Thanks to the incompetence and mediocrity all around them, the NFC East was gift-wrapped and laid at the feet of the New York Giants on Sunday. Rather that accept the gift, the Giants stamped it "Return to Sender." Like they have so many other opportunities this season, rather than pick up this gift the Giants kicked it away. Or dropped it. Or ran screaming from it as though it were a grenade, losing to the Washington Redskins, 20-14.
Then again, those actions would have required waking up long enough to even realize there was someone at the door. The Giants slumbered through a game that, realistically, was their best chance to win the division title this season. As though they didn't recognize the game's importance. Or, simply couldn't be bothered to pull off the wrapping paper and open their gift.
If the Giants miss the playoffs for a fourth straight year, the odds of which increased greatly with Sunday's loss, it could well bring an end to Tom Coughlin's sometimes glorious run as the team's head coach. If that happens, it won't be because of clock management, the Giants' run-pass ratio, or which players play too much, or not enough. It will be because of days like Sunday when there is simply no way to explain how poorly the Giants played until it was too late.
Coughlin is great in crisis. His players love and respect him. The organization loves and respects him. Too often in recent years, though, the Giants have played their worst when it mattered the most. Sunday's game and the Week 6 debacle against the Philadelphia Eagles this season come to mind. We just hear "we were flat" or "the other guys wanted it more" from the Giants too often. Whatever you think of Coughlin -- and long-time BBV readers know how I feel -- that gets laid at the feet of the coach.
That sort of inexplicable inconsistency and inability to play your best when it matters most from a team whose coach craves those things is what could be Coughlin's undoing. He can't seem to get the players to care as much as he does.
Jerry Reese deserves a lot of the blame, too
It's pretty hard to fault a general manager when a team with four starting offensive linemen missing (if you count Will Beatty) struggles to block anyone. Yes, Jerry Reese drafted Odell Beckham. Yes, he signed Dwayne Harris and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and made a trade for Brad Wing. Yes, injuries have hurt the Giants -- like they always do. There is still mediocre talent and too many holes on this roster, and that falls at the feet of the GM.
- Reese told us all offseason that he wanted to be prepared if Victor Cruz was unable to return. The Giants added Harris, but the frustratingly inconsistent Rueben Randle is still the No. 2 wide receiver, and that's not good enough. Odell Beckham Jr., needs help, and he really doesn't have it.
- Reese has insisted for years that Jayron Hosley is an NFL-caliber cornerback. DeSean Jackson showed you again that he's not.
- The Giants are trying to get by with try-hard veterans Brandon Meriweather and Craig Dahl playing nearly full-time. It's debatable that either guy should be in the league.
- There just aren't any difference-makers on defense. There probably isn't a single player on defense that any offensive coordinator fears, including Jason Pierre-Paul. On offense, same story aside from Beckham. It can't be a good thing when Will Tye, a kid who played for Stony Brook last season, is your second-best receiving option.
Yes, the Giants would be in better shape if injuries hadn't robbed them of several key players. Still, the Giants are continuing to pay dearly for personnel mistakes that have to be owned by the general manager.
Rueben Randle, sense of urgency don't go together
Rueben Randle is one of the most talented wide receivers you will ever see. He has all of the physical gifts to be great. A two-play sequence in the third quarter Sunday showed why he will be good, but never great. Eli Manning went to Randle on back-to-back plays in the third quarter with the Giants trailing, 17-0, and inside the Redskins' 10-yard line.
On the first throw Randle made a half-hearted effort , allowing the pass to be tipped and nearly intercepted. On the second play, Randle ran a horrible, looping, lazy crossing route that turned into an interception when Washington cornerback Quinton Dunbar to cut underneath and pick the ball off. That killed an opportunity for the Giants to get back into a game they desperately needed to win. The ball wasn't perfectly thrown, but Dunbar has no chance if Randle runs a crisp route that doesn't allow the cornerback to get underneath him.
Randle later caught a 40-yard touchdown on fourth-and-16, thanks mostly to the Redskins not bothering to cover him.
Randle can be a free agent after this season. As talented as he can be, how do the Giants justify giving a player who can't give all-out effort in the season's most important game a new contract?
DeSean Jackson is still a Giant-killer
The name DeSean Jackson gives Giants fans nightmares, and he reminded them why Sunday in the second quarter. With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie sidelined temporarily with an ankle injury the Redskins smartly recognized that Jayron Hosley is no match for Jackson. They attacked. Jackson ran right by the helpless duo of Hosley and Brandon Meriweather, and subjected the Giants to his classless backpedaling across the 1-yard line celebration.
The Giants still can't cover the tight end
One stop, one play and the Giants would force a punt and get the ball back to Manning with roughly three minutes left and a chance for a miracle victory. One play and the Redskins could seal the Giants' fate and grab first place in the division.
Washington knew where to go. Facing third-and-5 from their 28-yard line with 3:29 to play and trying to protect a six-point lead, Kirk Cousins found tight end Jordan Reed across the middle for a back-breaking 20-yard gain. Dahl was no match, and after the completion the Giants had no real chance.
Reed caught eight passes for 98 yards, again highlighting the Giants' inability to cover tight ends.
The Giants can still win the division
The way things are going, 8-8 might win the NFC East. The Giants' schedule is as follows:
The Redskins' schedule is as follows:
Who knows what might happen? Shoot, the Eagles might end up winning the thing.
Running back committee has to be pared down
OK, so using Sunday's game as the reason for this isn't the best way to make the case. The Giants ran the ball only 13 times for 33 yards on Sunday, but with the injury-ravaged offensive line it's hard to blame the backs. Still, splitting time between four backs just isn't working. I continue to believe that Andre Williams, the least versatile of the four backs, should be the odd man out. And I continue to believe that Orleans Darkwa, the guy with the thinnest resume and the fewst opportunities, is the best Giants' back.
Geoff Schwartz's Giants' career may be over
Schwartz tried to sound optimistic after suffering a fractured leg on Sunday, but it's very possible that the veteran offensive lineman has taken his final snap as a Giant. The guaranteed portion ($5.7 million) of his four-year, $16.8 million contract has been paid. You have to think the Giants will find someone younger, and healthier, to fill that spot next season. Incidentally, rookie Bobby Hart appeared to hold up fairly well on Sunday.
Odell Beckham is pretty good
Only he probably should stop making ridiculous catches like the one below. Every time he does insane stuff like this, the Giants lose.
Season on the line vs. Jets
The Giants seem to keep running up against these games where you think the season is on the line. Well, it just might be next Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the New York Jets. You do, of course, remember the last time the Giants faced the Jets in the regular season, right? That, too, was a late-season must-win game for the Giants.
Can deja vu happen all over again?