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12-23-2011, 04:29 AM

12-23-2011, 04:35 AM
<a href="http://espn.go.com/nfl/team/_/name/nyg/new-york-giants">New
York Giants</a> fans are understandably frustrated. At 7-7, the Giants
are in danger of missing the playoffs for the third straight season.
Their defense is lousy, tied for 28th in the NFL in yards allowed. The
once-vaunted running game has stumbled, with both <a href="http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/_/id/10693/ahmad-bradshaw">Ahmad
Bradshaw</a> and <a href="http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/_/id/8524/brandon-jacobs">Brandon
Jacobs</a> averaging fewer than 4.0 yards per carry. And making things
even more worse is the fact that the Giants are enduring another
second-half collapse this season. After starting the year 6-2, they have
lost four straight games and five of their past six.</p>

the Giants miss the playoffs for the third straight year, is it time to
make some serious changes? Or can the Giants put it back together and
become Super Bowl contenders in 2012? </p>

The player talent on
the roster, at least, suggests the answer to that second question is

The most important piece in building a
championship contender, and the hardest piece to acquire, is a top
quarterback -- and the Giants have one. This season has been filled with
a lot of ridiculous arguments about whether Eli Manning (http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/_/id/5526/eli-manning)
is an "elite" quarterback and what the term "elite" even means. If
"elite" refers only to the highest level of quarterback play, then no,
Manning is not elite. But Manning is clearly in the second tier, and
those players are good enough to lead their teams to the Super Bowl.
(After all, Manning has a ring, and <a href="http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/_/id/5536/ben-roethlisberger">Ben
Roethlisberger</a> has two.) Manning is fifth in total quarterback value
this season, <a href="http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/qb">according
to Football Outsiders'</a> play-by-play breakdown, and he's still right
in the prime of his career. In fact, based on our similarity scores,
the most similar three-year span to Manning's 2009-2011 belongs to Drew Brees (http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/_/id/2580/drew-brees)
between 2006 and 2008. Brees is now solidly in the best period of his

Manning is joined by a solid core of young
receivers: <a href="http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/_/id/12586/hakeem-nicks">Hakeem
Nicks</a>, Victor Cruz (http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/_/id/13553/victor-cruz)
and <a href="http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/_/id/11329/mario-manningham">Mario
Manningham</a> are all 25 or younger. And the Giants' offensive line is
still fairly strong. It does a good job in pass protection, ranking sixth (http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/ol) in our
adjusted sack rate metric. The run blocking hasn't been as strong this
year, but our adjusted line yards metric suggests that the struggles of
the run game are more on the backs than the linemen. The Giants have 3.9
ALY per carry, higher than the actual figure for the running backs,
which is 3.71 yards per carry. It's legitimate to expect a rebound next
season from a healthier Bradshaw, who at 25 hasn't yet hit the usual
point when running backs start to decline.</p>

If the offense
has the talent to be championship-quality, what about the defense?
Surprisingly, it also has the talent to be championship-quality. Last
year, the Giants ranked third in defense in the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings (http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/teamdef2010).
The problem is that in 2011, a lot of that talent has been sitting on
the sidelines and in the training room.</p>

We don't have our
injury numbers completed yet for 2011, but we did go through and look at
adjusted games lost for the Giants, and those numbers are off the
charts. (<a href="http://www.footballoutsiders.com/info/glossary#agl">AGL
is explained here</a>.) Right now, the Giants' defense has 58.9
adjusted games lost from starters and important situational players.
That total would be the third highest during the period of 2000-2010,
behind only the 2009 Bills and the 2008 Lions. The Giants' offense has
been closer to average health, but when we combine both units, the
Giants have 85.2 AGL from starters, which would rank 10th since 2000.</p>

that the Giants' total includes Weeks 16-17 for players on Injured
Reserve, but not for active players.) </p>

No unit on the
Giants has been hit harder than the secondary. While standard AGL looks
only at starters and important situational players, we can also look at
AGL including reserves. The Giants have 84.3 AGL from all defensive
backs, the second-worst total since 2000. Only last year's Colts had
more defensive back injuries.</p>

