Perry Fewell has been fired by the New York Giants after five seasons as the team's defensive coordinator. Speculation on a successor has already begun, focusing largely on former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and current Buffalo Bills defensive line coach Pepper Johnson.
Fewell's ouster had been anticipated since the Giants suffered through a disappointing defensive season, although recent speculation had Fewell 'most likely' staying. The Giants finished the league 29th in total defense, allowing 375.8 yards per game. They were 30th against the run (135.1 yards per game), last in the league in yards allowed per rushing attempt (4.9), 18th against the pass (240.6 yards per game) and 23rd in scoring defense (25.0 points per game).
Here is a look at the overall success, or lack thereof, of the Giants' defense during Fewell's tenure.
2014: Yards per game, 375.8 (29th); Points per game, 25.0 (23rd)
2013: Yards, 332.2 (8th); Points, 23.9 (18th)
2012: Yards, 383.4 (31st); Points, 21.5 (12th)
2011: Yards, 367.6 (22nd); Points, 23.1 (21st)
2010: Yards, 310.6 (7th); Points, 24.4 (21st)
Surrendering the big play has often been an issue during Fewell's time with the Giants. In 2014, the Giants gave up 75 passing plays of 20 or more yards, including 13 that went for at least 40 yards. Only three teams gave up more. In 2013, the Giants gave up only 46. In 2012, however, they were 30th in the league in that department, giving up 73.
Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara, who finished the season on IR with a torn biceps, said Monday that the tendency to give up big plays has to be corrected.
"I think big plays were still something we were still very susceptible to this year," Amukamara said. "A lot of things. The one thing that I am comfortable saying right now is the big plays."
Assignment errors and poor fundamentals were hallmarks of the Giants' defense in 2014.
The Giants did suffer a number of injuries to key defensive players. Cornerbacks Walter Thurmond, Trumaine McBride and Amukamara missed most of the season. Middle linebacker Jon Beason played only four games. Defensive ends Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers ended up on IR, as did starting linebacker Jacquian Williams.
Thurmond, the slot corner who played only two games, still believes the Giants can be a good defense.
"We just need to have that time just to gel. There are so many guys who are vital parts that end up getting injured. So we never really got out there full-strength," Thurmond said on Monday. "We always knew the potential that we had on the defense, and unfortunately, we never had a chance to show that. Hopefully this is a situation where guys who got injured come back, and we can come back and pick up where we left off this past season, and get after it in OTA's and everything."
Still, the Giants played some of their best defensive football of the year toward the end of the season with a late-season surge allowing them to finish fourth in the league in sacks with 47. Young players like Devon Kennard, Kerry Wynn, Damontre Moore and Jay Bromley helped when they finally got a chance to contribute, and mid-season acquisition Mike Harris was an improvement over the ineffective Jayron Hosley as the slot corner. That led to questions about Fewell's use of personnel.
Fewell came to the Giants from the Buffalo Bills, where he had spent time as both defensive coordinator and had compiled a 3-4 record as interim head coach in 2009. During his time with the Giants Fewell has interviewed unsuccessfully for a variety of head-coaching openings.
The Giants also let secondary coach Peter Giunta go.
Who do you think replaces Fewell?