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The Evil Turf!

Some New York Giants fans are in a panic right now, with wide receiver Dominick Hixon’s 2010 season ending before it began. For those who haven’t heard, the receiver/return man went down untouched during the Giants’ recent mini-camp, and torn his ACL. Season over.

The loss of Hixon as a receiver is probably minimal. He’s clearly behind Steve Smith and Mario Manningham on the depth chart, and could have easily been the fourth receiver behind second-year player Hakeem “Don’t Call Me Hicks” Nicks. In addition, the Giants also have Derek Hagan, Ramses Barden, and Sinorice Moss. There is a lot of excitement about Barden and his size (the Giants have been without a tall receiver that Eli Manning can throw a jump ball to since Plaxico Burress went to the slammer), and this injury may force the Giants to give Barden more of a chance.

Yet as minimal as Hixon’s  impact as a receiver is, the loss of the Giants’ kickoff and punt returner can’t be overestimated. Hixon was a player who gave Giants’ fans a surge of excitement every time he made a return. Even when he wasn’t returning punts for touchdowns (like in East Rutherford against Dallas last season), he could be counted on to give the offense good field position with an impressive return.

The Giants could go back to Moss as a return man. Early last season, the Giants took Hixon out of the return rotation, feeling his value as a receiver was too great to risk injury on returns. The 1998 preseason injury to Jason Sehorn continues to haunt the Giants and affect strategy (it was recently reported that cornerback Aaron Ross wanted to return kicks. Fat chance at that.) Anyway, Moss was pretty terrible as a return man.

Hixon’s injury has led to a lot of panic about the new stadium’s artificial turf. The New Meadowlands Stadium uses FieldTurf and a lot of the players (as well as coach Tom Coughlin) commented that the turf was loose and wasn’t very good. Nevermind that the old stadium used FieldTurf as well, and people weren’t tearing their ACLs left and right.

The turf is like a pair of new shoes. You have to break it in first. Once the turf gets a little more usage, it will tighten up and the “What’s wrong with the turf” questions will go away. In fact, it’s possible all these other events at the stadium (for example, college lacrosse was the first event at the new stadium, not football) are being used to help break in the turf.

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BS Sports Blog offers $1.25 for naming rights

BS Sports Blog Stadium. It has a nice ring to it.

Yes, i”m joking. But this isn’t a joke. Online dating site AshleyMadison.com has submitted a formal offer to the New York Giants and New York Jets for the naming rights for the New Meadowlands Stadium. The offer is for five years and totals $25 million.

Now this alone isn’t that interesting, and I wouldn’t normally blog about this, except this isn’t your run of the mill dating site. The site’s motto is “Life is short. Have an affair.”

Yes, that’s right. A site that promotes adultery wants to have their name on the new stadium. Can you imagine? Stephen Weaver at Examiner.com has an awesome take on it.

“Dad, where are we going?”

“To Ashley Madison Field son. We’re going to watch the Giants play.”

“Oh, who’s Ashley Madison?”

“Oh, it’s that great site that split up me and your mom when she found I was cheating on her. Remember, when you cried for a couple days?”

“Oh. Can we go home?”

I think an approval would result in drop in attendance for the Giants, as married women refuse to allow their husbands to attend games in fear of a cross promotion. But it might help the Jets finish selling their PSLs.

Obviously, this has no chance at being accepted. The Maras and Tisches have a family image that would be shattered by accepting such a bid, and the Johnson & Johnson company wouldn’t be too happy if the founder’s great-grandson was openly promoting adultery. But it’s a great way to get your name out. Tons of people (like me) will write about it, and refer to the website (although you may notice there isn’t a link to the company’s website; this is intentional).

This isn’t the company’s first attempt at silly advertising, as they tried to buy ad space in the Official Super Bowl XLIII Game Program, but were rejected by the NFL. Back in February, they offered the city of Phoenix, Az. $10 million to rename the airport. The strapped-for-cash city declined the offer.

Another reason the offer will almost definitely be declined is that it’s too low. The Giants and Jets are reportedly looking for a deal of $20-25 million a year for the naming rights, and a $5 million a year deal isn’t going to cut it.

Sadly, the Meadowlands Stadium hasn’t had the best luck with the naming rights. A previous offer of $25 million a year by Allianz was canceled amid protests that the German-based financial services had ties to Nazi Germany.

Sheridan fired

Apparently John Mara didn’t need a cooling down period to decide on approving Coughlin’s recommendation on the future of the defensive coordinator. Bill Sheridan was fired today after just one year on the job.

