Season’s over, so now what?

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

No press conferences to cover, no injury updates, no player interviews and no practice report. That all ended Sunday after the Giants lost their season finale to the Philadelphia Eagles, ending a long, trying, frustrating year at QDTC.

USATSI_8284464_110579513_lowresCEO John Mara revealed yesterday that he felt so frustrated after the loss in Jacksonville that he felt like firing everyone in sight. He didn’t, and instead, everyone may be back for another season.

GM Jerry Reese lamented about losing close games, apologized to the fans for consecutive losing seasons while promising to “keep all of our options open.”

Head coach Tom Coughlin, given at least another year to turn things around, kidded about how long he felt he could continue coaching and then detailed how much better his team needs to get to make that happen.

I don’t think it does much good to rehash this lost season, a season which saw the Giants regress and progress at the same time. I make the argument that if the team stayed somewhat healthy, they could have contended for the playoffs, if not the division. Others feel nothing except a complete overhaul is required going forward.

The decision to retain Coughlin and Reese appears to be the right one. To read more of this story, click here


Mara, believing his team is close, stays the course

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

It was press conferences galore at the QDTC Tuesday morning, with Giants CEO John Mara giving his take on a disappointing 6-10 season. In a nutshell, Mara said he and his partner, Steve Tisch, still believe GM Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin — who also met the media Tuesday — are the right men to direct the Giants going forward. That is, for one more year at least.

“I do not think that is an unfair statement,” Mara replied when asked if 2015 would be a “win-or-else proposition” for a lot of people.

Reese has had two strong drafts in a row after several subpar classes. Mara pointed out that the Giants “need another one” and feels Reese is the man to get that done.

Mara said Coughlin, 68, will come back on his current deal, which has one more season. He said the team preferred to not play the season with a “lame duck” coach, but things could change.

“That has been our policy in the past, but that is not set in stone…I have to talk about that with him,” Mara said. “I am not so sure that will be the situation anymore. I need to talk to him about that first. We haven’t had that discussion yet. He is going to be back.”

Coughlin will also be responsible for maintaining his coaching staff, meaning if he wants to keep Perry Fewell as defensive coordinator, he can. Mara went out of his way to characterize last year’s departure of former OC Kevin Gilbride as a retirement, insisting that Gilbride was not forced out.

“I will give him (Coughlin) my opinion, but it has always been the case in this organization that the head coach makes the final call on assistant coaches and whether he needs to make any changes, contrary to popular belief.”

Last year the focus was on fixing the offense. This year, Mara would like improvements to the defense.

“They did not play well,” Mara said. “There is no secret about that when you finish (29th). They had opportunities in a lot of games this year to make a key stop at the end of the game, and they didn’t do it,” Mara said. “There is no question that has to be a focus going into next season. You look at the number of players that we got hurt here. We had three or four corners hurt. We were playing in a lot of those games with guys we had signed off the street, which is not the ideal situation. Again, that is no excuse for going 6-10 and, believe me, I am not under any illusions about where we are right now. I am aware of what teams we have beaten over the last two years and what teams we have lost to. We have a lot of work to do.”

There was no question that the unusually high number of injuries contributed to the 10-loss season. Mara said the team used every method at their disposal to reduce injuries after 2013, but instead ended up having more.

“For some reason, here we are again leading the league in that category. We cut down the number of soft-tissue injuries and then, all of a sudden, we get all these broken bones and torn tendons and torn biceps. I just don’t have an answer for that right now. Obviously we will spend a lot of time on it this offseason, talking about that and looking at ways that we can improve upon that…but this is the NFL. People are going to get hurt. Why it happens to us in such extraordinary numbers, I don’t know. I am just hoping that we are due to have a change in luck in that area, and hopefully that will happen next year.”

Mara also said the Giants would like to retain impending free agents S Antrel Rolle and DE Jason Pierre-Paul but it would have to be at the right price. Same goes for QB Eli Manning, who has one more year on his deal.


Giants Week 17 defensive report card, presented by Long Island University

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Overall Grade: D: It actually should be an F, but, hey, it’s the giving season so why not? When you give up 27 points, 426 net yards and 5.1 YPA on the ground, things did not go well. Still, the Giants did play well in spots, holding the Eagles to 7-of-16 on third down and 2-for-4 in the red zone.

Long Island UniversityThe defense on the season was a mess thanks to season-ending injuries to MLB Jon Beason, LB Jacquian Williams and CBs Prince Amukamara, Walter Thurmond III and Trumaine McBride. They allowed 400 points on the season, tied for fourth-worst in team history. On a positive note, they recorded 47 sacks, up from 34 last year, and the most since 2011 when they had 48 and won the Super Bowl.

