I recently gave my report card for the Giants 2011 season position-by-position. But because there was only so much space to discuss each position, I wanted to go more in-depth on each position and spin it forward to next season.
Today we look at the coaching staff. Tomorrow: Front office.
This grade is as high as it is because of the way the Giants finished, winning the Super Bowl by winning their final six games when they absolutely had to and the team responding to Tom Coughlin and his staff when the season was on the line.
It was certainly a rough start in the preseason when there were numerous changes to the roster and injuries galore.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell lost his leading tackler and interception leader from 2010 in Terrell Thomas in the preseason. Then he lost his middle linebacker Jonathan Goff in the week before the season opener. It took the defense time to adapt to the changes and it took Fewell time to get used to his new parts. The defense had trouble adjusting to no-huddle early on, then had trouble stopping the run before later having all sorts of breakdowns trying to defend against the pass. He had guys like Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck miss games due to injuries or play hurt and lost Michael Boley for a two game-stretch as well due to injury.
But Fewell’s defense got its act together just in time and got stronger as the Giants made their Super Bowl push. Jason Pierre-Paul emerged as a star under Fewell's watch and rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams developed into a contributor much quicker than expected.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride also had to deal with change as his offensive line lost Shaun O’Hara and Rich Seubert and had a new left tackle in Will Beatty, new left guard in David Diehl and a new center in David Baas. He also had to find a new third receiver to replace Steve Smith and a new tight end to replace Kevin Boss.
The running game struggled but it slowly got better late in the season. Kevin Boothe became a valuable contributor and eventually became the starting LG after Beatty got hurt, moving Diehl over to LT.
But the passing game took off as Eli Manning had his best season ever and was clutch under Gilbride’s watch. And Victor Cruz emerged as a star with his franchise record-breaking season after Domenik Hixon went down with his second torn ACL in as many years. Jake Ballard also emerged as Boss’ replacement.
The Giants finished eighth in total offense and 27th in total defense in the NFL during the regular season.
Special teams improved dramatically as Steve Weatherford was easily one of the best signings of the season for the Giants. The punt return and kickoff return coverage units may have been the most improved units from the season before as the infusion of young athletic rookies helped a great deal. The return game, though, needs to be upgraded.
The Giants certainly had their ups and downs as has often happened under Coughlin. They started out 6-2 and then lost four straight games and five of six overall before winning their last two to take the NFC East and get into the playoffs.
While some might give the coaching staff a lower grade, the bottom line is Coughlin and his coaches got the team going in the right direction just in time and the result is a Super Bowl. The coaching staff was able to sprinkle in youth from the draft and find a good mixture with the veterans on the team. And they managed to do this without major contributions from their top four draft picks from the 2011 draft.
Now we shouldn’t ever have to worry about Coughlin’s job security. He should be signing an extension eventually. He did lose two of his offensive staff members after QBs coach Mike Sullivan left to be the Tampa Bay offensive coordinator and offensive line assistant coach Jack Bicknell, Jr. left to become Kansas City’s offensive line coach.
But the Giants moved WRs coach Sean Ryan to replace Sullivan and promoted Kevin M. Gilbride to WRs coach.
Tell us what your grade for the coaching staff would have been (below).