Tom Coughlin said, in so many words, that he's had about enough of people questioning his players and assistants over the way the San Diego game ended. So he took the opportunity yesterday to assume all blame in the handling of the final offensive series that kept the Chargers in comeback mode in the 21-20 loss last Sunday.
"Let me start out by saying that I’m responsible for all of the decisions that are made with our football team," Coughlin said with a testy edge to his voice. "The green zone decisions are my responsibility. They are nobody else’s. No one else made a mistake. The quarterback did not make a mistake. The decision was mine.
"I was asked the other day if I had an opportunity, would I change it; would I do something different? Well, my answer to that is: does that mean that I can also change the fumbled snap, the ball that we thought was going to be a fourth-and-inches that ended up being fourth and 10, which nobody has even recognized or talked about that. Can I change the running into the returner on the fair catch penalty? Can I change the 29-yard pass interference penalty? If you will give me a chance to change all of those, I’ll change all of those, too.
"But it is my responsibility and that is where it stops – right here. Nobody else is to blame. So let’s not continue to grope around trying to figure that situation out."
Unfortunately, that is kind of our job. And the fact is Eli Manning is given the power to change calls at the line, which he does quite a bit. So it's hard to believe that back-to-back runs instead of a little play-action on second and third-and-goal from the 14 and 10 would not have produced a better shot at the end zone than Brandon Jacobs running straight up the middle.
However, Coughlin did the right thing in taking responsibility.
"I will tell you right now, we were doing everything we possibly could to win," he said. "We had managed the game very well. Our kicking game had helped us out. We were in a position where we thought that the opponent would have to drive the ball the length of the field and score a touchdown to beat us. And, unfortunately, that is what happened. But the on-the-field decisions are mine. The blame goes right here."
Actually, a large part of the blame goes to what is now a multiple-season trend of Red Zone problems. They had just 35 touchdowns in 69 trips inside the 20 last year for a 51 percent TD ratio. That ranked them 20th in the league. This year, they're 28th, having scored just 15 touchdowns in 36 trips, a 41.7 percent average.
The Red Zone defense is even worse, ranking dead last as teams have scored 22 touchdowns in 29 trips.
A lot of that needs to be laid at the feet of Coughlin and his assistants. As far as that goes, it was somewhat disturbing to hear offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride say they were hesitant about throwing it into the end zone on the final trip in there, with a chance to put the game away.
"When it is first and goal from the 15, it is a little tougher, obviously," Gilbride said. "Like the first time we kind of got what we thought and we ran it down to the one and got the penalty. That killed us. Now they were smart and they stayed back and dropped everybody in. If we had thrown it into the end zone, it would have been a good chance that it would have been a disaster."
"Now, what you hope, like with the screen pass, you throw something underneath and you make a run in there. We were calling – as we always do – “do this or that based upon the look.” And then if they give you the look that tells you to run, then you hope that you are going to split it and get it into the end zone. But in hindsight you wish – if we hadn’t been as conservative, maybe we would have taken that option away and just say, “Let’s try to throw it.” Now, again, I can’t say, “You throw it in the end zone,” I think if you throw it into the end zone it is probably picked off and brought back the other way. And that wouldn’t have been real smart, either. But there are still other things that you can do. And in retrospect, you wish you had done them."
Whatever the case, the Giants remained searching for answers.
"Unfortunately, we already knew that our red zone defense and our green zone offense are not very effective," Coughlin said. "The only problem with that whole thing is that, to be honest with you, we had set that as an objective in the spring. It is an objective in the summer. And here we are – it is still a major objective. So we will keep working."
The Red Zone problems have become pronounced enough that the Giants devoted two periods to it in practice.
"We got off to a bad start in the Red Zone, and then got better for a few weeks," Manning said. "I don't say we're going to score a touchdown everytime in there. You hope to, but it's not gonna happen that way. We just have to keep fighting to get down there more often, and we'll get more points."