DL – Grade: C-: Call it a good sign. JPP and Jon Hankins both started every game this season. On this team, that’s a badge of honor. JPP Had two sacks of Mark Sanchez, raising his season total to 12.5, the most by a Giant since he had 16.5 in 2011. The bad news is they haven’t been able to stop the run all year and they didn’t again this week. DT Markus Kuhn got his first career sack.

LB – Grade: C: Jameel McClain (8 tackles, six solo, 1 PD) closed out his debut season in Blue with another fine performance. Mark Herzlich had seven tackles and a sack. Still, this group was supposed by about Beason, the team leader on defense; Williams, who way ahead in tackles when he got hurt halfway through the season and rookie Devon Kennard. The effort was there this week from the others, but more is obviously needed.

CB – Grade: C: Mike Harris has been a pleasant surprise as a mid-season free agent add. He led the way on Sunday with ten solo tackles, an INT and a PD. Chykie Brown had six total tackles and DRC was quiet as the Eagles chose to steer away from him for the most part. He did allow a few to be caught on him, however. To read more of this story, click here


Season ends with trademark loss to Eagles

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

After finishing 7-9 last year, the Giants retooled and came back this year to prove they were not losers. They were bitten hard again by the injury bug and actually finished 6-10, one game worse than last year.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New York GiantsThe season ended with a game that resembles a microcosm of the Giants’ problems the past two years: the opponent ran the ball at will, the special teams gave up a score and the offense failed in key spots, especially in the red zone.

In a contest that could have put a cherry on the season with a four-game winning streak, the Giants fell to the Eagles for the fifth time in seven games. Philadelphia did what they did best yesterday: hand the ball off and watch the Giants struggle to stop them.

The Giants failed to defeat another opponent with a winning record and we were reminded of why the Giants were going for only their second consecutive seven-win season yesterday. They have not solved their problems at some key positions, mainly tight end and in the trenches, and will face many of the same questions they faced last offseason. They ran the ball poorly again, gaining just 3.0 YPC.

Even though the Giants’ defense was only on the field for 25 minutes, they looked a step slower all afternoon. Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense had the lead for all but short stint right before halftime.  It didn’t help that the Giants’ lost two more defensive players, safeties Stevie Brown and Nat Berhe, early in the game.

QB Eli Manning came out firing, hitting his talented group of wide receivers for huge gains, but the Giants’ offense sputtered when it counted. They were 7-18 on third down and 1-3 in the red zone. Manning threw catchable passes that were not caught. They settled for FGs instead of TDs  too often.

There were some good things, though. Manning had one of his best days ever, throwing for 429 yards on 53 attempts, but had only one TD pass and his lone interception late in the game killed the Giants’ last hope of winning.

Odell Beckham, Jr. continued to post historic numbers and his cohort, Rueben Randle, had his biggest game as a pro. The two combined for 18 receptions and 343 yards yesterday.

DE Jason Pierre-Paul had two more sacks, finishing the season with 12.5 which will undoubtedly jack up his price this offseason. He was one of the Giants’ pregame captains, leaving fans wondering if its a sign of commitment by the team or a fitting farewell.

To read more of this story, click here


Last game for Fewell?

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Perry Fewell has been the Giants’ defensive coordinator since 2010. During that period, the Giants’ defense has been ranked among the best – and worst – in the NFL. His “bend but don’t break” philosophy has taken the Giants to the top of the league, winning a Super Bowl. But it also has failed miserably at times, exposing the team both personnel-wise as well as calling into question the team’s defensive strategy.

USATSI_4971254_110579513_lowresLast season, the Giants made a change at offensive coordinator, bringing in Ben McAdoo to replace the retiring Kevin Gilbride. At least that was the official narrative. This year, with the team missing the playoffs for the third straight season, many feel it’s time for a change on defense.

“No, not really. I just prepare for the next opponent, and I go at it like that,” Fewell replied Friday when asked if he thought this Sunday’s game vs the Eagles was his last with the Giants.

Fewell, like all of the team’s employees will learn their fate after the season. It is widely believed that head coach Tom Coughlin will be retained, but will be asked to make changes among the rank and file within his coaching staff.

If this is his finale as DC, Fewell is not reflecting on his time here. Coaches all know. Getting fired is just like getting hired. It’s one of the hard facts of the profession.

“I haven’t really thought about it. I wouldn’t even reflect on it,” he said.

To Fewell’s credit, his defense has been a force on occasion amassing takeways and sacks, stopping the run and shutting down historic offenses in postseason play. To his detriment, Fewell’s unit has been on the receiving end of some inexplicable beatings, surrendering large chunks of yards and points while failing to hold leads late in games.

