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New York Giants

The Lonely Weekend between Championship Weekend and the Super Bowl

The Bad News: New York Giants’ QB Eli Manning and DE Jason Pierre-Paul will no longer be playing in tomorrow’s Pro Bowl, and WR Victor Cruz, a 2nd alternate for the NFC team, will not get an opportunity to be a Pro Bowl… at least not for this season.

The Good News: That’s because the Giants are in the frickin’ Super Bowl!!!

Left for dead in mid-December after a lifeless performance against the Washington Redskins dropped New York’s record to a pedestrian 7-7, the Giants have rattled off five straight victories to claim the title of NFC Champion and play in next weekend’s Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. And their opponent: the New England Patriots. Hmm… where have we heard this story before?

In fact, the similarities to 2007 are incredibly eerie. After a lifeless performance against the Redskins in Week 15 dropped the Giants’ record to 9-5, the Giants were viewed as having their playoff hopes in serious danger, and a definite one-and-done even if they did get in. Then the Giants came back twice to beat the Bills in Buffalo, lost to 15-0 New England in a game that still felt like a win, beat a NFC South team in the first round (Tampa Bay), beat the No. 1 seed in the divisional playoffs (Dallas), and then won the NFC Championship against the No. 2 seed (Green Bay) in overtime, with the winning field goal by Lawrence Tynes getting set up by a turnover (Brett Favre interception). Finally, the Giants wore their road whites and upset the (heavily) favored Patriots.

This year, the Giants beat the Jets and Cowboys in Week 16 and 17 to clinch the NFC East division title, beat an NFC South team (Atlanta) in the first round, beat the No. 1 seed (Green Bay) in the divisional round, then won the NFC Championship against the No. 2 seed (San Francisco) in overtime, with the winning field goal by Lawrence Tynes getting set up by a turnover (Kyle Williams fumble). Finally, the Giants will wear their road whites and and hope to upset the (slightly) favored Patriots.

Here’s another similarity. In 2007, the Giants lost 38-35 to the then-undefeated Patriots during the regular season, then avenged the loss in the playoffs. This year, the Giants lost 38-35 to the then-undefeated Packers during the regular season, then avenged the loss in the playoffs.

But here’s a big difference. In 2007, the Giants lost to the Patriots during the regular season, then beat them in the Super Bowl. This year, the Giants beat the Patriots in the regular season, so it’s actually New England that will look to avenge the earlier loss.

The Patriots finished 13-3 this season, although did not beat a single team all regular season that finished with a winning record. That ominous streak did end in the AFC Championship Game however, where they beat the 12-4 Baltimore Ravens. To be fair, the Patriots did beat the Denver Broncos, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers, Oaklands Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, and Philadelphia Eagles, all which finished with an 8-8 record and might have had a winning record had they played someone else.

The Giants finished 9-7, but have probably been the hottest team since Christmas. New England has been pretty hot as well, having won 10 straight since losing to the Giants in Week 9.

A big question, however, if how the off week will affect the two teams.

I’ll be back later this week with my pick, and I will be again live blogging during the game (although I obviously have more at stake than Packers-Steelers).

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Giants stomp out the Falcons

The Giants put together their most complete game of the season, dominating the Atlanta Falcons 24-2 in the first round of the NFC Playoffs. Eli Manning threw for three touchdowns, two to Hakeem Nicks, and the Giants’ rushing attack had a season best 172 yards.

But the true star of the game was the defense. A laughing stock for most of the season, the Giants pitched a shutout, with the Falcons’ only score being a safety when Manning was called for intentional grounding in the end zone. The defensive line had two sacks, but pressured Matt Ryan constantly. Michael Turner ran for just 41 yards for the Falcons. And Ryan was stopped twice on fourth and 1, both times on a QB sneak.

Now the Giants head out to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field for a rematch with the Green Bay Packers. The two teams met in Week 13, with the Packers pulling out a 38-35 win on a last second field goal by Mason Crosby. The Packers were without two linebackers, while the Giants were without Osi Umenyiora, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Mario Manningham.

It’s also a rematch of the 2008 NFC Championship Game, when the Giants ended Brett Favre’s career in Green Bay with a 23-20 overtime win en route to a Super Bowl title.

The Giants are definitely peaking at the right time, like they did in 2007 and the Packers did last year. It should be a great game.

Giants 2010 Schedule

Back in 2007, a friend who is a Steelers fan had a season schedule that his uncle had made on his refrigerator. I thought it was really cool looking. So I got a copy of it prior to the 2008 season and remade it as a New York Giants schedule. I made it again in 2009, and it was actually used by a Giants fan club for viewing parties.

So… here is the 2010 version.

In the past, I used Tom Coughlin’s training camp slogan on the bottom of the schedule. This season, I did something different. I read an article by Mike Garafolo of the Newark Star-Ledger, which was titled “Redemption is a common theme throughout Giants organization as camp begins.” I googled for a good quote about redemption, and this was what I found.

So click on the image below to get the full version of the schedule. It’s sized for 8 1/2 x 11 inches (letter-sized).

Enjoy!

The Cautionary Tale of Kevin Belcher

You know who Kevin Belcher is, right?

Right?Kevin Belcher

Belcher was the 153rd player chosen in the 1983 NFL Draft, the draft that is well-known for having possibly the best crop of quarterbacks ever in one draft. Belcher was an offensive lineman coming out of Texas-El Paso when he was selected in the sixth round by the New York Giants.

Belcher saw action in all 16 of the Giants’ games in 1983, a season where the team went 3-12-1 and nearly cost new coach Bill Parcells his job. Belcher was the starting center in 1984, and even had a four-yard pass reception in a 31-21 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Dec. 9.

But before the 1985 season, Belcher’s career ended when he got in a car accident that exposed nerves. The Giants struggled to replace him until they acquired Bart Oates from the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL.

Belcher’s brief career is relevant today because history may be repeating itself. The Giants recently acquired safety Chad Jones in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Jones, a two-sport star out of LSU, was hyped as a talented player who would bring much-needed depth at the safety position, a luxury the Giants sorely missed in 2009.

“I think right at the end of the OTA’s, (Jones) was starting to emerge and doing things very well on special teams and in the secondary,” Giants coach Coughlin said after New York’s recent mandatory minicamp.

But Jones’s career met the figurative and literal obstacle, as his SUV crashed into a pole Friday morning in New Orleans. Two passengers in the car walked away with minor injuries, but Jones wasn’t as fortunate. He reportedly fractured his left leg, and left arteries and nerves exposed. He underwent surgery in the late morning to return blood flow to his foot, and doctors now believe that he won’t have to lose the foot.

It may seem insensitive to speculate on Jones’s career at this point, but let’s be honest. Hundreds or thousands of people get in accidents every day, yet you’re reading about this one because who he is. Whether you’re a LSU student or alumni, a Giants fan, a football fan, or just a sports fan, you’re reading this because it’s Chad Jones.

Like Belcher, it’s hard to imagine Jones playing another down in the NFL. His foot is/was in danger of being amputated, and his had ARTERIES and NERVES exposed. Frankly, it’s a miracle he’s not dead.

Which brings us back to Belcher. In 2003, 18 years after his accident, Belcher passed away due to “undisclosed reasons.”  It may have been something completely unrelated, or perhaps it’s due to complications from the accident. We really don’t know. But it’s curiously coincidental enough to state that while his career is probably over, we can only hope and pray for Jones’s continuing recovery.

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.

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.