The Giants’ season unofficially ended in Week 16 when the Washington Redskins clinched the NFC East. But Sunday’s season finale loss to the Philadelphia Eagles really shut the door on yet another playoff-less campaign.
Such a disappointing season will undoubtedly bring about changes to a franchise that hasn’t been relevant since its 2011 Super Bowl-winning campaign – and that began with head coach Tom Coughlin stepping on Monday afternoon.
And while all but a handful of NFL franchises would trade four-straight losing seasons for two championship rings in an eight-year span, for this franchise, it’s not acceptable.
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Linebacker Devon Kennard said as much when addressing the media during the team’s locker room clear-out day. Kennard, who suffered through “multiple” coaching and system changes during his time at USC, said there’s going to be – and should be – changes for Big Blue.
He just didn’t want it to happen within the coaching ranks.
“We [the players] have to own those [losses],” Kennard said. “This was not Giants football, and it’s not acceptable.”
Running back Rashad Jennings noted that he was a part of five systems in eight NFL seasons before finally finding some sort of continuity with the Giants. He, too, like many teammates, said he “wasn’t in favor” of a change at the top.
He’ll likely have to prepare for yet another system, though, as offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo could also change venues if he’s bypassed for the head coaching job, and another coach brings in his own people.
The ball has begun rolling, with a plethora of available candidates updating their resumes. The Giants will have a nice problem on their hands, sifting through the eager applicants, as this opening is the premier vacancy.
According to sources, general manager Jerry Reese is safe, for what it’s worth. But that doesn’t mean he should rest easy. His inability to replenish the roster each year is a prime reason why Coughlin is no longer the head coach. It’s now up to Reese to rebuild the Giants and make them relevant again.
Metro takes a look at a few factors that need addressing heading into the offseason.
Aside from the very talented Kennard, the Giants haven’t drafted an elite talent at that position in years – and Kennard actually lined up at defensive end for half his time at USC. Instead, over the years, general manager Jerry Reese has tried to patch up that unit with veteran free agents who were productive, but were either always injured or not elite impact players (Jon Beason, Keith Rivers, and Michael Boley), or mid-to-late round picks that proved to be just ordinary guys (Mark Herzlich, Adrian Tracy, Greg Jones and Clint Sintim). It could be argued that the last snarling, fearsome, athletic linebacker who had an impact and was drafted by the Giants was Jessie Armstead – and he was an eighth-round flier in the 1993 draft. That’s far too long for a storied franchise like the Giants to go without grooming a bonafide star at that position.
There’s a theme here. Coughlin bemoaned that his Giants failed to “finish” games all season, and a big reason was due to the lack of a pass rush to keep teams from erasing late-game deficits. If the Giants could’ve gotten to Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, or Cam Newton at least once on those game-winning drives, Big Blue would likely be preparing for the playoffs, instead of emptying their lockers. Jason Pierre-Paul’s future is up in the air, as he’s now a free agent and there’s been no word from either side that he’ll resign. Pierre-Paul, who noted he’ll undergo one more surgery on his mangled right hand, acknowledged that he’d like to return (“I want to be here next year [and] finish my career here”), but cryptically added that “it’s a business … a lot of teams would like to have [defensive ends] like me who can rush the passer.” The Giants could technically use the franchise tag on him again this offseason, but at an estimated $15 million, that’s unlikely. Whether Pierre-Paul returns or not, there’s still plenty to be desired about the pass-rush situation. The Giants are going to have to do their homework on the impending free-agent class and be vigilant in finding a pass rusher in the early rounds of the draft. They currently own the 10th pick, so that’s a primo spot to nab someone like Clemson All-American end Shaq Lawson.
Protection for their franchise quarterback
Eli Manning won’t ever say it publicly, but something needs to be done with the offensive line. While he’s posted career numbers in back to back seasons under McAdoo, Manning still has been under siege more times than he’s cared, and that’s due to an offensive line that’s broken down – and lacks quality depth. The left side of the line seems to be in good hands, featuring Ereck Flowers at tackle, Justin Pugh at guard, and Weston Richburg at center. But it’s the right side that’s been cumbersome. Flowers was originally drafted to be the right tackle, but Will Beatty’s season-ending pectoral injury forced the switch to the left side. The season ended with guys named John Jerry and Marshall Newhouse manning the right side. That wasn’t good enough, as Big Blue finished near the bottom of the league in rushing (26th). Reese will definitely need an upgrade along the offensive line, and return Big Blue back to its power-running glory days, or the next head coach will suffer the same angst as the now-removed guy.
A new sidekick for Odell Beckham Jr.
As great as Beckham has been during his first two seasons – and record-breaking campaigns they’ve been – he’s been a one-man wrecking crew on the perimeter. Eventually, he’ll need help. And whether that’s with the return of Victor Cruz – if he’s brought back – or via free agency and the draft, remains to be seen. Giants’ fans have waited the last two seasons to see the duo take the league by storm. Alas, it’s yet to happen, and may never happen, especially if the Giants seek a pay cut (he’s due $7.9 million next season, second highest behind Manning – a hefty price tag for a guy who hasn’t been on the field since Oct. 2014). Rueben Randle will likely test the free-agent waters, which means Big Blue will need to replenish, and upgrade, this corps. As great as Beckham is, he can’t do it alone forever.
Big Blue notes:
-Coughlin did not use the word retirement, as those close to him have noted that he would not rule out coaching elsewhere, if a job was offered.
-Several current and former players expressed their sadness for Coughlin’s departure, as well as gratitude for having played for him:
Kicker Josh Brown: “It has been one of the greatest honors of my life and career to be led by Tom Coughlin. My life will forever be changed.”
Offensive guard Geoff Schwartz: “[Tom Coughlin] is an exceptional coach and an even better person. It’s been an honor to play for a Hall of Fame coach. Thank you, Coach Coughlin.”
Former kicker Lawrence Tynes: “What a man. What a career. Thanks for being you. You and [wife] Judy are like family to me. I love you, Coach.”
Former offensive lineman David Diehl: “Thank you, Tom Coughlin for demanding the very best from myself and teammates every single day. Respect is not given, it’s earned.”
Former tight end Kevin Boss: “What an incredible honor it was to have played for Coach Coughlin. [It’s] something I’ll be very proud to tell my kids about someday.”
Safety Nat Berhe: “Coach Coughlin taught me how to be a professional with respect, class, and focus. I am eternally thankful. I’ll be at the Hall of Fame ceremony.”
Pierre-Paul: “He’s a great coach. He’s determined. A motivator, father figure, and consistent at everything he does since the day that I got here. Those guys [former veteran players] told me about him and I learned and actually got to experience Coach Coughlin for who he is.”
-The Giants lost six of their last seven games to finish 6-10 for the second consecutive season. It is their first back-to-back double-digit loss seasons since 2003-04 when they were 4-12 in Jim Fassel’s final season as head coach and 6-10 in Tom Coughlin’s first.
-The last time the Giants said goodbye to a head coach was Fassel on Dec. 17, 2003.
-Perhaps the relatively new digs have also contributed to this current malaise. Since MetLife Stadium opened in 2010, the Giants are 25-23 at home, and 47-49 overall. This type of stretch rarely happened in the old Giants Stadium.