By Phil Lombardo
8-8 isn't exactly the picture I painted for the Giants this year. In a season filled with many highs and lows, excruciating was the only term I could come up with to describe the final eleven games of the year.
I was sitting at my desk laughing one night, while thinking about how I was going to burn my Osi Umenyiora Super Bowl jersey, and I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe you shouldn't blame everything on the Osi and the Giants defense. Maybe there was an underlying problem with the Giants that nobody really talked about?”
Now, I know it is obvious that a Steve Spagnuolo's departure from the Big Blue was a huge hit to the morale of the defense. They really bought into his intelligence, coaching style and aggressive approach to each game. His presence alone had an undaunted impact on the development of the young players on the team. But you can't blame Bill Sheridan fully for their woes this season, even though his efforts did get him booted out of New York .
I hate to be the guy to point out the injury bug, and base my arguments solely on the Giants ability, or lack there of, to stay healthy, but injuries continue to be the downfall of the Giants seasons.
Beginning with the loss of Jay Alford in the preseason, Kenny Phillips early in the year, capped off with nagging injuries to Chris Canty, Michael Boley, Ahmad Bradshaw and Aaron Ross, Giants fans across America saw a defense crumble faster than Jim Zorn at a post-game press conference.
Tom Coughlin praised the improvements of Phillips and Alford in the preseason, indicating they would have a large impact during this season. We received a small dose of Phillips early in the year, as he intercepted two passes and looked like he would be a nice addition to an already “stout” defense.
Canty and Boley were the Giants big off-season acquisitions, who both struggled to stay on the field missing a combined thirteen games during the season, and playing hurt for most of the games they were active for.
Ross and Bradshaw were intricate parts to the Giants Super Bowl run and their success last season, but were slowed by nagging leg and back injuries, forcing them to take on reduced rolls. Not to mention Antonio Pierce, the heart and soul of the Giants defense was forced to missed the last seven games due to a bulging disk in his neck.
Like I said before, I normally don't have sympathy for teams that have injury problems because the league is all about depth now and every team has to deal with them, but there were just way too many incidents to let go unnoticed.
In 2005, the Giants got stomped on by the visiting Panthers in the playoffs. They also enjoyed a plethora of injuries, starting practice squad all-star Alonzo Jackson, Nick Greisen and Kevin Lewis at the linebacker position in the playoffs. Giants fans might remember all three chasing after Steve Smith, Deshaun Foster and Nick Goings on their way to being shut out at home 23-0.
In 2006 as well, the Giants finished another injury plagued season 2-6 in their final 8 games, limping into the playoffs with an 8-8 record, only to lose to the Eagles on a last second field goal in the playoffs. I can remember seeing Strahan go down on a routine play, and the next thing I know, he is out for the season with a pectoral tear. That was week ten of the season. Can you point out any coincidences?
I feel like I'm rambling, but I am making a point. It is either the Giants have the leagues worst training staff, or they have just been flat out unlucky with injuries over the past five years. I'll go with the latter.
At full strength, the New York Giants are as talented, if not more talented than any team in the league. Although a few seasons have ended in very ugly fashion, I have faith in our G-Men. TC has them going out there and fighting no matter the what hardship and controversy surrounds them.
Eli Manning and Steve Smith have turned into a dangerous combination and Hakeem Nicks is a star in the making. The front office has a lot of moves to make and holes to fill, but the team has a great core of experience players who know how to get the job done.
I am fully confident that we will have another successful draft and with the addition of Perry Fewell, the defense will be prepared to wreak havoc again next season.
As fans, it is time to get behind our team and look forward to what our Giants have to offer in 2010.
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