The Giants Steady Decline

Decline of the New York Giants

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I hate to sound unappreciative or short-minded but the Giants, winners of two Super Bowls in the span of five seasons, have fallen into disarray in an even shorter amount of time. Although a 4,000-word exposition could be crafted detailing the different reasons for the Giants slow and steady decline, I will instead focus on several key areas that the Giants have failed during the last three seasons.

Before I dive into the details, let’s first address the fact that the Giants haven’t been a dominant team in the last half dozen years. Between the 2005 to 2008 seasons, Tom Coughlin coached the Giants to three double-digit win seasons in that four season stretch. Since 2008, the Giants have failed to record double-digit wins in five of six seasons. The big caveat is that the Giants won the Super Bowl in their 10-win 2007 season and in their 9-win 2011 season, qualifying as the wild card in each of those seasons.

For comparison sakes (and to see a truly dominant coach and team), Bill Belichick has led the Patriots to double-digit win seasons in 12 of his 14 seasons as head coach of the Patriots. Coughlin has managed to coach the Giants to four double-digit win seasons in his first 10 full seasons as head coach (will be 11 full seasons in a couple of months) but only one since the 2008 season. The two rings in five years helps to take away from the lack of double digit win regular seasons…still you get my point.

Coughlin is only a small percentage of the problem. He can only do so much with the talent (or lack there of) that has been provided to him during the last several seasons. With that being said, I will go into detail of how the Giants have lost key starters from those Super Bowl teams and have failed to adequately replace them. In the NFL, many teams are only 2-3 guys away from being a complete team and realistically competing for Super Bowl. In the Giants case, the cupboards are bare and the talent has walked out the door.

Offensive Line 

Every lineman that the Giants played in the 2011 season have all retired with the exception of two guys. In the span of three seasons, each and every one of their starters has retired. Chris Snee, Kareem McKenzie, David Diehl, Shaun O’Hara, Rich Seubert, Adam Koets, David Baas and Shawn Andrews have all retired. Kevin Boothe is now a member of the Raiders and Will Bheatty is the only holdover from that 2011 squad who remains with the Giants.

Offensive line play and this group’s health is the foundation of any team’s success and is the most important group of players on a football team (with quarterback and the defensive line coming in as the next most important positions). Last season the Giants offensive lineman missed a combined 38 games, after this group missed only six starts in 2012 and 11 in 2011.

This season has been no different. Geoff Schwartz has yet to suit up in any of the Giants games this season and is due back this weekend against the Cowboys. Starting right guard Brandon Mosley has missed five games this year as well, which has created flux along the entire offensive line. The Giants rank 20th in total offense this season, 16th in passing and 22nd in rushing – all of which is due in large part to the Giants unsettled and poor play along the offensive line.

The Giants issues start and end with their offensive line. Despite the Giants new west coast offense, which emphasizes quick passes to spots where receivers are supposed to be, no amount of quick passes and three step drops will make up for the issues that the Giants have up front.

Tight End

Let’s roll the tape back to February 2012, right after the Giants won their fourth Super Bowl. If you remember, the Giants lost their top two tight ends, Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum, during the Super Bowl to ACL injuries. Both would never play another down for the Giants. The Giants received one outstanding year from Martellus Bennett in 2012, who at 26 years old came over from division rival Dallas with a chip on his shoulder after underperforming for years in the Big D. The Giants subsequently let Bennett walk after the 2012 season after Chicago offered him a massive long-term deal. The Giants then plugged that void with Oakland Raiders retread Brandon Myers, who disappointed last year, catching only 47 balls for 522 yards and 4 TD’s. He was subsequently let go and replaced this year by a rookie in Larry Donnell.

To be fair, Donnell has shown flashes of his talent but the years of the Giants featuring dangerous tight ends (Jeremy Shockey, Martellus Bennet, Jake Ballard) have quickly become a distant memory. When I think of the great offenses in the NFL in recent seasons (Saints, Patriots, 49ers, Chargers) I think of great tight end play. The Giants haven’t found a long-term solution at this position since Jeremy Shockey departed after the 2007 season.

