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Shake it Up

Nicholas Alfonse 1/7/09

When the New York Giants season finally ended on an incredibly disappointing note, owner John Mara demanded changes. Amid discord over every aspect of the defense and completely poor performances against Carolina and Minnesota to close out the season, both defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan and defensive line coach Mike Waufle were fired within three days of the season's end. Let me join in the chorus of Giants fans to say "So long and good riddance!"

Over the course of the season, the powerful Giants defensive line seemed to lose its identity. No longer was the pass rush a feared aspect of their schemes, and prolific offenses such as New Orleans and Philadelphia were quick to recognize and exploit their weaknesses. Every unit of the defense seemed to suffer, whether it was blown coverages, injuries, or general lack of effort and passion.

While Mike Waufle had some fantastic seasons with the Giants, the unit fell apart this year, especially against the top tier of NFL teams. They performed well against teams such as Oakland and Kansas City, but the results were exactly opposite against high powered offenses. The culmination was the 85 points allowed in the final two contests, where the entire defense was invisible. Tom Coughlin was forced to make tough decisions due to outrage and anger from fans, season ticket holders and even the team’s owners.

For the two previous years under Steve Spagnuolo, the Giant defense attacked quarterbacks, forced turnovers, and challenged teams to run the football. From the moment Bill Sheridan took the reigns, the defensive unit took a visible turn for the worse. Last year the Giants were ranked 5th in both total yards and points allowed. In 2009, the team’s statistics sank like a stone, dropping to 13th in total yards allowed and 30th in total points allowed. The defense was allowing an average of over 26 points per game, also 30th in the league, compared to just over 18 per game in 2008, which was 5th.

Another issue was the lack of performance from the new free agent acquisitions this year. The fans were sold on bolstering the defensive line with Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty. Both players had numerous injury problems and totaled only 35 tackles combined. C.C. Brown was another disastrous pick-up at the safety position as he was completely outclassed and outplayed during games against New Orleans and Arizona. While starting linebacker Michael Boley was 2nd on the team in tackles, he was plagued by hip and knee injuries, and also started the season off with a one week suspension from the league.

The New York Giants suffered a rash of injuries to a number of critical players, which immediately impacted their effectiveness and play on the field. Possibly the toughest loss was Kenny Phillips being placed on injured reserve after only two games. The 2nd year player was expected to have a breakout season, but instead suffered a possibly career-threatening injury to his knee. The already weakened secondary was also forced to deal with Aaron Ross’ hamstring issues, and Corey Webster’s sprained right knee. Justin Tuck played nearly the entire season with shoulder problems, while Osi Umenyiora seemed rusty after missing all of last season. Perhaps the final nail in the coffin was discovering Antonio Pierce’s impacted disc, which finished the defensive captain’s season after week 9.

While the disappointment and frustration felt by Giants fans is completely warranted, it’s obvious that the front office and coaching staff is committed to ensuring a turnaround next season. Possibly this type of play would be tolerated in Jacksonville or St. Louis, but New York fans know better than to sit back and pay for these failures. If the Giants plan on parading a sub-par lackluster defense onto the field next year, they had better think again, especially with the turmoil of PSL’s in full swing.

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