I don’t take any glee about someone getting fired, but this is a step in the right direction. From Sheridan’s “argument” with Osi Umenyiora back in training camp that led to the defensive end leaving campus, to his wishes to work in the pressbox, to his zone coverages that repeatedly led to blown coverages, to dropping the defensive ends into pass osscoverage, he was a disaster. The Giants gave up 427 points this season, the second-worst in team history. Regardless, I wish Sheridan well, and hope he landed on his feet.

As for replacements, Dick Jauron is the popular name. Current defensive backs coach Peter Giunta is another possibility, as he had a Super Bowl ring as the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams in 1999.

John Mara brings the thunder

The Giants had an end-of-the-season press conference, starting with head coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese. Their comments were very vanilla and didn’t really reveal anything.

Then John Mara, team owner and son of the late Wellington Mara, stepped up to the podium. And he was PISSED. Here are some comments from Mara about the team.

“I’m probably as disappointed as I’ve ever been in my life at this team.”

“There are 8-8 seasons … but this one felt a lot more like 2-14 to me.”

“We did have some injuries but I don’t think we had catastrophic injuries.”

“The status quo is not acceptable on any level. We need to do something. And I will be expecting them (Coughlin and Reese) to give me their recommendations.”

“I’m sure I’ll cool down at some point, but obviously I’m not very happy right now. And they know that.”

“When you have that many games where you get blown out, there’s something wrong, and it means that something has got to be done.”

Mara also said that he would wait to cool down before making any decisions, but there is a lot of get over from the last two weeks. The Giants organization prides itself on its toughness, but there was a “lack of mental and physical toughness, and frankly a lack of effort the last two weeks. It was something I never expected to see from these players.”

Mara did not address the players at all during the season’s turmoil, but looking back, perhaps he should have.

He said he’s not going to tell Coughlin how to coach the team, but the team needs to do something about the coaching staff. When asked how he would react if Coughlin wanted to keep the staff intact and assured better results, it would still be a tough pill to swallow.

Mara said he felt the Carolina loss more than any other loss before. He’s been around a long time and thought he’d seen everything. But he said he didn’t see this coming, especially not the last two weeks. He couldn’t understand how the team collapsed after the Mario Manningham fumble in the first quarter. he said the score was still 0-0. Just stop them.

Mara acknowledged that the Giants spent a lot of money in free agency and didn’t get the results they expected. Perhaps the team wasn’t as good as they thought it was.

He said there was a definite lack of leadership. There were a couple of players capable of stepping up, but was disappointed that no one really ever emerged.

He thought the receiving core was the best part of the team, but nothing was more disappointing to him than the lack of pressure the defensive line got on the opposing quarterbacks.

Regarding Osi Umenyiora’s comments after the Carolina loss, where Osi basically suggested he might be done as a Giant, Mara stated that he didn’t take much stock in the comments. He joked about how he used to be in the locker room when Harry Carson suggested he would retire and going into Iran to rescue the hostages. He said that Osi was a competitor and he expected Umenyiora to be a big part of the team in the future.

Finally, Mara stated that Coughlin and Reese’s jobs are safe. There had been some speculation, especially from ProFootballTalk.com, that Coughlin might be on the hot seat. But it would appear that Coughlin will be the head coach in 2010.

As a fan, it was a very uplifting response from the team’s owner. Coughlin and Reese sounded very business-like with their comments, but Mara spoke like a fan. He was the fan’s voice in all of this. He demonstrated more passion in a 10-minute conversation with the media than the Giants did in their last 120 minutes of football this season. It’s good to see that someone is taking this seriously.

Based on Mara’s comments, it sounds like defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan is a goner. No idea on the rest of the staff, however. For the record, I would be shocked if the Giants responded everything like the Buffalo Bills, who fired their entire staff today. But if the Giants bring in an established coach as a new DC, and he wants to bring in his own position coaches, there could be a big turnover on the coaching staff. Two hours ago, I would have said that the Giants’ habit of being loyal to their players and coaches migght prevent a big name from coming in as the DC, but after hearing Mara’s comments, I don’t see that being a problem anymore.

There is speculation that offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride coming get the axe, but I don’t expect it. While I disagree was some of Gilbride’s decisions, you can’t argue that Eli Manning had flourished since Gilbride took over for John Hufnagel as OC. However, Al Davis reported was very interested in Gilbride last offseason before finally deciding on Tom Cable, and Steve Corkran of the Silicon Valley Mercury News has reported that Davis may be about to fire Cable.

