By Andrew Symes, Lead NFL Writer
You could easily be forgiven for thinking that the only problem for the New York Giants over the past few seasons has been the presence of former head coach Tom Coughlin. Since he stepped down as coach after 12 seasons last week, the Giants expected reshuffle has taken place. Only, it was not so much of a reshuffle, as a ladder climb.
General manager Jerry Reese has kept his position. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has been promoted to head coach, but it is probable he will also continue to call offensive plays. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has retained his role. Tom Quinn looks likely to keep his role as special teams coordinator, a position he has held since 2007.
In all of this, the only change is Coughlin. The head coach was loved by his players, his staff and well-respected by owner John Mara. However, given the simple, subtle tweaks of the power players in New York, it would seem that ownership simply think that all the pieces are in place and Coughlin was the issue. The Giants have missed the postseason each of the last four seasons, and six times in the last seven years. The only time they qualified, they went on to win the Super Bowl at the end of the 2011 season.
The talk for the past two years was that Coughlin would be allowed to walk away on his own terms, and for the most part he did that.
There is much to be said for continuity at a franchise, and that is something the Mara family prize. They have always stood steadfastly by coaches when others would jump ship. It is a tactic that has paid dividends and rewarded them with four Super Bowl titles in their illustrious past, giving a coach confidence that they can learn on the job and build a project.
McAdoo may well turn out to be a great hire. He has turned Eli Manning into a much more consistent quarterback over the past two seasons, and has overseen the development of Odell Beckham Jr into one of the NFL’s superstars. On the flip side, his offense has struggled to run the ball consistently. The passing game ranked 7th in total yards in 2015, while the running game ranked only 18th. That followed on from a 2014 season where they ranked 7th in passing and 23rd in rushing yards.
McAdoo has brought in former Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin as his offensive coordinator in the only outside-the-building hire made. It will do little to inspire Giants fans. Philbin was OC in Green Bay when McAdoo was a position coach there, so they have similar beliefs and concepts that should see a smooth transition for Manning and company.
On the defensive side of the ball, Spagnuolo keeps his job. This would seem to be an admission from management that the defensive problems in New York are caused by the lack of quality on the roster rather than the coaches. They have ranked 29th and 32nd the past two seasons in yards allowed, with the pass defense being a considerable weakness.
This is where the onus is truly on Reese. He has drafted very poorly in recent seasons, outside of the Beckham pick. He has been general manager since 2007, after working his way up the ladder as a member of the organisation since 1994. The roster is entirely his building, yet in nine drafts he has only managed to select four Pro Bowl players, one of whom is solely a special teams player: WR Beckham, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, LS Zak DeOssie and WR Victor Cruz.
The blame should lie squarely at his door for the Giants lack of quality. Selecting one Pro Bowl calibre player every two drafts is not good enough to build a competitive franchise. All the more damning is the fact that the Giants have been playing in one of the weakest divisions in the NFL over the past half a decade and have still not managed to compete.
Whilst I admire the Mara family for their attempt to bring stability to a volatile league, it is hard to believe that they have allowed this perception of Coughlin being the only necessary change to happen. While it was made clear at Coughlin’s final press conference that they expect more of Reese going forward, it seems strange he has been allowed almost a free pass to this point. The coaching staff clearly was not seen as an issue, so the talent and the methods of evaluation have to be looked at to bring the Giants back to relevance.
The problem was never Coughlin. He brought the best out of the players he was given. The problem has been Reese and his scouting department. Without Coughlin to hide behind, Reese finds himself squarely in the crosshairs this offseason and going forward.