Mathias Kiwanuka has become a pinata for frustrated New York Giants fans the past couple of seasons, the defensive version of what David Diehl was for the offense before retiring at the end of the 2013 season.
The veteran defensive end, whose play had obviously deteriorated the past couple of seasons, has been -- to fans -- the easiest target when discussion the struggling defense. You know the drill, what we've been hearing for two years now. He can't rush the passer any more. He's supposed to be a good run defender, but he's not. He only plays so much because Tom Coughlin hates young players. He's standing in the way of the development of Damontre Moore.
Well, now that Kiwanuka has gone on injured reserve due to a knee injury that has apparently plagued him much of the season, no one get to scream about those things any longer.
Now the narrative has to be about whether or not the nine-year veteran has played his last down as a Giant -- he almost certainly has -- and how his career should be viewed.
Kiwanuka's three-year, $17.75 million contract runs through next season. He is due $7.45 in base salary in 2015, and the Giants can save more than $5 million against the salary cap by cutting Kiwanuka, who will be 32 next season.
Tom Coughlin wouldn't speculate on Kiwanuka's future on Wednesday, saying only that the team will have to wait until after surgery is performed to assess how badly damaged his knee is. It seems nearly unfathomable, though, that the Giants would keep an unproductive 32-year-old defensive end with a bad knee and a high price tag next season, especially when they can save considerable money that could help upgrade the roster.
So, how should Kiwanuka's career with Big Blue be viewed?
He was a first-round draft pick (32nd) out of Boston College in 2006, the hope being that he would become the team's next great pass-rushing defensive end. Things never quite worked out that way.
Kiwanuka was a good player, but never a great one or a Pro Bowl caliber one. His career-high in sacks was eight, back in 2008. He was always willing to do whatever the Giants asked, bouncing back and forth over the years between defensive end and outside linebacker. Those are moves that may have been good for the Giants, and may have helped get Kiwanuka on the field, but they likely didn't help him become the defensive end he might have been.
Kiwanuka has always been a quality guy, a locker room leader. He has been a part of two championship teams. Age and injuries are catching up to him, however, and his declining play has not helped the struggling Giants defense the past two seasons.
So, Giants fans, what are your feelings about Kiwanuka now that his perplexing, somewhat unfulfilling, Giants career is almost certainly at an end?