The window that once was the shot for the New York Giants to return to the promise land of the top of the NFL close about 8pm last night as David Akers ended what was a nightmare final two and a half months of the season for New York with a simple 38-yard field goal that ended Big Blues season. The kick, marking the game-winner in a 23-20 win for the Eagles, ends the Giants roller coaster season, and puts the team in a position where possible big changes lie ahead. They will need a new GM as they enter the offseason, possibly a new head coach, and their all-time leading rusher is heading off to Hollywood.
Sounds like New York has officially entered the “Rebuilding Zone.”
At least on paper that is what it looks like. Give them credit for hanging in there as an underdog on Sunday against the Eagles, as down 20-10 they grabbed 10 fourth quarter points to tie the game with just over five minutes left. But, then, when they needed it most, the defense basically allowed the Eagles to march down the field at will, giving them chunks of yards to be able to allow Akers to line up exactly where he wanted to with :03 left on the fourth quarter clock to win the game.
New York had a real chance to make 2006 special. They had a brutal early season schedule, but survived an awful loss early in Seattle and ended up 6-2 at the halfway point of the season. It seemed that everything was lined up right for them to win the NFC East, maybe get a first round bye, and challenge the Bears for the top spot in the NFC. Then, without little warning, the bottom dropped out.
The team started playing with little discipline, they committed penalties at critical times, couldn’t move the ball on offense, the special teams lacked, and the defense couldn’t stop anyone. They took a 6-2 start, lost six of their last eight, and needed a week 17 win at Washington just to make it in the weak NFC playoff picture. Then, just as they could have put away the rival Eagles on the road with an early knockout up 7-0 in the first quarter – it happened again – they failed to live up to the hype.
Maybe that was the problem with the 2006 New York Giants. They believed their own hype, and instead of working to get better, they brought into the headlines after a 6-2 start that they were just that good, and failed to get better when the rest of the league was gunning for them. They let less talented teams like Tennessee and Jacksonville beat them, they blew big leads in some games, and never got the offense going in others. And all the while as things were going south, the storylines continued to be the same – what would happen to Tom Coughlin at seasons end, and the eventual departure of Tiki Barber to retirement.
Now both those storylines are in front of the Giants. Some say that Coughlin will stay on for 2007 and get a shot to right the wrongs of 06. If that is the case, you can bet the leash is going to be VERY short. As for Barber, his leaving the team will leave a gapping hole that is going to be almost impossible to fill. For the Giants, 2007 may be about taking a step back in order to take a step forward for the future. They had their shot in 2006, and wasted it on too many negative headlines. It may now be time for the Big Blue to get back to basics.