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Defensive Candidates

Nicholas Alfonse 1/11/09

In the wake of the firings of defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan and line coach Mike Waufle, Tom Coughlin has begun the process of finding the next leader of the Giants defense. Among the possible candidates are recently fired Buffalo defensive coordinator and interim head coach, Perry Fewell, as well as Romeo Crennell, who took this season off to recover from hip surgery. While these coaches have far more experience in the NFL than Bill Sheridan, neither has been fantastic over the past few years.

When trying to recover from an injury plagued and disappointing defensive performance in 2009, hiring someone that was just fired after an AFC East last place finish at 6 and 10 doesn’t seem to be the appropriate response. Perry Fewell’s defense in Buffalo has been mediocre at best over the past three years, and the team has not had a winning season since he joined them in 2006. Here is a snapshot of the Bills defensive statistics since 2007:

2007 – 25th ranked run defense allowing over 124 ypg – 29th ranked pass defense allowing over 238 ypg
2008 – 22nd ranked run defense allowing over 121 ypg – 13th ranked pass defense allowing over 204 ypg
2009 – 30th ranked run defense allowing over 156 ypg – 2nd ranked pass defense allowing over 184 ypg

The only item that stands out from these numbers is the improvement of the defensive passing effort, which became stronger each year under Fewell. However, the rushing defense reached an awful bottom point this season, as the only teams who ranked lower were Kansas City and Tampa Bay, managing only 7 wins this year combined.

Perry Fewell was also part of the Buffalo staff that was fired immediately after season’s end, as the Bill’s general manager cleaned house after their 5th straight losing season. While in theory New York has far more talent defensively than Buffalo, the performance generated by Fewell isn’t good enough. The Giants need their dominant defensive presence to return next season, and hiring a coordinator with a proven sub-par track record is not the right answer.

Romeo Crennell is the other possible candidate, who has had far more success with his defenses, although not lately. Giants fans should remember him as a defensive line coach under Bill Parcells when the team won the Super Bowl in 1991 against the Buffalo Bills. Crennell moved on to eventually become the defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots during their Super Bowl victories in 2001, 2003, and 2004. Here is a brief look at his defenses during the Patriots’ back-to-back championships:

2003 – allowed just over 14 ppg (ranked 1st) and held opponents to avg of just over 89 rush ypg
2004 – allowed just over 16 ppg (ranked 2nd) and held opponents to avg of just over 98 rush ypg

Unfortunately his success didn’t continue as a head coach with the Cleveland Browns, a position from which he was fired after four seasons with a 24-40 record during his tenure. The Browns defense was also poor, ranking 26th and giving up just under 22 points per game in Crennell’s final season.

New York is on the hunt for potential defensive gurus; however neither of their first two suitors seems to fit the bill. Even though Crennell was successful in the past with the Giants and Patriots, it’s impossible to know which one will show up. Would it be the Cleveland or the New England Romeo? As for Perry Fewell, his selection seems ridiculous, highlighted by the Bills terrible defensive performance over the past three years. New York needs their defense back, and pursuing either of these unemployed coaches is a gamble most fans are unwilling to take.

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