State of the Giants, Part Two: The Coordinators

John Fennelly , Lead Writer

I know this part of the series will stoke a lot of readers’ fires. In the previous post, I cited that Tom Coughlin values loyalty, and sometimes that value clouds his judgement. Such is the case in his choice of coordinators.

Teams usually change up their coordinators every few years, either by choice or attrition. The Giants have made changes. OC Kevin Gilbride took over for John Hufnagel in 2006, after Hufnagel was fired. ST coordinator Tom Quinn was elevated to the position after Mike Sweatman retired in 2006. Perry Fewell is the fifth DC in the Coughlin era, preceded by Johnny Lynn, Tim Lewis, Steve Spagnuolo and Bill Sheridan, all of whom have had peaks and valleys during their time with the Giants.

OC Kevin Gilbride – You can bash him all you want, but the facts speak for themselves. The Giants have had immense success under Gilbride, setting franchise records and winning championships along the way. Of the team’s top ten scoring seasons of all-time, the seven under Gilbride rank 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th and 10th. (You can read his full bio here.)

Gilbride is the longest-tenured offensive coordinator in the league (17 seasons) and has held coaching positions in both the NFL (San Diego) and in college. His association with Coughlin goes back nearly 20 years (he served as Tom’s OC in Jacksonville in 1995-6).

His job is safe because of his relationship with Coughlin and QB Eli Manning. The Giants can score with anyone. But have the Giants plateaued under Gilbride?  His playcalling has gotten stale, with a reliance on the big play. We saw that this year when he had a lame Hakeem Nicks and shortage of running backs. Instead of compensating and tailoring the offense to meet the personnel in front of him, he stuck to his plan and the Giants lost some games they could have won had they used a little ingenuity.

What’s next? Simple. The Giants have stars on the offense, but they should not be beholden to them. They have to figure a way to get more players involved and get them involved sooner. This way an injury to a player such as Nicks doesn’t turn over the whole apple cart. Second, he needs to get more creative and cagey. The offense was too predictable, too often. By going four-wide, running screens and changing up personnel he’ll be able to keep defenses off balance. He did that several times this year (see the SF and Carolina games) and the Giants rolled. Then, he went back into his shell.

DC Perry Fewell – He has the passion, the fire, the attitude, the experience and the resume. So, why are his defenses continually getting shredded? Because his system, pardon my French, sucks. In this day and age of the quarterback, a bend-but-don’t-break, Tampa 2- style scheme is the worst possible strategy you can employ. Why Coughlin is buying into this garbage strategy remains a mystery.

Under this scheme, if the pass rush isn’t percolating and providing pressure, you’re dead meat. And that’s exactly what the Giants were for the most part in 2012.

The Giants rely on the pass rush to get home in order for the defense to be effective. Duh. If you get pressure on the QB, it really doesn’t matter what scheme you run. This year, teams countered the Giants’ rush with quick drops, double teams and chips and the Giants couldn’t overcome those tactics. The back seven were left exposed and, man, did they get torched.

Fewell and Coughlin need to sit down and get this solved, but they’ll need Jerry Reese’s help. They have the personnel down the middle of the field, but their corners play soft and are vulnerable. They need to upgrade there, at LB and at DT. They could not stop the run and that opened the floodgates for the pass. Because of the poor coverage ability, Fewell did not dial up the blitz, choosing to keep personnel back in coverage. They play defense as if they were playing uphill. No good. Change the scheme and get the right players to play in it. If that means ditching Fewell, so be it.

STC Tom Quinn – The group has made major strides since the Desean Jackson debacle blew up their season two years ago. Quinn has tightened up the coverages on both punts and kickoffs.  His unit changes from week-to-week, depending on who dresses, so he has done an admirable job the past two years. They basically won the NFC Championship Game last year by forcing turnovers. The kickoff returns have gotten a shot in the arm from rookie RB David Wilson, but the punt return game is average at best.

Quinn benefits from having productive veterans at PK (Lawrence Tynes) and punter (Steve Weatherford). LS Zak DeOssie is a solid ST captain, making Quinn’s job a bit easier. I have no complaints with Quinn or the specials. If you look at the Giants’ five biggest wins this year, they were the games in which the Giants had their best field position. Look for them to build on that success next season.