Exploring Why Giants Have Struggled to Transfer Progress Made in Practice to Games
There are several great mysteries in the world that we live, but for that corner occupied by Giants fans, the biggest mystery these days is why a team that the coaches and players claim are making progress during practices, and team meetings can’t seem to translate that progress to the playing field.
“(The media) only get to come in for like 10 minutes,” running back Saquon Barkley said after the Giants lost to the Packers, their eighth straight loss. “If you were able to stay the whole time, we practice like we are 10-2.”
Barkley went on to praise the team’s work ethic and attention to detail in meetings, saying, “it’s all there” and adding, “Obviously, I have the better point of view to able to see that and say that. It’s all there, but for some strange reason, it’s just not translating to the game right now.”
Quarterback Daniel Jones, however, might have offered the best theory yet, perhaps without even realizing it.
“I’m not sure,” he said, before adding, “You have to do several things--adjusting to different things in the game. I think in practice, you’re able to anticipate a lot of the looks. I think we need to be better in some of our awareness, realizing things on the fly and figuring stuff out during the game.”
Jones’ theory is perhaps one of the soundest of all those put forward by head coach Pat Shurmur and his players.
Although the media doesn’t get to view the entire practice session during the season—that’s done to prevent any accidental slips of the keyboard in revealing something that the coach doesn’t want to be revealed to the public—practices are scripted to cover specific scenarios.
When those scenarios go astray, or something unexpected happens, that’s when the Giants start to fall apart at the seams.
Let’s look at two examples from the last two weeks. Against the Bears, the Giants looked utterly lost when Chicago ran its offenses off the field and replaced it with the punt team and the Giants, even though they could have substituted their defense for their punt coverage team, did not.
That unexpected twist backed the Giants deep in their own territory, leaving them with very little time to drive down the field to perhaps score a game-winning touchdown.
Then there was this past weekend against the Packers where the Giants defensive secondary was confused on what to run.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a master at catching teams off guard, took advantage of the confusion by connecting with Devante Adams for a 17-yard touchdown that the Giants, even though they had 12 men on the field, couldn’t stop.
It’s the coaches’ jobs to prepare the players for anything and everything. But maybe in their quest to teach the players how to do everything right given all the youth they have across the board, they’re not covering the “what if?” scenarios as well as they could.
If the coaches aren’t thinking outside the box, that has to be a concern when deciding whether to give the existing staff another year. In the case of Rodgers, who is a master of catching teams off guard, it would be unthinkable if, at some point, defensive coordinator James Bettcher or one of his assistants didn’t at least give the players a heads up.
If Shurmur is planning to stand before John Mara, Steve Tisch, and Dave Gettleman to justify his being allowed to continue leading Year 3 of the Giants rebuild, this is where the youth and lack of experience argument can be put into play.
“Obviously, we’re not getting the final result we’re looking for, but throughout the game, you see a lot of really good plays on both sides of the ball,” Shurmur said before going on to list some of the positive plays that stood out in his mind against Green Bay.
“There are times when things look really good, and then we have those mistakes that hurt us, especially against a good football team.”
The Giants, because they're still young, haven't shown themselves to be savvy enough to overcome their own mistakes. And as those mistakes snowball, it has led to some bad football that at times borders on unwatchable.
Unless the progress translates into wins, as far as Giants fans are concerned, the words of Shurmur and Barkley and anyone else with the franchise who talks about the progress being made inside 1925 Giants Drive are failing on uninterested ears like the words of Miss Othmar of Peanuts fame to her students.
“When you work hard for something, and you are putting in the time, and the effort and things aren’t going your way, it sucks,” Barkley said. “It’s easy to cry about it, cry and go hide in the corner, but you have to figure it out. That’s what we have to do. We have to figure it out.”
The jobs of the coaching staff and in particular, Pat Shurmur depend on it.