The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for Fanhouse.com

Giants will rally

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The New York Giants began the season as one of the NFC favorites. They'd started 11-1 last season before Plaxico Burress shot himself; signed what seemed to be solid players for depth in the front seven, and had one question mark: a made-over receiving corps.

As it turned out, wide receivers were no worry. Steve Smith, Mario Manningham and rookie Hakeem Nicks are the core of what a lot of people think is the best young group the Giants have ever had.

But the defense, always New York's strength, allowed the second most points in the NFL. Injuries played a role -- they always do. But so did one of the worst decisions of Tom Coughlin's coaching career -- promoting Bill Sheridan to defensive coordinator when Steve Spagnuolo left to become head coach the Rams.

The Giants, started 5-0 and finished 8-8 because the early schedule was soft and the late schedule wasn't. Things change quickly in the NFL -- defending champion Pittsburgh lost Troy Polamalu early, lost five straight in midseason, and missed the playoffs at 9-7. But the Giants were worse, getting blown out by a combined 89-16 in the final two weeks.

It was a unit in which everything went wrong. Sheridan seemed to make the wrong move at the wrong time every week and lost the confidence of the players, starting before the season when he wanted to coach from the press box -- middle linebacker Antonio Pierce had to talk him down.

Then safety Kenny Phillips was lost for the season after two interceptions against the Cowboys in the second game. You can win with injuries, but it's hard when they're all in one area -- CBs Aaron Ross and Corey Webster also missed large chunks of the season; DE Justin Tuck, arguably the best defender, injured a shoulder on a cheap shot by Flozell Adams in Game Two and was nowhere near his Pro Bowl level as he nursed it all season.

On offense, Brandon Jacobs looked slow. Turns out he had a bad knee, disclosed last week when he decided opted for surgery. The other back, Ahmad Bradshaw, gutted it out on two bad ankles.

The off-season signees contributed nothing. Linebacker Michael Boley played decently but was hurt much a lot; defensive lineman Chris Canty missed most of the season and defensive tackle Rocky Bernard barely showed up. Osi Umenyiora, who missed 2008 with a knee injury, was benched and clearly unhappy with Sheridan. The 427 points allowed was second worst in the league behind Detroit and worst for the Giants since 1966.

Still, the Giants beat Dallas twice and after a 45-12 win over Washington two weeks ago, were 8-6 and had a decent playoff shot. But they were embarrassed the rest of the way, losing 45-9 to Carolina and 44-7 to Minnesota.

Like the Steelers, the Giants are built on stability -- four straight playoff appearances before this year was second best in the NFL behind Indy. And they're two years off a Super Bowl win.

Sheridan will almost surely be fired. GM Jerry Reese will fix the middle of the defense -- Pierce was also a late-season injury loss, stripping the defense of leadership.

"Choke?'' They should be back... Good franchises are like that.

By Dave Goldberg  |  January 4, 2010; 3:04 PM ET  | Category:  New York Giants Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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