As the New York Giants play out the string of yet another disappointing season, which is becoming the norm in East Rutherford, let’s touch on a few topics of interest that arose after Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Alex Tanney? Really?
Coach Pat Shurmur caused a bit of a stir on Monday when, asked about seeing rookie quarterback Kyle Lauletta in game action at some point over the final five games, he asked “Why are you jumping over Tanney?”
Shurmur went on to say that he could envision starting Tanney over Lauletta at some point “If we felt like he was giving us the best chance to win.”
After the Geno Smith/Davis Webb fiasco of a year ago, which it has to be pointed out Shurmur was not part of, it would seem tone deaf to give starts to Tanney, a 31-year-old journeyman, rather than Lauletta, the team’s 23-year-old fourth-round draft choice.
The point, after all, of using someone other than Eli Manning in any of the games down the stretch is to begin figuring out what a Manning-less future might look like. There is a chance that Lauletta might be part of that future, maybe as the starter or maybe as the primary backup to Manning or whoever comes next.
Tanney? Really nice guy. Undrafted free agent out of Monmouth who has bounced from team to team since 2012 looking for his opportunity. NFL teams obviously like him or he wouldn’t keep hanging around. He might even be a capable backup in a Brian Hoyer kind of way. He just isn’t going to be the future quarterback of the Giants.
I do hope that Shurmur wasn’t serious. I do hope he was simply trying to give some props to a guy who has been the No. 2 all along, who from all indications prepares exceptionally well, and has been a good teammate to Manning and Lauletta all season.
This is part of the conundrum of being a head coach. Fans are focused on the future. Shoot, many Giants fans have been in draft mode for two months now. Coaches are aware of the future. They talk about building something. They are, however, paid for the present. They are paid to win the next game. To win now. Lose too many games, you lose your job.
That’s why it is hard for a coach to pull Manning from the lineup if he believes playing him is the best way to win. Or to play a guy like Lauletta simply to see him even if he believes there are better options on the roster for the game that is coming up.
It’s easy to point to Shurmur’s 13-31 career record and think he’s a terrible coach. His goal? Win the next game and improve that record. He will eventually lose his job if the losses keep piling up.
“What you try to do is win each game and then as we go forward here, you make your decision based on winning the game, and you base your decision on putting a team on the field that gives you the best chance to win the game,” Shurmur said on Monday. “I stay in the moment. We certainly have conversations about what runs parallel, the short-term and the long-term. There’s conversations about that that happen all the time in any organization. You’re a big corporation, your short-term gains and, ‘OK, where the hell are we going?’ I’m not foolish enough to think that doesn’t happen.”
I remain confident we are going to see Lauletta before the end of the season. If nothing else, that’s due diligence on the Giants’ part as they head into the offseason. When we do, though, it will be a move all of the organization’s decision-makers are on board with.
Shurmur and Sunday’s game plan
Sometimes you see things a bit more clearly when you are farther away from them. With that in mind, I want to revisit the criticism of Sunday’s game plan vs. the Eagles by Odell Beckham Jr., and the lack of second-half touches for Saquon Barkley.
Shurmur said Monday that Beckham’s critique was “one man’s opinion after an emotional loss.”
With a little more distance from it now, was Beckham right that the Giants didn’t attack the Eagles’ vulnerable secondary?
Probably not. The Giants did compile 346 first-half yards, including 236 passing yards. The plan looked fine then. They did, as Shurmur pointed out, have seven passing plays of more than 15 yards. They did attack the Eagles.
What happened is that things went haywire in the second half. In the first half, the Giants ran 43 plays with Barkley touching the ball on 15 (34.9 percent). In the second half, they ran only 18 with Barkley touching the ball on five (22.2 percent).
Let’s examine the Giants first three drives of the second half.
- They began with a three-and-out that included two unsuccessful Barkley runs. So, yes, they tried to stay with the run.
- Their second drive (the Wayne Gallman drive) featured a false start on Nate Solder and a drop by a wide open Corey Coleman that might well have given the Giants a first down after the Solder penalty. It also included the silly third-and-18 timeout.
- The third drive, beginning from their own 22, featured an incomplete deep ball to Beckham and a sack leading to a three-and-out. No touches for Barkley.
The plan was fine. The protection wasn’t as good, as both sacks of Manning happened in the second half. There were also penalties and drops. The offense, quite simply, did not perform as well in the second half.
The thing that concerns me is the drive that Barkley sat out in the third quarter.
Shurmur’s remark that the Giants “were going to spell him (Barkley) a little bit as we go” was an indication to me that they entered the game with that sort of ‘rest him a little before the fourth quarter’ idea as part of their plan.
OK, fine. That was your plan. Or, as Shurmur said, “a feel” for a good time to rest Barkley. A coaching staff, though, needs to have a feel for a game situation, and this feel was wrong. At that point, Barkley had two second-half touches and only 11 carries in the game. He didn’t need a rest.
What really bothered me is that Shurmur didn’t seem to have a feel for the game situation. He said he didn’t feel a momentum shift when the Eagles intercepted Eli Manning to kill a Giants’ scoring opportunity at the end of the first half, and leaving his best offensive weapon on the bench with the score having closed to 19-14 indicates he still didn’t feel the urgency of the situation at that point.
Shurmur said Monday that the 3-8 Giants “need to learn how to win again.”
Keeping your foot on the gas and your best players in the game in key situations would help.
What’s going on with Olivier Vernon?
The veteran defensive end/outside linebacker was a non-factor on Sunday with just two tackles and two pressures in 56 snaps. He now has three tackles and three quarterback hits in his last three games and just one sack in six games overall.
Initially, Vernon appeared to be receiving some double-team attention when he came back from his ankle injury. Shurmur said that hasn’t been the case recently.
“I don’t see teams spending extra resources to block him,” the coach said.
Per my unofficial count, Vernon was double-teamed three times and chip blocked twice in his 56 snaps. That means he spent most of the day losing one-on-one matchups with Eagles left tackle Jason Peters.
Is Vernon’s ankle still an issue? I don’t know.
What I do know is that the 28-year-old carries a $19.5 million cap hit next season. The Giants could save $15.5 million by cutting him this offseason. I have defended Vernon the past couple of seasons as he has battled through injuries and have until now thought he would be a player they would like to, and should, keep. If he doesn’t give them more production, though, the Giants are going to have to think long and hard about whether he’s worth what they are paying him.
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