Rushing

The Giants rank 22nd in rushing this season, 29th last season and 14th in 2012. Do you sense a trend here? While the Giants offensive line is a big part of this equation, the Giants haven’t been able to find even a stop-gap solution at running back. Here is the list of running backs that the Giants have started

Ahmad Bradshaw

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in the last three seasons:

  • Brandon Jacobs
  • Ahmad Bradshaw
  • David Wilson
  • Peyton Hillis
  • Da’Rel Scott
  • Rashad Jennings

Out of those backs, only Bradshaw has been a legitimate every down back that 20 other teams in the league would gladly start over their current starting back.

The Draft 

The crux of the issues with the Giants lack of competitiveness during the last three seasons resides in their big misses in the last three drafts. Let’s go through the drafts for each of the last three seasons.

2012 Draft

  • Round 1 – David Wilson’s cadaver – retired prior to 2014 season
  • Round 2 – Rueben Randle – starter for Giants
  • Round 3 – Jayron Hosley – suspended first four games of 2014
  • Round 4 – Adrien Robinson – backup tight end for Giants
  • Round 4 – Brandon Mosley – missed 5 games in 2014
  • Round 6 – Matt McCants – cut by Giants in August 2013
  • Round 7 – Markus Kuhn – tore ACL in 2013 & is 28 years old this season

Rueben Randle has proven to be a dependable, if unspectacular, #3 receiver for the Giants. He doesn’t have the physical gifts and speed that 2014 rookie Odell Beckham Jr. has but he competes and makes tough catches. Outside of Randle, the rest of these guys have had a minimal impact during the last three seasons.

2013 Draft 

  • Round 1 – Justin Pugh – 2-year starter for Giants
  • Round 2 – Johnathan Hankins – 3.5 sacks for Giants through 10 games in ‘14
  • Round 3 – Damontre Moore – backup for Giants last two years
  • Round 4 – Ryan Nassib – backup QB
  • Round 5 – Cooper Taylor – on IR in 2014 with injured foot
  • Round 7 – Eric Herman – suspended first four games in ‘14 for violating league’s substance abuse policy
  • Round 7 – Michael Cox – backup running back

2014 Draft

  • Round 1 – Odell Beckham Jr. – missed first month but has been electric since returning from hamstring injury
  • Round 2 – Weston Richburg – starting center this season
  • Round 3 – Jay Bromley – has appeared in only 2 games this season
  • Round 4 – Andre Williams – has started several games with Rashad Jennings injury
  • Round 5 – Devon Kennard – has appeared in 7 games this season at LB and has recorded 14 solo tackles
  • Round 6 – Bennett Jackson – cut by Giants in August ‘14

Outside of Odell Beckham Jr. and maybe Justin Pugh, who are you really excited about? During this span the Giants have experienced an exodus of talent on both sides of the ball that include:

  • The 49 lineman that have retired/moved on to other teams that I detailed above
  • Martellus Bennett
  • Jake Ballard
  • Travis Beckum
  • Ahmad Bradshaw
  • Brandon Jacobs
  • Michael Boley
  • Deon Grant
  • Chase Blackburn
  • Jonathan Goff
  • Domenik Hixon
  • Terrell Thomas
  • Aaron Ross
  • David Wilson
  • Hakeem Nicks
  • Brandon Myers
  • Justin Tuck
  • Corey Webster
  • Ryan Mundy
  • Linval Joseph

I’m hard pressed to come up with any impact free agents that the Giants have acquired in the last three seasons to augment their meager drafts. This, in a nutshell, is why the Giants have slipped so far and so fast since winning their last Super Bowl just 33 months ago.

The dearth of talent combined with none coming in has exposed the Giants, who are on pace to win their fewest amount of games (5) since the 2003 season.

About Jim Armstrong

Jim is a life-long sports fan and split his childhood between the ‘burbs of Chicago and central NJ, while throwing in a summer living outside of Boston into the mix. This explains his passion for the 90′s Bulls, late 90′s/early 00′s Knicks and late 00′s Celtics (he will explain in a future post). Jim never played a minute of college basketball or football but did complete a Tough Mudder recently and continues to play in basketball leagues year-round. If this doesn’t make him an expert, then I don’t know what does. Jim crunches numbers for a living and enjoys applying these analytical skills to his sports obsessions. In his free time, Jim enjoys spending time with his family, fishing and writing.

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