After a full night’s sleep, I’ve woken up with a new perspective on the Giants playoff loss. Yeah, the 3-13 on third downs was awful. And yeah, the Eagles going 7-13 on third downs was downright despicable. But there’s one thing that strikes me most: a lack of urgency. No longer having a refusal to lose. Last year, with everyone doubting them, they played with their hair on fire, with both guns blazing, with a organized recklessness that they took to the Super Bowl. This year? I didn’t sense that. I didn’t sense that they were going to make a big play (and they didn’t). I didn’t sense the same passion. I attribute this meltdown of sorts to two things: Plax and Strahan.
When Plax shot himself in the leg, he shot down the season too. No longer were the Giants focused only on winning, they were focused on their fallen teammate. It’s fine to care about a teammate. But not when it comes at the team’s expense. When Plax shot himself in the leg, he changed the mentality. With one pull of a trigger, he changed the mindset of an invincible team to a very beatable team. And I hate to continue with the metaphors. But it’s so true. Forget the actual X’s and O’s standpoint. They missed him there, sure. But, with their minds elsewhere, the Giants were never able to gain the focus needed to win in the post-season. Plax, for all his idiocy, was a terrific player, but also someone who rose to the occasion. When he was burning Al Harris in Green Bay last year, it had to inspire players to duplicate his effort–on one leg no less. When Plax shot himself, he didn’t just damage his career. He damaged a season. If Plax was out there, would the Giants have beaten the Eagles? I think so. On any of those third down plays, Eli could’ve thrown it up to him and he would’ve caught it. Without him, the offense lost a step. Eli lost a step. The team lost a step. It’s a shame too. Because this team, with Plax, was built for another Super Bowl. Without him, they’re just another one and done team.
When Strahan retired, it was a tough pill to swallow. His pass rush would be missed. But as the undeniable leader of this team, his presence in the locker room was missed. No one seemed to take over that leadership role. I didn’t realize this until yesterday. No one was firing up guys on the sideline, like Brian Dawkins was. Strahan would be doing the same thing. Yelling, screaming, pumping guys up. Brandon Jacobs was trying to do it. But he didn’t do a good enough job. This team lost a bunch of leaders, with Tiki Barber, Shockey, Strahan. And they never replaced them.
Even though Plax and Strahan were gone, the Giants still had a remarkable season. Most experts didn’t even pick them to make the playoffs, let alone the number one seed in the NFC. Next year, I believe the Giants will retool, revamp, and go further in the playoffs. Until then, we’re left to wonder the true impacts of the losses of two of their top players.