Home > NFL > Why the Giants resemble the 2006 Steelers, and what they must learn to get it turned around

Why the Giants resemble the 2006 Steelers, and what they must learn to get it turned around

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It’s tough to put this any other way, but at tonights Giants-Redskins game at FedEx field, the Giants are at the same crossroads that the Redskins stood at prior to this game just one year ago.

Last year, the Redskins honored fallen safety Sean Taylor at halftime of that game.  It was fitting, as the Redskins were still very much the same team that Sean Taylor’s death left vacant, trying to defend their home field against a Giants team that came in at 10-1, and would not have better days ahead of them.  A detailed film analysis of that game showed a Giants team that was really beaten up in the trenches by the Redskins, especially on the offensive side.  But a great individual performance by Eli Manning and a poor schematic approach by the Redskins allowed the Giants to win very comfortably regardless.  Things got worse from the Giants from that point, but it didn’t get any better or the Redskins.

Until recently, the Redskins were trying to be the old Joe Gibbs-style run/play-action offense that got them to the playoffs in 2005 and 2007, and started them off at 6-2 in 2008.  That game against the Giants really marked the point at which that style of offense and ball control was no longer viable.

One year later, the Giants sit at 7-6, and have gone 2-6 in their last eight games.  They come into Washington tonight as the same power running, pressure on the quarterback team that they were during last year’s game.  Problem is, they’ve largely failed to run the ball consistently over the last year or so, and this Giants team isn’t getting pressure on any quarterbacks.  The New York Giants need to remake themselves, and they don’t have a lot of time to save their season.

To be competitive this year, the Giants need to be a spread-type team that throws about 70% of the time and tries to limit the damage on defense while the offense throws them back into games.  But the Giants might find that type of team counter productive to the way they are currently built to outlast their opponents.  There are major design flaws in the current version of the New York Giants, ones that I believe the Redskins will exploit tonight at FedEx field.

The Giants need help to make the postseason this year.  First and foremost, they must help themselves.  But it’s worth asking what the prospectus for the Giants is if they can’t get it turned around in the final three weeks this year.  Let’s annoy Giant fans and presume the Giants finish 8-8, and out of the playoffs.  Where does a team with a high value quarterback contract, an inconsistent week to week passing game, no running game, and shambles of a one-time Champion defense go?

In the case of the 2006 Steelers, we’re talking about a defending super bowl champion who ended up going 8-8 the following season as they struggled defensively and their quarterback, without the benefit of a great running game, ended up leading the league in INTs and looking generally lost.  Two years later, the Steelers were once again world champs.  The “transition year” involved a division title, and first round playoff loss.

My best analysis leads me here: the Giants are much further in the hole than the Steelers were at that time.  The Steelers had a simple response to such an underwhelming season:  keep to the plan.  Draft pass rushers.  Let your passing game develop.

If the Giants could get back to the top by sticking to the plan, they absolutely should.  Try to remain a physicial team that uses Eli Manning’s refined sense of the pocket to help overturn the offensive line piece by piece.  Get it younger.  Value physical lineman in the later rounds, and the speed running game that Ahmad Bradshaw brings.  Spend those draft picks to re-do the defensive front seven.  Get Kenny Phillips back from injury, and get back to the top of the league.

The Giants still have defensive talent, but they don’t have defensive production.  For them, it’s not as simple as drafting some great defensive talents in the top two rounds and expecting to have a great unit by 2011.  This unit doesn’t do anything particularly well, despite it’s wealth of talent on the D-Line.  There are underachievers on it, and it’s not very well coached.

Perhaps the team’s best asset is the fact that Tom Coughlin still has excess political capital left over from the super bowl win and 13-win season.  But this is going to be a lengthy rebuilding process.  The quarterback is in place, obviously.  The offense can be rebuilt on the cheap if the team carefully selects players with the right attitude.

But even with a great coordinator in Dick Lebeau, the Steelers were not guaranteed to be the NFL’s top defense in 2008 when the were a middling 8-8 unit in 2006.  With largely unproven Bill Sheidan calling the shots, the Giants don’t even know if they have the right man in place to turn it around.  If he is, great, less work for the Giants.  But you show me a work averse team, and I’ll show you one that isn’t getting any better.

The Giants need to hire a big time defensive figure to work with the current group, and importantly, to oust the non-contributors in the offseason.  Next year’s Giants defense is likely to regress towards the mean a bit.  But getting towards average can’t be the end game.  It must be the first step for a premier NFC East team.

The Giants flaws will be on display for all to see the rest of this season.  If the Giants are making progress next year, your casual NFL fan won’t be able to see these flaws, and there will be a aura of physicality with the offense, if not greatness.  Jerry Reese needs to show that not only can he win with an Ernie Accorsi-made team, but that he can build a winner in his own right.

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