3 New York Giants Following another disappointing season, the clock is winding down for an embattled coach and a beleaguered quarterback

August 27, 2000

In the off-season quarterback Kerry Collins took classes in the
psychological addiction and counseling program at Fairleigh
Dickinson University in Madison, N.J. "I wanted to see why I got
where I got," Collins says one afternoon at the Giants' summer
camp in Albany, N.Y. When asked if he has found out, Collins says
simply, "It's an ongoing process."

You have to hand it to him in one respect: He blames no one but
himself for the ups and downs of his first five NFL seasons. The
27-year-old Collins is at the fess-up stage of his life, after
immaturity and alcohol-related screwups doomed him at Carolina
and New Orleans, and after a yo-yo season with the Giants, in
which he finished with the league's 27th-best passer rating.

"My talent has never been the question," Collins says, looking
his questioner straight in the eye, something he has not always
been able to do. "It's having my head in place. It's there now.
In Carolina I was thrust into being a franchise player, which I
wasn't ready for, and I was living it 24 hours a day. I hated it.
I just burned out on it. But now I love the game again, and
there's no doubt in my mind I've got the best chance to succeed
of any time in my career."

Collins is right in one regard: He'll never have a chance like
this again. Coach Jim Fassel has worked tirelessly with him on
his mechanics. G.M. Ernie Accorsi opted to let go of Kent Graham,
who opened last season as the starter and would have threatened
Collins for the top job; Graham left for Pittsburgh as a free
agent, and Accorsi signed 34-year-old career understudy Jason
Garrett from Dallas as Collins's backup. New York drafted Heisman
Trophy-winning running back Ron Dayne with the 11th pick; he
should be the Giants' best ground threat since Rodney Hampton.
And one of the brightest young minds in football, offensive
coordinator and quarterbacks coach Sean Payton, has added some
safe West Coast tenets to the playbook to help the sack-prone
Collins.

The itinerant offensive line of this year's club--free agents
Lomas Brown, Glenn Parker and Dusty Zeigler are the left tackle,
guard and center, respectively, with Ron Stone and Luke Petitgout
on the right side--is the closest thing New York has had to a
finesse front in years. The Giants will run lots of play-action,
five-step drops and rollouts, with quick and efficient passes. Of
course, it won't hurt Collins to have the threat of Dayne behind
him. The test for the rookie will be to see if he can roll up
yardage without the gaping holes he had at Wisconsin.

Last year only eight teams allowed more points than New York
(22.4 per game). Blame defensive end Michael Strahan's elbow
injuries and a knee cyst for some of that; Strahan got pushed
around against the run and saw his sack production fall from 15
in 1998 to 5 1/2. Other than some nagging back soreness in
training camp, he appeared to be back to normal.

The secondary may ultimately determine whether the Giants make
the playoffs: In five of this season's final seven games New York
is scheduled to face quarterbacks Kurt Warner, Jake Plummer, Brad
Johnson, Troy Aikman and Mark Brunell. Cornerback Jason Sehorn
has yet to return to his All-Pro form of 1997 after a spate of
injuries, and the other corner spot could be a revolving door,
with marginal Dave Thomas the likely starter. Safeties Shaun
Williams and Sam Garnes scare no quarterbacks.

All of which means it's imperative that Collins puts points on
the board. "We're not asking him to carry us," Fassel says of his
quarterback. "We're asking him to cut down on his turnovers [17
in 10 games last year]. We're asking him to know when to take
risks and to make them high-percentage risks. I think you'll see
him throw downfield with accuracy on the run more in this
offense."

Collins isn't the only one whose neck is on the line this year.
Fassel, whose contract was due to expire after this season,
sought a three-year extension last winter; the Giants gave him
one, along with an implicit mandate: Win or else. "But I have not
woken up one morning this summer and thought, I need to do well
this year to save my job," Fassel says. "Funny thing about this
job--you spend a lot more time on the hot seat than you do
enjoying it." Collins knows what he means.

--P.K.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO MAN IN MOTION Confident of Collins's ability to throw from the pocket, the Giants want him to improve his accuracy on the run. COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON

SCHEDULE

SEPT. 3 ARIZONA
10 at Philadelphia
17 at Chicago
24 WASHINGTON

OCT. 1 at Tennessee
8 at Atlanta
15 DALLAS
22 Open date
29 PHILADELPHIA

NOV. 5 at Cleveland
12 ST. LOUIS
19 DETROIT
26 at Arizona

DEC. 3 at Washington
10 PITTSBURGH
17 at Dallas
23 JACKSONVILLE (Sat.)

