2011 New York Football Giants (And Looking Forward to 2012)
The Giants have blessed us with an excellent culmination to one of the most compelling, improbable, downright maddening, but ultimately pleasing seasons ever. Each Giants Super Bowl victory is better than the last. 1986 was a yawn, because I felt even as an 8 year old that no one would beat us; culminating with the Super Bowl in January 1987.
1990 almost felt overshadowed due to the Gulf War ending (I was in 6th grade with our teacher putting the coverage of the close of the war on TV, followed by the Super Bowl the following week).
2000 was warped by awful officiating early (the Keith Hamilton call still makes me furious).
2007 had so much historical pull to it that it seemed bigger than 1990 and 1986 combined.
But this one in 2011 was special. We began Week 1 losing to one of the worst teams in football (who we turned around to lose to again in Week 15 — and haven’t lost since, BTW). We broke through and beat the Eagles’ “Dream Team” IN Philadelphia, beat Dallas twice. Beat New England IN Foxborough to snap their decade-long streak of wins vs. NFC teams at Gillette. We beat Green Bay* (the refs totally cheated us in the 38-35 loss in the regular season, and did so again in the NFC Divisional Playoff, with us still winning going away, 37-20). We beat the supposed immovable force San Francisco defense IN Candlestick IN the rain and wind. We beat New England again, whom we officially OWN, now — AGAIN in the Super Bowl.
In the midst of that, we choked away a game to Seattle, nearly did so vs. Arizona and Miami, and the aforementioned two losses to Washington, before finishing off Dallas twice within four weeks, and ending the Jets’ season as well. Awful losses and great wins are what the Giants are about. As a fan, it couldn’t be any more gut-wrenching. However, when the team wins it all, it is ALL worth it.
We witnessed the emergence of 2nd year studs such as DE Jason Pierre-Paul, and WR Victor Cruz. The pivotal play of TE Jake Ballard. QB Eli Manning having a season for the ages; making all-world throws weekly. RB Ahmad Bradshaw proving to be one of the toughest guys out there, playing with broken feet for most of the season. DE Justin Tuck proving to be the leader on defense that the Giants needed; overcoming a multitude of injuries to come up with huge run stops and sacks down the stretch of the season: culminating with two game-altering sacks in Super Bowl XLVI. Not lost in all this was the clutch kicking of K Law Tynes (who still makes me nervous, yet still makes the kicks that we need him to make most) and the ALL-WORLD and PINPOINT punting of P Steve Weatherford. All of this under the tutelage of Head Coach Tom Coughlin, who is New York’s version of Rasputin, a la Wayne Fontes in Detroit in the 1990s.
Embattled Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell proved why he was highly touted by those of us who truly know football and played defensive football, with his unit pitching great stands against some of the best offenses in the NFL week in and week out for several weeks to finish the season. Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride still kills drives, but he came up with game plans to put his unit in position to win when it counted. The cheers for each coach and notable player was palpable at the Canyon of Heroes and at the rally at Giants Stadium. Gilbride’s weren’t nearly as loud as others, by the way. We love our team nonetheless, even if they made some longtime fans sick with anger to the point of tuning them out for 48 hours (yours truly, following the Saints loss in November).
Nevertheless, it was ALL worth it. I will never forget this season as long as I live. To have enjoyed the Super Bowl in a house FULL of Giants fans was SURREAL. The only thing that could top that is watching the Giants WIN IT ALL in East Rutherford in 2014. The world may explode.
With regards to 2012, as General Manager Jerry Reese has already elucidated this week — time has come to shift focus to going forward with the future of the team in 2012 and beyond. That means we only know this team as presently constructed for a few more weeks before March 1 cuts, April draft and June 1 cuts, and free agency occurs. Some guys will not be here in September. Reese and most knowledgeable fans know this readily. However, Reese says something that fans will lose sight of: it is his job to do what’s best in the LONG-TERM best interest of the Giants; not necessarily for one player. Read into that what you will, but everyone knows what took place between Reese and DE Osi Umenyiora this past offseason. I, for one, think the Giants should pay Osi whatever he wants so that he can finish his career here. Pierre-Paul makes up for Osi’s run defense deficiencies. That also keeps Pierre-Paul fresh. Tuck, as long as he’s healthy — which is only every other year, sadly — will be fine for his career as a Giant. He has solidified himself as a pillar in the New York and New Jersey area. He’s never leaving here.
I have no idea where the 2012 NFL Draft will go for the Giants. There are needs, and then there are NEEDS. The offensive line played better towards the end of the year, but the unit that perennially led the NFL in run and pass blocking — has been hindered in both areas over the past year or so. Both tackles (Diehl/McKenzie) are over 30. Both guards who saw the majority of the playing time this year (Boothe/Snee) are pushing 30 now. 30 doesn’t mean as much as some people make it out to mean, however, teams must begin to plan to phase out older linemen for youth eventually. Offensive line isn’t the most pressing issue that the Giants have. It is sometimes difficult to pinpoint issues when a team has overcome injuries, infighting, naysayers and the like in order to win a Super Bowl. However, the prevailing thought has been that the Giants needed to address both of their offensive tackle positions this offseason, along with their linebackers, and parts of their secondary — if free agency robs them of CB Terrell Thomas in 2012 or 2013.
We shall see.
Personally, I refuse to dwell too much on the Draft and free agency. I am an avid Reese supporter. He told you in August 2011 that this team would be playoff bound and compete for a title. They made the playoffs and won the title. With his solid drafting history and timely pickups and faith in the right guys (with two Super Bowl wins in four seasons), he’s earned the trust of most Giants fans. Just let the man do what is best in the interest of the team and the players who WILL be under contract in 2012.
I look forward to Eli further writing his “Book”. I also want to see Victor Cruz “do it again”, Hakeem Nicks move into the Top 3-5 conversation, as he deserves. I look forward to Ahmad Bradshaw being healthy. I look forward to seeing more of Da’Rel Scott, and WHATEVER happens with Brandon Jacobs. I look forward to the offensive line FINALLY gelling on both run blocking and pass protection. I look forward to seeing what Reese will do at the TE position. I look forward to that ridiculous defensive line and PASS RUSH that we will have barring injury in 2012. I look forward to the valuable experience that was gained by rookies Jacquian Williams and Greg Jones in 2011, as well as the progression of beast Mark Herzlich. I look forward to our secondary being healthy for the first time since 2007, when it was OLD AND SLOW (Sam “Dolley” Madison???)
Oh, by the way, FB Henry Hynoski dropped one pass all season. THE GUY WAS HUGE FOR US IN THE SUPER BOWL (for casual, bandwagon Giants ‘fans’ who don’t realize it). It was also great to see the much-maligned Aaron Ross FINALLY begin to show why he was drafted so highly and play towards his potential during the 2011 season (especially late). Everyone on the team deserves shouts; not the least being Devin Thomas, who at one point lost not only a chance to compete amongst the starting WRs, but also his return duties on Special Teams — as he also had major plays in the NFC Championship vs. San Francisco to save/seal the game. Unsung Dave Tollefson, the timely and savvy veteran leadership of S Deon Grant, the versatility of G/C Kevin Boothe and the MOUTH OF THE SOUTH, who backed it up — Antrel Rolle. MY SON.
I don’t take anyone for granted on this team, not even maddening Offesnive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride.
I will be at the first weekend of Training Camp in Albany (Giants say they want to go back, but we will see) in August.
SEE YOU THERE.