But first, let's talk about our poll. Hey, you guys are right in line with what John Mara said about Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese. They're not going anywhere, and few of you wanted them anywhere but here.
Of the 303 ballots cast, 205 (67 percent) said the Giants should keep them both. The next biggest total, 79 (26 percent) said they should keep Reese and fire Coughlin. Eleven of you, or three percent, wanted Mara to get rid of both of them. And eight, or two percent, said they should keep Coughlin and get rid of Reese.
Guess we can say the Giants split the difference by firing defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan. But then, that was going to happen anyway.
Actually, if Mara had to go on sheer grades, he'd probably be clearing out a bunch more, like most of the defense. That may still happen, and not just because so many units failed easy-grader Prof. P's class. The co-owner is just good and ticked that his team didn't perform anywhere near the standards the veterans set the past two seasons.
QUARTERBACK: Can't really fault Eli Manning here, as he had his best statistical season so far despite an admirable battle against a battered heel that, thankfully, will need rest but not surgery. More than 4,000 passing yards for the first time, and a career-high 27 touchdowns highlighted a season that saw him dodge pass rush pressure and find receivers down the field. If you can fault him for anything, it was the constant fiddling at the line in his effort to find the perfect play. Making like Peyton is fine when you're way up, but when it was still a game it served more to interrupt the offensive flow than gain any great results. He had a bunch of end zone throws that were off-line, too, and that showed up in a Red Zone efficiency that finished 23rd in the league. Still, he was out there fighting until the end, which wasn't very pretty. GRADE: B+.
RUNNING BACKS: When is Brandon Jacobs ever going to stay healthy for a whole season? Probably never. Resign yourself to it. The fact is, he's a banger and no amount of sweeps is going to save him. It's just going to make him ineffective, as he was this year in a 224-carry, 835-yard season that saw his average fall from 5.0 to 3.7. He did have five touchdowns, but Jacobs showed only flashes of the bruising scourge of linebackers and defensive backs he should be. Ahmad Bradshaw did a great job playing through two ankle sprains and a busted fifth metatarsal, and at one point looked more like the featured back than Jacobs. But he, too, tailed off at the end. Not a single Giants running back rushed for a 100-yard game this year. DJ Ware was supposed to provide that third head, but an early elbow injury robbed him of his confidence, and he had a bad fumble against Denver. Gartrell Johnson was okay in his limited role. GRADE: C.
RECEIVERS: Big question coming out of training camp. Big star by the end of the season. But not perfect. Mario Manningham had all sorts of trouble staying in on sideline routes, and Hakeem Nicks had a couple of big drops. But overall, can't argue with this group's success. Steve Smith became the Giants' first 100-catch receiver, going for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns. Nicks, showing true game-breaking potential, had 11 plays of 29 yards or more while catching 47 passes for 790 yards (16.8-yard average) and six touchdowns. And Manningham still managed to catch 57 balls for 822 yards and five TDs. Nicks eventually overtook Manningham as the second starter next to Smith, but that nucleus, plus the addition of third-rounder Ramses Barden, should make for a dynamic corps next season. Kevin Boss took one big hit after another, including one that resulted in a concussion, but kept playing and came up with a bunch of key catches. Smith was the league's top third-down receiver. Bradshaw did okay out of the backfield, but not so with fullback Madison Hedgecock, who dropped more balls than he caught. GRADE: A.
OFFENSIVE LINE: David Diehl, Rich Seubert, Shaun O'Hara, Chris Snee, and Kareem McKenzie had a great, productive run together for the past three years. But that may be ending as some shifting and new blood is needed. McKenzie showed he's starting to break down, and rookie Will Beatty proved while taking over for him that he's ready for a starting job. Seubert broke down, too. Whether it was because of playcalling, or simply because of creeping age, this line was hardly the physical, brawling bunch of the past couple of seasons. Part of the reason for Jacobs' inefficiency was that the holes just weren't there consistently enough. The middle let in too much pass pressure, and the edges were no longer quick to the outside. They were simply average on the run most of the time, showing only glimpses of the past in games against Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and Philadelphia. Manning was sacked 20 of his 30 total times in the final eight games. GRADE: C.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Justin Tuck wasn't a vocal leader. But the other players should have taken not of his physical leadership in playing through, and succeeding with, a couple of bad shoulders, one of which will undergo surgery this week. He was the most consistent member of a thoroughly inconsistent front, playing both inside and out and getting pressure from both spots. Other than Tuck, ugh. Osi Umenyiora had six sacks, one less than Tuck's team-high total, and lost his starting job the last quarter of the season to Mathias Kiwanuka because of his shortcomings in the run defense. Kiwanuka was okay against the run for the most part, but hardly spectacular. And the middle of the line, from Chris Canty, to Barry Cofield, to Fred Robbins, to ultimate free agent bust Rocky Bernard, were all but non-existant most of the time. Run defense starts up front, and that area allowed 110.8 yards per game and 21 touchdowns. So does the Red Zone defense, which finished worst in the league. If not for Tuck, this group would have received a straight F. GRADE: D-.