The Giants have historically been a praise publicly, criticize privately, kind of team. So this is out of character, but appreciated by the fans. And I have to wonder, if Mara said this publicly, I wonder what he’s saying behind closed doors. I’d love to be a fly on the wall for that…

What a train wreck (Part 2)

So the second half wasn’t much better. Carolina’s Steve Smith broke his arm, but still managed to fight off two arm tackles to reach the end zone. At 31-0, the crowd started emptying. Lawrence Tynes got his loudest cheers of the season when his 40-yard field goal sailed through for New York’s first points of the afternoon.

The Giants’ offense showed some life in the second half, but by then it was far too late. I went to the game with my father, and we started into the fourth quarter, as the Giants drove downfield, trailing 41-9. The last play I saw of the Giants at Giants Stadium was a fourh down play where Manning executed an excellent play fake and found Hedgecock all alone in the end zone. In the spirit of the afternoon, the Giants’ fullback treated the ball like a live grenade, allowing to bounce off his hands and fall harmlessly to the turf a few yards away.

The week after the game was another concern. Hall of Famer Harry Carson commented that he watched Giants players going into the tunnel at halftime, trailing 24-0 and being booed mercilessly by the fans. They were laughing and chatting with the Panthers’ players. Carson called the players out, saying they didn’t play with any pride. Linebacker Michael Boley responded by saying that he didn’t care what anyone outside the locker room said about the team.

Well Boley, maybe you should listen. Because you and your defense are an embarrassment to the New York Giants organization, the National Football League, Giants fans, and football fans in general. The team’s performance was a travesty (or at least it was…until the Minnesota game, which was even worse).

Eli and Coughlin apologized to the press after the Carolina game, but most players just refused to talk to the press.

With the season over now, we look to the offseason. Will Sherdan be fired? Well, this Giants’ defense gave up the second most in team history, so I don’t know they can reasonably not can him. Will the season be uncapped? If so, expect the Giants to cut some players without worrying about the cap.

What a train wreck (Part 1)

The New York Giants’ season ended last weekend, not with a last desperate attempt to salvage their season, but with a pathetic mockery of a professional athletic competition.

The Giants’ lost 41-9, but the game wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated. The Giants were in the game for one possession, as the offense took the opening kickoff and marched downfield. It appeared the drive had ended with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Steve Smith. But that was nullified by a holding penalty by Madison Hedgecock. A few plays later, a big third-down conversion was cut short when Mario Manningham fumbled and the Panthers recovered at the Carolina 20.

That was that. The Panthers marched downfield, kicked a field goal, allowed just one first down before a Giants’ punt, marched downfield again and got in the endzone.

Now at that point, it’s 10-0. Prior to this game, the Giants biggest comeback was being down 10-0 to Dallas three weeks earlier. It’s sad when the game is less than 20 minutes old, and you can already feel the game slipping away from you.

Meanwhile, Carolina scores two more times before halftime. The Giants’ offense got close enough to try for a hail mary right before the half, but that didn’t actually happen. Manning couldn’t find anyone to throw to, had to move up in the pocket and kept looking for someone to throw to until he must have realized he was five yards past the line of scrimmage. And so, Eli runs.

This play could only be considered high comedy. The clock is reading 0:00, so getting a first down, or even just running for as much as possible, is pretty useless. So Eli is trying to run for a touchdown. Of course, the Panthers will never allow that to happen. So Eli is running, and us fans in the stands are screaming while also thinking, “This can’t end well.” Of course it doesn’t. Eli gets hit, fumbles and the Panthers recover. At least the defender got tackled. The play was followed by a rain of boos from the Giants’ faithful as the professionals ran to the locker room with their tails between their legs. Or so we thought.

I’ll be back for Part 2 of this debacle. I promise.

Merry Christmas to All

First of all, Merry Christmas to all of you and your families. Christmas morning was fun at the Stratton household. I have three boys, Xander, Aidan, and Owen. Xander is 4, Aidan is 2, and Owen is 6 months old. Xander seems to really understand the whole Santa thing for the first time; Aidan declared every toy he or his brother got to be “mine;” and Owen really liked playing with and trying to eat the wrapping paper. As I type this, the family and I are heading north to New Jersey to visit family for the holidays (yea for WordPress for Blackberry!).

So I was wrong about the Giants last Monday night, New York was playing like a desperate tiger cornered, and Washington played like they were trying to schedule their tee times.

