New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin made 'Build The Bridge' his theme for the 2012 NFL season. Meaning, he wants his team to build a nice, sturdy bridge from the 6-0 run to Super Bowl glory at the end of last season to another solid season and deep playoff run this time around.
Only, the Giants have not started along that path very well. Wednesday's season-opening 24-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys showed that Coughlin's bridge is either a) still under construction or b) not very sturdy. You choose the way that you want to look at it.
Right now, I see it as a rickety bridge filled with holes, rotted boards, faulty footings, what have you. The bridge, from where I sit, looks way too much like the one the Giants tried to cross over on during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, and the 7-7 first 14 games of last season. You can get across, sure, but it's an adventure. A dangerous one at that, where crossing is far from guaranteed.
One loss following a Super Bowl season is, of course, not something to panic over. What is upsetting, though, is that many of the issues that plagued the Giants before last season's Super Bowl run were present again on Wednesday night. Tom Coughlin certainly noticed the holes in his bridge.
"Alarming is probably a good word. Upsetting, that we would make the run we did and come back to some of these issues. Now that’s not taking anything away from Dallas about their ability. Their defensive football team, their offensive team, with the addition of their two new guards and the runner healthy again, they’ve got a very good team, there’s no question about that, but we know that. And when we played them twice a year ago, they had a very good team," coughlin said on Thursday. "Disappointed because the idea of us coming into the regular season full speed ahead with our issues under control, that’s obviously not the case."
What are "these issues" Coughlin was referring to? He did not specifically list all of them, but he didn't have to. If you have been watching the Giants for a while, you can pretty much recite the list in your sleep.
- Trouble in short-yardage and the red zone? Check.
- Trouble running the football consistently? Which, incidentally, contributes to the first issue. Check.
- Inconsistent protection for quarterback Eli Manning? Check.
- Turnovers that negate scoring opportunities? Check.
- Inability to consistently defend the run? Check.
- Too many big plays surrendered by the pass defense? Check.
- Inability to cover the slant route? Check.
- No big plays from the kick and punt return teams? Check.
They are all familiar issues. They were present for most of the 2011 regular season. Many of them have been present a good deal of the time since 2009.
"We lacked consistency; we lacked fundamental technique play at the position with consistency pretty much everywhere," Coughlin said, although he did seem happier with the return game than the numbers indicated might have been warranted. "We’re still very disappointed, obviously, in the goal line aspect of our game, with the ball on the one-yard line and the inability to score. Simple fact of the matter is, defensively, they score three of the four times they had the ball in the second half. That is a concern."
Coughlin and his staff have a little bit of extra time to get back to work on their bridge and try to patch/rebuild/re-engineer at least some of the rickety parts of the bridge. Having played on Wednesday they now have until Sept. 16, when the Giants host, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to find some answers.
"There will be a renewed conviction about preparation and practice, we do know that we have a lot of work to do. I think that the players, their eyes are open to the fact that we lost a football game that we certainly thought we had a chance to win," Coughlin said. "Certainly, we’re looking hard at every aspect. We’re challenging our team as to whether or not all the time that we are utilizing whether it be jog through, meetings, practices, or whatever, whether it’s being used properly. There’s a degree of accountability for everybody. It starts with me obviously, and the coaches as well. There’s obviously some technique work going on that’s not good enough. There isn’t any question if I’m looking at it. Yeah I’m looking at it, and I’m not shying away. Anytime a team doesn’t play as the way they should, it’s my responsibility."
The next time we see the Giants we will get an idea of whether or not Coughlin's bridge is in any better shape.