How do you blame Tom Coughlin for the New York Giants having 15 players on injured reserve?
How do you blame Coughlin for the Giants entering Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with five starters on the 53-man roster (Mathias Kiwanuka, Justin Pugh, Cullen Jenkins, Adam Snyder and Jacquian Williams) being unable to play due to injuries.
How do you blame Coughlin for the Giants losing an unimaginable six players during the game?
How do you blame Coughlin for Rashad Jennings' blockheaded move, trying to pick up a fumble in the end zone and either run or kneel with it instead of just falling on it, costing the Giants five points?
How do you blame Coughlin for Larry Donnell fumbling -- again?
How do you blame Coughlin for the Giants' complete inability to recognize and contain the read option, despite the fact that they spend a lot of time practicing and playing against it?
How do you blame Coughlin for the fact that there aren't quality offensive linemen, and especially not enough quality reserves?
How do you blame Coughlin for Eli Manning, 11 years into his career, not being able to consistently protect the ball when he is under pressure?
How do you blame Coughlin for Preston Parker dropping a touchdown pass in the end zone? Or for the Giants allowing Blake Bortles to play the first turnover-free game of his NFL career?
I don't believe you can blame Coughlin for any of those things. After Sunday's melt-down in Florida, blowing a 21-0 lead to the previously 1-10 Jacksonville Jaguars, it is fair to wonder if the Giants can continue with Coughlin on the sidelines. Whether the blame is his or not.
As recently as Sunday morning, I wrote that ideally the Giants would probably like to see Coughlin finish his contract, which runs through 2015. After the most embarrassing -- not the most lopsided, but easily the most embarrassing -- loss of Coughlin's 11-year tenure, it is fair to wonder where the Giants go from here.
I have to agree with Dan Graziano of ESPN. It's not that Coughlin can't coach any longer. It's just that at 68 is he right to lead the re-construction the Giants appear to need. Here is part of what Graziano wrote:
"He hasn't lost the locker room -- players uniformly support him when asked, on or off the record, and he has their attention. At 68, he's not too old to coach in the NFL. His mind remains sharp, and the energy he brings to the job remains astoundingly high. But the Giants look so far away from a return to real championship contention that they have to ask themselves whether they can reasonably expect him to still be the coach when they get back there."
I have been steadfast in my belief that the Giants, awful won-loss record not with-standing, have enough pieces in place and have made enough strides offensive, that there is a chance they can be a quality, playoff-caliber team in 2015. After what the Giants did on Sunday in the second half -- looking clueless on defense and utterly inept on offense thanks to a broken offensive line -- you have to wonder if the Giants are farther away from being good than previously thought.
You also have to wonder, as Graziano also right did, if Jerry Reese is the right general manager to get them there.
The Giants have won two Super Bowls while Reese has been GM, and there was a time early in his career when he seemed to have the Midas touch. His first draft helped the Giants win that 2007 title, and he did luck into uncovering Victor Cruz as an undrafted free agent.
In saying that John Mara has to consider sweeping changes to get the Giants back on a winning path, Graziano wrote this about the general manager:
Start with GM Jerry Reese, with whom the bulk of the blame for this roster mess lies. The Giants don't fire GMs, as a matter of policy. They've had only three different GMs in the past 38 years. But an honest evaluation of the job Reese has done should put that job in jeopardy. His drafts have consistently failed to produce building-block players, and the deterioration of the offensive and defensive lines is the result of draft negligence.
There was a time when the mantra was "In Reese We Trust," and when yours truly was a firm believer. Blame Coughlin all you want. He is stubborn, too loyal to some veteran coaches and players, and maybe even too different from the guy he was a few years ago -- more grandfatherly, less dictatorial and maybe less effective in reaching players. This, however, is Reese's roster. He created the mess that Coughlin hasn't been able to coach the Giants out of.
The Giants' roster has been decaying for years. Reese has drafted 60 players over the course of eight drafts. Out of the 53 players drafted before 2014 there are a total of two -- yes, TWO -- Pro Bowl seasons. The rookies, obviously, have not been eligible for a Pro Bowl yet, so those seven don't count here. Wide receiver Steve Smith and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul each went to one Pro Bowl. I'm not counting long-snapper Zak DeOssie. Odell Beckham appears to be en route to being the only absolute star ever drafted by Reese. That, bluntly, isn't good enough.
Let's stop pretending Reese is drafting superstars and Coughlin isn't playing them. A considerable number of young players have played key roles the past two seasons, even if we do want to argue incessantly about Damontre Moore vs. Mathias Kiwanuka. Moore, incidentally, had only a single assisted tackle, two passes defensed and no quarterback hits in extended playing time on Sunday. The guys who aren't playing, and haven't played for years now, aren't playing because they aren't very good. Period.
If you watched James Brewer play Sunday, and last year, you know why he has been chained to the bench pretty much forever. He can't block. How bad must Brandon Mosley be if Brewer and Dallas Reynolds were active and he wasn't? Rueben Randle? Not good. Not a single helpful player on the roster from the 2012 draft. Coughlin basically admitted he has given up completely on Jayron Hosley be deactivating him Sunday. Adrien Robinson? Markus Kuhn? Please.
Only a miraculous late-season run to a 2011 Super Bowl title now separates the Giants from six straight seasons of missing the playoffs, and in the "you are what your record says you are" category the Giants are clearly going backwards.
Do the Giants have the right people in place to change that? After seven straight losses, and the embarrassment of Sunday, it's hard to say "yes" in answer to that question.