Defensive coordinator Perry
Fewell has been a popular scapegoat for the Giants' failures on defense
this year, but these injury numbers are good evidence that he just
doesn't have the horses to make his defensive scheme work. Prior to this
year, there was plenty of evidence that Fewell knows what he's doing
and can put together a strong defense when he has enough players. Not
only were the Giants third in DVOA last year, but Fewell's Buffalo
defense <a href="http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/teamdef2009">ranked
eighth in 2009</a> even though, as noted above, it was hit with even
more injuries than this year's Giants.</p>
<div class="mod-inline image image-right"><div style="margin-left: 10px; width: 200px;">[+] Enlargehttp://a.espncdn.com/photo/2011/0510/ny_u_vcruz_200.jpg (http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/7379324/the-new-york-giants-win-championship-their-current-team-nfl#)<div style="width: 200px;"><cite>Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger/US Presswire</cite>Victor
Cruz has had a breakout year for the Giants.</div></div></div>

Even the Giants' defense played well this year for the first half of
the season. The Giants ranked ninth in defensive DVOA through Week 9;
since Week 10, they rank 31st. Midseason collapses are more an issue of
motivation than they are issues of scheme, and the Giants' problem with
midseason collapses predates the 2010 hiring of Fewell. Both of these
facts suggest that these problems say more about head coach Tom Coughlin
than they do about Fewell.</p>

In fact, what's so remarkable
about this year's Giants collapse is how much it looks just like all the
other recent Giants collapses. This is the sixth season in a row in
which the Giants played better in the first eight games of the regular
season than they did in the final eight games of the regular season.
Every year, the collapse is magnified because the Giants always seem to
have a harder schedule in the second half than they do in the first
half. And every year, except in 2007, the biggest problem has been a
collapse in pass defense.</p>

From 2006-2010, the Giants' rank
in pass defense DVOA dropped an average of 14 spots between Weeks 1-9
and Weeks 10-17. Remember, DVOA is adjusted for opponent strength; if we
didn't adjust for schedule, the Giants' drop would be even larger. This
year, the Giants' rank in pass defense DVOA has dropped 22 places, from
ninth to 31st. The biggest difference between 2010 and 2011 is that the
2010 defense was healthier, and thus better, both before and after the
midseason collapse.</p>

The offensive decline hasn't been as
big as the defensive decline the past few years, but yes, the offense
has also declined in the second half of the past few seasons. This year,
the Giants have dropped from sixth in offensive DVOA through Week 9 to
13th in Weeks 10-15.</p>

There are a lot of possible
explanations for these second-half collapses. Perhaps the Giants have
motivational problems and lose their focus. Perhaps they work too hard
early in the season and eventually run out of gas. Perhaps opposing
teams figure out their offensive and defensive tendencies once they have
a few weeks of games on film, and the Giants can't respond with
adjustments. Or maybe they just happen to have collected a batch of
players who all share the inability to keep playing at a high level for
more than eight or nine weeks. Except for that last possibility, these
reasons all seem to suggest a problem with coaching.</p>

Giants' recent history of strong first halves suggests that they have
the talent to compete for a championship. The Giants' recent history of
second-half collapse suggests that Coughlin may no longer be the right
coach to take them there. The best move isn't for the Giants to break up
their roster -- it's to break up their coaching staff.</p>


Aaron Schatz covers the NFL for ESPN Insider. He is the
creator and president of Football Outsiders, which he launched in 2003.
He contributes regularly to ESPN The Magazine, appears Wednesday and
Thursday on "Numbers Never* Lie" on ESPN2, and his work has also
appeared in such places as The New York Times, Slate and the Boston
Globe. You can find his <a href="http://search.espn.go.com/aaron-schatz/" target="new">ESPN
archives here</a>, and follow him on Twitter here (http://twitter.com/FO_ASchatz).</p>

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<div class="mod-header"><a href="http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/conversations/_/id/7379324/the-new-york-giants-win-championship-their-current-team-nfl"><h3>ESPN

12-23-2011, 11:23 AM
Good article, thanks.

I agree with the basic premise - that most of the problems, especially on Defense, are injury related.

I think some of it is also youth related - having to depend on rookies (or near rookies) in the backfield, LB and TE have hurt also.

If we can get healthy next year, and beef up at LB and O-line, we could be strong.

12-23-2011, 11:24 AM
Giants' recent history of strong first halves suggests that they have
the talent to compete for a championship. The Giants' recent history of
second-half collapse suggests that Coughlin may no longer be the right
coach to take them there. The best move isn't for the Giants to break up
their roster -- it's to break up their coaching staff.

agree with the assessment on the coaching staff, it's time to move on from the TC era.

12-23-2011, 12:39 PM
This is why, despite the injuries and despite the atrocious play of the past 4 weeks, the Giants defense is capable of going out a playing a solid defensive game any time. That doesn't mean they will, but they can.