Many readers of this column, and others, would not be sorry to see him go. I personally believe it’s time for a change. As for Fewell, he’s a class guy and a pro all the way. He will certainly be coaching somewhere next season. I just don’t think it will be here.


Rehabbing Beason, Cruz wondering what might have been

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Injuries have been a major story with the Giants and with one more game to go this season, a meaningless one playoff-wise, everyone is sitting around contemplating what might have been.

Two integral Giant captains, WR Victor Cruz and MLB Jon Beason, are two of the nearly two dozen players the Giants placed on injured reserve this season. Their services were sorely missed and one wonders where the Giants would be right now if these two key players were able to play out the season.

“It’s been tough being out, obviously, during that span of those games that we lost because you feel helpless, like you want to do something but you can’t,” Cruz told reporters this week. “But watching Odell has been fun. He’s been great. That kid is a heck of an athlete, heck of a ball player. Just seeing the things that he’s doing out there is motivating me to come back and be able to play next to him and do some really good things next year.”

Cruz went down with a torn patellar tendon in the Giants’ first meeting with Philadelphia in October. It was Beckham’s second game as a pro. The Giants were still breaking OBJ in, so we never got to see the full effect of both players on the field at the same time.

It’s no guarantee that a Cruz/Beckham tandem would produce a bonanza of points, but we’d sure like to see it. There is still only one football, so it’s possible that had Cruz not gotten hurt, Beckham’s targets would be severely limited. Still, it’s a good problem to have.

Beason, one of the Giants’ defensive captains and the one who wears the headset on the field, tore a ligament and fractured the sesamoid bone in his toe in the team’s minicamp in June. He played in just four games and was clearly not himself on the field this season. The defense struggled without him, especially against the run. It was hard for Beason to watch.

“Obviously, you wish you can contribute,”  said Beason in an interview session this week. “You want to be the reason why things are going well and not why they are going bad. You look at what the guys are able to do. You sit back and watch the film, and you say, ‘it’s really a matter of taking ownership and being where you are supposed to be, being accountable.’ That was a big thing. You don’t give up the huge rushing games we have or in terms of points scored against us. It was pretty bad, and pretty consistently bad for a while, but you step up and you look at yourself first and see how you can get better. I think that is what guys did individually.”

One player that righted the ship was Beason’s replacement, Jameel McClain, who shifted to MLB from the outside. McClain leads the Giants n tackles with 108 (68 solo), has two sacks and fumble recovery. Beason believes the defense will benefit greatly in 2015 with McClain and himself on the field together.

“I think Jameel McClain has done a great job, first off. It is a lot of pressure to be a mike linebacker,” said Beason. “A lot of times when things go well, you don’t necessarily get the praise for it. When things go bad, you usually take the blame for it. It is kind of like being a quarterback. He has done a great job, he has the personality for it. He’s made some huge plays for us. He is going to be a big part of what we are doing next year. I think it is something we can build off of.”

Both Beason and Cruz are rehabbing on schedule, and will come back to a more-fortified Giants roster in 2015.



Rookies Donald, Martin make Pro Bowl; Odell an alternate

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

The 2014 NFL Draft class has been well received by critics and fans alike. Many rookies have made an impact in their inaugural seasons but making the Pro Bowl as a rookie appears to be a major challenge.

The top rookies being talked about – the Giants’ Odell Beckham, Jr., Tampa’s Mike Evans, the Raiders’ Khalil Mack, Sammy Watkins of Buffalo and the Bengals’ Jeremy Hill – made major debuts this fall but all are on the outside looking in when it comes to the upcoming Pro Bowl.

Only three players selected last April were named to the Pro Bowl this week. Two of them, Dallas OL Zach Martin (No. 16 overall) and Rams DT Aaron Donald (No. 13), were both penciled as possible Giants during the mock draft season and many others felt the third rookie Pro Bowler, Alabama LB CJ Mosely, taken 17th overall by Baltimore, would fit nicely as well.

The Giants had Beckham rated higher and selected him at 12. In the beginning, Beckham was shelved with a tricky hamstring. He missed all of training camp and the preseason and then sat out the Giants’ first four games. Fans were wondering if the Giants had made the right choice in bypassing Martin, who stepped right into a starting position with the hated Cowboys and Donald, who would have helped stabilize the middle of their defensive line.

But Beckham turned out to be the right move by GM Jerry Reese. He is as productive as he is electrifying. In just 11 games, OBJ has 79 receptions for 1,120 yards and 11 TDs. Tops of the 2014 draft class.

Beckham and Mack have been named as alternates and will likely participate in the game. As for the more experienced Giants’ players, none were named to the roster, which is no longer determined by conference. DE Jason Pierre-Paul was also chosen as an alternate.