Tomorrow is the next step for the Giants, as they host the Carolina Panthers in their home finale. To commemorate the game, the Giants are going to play a video tribute at halftime that will feature a song by Bruce Springsteen (nope, the Boss won’t actually be there). Although I haven’t heard officially, you can expect the Giants to bring back some former greats as honorary captains. I heard a rumor that Lawrence Taylor will be one of them. Unfortunately, Phil Simms will be working for CBS, otherwise he probably would be there as well. I would also expect to see Harry Carson.

The Panthers will be starting Matt Moore at quarterback again, after Jake Delhomme went on injured reserve earlier this week in a move that could end his career in Carolina.

I’ll be there, so I’ll post the crappy pictures that I get.

BACK TO THE FUTURE?

The New York Yankees seem to be embracing past seasons as of late, signing Nick Johnson and trading for Javier Vasquez. Both players used to play for the Yankees.

I like the Johnson signing; I’ve long been a fan of him, even while he was playing in Washington for the Nationals.

As for the Vasquez trade, I’m not sold on him. First of all, we had to give Melky Cabrera to the Braves, and I liked watching the “Melk Man” in New York. But more importantly, Vasquez was unimpressive last time he was on the roster, posting an ERA just under 5.

But wait! Vasquez said he was injured most of the season, but kept it to himself. Well, that’s a little bette…WAIT A MOMENT!!! So he was hurt and didn’t tell anymore? In 2004? So we could have shelfed him for a while in the regular season, gotten him back for the playoffs, and maybe would not have had to star Kevin F***ing Brown in Game 7 against the Red Sox? THANKS A LOT, A**HOLE!!

The postseason is looking bleak

The Dallas Cowboys’s victory against the New Orleans Saints last night made the New York Giants’ playoff chances a lot murkier. Fortunately, we were aided by a last-second comeback by the Pittsburgh Steelers, which beat the Green Bay Packers 37-36 this afternoon.

For the Giants to make the playoffs, they need to win out and also need Dallas or Green Bay to lose at least one of their last two games. Dallas finishes with against the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, while Green Bay faces the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals. If both Dallas and Philadelphia win next week, their Week 17 game will be for the division. God, it would be so hard to root for the Eagles in that event. The Packers are probably gonna roll over the Seahawks. The Cardinals are two games behind in the race for a first-round bye, so it’s conceivable that they won’t have anything to play for in Week 17. So you need to expect that the Packers will win their last two games.

As for the Giants, they need to beat Washington tomorrow night, then Carolina on Dec. 27 in their Giants Stadium finale. Carolina spanked the Minnesota Vikings tonight, so that won’t be as easy of a task as we may have recently thought. Finally, the Giants travel to Minnesota in Week 17.

For a while, Giants fans felt that last game would be winnable, since the Vikings were two games behind the Saints for home field advantage, and two games ahead of the Eagles in the race for a first-round bye. The the Saints lost. Suddenly, it looked like the Vikings could be playing for home field advantage in Week 17. Not good. Then the Vikings lost to the Panthers. There hopes for home field are again pretty bleak, but now they’re just one game ahead of the Eagles (and Philadelphia would have the tiebreaker). So now the Vikings could be playing in Week 17 for a first round bye.

So this is the ideal scenario in the first two weeks + one game. I used Yahoo’s Playoff Generator to make this. You can follow this link to see the scenario and how exactly it would play out. For those who don’t want to click it, here’s what we want:

1. The Giants beat Washington tomorrow night (Considering it’s 12:10am around here right now, I guess it should actually read “tonight”).
2. The Giants beat Carolina on Dec. 27.
3. On Dec. 27, the Denver Broncos win at Philadelphia and the Saints win at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while the Vikings beat the Chicago Bears on Dec. 28. This would clinch home-field advantage for the Saints, and a first-round bye for the Vikings. In this scenario, the Vikings would then have nothing to play for in Week 17.
4. The Giants beat the Vikings on Jan.3.
5. Either the Eagles beat the Cowboys, or the Cardinals beat the Packers. If the Eagles and Packers both win, the Giants get the sixth seed and play the Eagles in the first round. If the Packers lose and the Cowboys win, the Giants get the sixth seed and play the Cardinals. If the Eagles win and the Packers lose, the Giants would actually get the fifth seed and play the Cardinals.

Of course, if the Giants LOSE to the Redskins, things get much worse. The Giants would then have to win their last two games, and either Dallas or Green Bay would have to lose their last two games. No, not both teams would have to lose a game, either Dallas or Green Bay would have to lose out. I guess considering Dallas’s history in December (although the Cowboys’ performance in the Superdome on Saturday night changes that reputation), that’s not completely far-fetched.

