Your New York Giants have one regular-season game to get through before embarking on a playoff journey for the first time since 2011. With that in mind, it is time for one final “Five things I think I think” for the 2016 calendar year.
No matter what happens now it has been a good year
There are many fans who buy into the old George Steinbrenner argument that only one team, the one that wins the trophy at the end, has a good season. I am not one of them. It is possible to have a good season without winning a championship, and the Giants have already had one.
They made the playoffs. After four straight years of going home early, the last three losing seasons, the Giants have qualified for the tournament. That is a step forward, and by itself makes this a good season.
They found themselves a young head coach. Ben McAdoo has not been perfect this season. I certainly have my issues with him. He’s stubborn, and I believe that stubborn streak is part of what has held back the offense this season. He bristles as anything that hints at criticism, and obviously has little use for the media. He is, however, a 39-year-old first-time head coach with a bright future and time to learn. He could be in for a long run with the Giants. His players believe in him and he did guide a team to the playoffs. So, warts and all, he’s off to a good start.
The future looks bright. The Giants are getting contributions from a number of rookies, among them Eli Apple, Sterling Shepard, Paul Perkins, Jerell Adams, Andrew Adams, Romeo Okwara and Roger Lewis Jr. Second-year man Landon Collins, only 22, has blossomed into a star. Twenty-two-year-old Ereck Flowers hasn’t been perfect, but he has gotten better. Bobby Hart, a 22-year-old second-year player, might have earned himself a long-term job somewhere on the line. The Giants have the best core of young talent they have had in a long time, and bringing that group along is also part of what has made 2016 a success.
GM Jerry Reese deserves “kudos”
When GM John Mara announced at the end of last season that Tom Coughlin would be leaving as head coach and GM Jerry Reese would be staying he said that “we've had three losing years in a row. A lot of that is due to some personnel decisions that have been made.”
Which made some people wonder why the head coach was going and the man responsible for those personnel decisions that led to the mess the Giants were in — general manager Jerry Reese — got to stay.
Mara said at the time that “I still have full confidence” in Reese, but added that “Jerry knows this is on him.”
Reese has delivered.
Free-agent splurges like the $200 million the Giants undertook in the offseason usually don’t work, but to Reese’s credit he found talented players who were good locker room fits rather than entitled, highly-paid prima donnas.
He had an excellent draft. In truth, after a dry spell of several years that is a big part of what caused the talent deficit the Giants had, Reese has come up with at least a couple of cornerstone players for the Giants in the last four drafts. After several years of risky picks the Giants have moved away from gambling on so many high-risk or developmental players.
The Giants will need the good, maybe great, Eli
Every NFL fan knows what happened to Eli Manning the last two times the Giants reached the playoffs. He has morphed from decent to pretty good regular-season quarterback into Superman, a laser-throwing, incredible play-making super hero who shot down Tom Brady twice and won a pair of Super Bowl MVP trophies.
Just because that happened the last two times does not mean it will happen this time. Manning is now a 35-year-old quarterback who is finishing up a sub-par season. Too many missed throws. Too many bad decisions. Not nearly enough points from an offense that was expected to be much better than it has been.
If the Giants are going to win postseason games, though, they will need some heroics from their quarterback. The defense is one of the league’s best, but the Giants will be on the road in hostile environments against the best teams, with some of the highest-scoring offenses, in the league.
If they are going to win games they will need their offense to come through at critical times. Which means they need Playoff Eli and not Pedestrian Eli.
Jonathan Casillas is right
Fans and the media can spend their time obsessing over which of the four possible first-round playoff matchups would be the best for the Giants. We are, of course, doing just that.
Defensive captain Jonathan Casillas, though, has taken the position that it shouldn’t matter to players because it is beyond their control.
“You have to take whatever comes to you. ... We should embrace whoever we get Week 1 or for the Wild Card and whoever we get, we embrace it with open arms and just be thankful that we had an opportunity to play in the game, no matter where it is at,” Casillas said.
He is right. Let everyone else worry about the permutations and the perfect scenarios. Just take whatever comes.
TC makes sense in Jacksonville, but Buffalo?
There are reports that former Giants coach Tom Coughlin will interview this week for the head-coaching vacancy with the Jacksonville Jaguars. There are also reports that if the Buffalo Bills, as expected, fire Rex Ryan that Coughlin is at the top of their list of potential replacements. [The Bills have now fired Ryan]
Jacksonville makes sense to me. Coughlin was the franchises’s first head coach, and had success there. He still has ties to the community through his Jay Fund. Despite their 3-12 record, they have some young talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Coughlin probably wouldn’t have to win a Super Bowl there, just have a couple of winning seasons and get the franchise pointed in the right direction before turning over the reigns to someone else.
Buffalo? That one surprises me, although after two years of dealing with the Rex Ryan Show perhaps a class act like Coughlin who cares more about winning than about putting on a show might be appealing.
The Bills are a franchise that has not made the playoffs since 1999. So, again, perhaps a playoff appearance or two over the next three years before handing off the job would be enough to be defined as a successful run for Coughlin.