Perhaps an overused phrase is the 'maturation process' of an athlete. In the NFL, we often hear this term applied to young quarterbacks. I witnessed a very painful exhibition, as the Giants were defeated 23-0 by the underdog Panthers. The Giants had never been shut out at home in a Playoff game. In fact, the last time they had home playoff game, they crushed the Vikes, 41-0. The G-Men typically dominate teams in the Meadowlands during the postseason, but not on this day.
While I'm pleased about what the G-Men accomplished this season, I wasn't very happy with the coaching schemes or the leadership of Eli Manning. Yes, I know it was just his sophomore campaign, but it would've been great for him to have stepped up his game much like Steelers QB Roethlisberger in his 2nd year. I suppose that is too much to ask, even for a Manning.
Much of the poor play was a result of conservative play calling by the coaching staff. Everyone in America new that the opposing teams would be scheming to stop Tiki Barber. He's been phenomenal this year, and Carolina lined up nine in the box and dared Manning to go to 2nd and 3rd reads. Obviously he failed miserably. Why didn't Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey get more catches. Burress was thrown to once and had zero catches for the contest. Totally unacceptable. The guy was hired to be a play maker. He sulked and was visibly upset with the play calling and the inability of a 2nd year QB to get him the ball. Shockey caught one pass for a first down. Imani Toomer caught one pass early in the game. The Giants have offensive weapons but they were not utilized at all.
Why didn't the coaches setup quick slants for both Shockey and Burress? Where was the deep threat? Why didn't the Giants become less predictable by throwing on first down plays? Actually, the one play which Tiki was lined up in the slot, he caught the pass and ran for 21 yards and a first down. Passing on first down and stretching the defense with a deep ball threat would have eventually opened the passing lanes. The play calling clearly indicated that the coaching staff had zero confidence in their young QB. Hence they scored zero points, and made the Panthers look like world beaters. I respect the experience of that Carolina club, but they are not world beaters.
Manning didn't throw a pass down field the entire game, no wonder the Panther defense had such an easy time, as they simply pinned their ears back and clogged the running lanes. Tiki had no lanes to run through. Very poor game plan. Jim Fox and Tom Coughlin are both students of Bill Parcells (so is Pats coach Belichick), it certainly appeared that the Panther scouting was far superior. I wonder if Coughlin made a call to Parcells?
On the defensive side of the ball, it really wasn't much better. On a day where the great LT was honored, he must have been sick to his stomach. Decimated by injuries to their linebacking corps, defensive ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora were expected to carry the load. To their credit, they recorded 3.5 sacks, and they also did their share of yackin before the contest. The defense coudn't prevent the Panthers from converting 3rd down situations. The Panthers running back amassed 150 yds on the ground. The secondary was victimized by all pro Steve Smith. Very little went right for the Giants.
Looking into next season, we must address the talent depleted secondary and get some depth at the linebacker position. A G-Men constant has always been a stout defense that knock your fsck'ng head off. Especially in December and January..
Regarding the maturation process: I fully expected the growing pains of a 2nd year QB. Manning is no exception. However, he still needs to take responsibility and become a more vocal leader. If you see that your team needs some emotion, he should be able to provide it. I've seen veteran QBs jump in the faces of players like Keyshawn Johnson and Terrell Owens.
As a QB in the NFL, you must be on the same page as your wide receivers. One need only look at the Eagles as proof of this fact. The learning process could prove to be a painful, but necessary experience. Even the highly respected older brother, Peyton had mud stains in the crack of his ass during his early years. The Jets defeated Colts in Peytons playoff debut, 41-3 in the Meadowlands during Herm Edwards second season.
Bring on the Bx Bombers, I'm ready for baseball season.