LINEBACKERS: Cover the tight end much? Visanthe Shiancoe's 10 catches in last week's quit job was just the end of a long, exhausting road for this group. Tight ends continually tormented them, and it didn't matter of Michael Boley or Antonio Pierce or Chase Blackburn was in coverage. They all had problems. They weren't much good on the blitz, either, as few of the many the since-deposed Bill Sheridan dialed up ever got home. Once Pierce left with a neck injury, that was it for leadership. Boley never did look like the fast backer the Giants prized as a free agent, and Pierce had grown slow, anyway. Danny Clark was invisible most of the time on the strong side. Jonathan Goff showed fire and potential as the starting middle linebacker the last part of the season. GRADE: F.
SECONDARY: Mr. Brown, this is Mr. Webster. Mr. Johnson, this is Mr. Brown. By the way these guys failed to communicate, you'd think this unit hadn't spent a whole offseason and training camp together. Once Kenny Phillips went out, the safeties were thrown into such disarray that they simply spiraled out of control. Receivers ran free down the middle of the field constantly. One safety might be playing Cover-2, another in man. Of course, the worst of the bunch was C.C. Brown, who eventually lost his starting job to converted cornerback Aaron Ross. Corey Webster looked like he was having a Pro Bowl season the first half of the year, and then tailed off. Terrell Thomas did a good job at right corner in place of the injured Ross, and has probably cemented that position, as has Bruce Johnson at nickelback. But Kevin Dockery was a disaster in any role back there. It was common to see a pass go up and find a receiver uncontested, despite someone being in position to make a play. It's hard to believe the Giants finished as high as No. 15 in pass defense, but that's because of the weaklings they played during the 5-0 run. More telling are the 31 touchdowns they allowed, second-worst to Detroit's 35. Any time you mention the Giants in the same sentence as the Lions, you know something's wrong. They had all sorts of injuries -- Phillips, Ross, Webster -- but the fill-ins should have done a much better job. GRADE: F.
SPECIAL TEAMS: I'll say it again. Lawrence Tynes did not directly cost them a game. But his inability to hit the end zone on kickoffs and the coverage team's inability to make a stop at key times certainly did. It was nothing to see the offense answer an opponent score, only to have said offense watch as the opponent returned a kickoff beyond the 35. That happened far too often. Jeff Feagles had one of the worst years of his career. Domenik Hixon returned a punt for a touchdown, and came within a couple of shoestring tackles of breaking other big returns. But by and large, the return teams failed to produce advantageous field position. The kickoff return team finished 28th with a 20.8-yard average. Not good. GRADE: D.
COACHING: They've already fired rookie defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, for good reason. Even veteran coordinators don't survive the kind of fall his unit took this year, from No. 5 in points allowed last year to 29th this year. The 427 points marked the second-worst total in franchise history, and they allowed 40 or more points in five games, worst total since they set the mark of 501 points in 1966. With a new coordinator coming in, the rest of the defensive staff shouldn't feel too comfortable, either. They all take part of the blame for the constant miscommunication problems between safeties and corners, backers and safties, and backers and linemen. That stuff was inexcusable, injuries or not. The offense was better, but coordinator Kevin Gilbride could make you pull your hair out with some of his Red Zone calls. And his early abandonment of the running game, even as his team trailed by a mere handful of points, contributed greatly to the lack of rhythm the offensive line often displayed. Finally, Tom Coughlin has to take a hit here for the last two games. He appeared to have lost his players' minds, and it resulted in two straight give-up jobs, the first of which came when they were down just 3-0 against Carolina in a game that would have preserved their playoff hopes. Coughlin's nice-guy incarnation since 2007 may have run its course. After this, it could be back to General Tom, the drillmaster. And the Giants would deserve as much. GRADE: F.
Okay, you're turn.
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