FAST FACTS

1999 Record 7-9 (3rd in NFC East)

NFL rank (rush/pass/total): offense 24(tie)/8/17; defense 13/14/13

2000 Schedule strength
NFL rank: 20
Opponents' 1999 winning percentage: .488
Games against playoff teams: 8

PLAYER TO WATCH

When G.M. Ernie Accorsi began scouting running backs last fall,
he thought Wisconsin's record-breaking Ron Dayne was a masher in
the Jerome Bettis mold. "But the more I watched him," Accorsi
says, "the more I saw a guy who could make people miss. He had
an ability to elude, not just the lower-body power that a Larry
Csonka had." Dayne showed that ability during the early days of
camp, leading coaches to think they might be able to run him
around the corner as well as between the tackles. "Wherever they
want me to run is fine with me--as long as I get the ball," says
Dayne. He's a mild-mannered sort who will likely never be a
tabloid type in New York City: "I like to let people see what I
can do before I talk much."

PROJECTED LINEUP WITH 1999 STATISTICS

Coach: Jim Fassel
Fourth season with Giants (25-22-1 in NFL)

Offensive Backs PVR*

QB Kerry Collins 37 331 att. 190 comp. 57.4% 2,318 yds.
8 TDs 11 int. 73.3 rtg.

RB Ron Dayne (R)[1]31 337 att. 2,034 yds. 6.0 avg. 1 rec.
9 yds. 9.0 avg. 20 TDs

RB Tiki Barber 178 62 att. 258 yds. 4.2 avg. 66 rec.
609 yds. 9.2 avg. 2 TDs

FB Greg Comella 316 1 att. 0 yds. 0.0 avg. 8 rec.
39 yds. 4.9 avg. 0 TDs

Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen

[PVR*]

WR Amani Toomer 90 79 rec. 1,183 yds. 6 TDs
WR Ike Hilliard 111 72 rec. 996 yds. 3 TDs
WR Joe Jurevicius 227 18 rec. 318 yds. 1 TD
TE Pete Mitchell 196 58 rec. 520 yds. 3 TDs
K Brad Daluiso 238 9/9 XPs 7/9 FGs 30 pts.
PR Tiki Barber 178 44 ret. 11.5 avg. 1 TD
KR Bashir Levingston 327 22 ret. 24.2 avg. 0 TDs

LT Lomas Brown[1] 6'4" 280 lbs. 10 games 10 starts
LG Glenn Parker[1] 6'5" 312 lbs. 12 games 11 starts
C Dusty Zeigler[1] 6'5" 305 lbs. 15 games 15 starts
RG Ron Stone 6'5" 320 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RT Luke Petitgout 6'6" 310 lbs. 15 games 8 starts

Defense

LE Michael Strahan 60 tackles 5 sacks
LT Christian Peter 26 tackles 0 sacks
RT Keith Hamilton 52 tackles 4 sacks
RE Cedric Jones 60 tackles 7 sacks
OLB Ryan Phillips 76 tackles 1 int.
MLB Mike Barrow[1] 105 tackles 4 sacks
OLB Jessie Armstead 120 tackles 9 sacks
CB Dave Thomas[1] 24 tackles 2 int.
SS Sam Garnes 93 tackles 2 int.
FS Shaun Williams 20 tackles 0 int.
CB Jason Sehorn 44 tackles 1 int.
P Brad Maynard 89 punts 41.0 avg.

[1] New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college
year) *PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 139)

THE BOOK an opposing team's scout sizes up the Giants

"He showed some good signs last year with his drop and his
throwing motion, but I question whether Kerry Collins is
accurate enough to be an upper-tier NFL quarterback.... I don't
think the Giants have even one very good player on their
offensive line. Lomas Brown at left tackle at his age is a huge
risk. He's slowing down, and he's not the run-blocker the Giants
need. This isn't a line of mashers. The Giants need to get Ron
Dayne the support up front that the same kind of back, Jerome
Bettis, has had in Pittsburgh.... The defensive front seven is
the strength of their team. Michael Strahan will be better this
year. Watching him last year, he looked like he was never
healthy, and our reports say he's had a great off-season. They
need him desperately. Jessie Armstead's their best player, hands
down--strong and fast, and the type of warrior Lawrence Taylor
was--and he'll be helped by having Mike Barrow take some
pressure off him.... I'm not high on their secondary. I have no
idea if Jason Sehorn can play a full season at a high level. No
one does."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)