The only real grade that matters for the 2014 New York Giants is the one that says they were 6-10 and missed the playoffs for a third straight season. That means they weren't good enough. Since it is New Year's Day, however, and since a retrospective seems in order let's do that. This is a brief New Year's 'Kudos & Wet Willies' going over offense, defense and special teams.
We will do much more positional and player analysis going forward, but for now a quick, high-level 'K&WW' for your New Year's Day perusal.
Odell Beckham. Of course. The guy did things rookies aren't supposed to do. Shoot, no one is supposed to do them. A record-tying nine straight games with 90 or more receiving yards. A total of 1,305 yards receiving and 91 catches in just 12 games. Back-to-back Offensive Rookie of the Month awards. An incomprehensible catch against the Dallas Cowboys. On top of all of that, Beckham probably saved the jobs of head coach Tom Coughlin and vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross. I am leaving GM Jerry Reese out of this because the Giants don't fire general managers, so Reese losing his job was never truly realistic.
In the end, the first year of the transition to the West Coast-based offense of Ben McAdoo was a success. It took a long time, however, to get there. Eli Manning deserves 'Kudos' for a bounce-back year in which he completed a career-high 63.1 percent of his passes. Beckham, of course, had a lot -- maybe almost everything -- to do with that. If Larry Donnell and Rueben Randle continue to get better and Victor Cruz returns and is at least close to what he was before he got hurt the Giants have an impressive array of receiving weapons for Manning. Running backs Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams probably deserve 'Kwillies.' Jennings because he couldn't stay healthy. Williams because, while he led the team with 721 rushing yards, an average of 3.3 yards per carry is awful. The blocking wasn't great, but too much of that is on him for missing holes. The offensive line also gets a 'Kwillie.' The pass blocking got better and better as the season wore on. Manning was barely touched in the season finale despite an absurd 53 passing attempts, many of them deep shots. The Giants ended the season ranked 10th in the league in pass protection by Football Outsiders. The flip side is they were 22nd in run-blocking with John Jerry (-16.4 per PFF), Larry Donnell (-13.1) and J.D. Walton (-11.4) the main culprits.
There is a lot of reason for optimism going forward because of the weapons Manning could have at his disposal. The Giants, however, still need to upgrade the offensive line. A running back with some breakaway ability, especially as a pass-catcher, wouldn't hurt, either.
Tom Coughlin has final say over whether or not Perry Fewell returns as defensive coordinator, and Coughlin's defense of Fewell on Tuesday made it seem like he is inclined to keep him around. That's his right, especially with his career on the line in 2015, but it would be a mistake. Coughlin correctly pointed Tuesday to a few statistical areas where the Giants were near the top of the league. In all of the numbers that mattered, however, the Giants were terrible.
Yards allowed per game (29th); Yards per play (28th); Rushing yards per game (30th); Rushing yards per play (32nd); Passing yards per play (28th); Points allowed per game (22nd). The big play killed the Giants all season. They surrendered 75 passing plays of 20 yards or more, 13 of those for more than 40 yards. Only three teams surrendered more. They surrendered 19 running plays of 20 yards or more. Again, only three teams surrendered more.
Obviously, the Giants were crippled defensively by injuries, especially in the secondary. That, however, can't explain undisciplined play. It can't explain blown assignments, or players simply not knowing their assignments. It can't explain poor tackling. It can't explain the complete inability to defend the read-option.
Overall: 'Wet Willie'
A mixed bag on special teams. Placekicker Josh Brown had a spectacular season, going 24-of-26 in field goals and finishing eight in the league with 56.1 percent of his kickoffs going for touchbacks. Brown also successfully executed a pair of onside kicks. Punter Steve Weatherford gutted his way through the season after tearing ligaments in his left ankle Week 1, although in retrospect Weatherford might have been better off going on IR and getting healthy.
The Giants were inconsistent covering punts, giving up 10.6 yards per return (27th), perhaps partially due to Weatherford's injury. They were second in the league in kickoff return, surrendering only 18.3 yards.
The return game was up and down. The Giants struggled in kickoff return until first Michael Cox and then Preston Parker took over that role. They ended the season in middle of the pack, averaging 23.3 yards per return. Punt return was also middle of the pack at 7.7 yards per return, although Beckham (8.1 yards per return) did provide some hope there.