Growing Signs of Player Frustration and Nine Other Thoughts Ahead of the Giants' Week 15 Game
1. I caught the interview that linebacker Alec Ogletree did with WFAN after the Eagles game in which Ogletree said that the game-winning touchdown scored by Zach Ertz was a result of something they hadn't see on film.
Two things about what Ogletree said have been gnawing at me. The first and biggest one is how Ogletree admitted that the Giants weren't prepared for what the Eagles ran (never mind that even the most novice football fan could have correctly predicted Ertz being the go-to-target in that situation).
The job of the coaching staff is to prepare and put the players in the best position to succeed.
That Ogletree strongly hinted that wasn't the case is as blatant and as damning a statement of the defensive coaching staff as Janoris Jenkins' outburst after the Packers game in which he questioned why he wasn't allowed to travel with the opponent's top receiver.
The other thing that bothered me is why, between Ogletree and Mike Thomas, two veteran players who have played a lot of football, neither of them adjusted.
Now to be fair, maybe they're not allowed to freelance within the scheme, but you'll have to forgive me if I speculate that had one or both freelanced in that situation to prevent the game-winning score, I sincerely doubt there would have been hell to pay.
2. Piggybacking off that first point, here is what defensive coordinator James Bettcher had to say about that overtime game-winner.
I’m sure you will ask about the play at the end of the game. That’s a concept that they really run in different ways, and we hadn’t really seen it out of that look. At the end of the day, again, you know I will never talk about particular players, we have to coach it better, and we have to execute better at that moment.
If you ask me if it’s concerning that there were some vets on the field in the proximity of it and we cut one loose, I would say it’s concerning whenever someone gets cut loose; that’s how I look at it. Whether it’s a young guy or an old guy, it doesn’t matter. I look at all those situations the same. That’s what you do as a coach, and you work to coach it better, and we have to execute it better.
I've read through that quote now several times, and the question I keep coming back to is if the coaches hadn't seen that look before and couldn't prepare or put the players in the right position to defend it, how is that on the execution?
There was mass confusion on that play--Michael Thomas looked like he was playing zone, and it looked as though he might have thought Ogletree was going to pick up Ertz when he crossed into that zone (yet the rest of the defense looked like it was man coverage).
As I previously noted, these breakdowns continue to happen this late in the season are extremely concerning.
3. I've been reading the various perspectives on social media about the Giants' decision to send cornerback Janoris Jenkins packing, a decision that came after his use of a slur in a social media tweet to a fan and his "apology" issued a few hours later.
I believe that his actions this week were indeed the straw that broke the camel's back, but that his eventual departure from the team was more of a sooner than later proposition.
The coaches were thought not to be pleased with Jenkins' occasional "business decisions" on the field when the losses started to pile up, and his public calling out his use in the defensive scheme didn't go over well either.
4. The Giants are playing the Patriots in the 2007 Super Bowl. The Patriots are driving down the field for the winning score. But Michael Strahan is nowhere to be found on the field because...gasp!...it wasn't his turn to be out there because of the rotation.
Sound crazy? Indeed, yet that's the explanation head coach Pat Shurmur offered when he was asked why Leonard Williams, who was having a pretty good game against the Eagles the other night, was not on the field to help defend against the Eagles' game-winning drive.
I'm not comparing Williams to Strahan, but the point here is when the game is on the line, why wouldn't you have the guys who have otherwise been delivering for you all game long out there in such a critical spot?
5. Until such time that Daniel Jones practices a full week taking his full reps, he will not play.
Jones' play depends on his mobility, and while he's shown that he can do some moving around out there, what he isn't cleared to do yet, judging by the injury report, is plant his legs and push off for those deeper pass attempts.
That's why no one should be buying Shurmur's "will he or won't he?" clandestine approach regarding Jones' status. He won't be playing until he can move around and protect himself (as Shurmur himself said Wednesday) and until he can plant and push off that ankle.
6. Congratulations to left tackle Nate Solder on being named the Giants' "Walter Payton Man of the Year" nominee.
Look, Solder hasn't had a very good season on the field, I think that much is a given. The man's been banged up yet has somehow tried to push through his ailments (probably because the Giants don't have a viable backup option).
