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Five things I think I think: Victor Cruz, clock management, more

There are lots of things to think about, so let's get started.

Victor Cruz
Victor Cruz
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Once upon a time the New York Giants were a relatively mundane franchise that only seemed to pop up in the headlines when they won Super Bowls. These days, though, there always seems to be something going on. Let's get tot his week's "Five things I think I think" and discuss some of what is happening.

I think we need to discuss Victor Cruz

There are a number of things that need to be addressed in regards to Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, who announced Monday a 2015 season that never got started for him is over due to a need for calf surgery.

Will we ever see Cruz salsa dancing in a Giants' uniform again? Maybe. Maybe not. Cruz has three years and $23.7 million in base salary left on a five-year, $43 million deal. His cap his next season is slated to be $9.9 million. Cruz almost certainly is not going to see that money. The Giants would be foolish to pay that to a 29-year-old wide receiver who hasn't played in almost two years because of injuries.

The Giants can save $6.1 million against the salary cap by cutting Cruz after this season. They could do that and bring him back on a shorter term, less expensive, incentive-laden contract. They could just re-negotiate his deal. They could cut him and move on without him.

Nearly two full years away from the NFL is a loooong time. What Cruz will be capable of doing, and who he will be doing it for when he tries to return, is anyone's guess.

"He'll go through another offseason, try to get healthy and we'll see where that goes," is all GM Jerry Reese would say about that on Monday.

One other thing I need to say about Cruz, and it's directed to those who are in Cruz's @TeamVic Twitter timeline, the @BigBlueView Twitter timeline, or even the comments here ripping Cruz for being soft, for spending too much time with other interests, etc., etc.

Why? What satisfaction can you possibly get from saying vile, unnecessary things about -- and directly to -- a player who has worked his way out of a difficult situation in Paterson, N.J., been a great player for the Giants, been a great representative of the franchise, and worked diligently for more than  year now to try and return to the field? Cruz deserves to be thanked for what he has done, and wished well as he tries once again to recover.

If you are one of those people hiding behind the cloak of Internet anonymity to blast Cruz that says a lot more about you than it ever will about him.

I think this is my final word on clock management

It seems like the management -- or mismanagement -- of the clock by the Giants on their final possession Sunday against the New England Patriots is all anyone has wanted to talk about. Or scream about. Or complain about. Yours truly defended the decision to call three pass plays beginning with 2:06 left and the Giants at the New England 5-yard line. Our readers are almost evenly split, with 51 percent (1,076) of the 2,130 voters in our poll agreeing that the Giants did the right thing. Tom Coughlin on Monday forcefully defended the strategy.

Whether you agree or disagree with how they went about it, I think it's clear that trying for the touchdown there was better than settling for the field goal. I also think, though, that the real regret for the Giants should be all of the missed opportunities that left them in that situation at the end of the game.

  • Three second half field goals, two on trips inside the red zone, and no touchdowns.
  • No points after a turnover gave them the ball at the New England 31-yard line.
  • Awful coverage on an 82-yard punt return by Danny Amendola that gave the Patriots life.
  • The Odell Beckham non-touchdown.
  • The game-clinching interception Landon Collins couldn't hold.
  • Not coming up with a stop on fourth-and-10 in New England's final drive.

Those things, ultimately, are what really cost the Giants what would have been a monumental upset.

I think these next six games may be Tom Coughlin's last

Make the playoffs, Giants coach Tom Coughlin most likely gets to decide whether -- at age 70 -- he will continue coaching the Giants or call it a career. Miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season, the Giants almost certainly will be forced to move in a different direction.

That has been the popular opinion -- and mine -- since before the 2015 season started. Nothing that has happened to this point has really changed that. The success or failure of the Giants over the final six games could well determine Coughlin's future, and the future direction of the franchise.

Coughlin joked at the end of last season that he would gladly accept a 10- or 12-year extension from John Mara, and has always seemed like a man who would coach until he is tossed out the door kicking and screaming. I have begun to wonder, though, if Coughlin is getting tired of the struggle to reach today's players, to get them to buy in to his message.

Would he walk away on his own after this year even if he and the Giants do manage to get to the playoffs? Of course, the end of Coughlin's reign has been expected numerous times before.

I think we finally found the real Steve Spagnuolo

You remember Steve Spagnuolo, right? The blitz-happy, pedal to the metal, scheming defensive coordinator who built an agrressive, quarterback-bashing defense that helped the Giants win a Super Bowl during his first tenure with the team?

Well, that guy has been missing in action most of the season.

Before Sunday, the Giants had blitzed only 19 percent of the time, seventh-lowest in the league. The league average is 30 percent. Without Jason Pierre-Paul, with a rookie starting at safety, with linebackers constantly shuffling due to injury, with Prince Amukamara sidelined, Spagnuolo spent much of the season trying not to overload his defense. He tried to keep it simple, to play conservatively, just try to play bend but don't break and aim not to give up the big play.

Until Sunday, that is. Spagnuolo the schemer was open for business against the New England Patriots. The Giants opened the game in a 3-4 front with Cullen Jenkins on the nose, and they used it quite a bit during the game. They played a lot of their standard 4-3. They played some "Amoeba" defense with linemen and linebackers standing up and jumping in and out trying to confuse the Patriots. JPP often rushed standing up. I don't have the numbers, but there seemed to be more blitzes.

The Giants didn't exactly shut the Patriots down as Tom Brady passed for 334 yards. It was, however, good to see the Giants abandon the "vanilla" approach and try to dictate some on defense. Welcome back, Spags!

I think 2007 & 2015 Pats losses are a tough comparison

There is a school of thought that says the Giants can use how well they played Sunday against the Patriots as a springboard to launch them on a season-ending run to the post-season. This is what happened in 2007 when the Giants lost a season-ending game to the Patriots, 38-35, realizing they could go toe-to-toe with the league's best team.

Coughlin is buying in.

"I think it can (be a springboard)," Coughlin said. "Yeah, it sure can.

"We just played against the Super Bowl champion and you played to the very end. We had our chances to win and we didn't win. So clean up a few things and let's go."

Reese is buying in.

"If New England is the best team in the National Football League, which a lot of people think they are, obviously we played them to the wire yesterday, so we felt like if they're the best team, we feel like we can compete with anybody," Reese said on Monday.

There is, however, one essential difference. When the Giants faced the Patriots in that 2007 game, losing cost the Giants nothing. They had already qualified for the playoffs. They had everything to gain and nothing to lose, because losing didn't make any difference.

This time, the Giants have a long way to go and zero guarantee that they will reach the postseason. Every loss, whether to the best team in the league or the worst, is costly. The Giants need actual victories, not moral ones.

Maybe the game can be a springboard, maybe the Giants will finally figure out how to finish games, go on a late-season run and get to the playoffs. If they do, they may look back on Sunday as a game that helped teach them how to get there. If they don't, they will look back on Sunday simply as one of many games they should have won, but didn't, and that cost them a chance to reach the playoffs.