In 2004, the New York Giants looked to Tom Coughlin to take over a team clearly searching for its way out of the darkness. Big Blue scuffled its way to a 4-12 campaign in 2003, the final season under the Jim Fassel reign. Fassel took his team to the Super Bowl in 2000 but was ushered out the door just three years later. Coughlin’s first squad struggled in his debut in the Big Apple, as the G-men stumbled to a 6-10 record, as the changing of the guard took place from Kerry Collins to Kurt Warner to Eli Manning at quarterback. But after that initial stumble, New York gained its sea legs and started a four year post-season parade that included the Super Bowl XLII championship team.
Now after three straight post-season misses, including two sub-.500 teams, Coughlin is seemingly back to square one with the 2015 New York Giants. Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reported on Sept. 12, at least the veteran coach has Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. to rely upon. But one of the biggest questions surrounding this team in 2015, can Beckham and Manning repeat their 2014 magic?
“Beckham insisted there’s ‘no pressure’ for a repeat performance, but the pressure is most definitely on the Giants’ Dynamic Duo as they open the 2015 season against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night,” Vacchiano penned on Saturday. That sound bite sounds great, but it is no where near what the actual reality is for the Giants heading into Dallas tonight. Pressure most certainly exists, and it exists underneath the bright lights of Broadway and beyond.
No doubt there have been multiple changes made to the roster, but at this point, no one can accurately predict whether those changes are upgrades or not. Time will tell. Further complicating matters is the feared loss of the team’s one star on defense, Jason Pierre-Paul, for the entire season, as reported by ESPN’s Dan Graziano today. Graziano, quoting unnamed sources, indicates that the damage to JPP’s right hand may have been even worse than the team expected.
“One source said that, in addition to the missing right index finger, fractured thumb and skin grafts — injuries suffered in a July 4 fireworks accident — a portion of one of the other fingers on Pierre-Paul’s right hand is missing,” Graziano reported on ESPN.com today.
Even if Pierre-Paul engineers a miraculous comeback, how much production can the Giants reasonably expect from a defensive end who has severe injuries to his entire right hand?
This challenge, and the plethora of other challenges that the franchise faces in the immediate future, do not bode well for Coughlin, and likely general manager Jerry Reese, heading into into a make-or-break 2015 season. But the pressure is also being felt downstream as highlighted by the fact that the New York Post reports that offensive lineman Justin Pugh has sworn off social media, in light of the negative comments about his team.
“I was like you know what, it’s not even worth it because you go on, you read stuff and everyone has their opinions and no one knows what’s going on in here,’’ Pugh said to the Post. “That stuff is so negative, we don’t need that energy in this locker room.’’
Winning cures all ills, and the negativity on social media may just be a reflection of a frustrated fan base with a franchise that has not won with regularity in the past two years. The “Beckham Experience” probably muted much of the criticism last year, even though the team and its fans suffered through a seven-game losing streak; going more than two months without a victory.
Coughlin has brought the band back together in some respects, as Steve Spagnuolo was rehired as defensive coordinator, and Mike Sullivan comes back as quarterbacks coach. In the aggregate, will all these factors add up to enough to push the Giants into the post-season remains anyone’s guess, but from the extensive chatter emanating from East Rutherford these days, it seems that there exists a high level of concern for a season that has not even started.