Just because we have arrived at the off-season doesn't mean there aren't things going on with the New York Giants. Which means there are things to think about. Which means our 'Five Things I Think I Think' about the Giants does not get to take a vacation.
I think I can explain keeping Perry Fewell
The apparent, but unannounced, decision to keep Perry Fewell as defensive coordinator has some Giants fans in an uproar. Until I sat in the Quest Diagnostics Training Center auditorium last Tuesday and listened to Tom Coughlin defend Fewell I figured the Giants would have a new defensive coordinator in 2015. It became clear that day there was a good chance Fewell would keep his job. Whether the fan base approved or not.
Step away from the emotions of another disappointing season and you can understand why Coughlin would keep Fewell. At least I can. That doesn't mean I think it's the right decision, but it's one I can understand.
Coughlin made a bold move a season ago, bringing in Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator and completely changing the team's offensive philosophy. He could have chosen the easier path, given the job to Mike Sullivan and kept the Giants in a familiar offense. He did not. We saw in 2014 that the new offense has promise, but that there was a long learning curve that will continue into the 2015 season.
The head coach is entering the final year of his contract. It is clear he does not want 2015 to be his final year as an NFL coach, but if the Giants don't return to the playoffs it could well be. Co-owner John Mara said last week that he still believes in Coughlin, but admitted that "how long that's going to last I don't know."
You can't, at least I can't, blame Coughlin if he is hesitant to change defensive systems and -- in a year where his career may hang in the balance -- put the Giants in a situation where they go through a similar learning curve on defense.
Coughlin apparently views Fewell as a good coach without good enough players. That view is shared by at least one former NFL executive I talked to recently, who called Fewell an "excellent coach" and opined that aside from Odell Beckham Giants drafts in recent years have been "horrendous."
Coughlin seems willing to sink or swim with Fewell. I can't imagine the Giants won't aggressively try to upgrade the defensive front seven and the safety position this off-season. If they can do that, we will see if the head coach is right about his defensive coordinator.
I think Victor Butler in intriguing
The Giants Monday added former Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts linebacker Victor Butler to their roster, signing him to a reserve/futures contract. Butler qualifies as GM Jerry Reese's annual 'linebacker flier.'
Two seasons ago when the Giants gave former first-round pick Aaron Curry a chance to revive his stalled career. That flopped when Curry didn't make the roster.
Last season the Giants signed little-known O'Brien Schofield. He never officially arrived since he failed his physical. Schofield went back to his previous team, the Seattle Seahawks and played in 15 games mostly as a pass-rushing defensive end.
Butler is an intriguing resuscitation project. He had 11 sacks from 2009-2012 with the Dallas Cowboys, and was among the better pass rushing 3-4 outside linebackers in the league per pass-rush productivity stats from Pro Football Focus. Butler tore an ACL with the New Orleans Saints in 2013 and missed the entire year. He played only one game with the Colts in 2014.
When it comes to edge guys who can rush the passer, the more the merrier. If Butler, 28 next season, still has that ability he could be a welcome addition.
I think Mike Sullivan is a fine choice as QB coach
Why so much worry when the Giants chose Mike Sullivan to replace the departed Danny Lansgsdorf as quarterbacks coach? There were all sorts of "oh my God, back to the days of Gilbride" comments, and I don't get it. Do people honestly believe that Sullivan, who worked with the Giants from 2004-2011, will come back with an agenda to undermine Ben McAdoo and try to return Eli Manning to the footwork he used in Kevin Gilbride's offense? Or that he can't learn McAdoo's system? Utter nonsense.
Sure, this is a different system than Sullivan learned from Gilbride or used when he was offensive coordinator with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Do people honestly think that between now and OTAs or training camp Sullivan can't grasp the playbook, learn the differences in what Manning is being asked to do and help him refine what he has already learned? That's looking for problems where there aren't any.
What matters is that Sullivan already has Manning's trust. Manning had excellent season in 2010 and 2011 with Sullivan as his QB coach. He also has Coughlin's trust and, yes, that is important. It is also important that McAdoo signed off on the hire.
Sullivan, incidentally, was a collegiate defensive back who had always coached on the defensive side until Coughlin hired him to coach wide receivers in 2004. He did a good job there. He did a good job with Manning as quarterbacks coach. I think those moves show Sullivan can learn, adapt and help the players he coaches. I don't get why people believe he can't do a good job with Manning again just because the system is different. He has plenty of time to get up to speed.
I think Marc Ross isn't going anywhere
Giants Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross is being mentioned in a lot of circles as a candidate for the vacant GM jobs with the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles and maybe the New York Jets. Most, no all, of that speculation is coming from the media and the fan bases of the various teams. You know who isn't talking about Ross as a candidate? The NFL teams with openings. With the possible exception of Chicago, where ex-Giants GM Ernie Accorsi is consulting on that search, no teams are actually said to be seeking Ross. He has had no interviews and, to my knowledge at this point, has not been requested for any.
Ross, honestly, may not have the sterling reputation inside NFL circles that some on the outside think he does. The Giants drafts, unless the last two classes work out the way they seem they might, have left a lot to be desired in recent years. Remember that "horrendous" comment up above? Ross has been in charge of talent evaluation for those drafts.
Ross had five interviews for GM openings after 2012, and has probably had others along the way. He has, again to my knowledge, never even been asked back for a second interview for any opening. That has to tell you something.
I think the Chris Christie stuff is overblown
I know it's popular to pick on the New Jersey governor for being a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. And I know it's fun to pick on him when we see videos like this:
But, really, what is the big deal? The guy was a Dallas Cowboys fan long before he entered politics or became governor of New Jersey. If Giants co-owner John Mara gave you a chance to sit in his private box during a playoff game you would do it, too. And you would celebrate a win.
Not every resident of New York or New Jersey is a Giants fan. Not every resident of Texas is a Cowboys fan. Just let it go. It's meaningless.