to their reputations. That is hardly all on the coaching staff. I do think, though, that Coughlin and his staff need to take a hard look at what they are asking, and the approach they are taking, each week.
Maybe the bye will allow them to do that. Let's hope so.