In the press release announcing Solder's nomination, it was revealed that his four-year-old Hudson, who has been battling cancer since he was three months old, recently had another operation to have a tumor removed and is on his third round of chemotherapy.
I'm not trying to make excuses for Solder's play. With that said, between his physical issues and the heavy mental strain of having to sit by and watch his child go through the rigors of chemotherapy at such a young age cannot be easy for Solder, his wife, and their family.
Solder could have stepped away to deal with this, and quite frankly, I can't see where anyone would have blamed him if he did. He chose to stick it out and give what he could, especially in a season that was lost very early.
7. The topic seems to come up every week: Why do the Giants move away from their hot hand on offense so quickly?
For example, in the first half of the game against the Eagles, receiver Darius Slayton was targeted six times. In the second half, he was targeted twice, the explanation being that the Giants didn't have as many plays in the second half as they did in the second.
So that begs the question: If you have a hot hand that is helping you move the ball, why would you move away from it, regardless of how many plays you got? The late Vince Lombardi was a big fan of sticking with what worked, even if it meant repeating the same thing over and over until the opponent figured out how to stop it.
I certainly think it's fair to wonder just how in-depth the weekly game plan is to where the Giants apparently either can't adjust to what the other team is doing or perhaps, they're getting too cute with what they're trying to do.
8. Along that same vein, I was curious regarding Saquon Barkley's rushing touches in the first half and the second half of games.
Except for his first game back from injury, Barkley has had more rushing attempts in the first half than int he second half. And in the Eagles game, in particular, he got ten carries in the first half and seven in the second.
Here is what bothered me about the carry distribution for Barkley. The Giants, as you know, were up 17-3 at the half. The Eagles ended up tying the score with 1:56 left int he game, but what I don't understand is that why the Giants, didn't give Barkley a touch after that at that point?
I get it that they were trying to win, but why not put the ball in Barkley's hands at that juncture in the game? To their credit, the Giants tried two passes to Darius Slayton that went incomplete, but if Barkley is your best player, wouldn't it make sense, especially with time ticking down, to get Barkley involved?
9. I've tried not to get ahead of things regarding who the head coach of this team will be in 2020 out of respect for the fact that the current head coach is still in the saddle. But I'm also not oblivious to the fact that a change is likely coming, as Pat Shurmur has without a doubt shown that while he might think he knows how to win, the results aren't there.
Now usually, I wouldn't endorse the idea of a college coach, but I've made this point before, and I think it bears mentioning. The Giants franchise right now reminds me of an expansion team. The roster has been so deeply gutted over the last two years that by 2020, the longest-tenured player expected to be on the roster will be Sterling Shepard, a 2016 second-round draft pick.
So if the Giants do as many think they will, which is part with Pat Shurmur, perhaps the answer is to get a college coach (Matt Rhule anyone?) who has experience in dealing with roster turnover to help lead this team out of its current wilderness years.
10. I know this won't be a popular take, but I can see a scenario in which Pat Shurmur is retained.
When Shurmur was hired, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Shurmur signed a five-year contract, which at the time was one year longer than what the team gave Ben McAdoo.
The logic, Schefter explained, is that since the Giants were pretty much starting over from a roster perspective, the length of Shurmur's tenure would put him in a position to where he'd be around (presumably) as long as the first draft class to develop them.
We all know what has happened since. The quarterback the Giants drafted (Kyle Lauletta) came in the fifth round and is no longer on the roster, replaced by a new quarterback (Daniel Jones) whom the Giants will have for at least four years.
So might the Giants brass stay with Shurmur but insist that he gut his coaching staff (which as I have stated in the past, I believe was hastily assembled given how late Shurmur was hired)?
For the record, I don't think that's the direction the Giants should take. Even if they give Shurmur one more year so that they don't have to eat the final three years of his contract, how many high-quality assistants would come to this team knowing that Shurmur's seat is already warm for 2020?
The answer is to move on. Let another coaching staff come in here and tap into the talent on this team--talent that is not a two-win group, by the way.