That being said, I and predicting the following:
1. Giants lose to Washington, beat Carolina, lose to Minnesota. They finish 8-8, season over.
2. Philadelphia beats Denver, New Orleans beats Tampa Bay, Minnesota beats the Bears. Minnesota needs one more win to clinch a bye, so the starters play against the Giants (which is why they win).
3. Arizona beats the Packers, and the Cowboys beat the Eagles. Dallas wins the division and gets the 4th seed, and play 5th-seeded Philadelphia in the first round. Green Bay plays Arizona in the other first round game.

I hope I’m wrong. I just don’t think I am.

By the way, I’m going to the Carolina game, so I’ll post pictures. I wish my good camera was working (the viewscreen seems to have died, so instead I’ve be using the camera with the crappy zoom.

Goodbye Chris Henry

Back on Thursday morning, Cincinnati Bengals’ wide receiver Chris Henry died after falling out the back of a pick-up truck the day before. He apparently had been arguing with his fiance, Loleini Tonga, and when she tried to drive off in the pick-up, he jumped into the bed to continue the argument.

Henry made a lot of questionable decisions in the years prior to this tragic event. He was correctly portrayed as a thug, and got handed a half-year ban in 2007 by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. In April 2008, he was arrested and subsequently waived by the Bengals.

Four months later, he was resigned by the Bengals. Once this time, he seemed to be cleaning his life up. He stopped hanging out with his “friends,” spending more time with his fiance and three children.

The fact that Henry seemed to be on the right path makes this story all the more tragic. His three children with Tonga are now fatherless, and maybe he was becoming a good father. On the other hand, nobody knows what the argument was about, so was this an instance of Henry regressing into his old self.

I think time will tell how we view Henry’s death: a tragic event that derailed a young man’s efforts to do the right thing, or one final action by a thug who just couldn’t get it right.

Also…

The BS Sports Blog can now be found in the World Wide Web by going to http://www.bssportsblog.com. Sweet!

I think Bill Sheridan will make an excellent manager at McDonalds

Two years ago, on the backs of a dominant defense, the Giants shocked the world by holding the New England Patriots to just 14 points. Today, I doubt the Giants could hold a peewee team, to two scores.

The most consistent identify of the team is a shadow of its former self, getting torched in a 45-38 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last night. The offense did its best to keep the team in the game, erasing an early 14-0 deficit to taking a 31-30 lead. But the lead lasted for all of 15 seconds before the defense allowed a one-play, 60-yard touchdown drive by the Eagles.

Tom Coughlin and the players are defending defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, laying the blame on themselves and giving Sherdan a free pass. But when the real only change from last season to this is the defensive coordinator, it’s impossible not to look to him as the source of your problems.

I would be extremely surprised to see Sheridan on the sidelines next season, and I think if he does return, it will signal another disastrous defense.

On offense, there has been a lot of talk about Eli Manning’s fumble. Manning ran for the first down after a Goff interception, but dove headfirst into the ground instead of going feet first. The impact jarred the ball free, and since Eli went down on his own, it was a live ball. But it really was a non-issue. The Giants’ offense quickly got the ball back, and proceeded to take the lead on a 61-yard catch and run by Dominick Hixon.

While the offensive playcalling was solid throughout, there was one play that was very troublesome. Facing a third and five at the Eagles’ 43-yard line and trailing 37-31, the Giants tried a shotgun draw. Apparently with the Eagles’ linebackers stacked to the right, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride thought a counter left was ingenious. Eli Manning thought it was the perfect call. There was only one problem with this… it didn’t work. Ahmad Bradshaw got pulled down by an ankle for no gain, and the Giants had to punt. The defense then proceeded to allow a 91-yard touchdown drive that essentially ended the game.

Listen, I don’t care that it was the perfect call. You have a $100 million quarterback who was on fire, and an Eagles’ secondary that couldn’t tackle. Go with what works. Instead, the Giants tried to get fancy, and now their hopes for a second-consecutive NFC East title are dead. With three games to play, the Giants are two games behind Philadelphia, who owns the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The focus now has to turn to the wild card. The Packers appear to be running away with the fifth spot, leaving the Giants and Cowboys to battle for the sixth spot. The Cowboys are going down to New Orleans for a Saturday night game, and they’re gonna get smoked. The Giants have three very winnable games remaining against the Redskins, the Panthers, and a Vikings team that will probably have nothing left to play for in Week 17.