Now that all the playoff stuff is over and done with, it's not going to matter a whole lot if the Giants finish 9-7 or 8-8. No matter what happens in Minnesota Sunday, there are going to be changes ahead.
It's a bit premature to target who will be coming in from the outside because we won't know until March if 2010 will be an uncapped year. If it is, the free agent pool will be diluted simply because the free agent eligibility goes up to six years from its current four without the cap. But it's never too early to surmise who the Giants might jettison in their search for a fix, especially for a defense that gave up 40 or more points four times this year.
One thing is a surity. Tom Coughlin goes nowhere, nor does he deserve to. Preparedness is different than execution, and Coughlin's teams were nothing if not prepared. One would have to think that if certain people return to health next season -- Kenny Phillips, Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, Osi Umenyiora -- the results may be way different than this year.
As for the offense, there's no doubt the young wide receivers have a good thing going, and Eli Manning is as responsible for that as anyone. He had some ups and downs, but overall he had his best statistical season ever. He'll finish with over 4,000 yards if things go right Sunday, and his 27 TDs is a career high.
So who's in and who's out? Just my opinion, but...
DC Bill Sheridan -- Don't be surprised if Dick Jauron, an old Coughlin cohort from Jacksonville days, comes to the rescue. He's got a good defensive mind and he's experienced in the coordinator's spot. There's just no way Sheridan, or any coordinator, could or should survive a season where their unit was so ineffective. Forget about the yards they allowed. They've given up 383 points so far, fifth-most in the league behind only Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City and Tennessee. That's a steep decline from 2008, when Steve Spagnuolo's group landed in the top five in fewest points allowed.
Antonio Pierce -- Breaks my heart to say this because I love his on-field leadership, but maybe it's time he moves along. Time to get somebody younger and faster in there, like Jonathan Goff, who proved he has much potential, or an early draft pick. If he's interested in coaching at all, it wouldn't be a bad move for the Giants to offer him that break-in job as an assistant linebackers coach.
C.C. Brown -- Outskie! Nice try bringing him in from Houston, but the guy never fit the defense. Seemed to be a slow learner and an even slower coverage guy. Can't have that at safety, but Phillips' return would make him unnecessary, anyway.
Chris Canty -- I wouldn't mind seeing him go at all. He was supposed to bring pressure up the middle, pass-batting ability with those big wings, and some gap-clogging. He delivered none of it as he battled a couple of injuries. Sounds like damaged goods to me, so get rid of him if there are no cap implications. A new collective bargaining agreement that includes a salary cap would save him, however.
Fred Robbins -- His time has come and gone. Bye. I could be wrong here because I didn't think he'd make it to training camp this year.
Kevin Dockery -- I once thought he was going to be an excellent cornerback. But he couldn't even stick as a nickelback in this, his contract year. Cooked up too many times. No sense in offering him a restricted free agent tender.
Kareem McKenzie -- Another one of my favorite people, but it's time to start getting some new blood into that line. Will Beatty proved he can do the job. Now it's time to start him fulltime, either on his more natural left tackle spot, which would move David Diehl either to guard or right tackle, or just put him in straight-up for McKenzie. Either way, Kareem's time is up.
Madison Hedgecock -- He's not a bad blocker, but his pass-catching ability is from hunger. Need a more well-rounded fullback.
Lawrence Tynes -- I'm not saying this is automatic, but they at least need to bring in some legit competition for him in camp, preferably someone who can hit the end zone consistently on kickoffs. If he gets outkicked, he gets outkicked.
Umenyiora -- He's in. It takes a long time to heal from knee surgery, and it would be unfair to say he's washed up after just this year. He needs another season. And I wouldn't mind at all to see his workload curtailed to passing downs so he can concentrate on getting to the quarterback. Better than seeing him get blown up on the run half the time, right?
Michael Johnson -- Tough call. Boy, he had a lousy year. But he's still a hard hitter when he gets to somebody. And since you can't retool everything at once, he may have to stick around. Phillips' returning range will make Johnson a better safety, anyway.
Corey Webster -- Oh, he stays. There was a stretch of games where he was the best cornerback on the team. Terrell Thomas also sticks, as does Aaron Ross. Thomas had an excellent year overall. Ross needs another year to see if his hamstring will hold up. If it can't, he's gone after next season.
Brandon Jacobs -- We all know he's fragile, but when his battering-ram power is used properly, he's a force. Guys like him, you get what you can out of them, and if they miss a few games because of injury, you live with it. I think a healthier Ahmad Bradshaw and DJ Ware will allow Jacobs to get back to a more familiar style next season, so keep him around.
JUSTIN TUCK -- Of all the defensive players, Tuck was the one guy who put out every game. Busted up shoulders, aches and pains all over, he was in there pitching. He plays inside and out, and is good enough to adapt to any system the new defensive coordinator dictates, be it the 4-3 or 3-4. Love his fire. While we're at it, keep Mathias Kiwanuka around, too. He's still developing, but he didn't have an awful year.
Michael Boley -- Yeah, he sticks. Good speed when healthy. Could use some remedial work in covering the tight end, but he was never really at full strength this year. I think with an offseason of rest, he'll be much more effective on the blitz next season.
Barry Cofield -- He's okay as a nose tackle.
Jeff Feagles -- If you're thinking his problems this year were caused by his advanced age, I disagree. Too much coaching, if there can be such a thing. The staff needs to step back from reminding him to be deathly afraid of these top-flight returners and let the 22-year-old veteran do his job. He's got plenty left.
OC Kevin Gilbride -- He'll drive you mad at times with his playcalling in the Red Zone, but if he can get that straightened out he's not bad. He can work on getting Manning to stop fiddling around with the calls at the line. Remember, it was his group that put up 30 or more points six times this year, and three times in the last four games.
Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham -- Yes, even Manningham, providing someone can explain to him that that thick line on each side of the field is out of bounds. They're dynamic and diverse, a nice surprise after heading into the season with so many questions. Also can't wait to see what next year holds for Ramses Barden, the tall, small-school wideout who never got off the inactive list.
Domenik Hixon -- Borderline case here. He's not a bad returner, and not a horrible fourth or fifth option as a receiver. But if they can find someone better on the open market, they should go after him.
Kevin Boss -- They need guys like him; smart, tough, good hands, good blocker. If they can take him out of max protection mode next year, I think they'll find they have a pretty good receiver who can work that skinny post for some big gains. He takes a heck of a licking and keeps getting up. Guys like that are invaluable.
That's the partial list. Tell me what you think.