The New York Giants seemed to answer every question that doubters and critics had with their stirring run to the Super Bowl.
There should be no doubt about Tom Coughlin's future after winning his second Super Bowl. Same thing goes for Eli Manning and his rank among the elite after winning his second Super Bowl MVP award. Leadership? Justin Tuck, Manning, Zak DeOssie and a host of others like Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant laid that issue to rest.
Linebackers and special teams? Both units were good enough to win a Super Bowl. So now, a different set of questions arises for the Giants -- the questions that a world champion faces when going into an offseason looking to defend its title. Here are the first five issues the Giants will have to answer, in no particular order.
The Osi Dilemma
At the Giants' pep rally, Osi Umenyiora was asked if the love being showered on him and the Giants made him want to return.
"Of course! Look at this," Umenyiora said as he looked toward some of the approximately 40,000-45,000 fans on hand. "We can win again. But you know, it's a business."
Umenyiora, 30, has one year remaining on his deal at just under $4 million. But he wanted a raise so badly last season that he was willing to discuss it in an affidavit for the players' case against the NFL during the lockout, sit out practices early in training camp and seek a trade partner during a brief window allowed by the team.
Umenyiora says he wants to return, but he will want more money after having nine sacks in nine regular-season games. He also had 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble against Green Bay that was huge in the playoffs. And he also is still a starting-caliber defensive end who will have to rotate in for Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck if he remains a Giant.
Mario Manningham became a Giants Super Bowl hero with his sensational 38-yard catch that helped set up the game-winning touchdown.
But that catch and his five receptions for 73 yards in the Super Bowl may have earned him a starting job and lucrative contract from another team. Manningham is a free agent, and he could bolt for a bigger role on another team. With Victor Cruz's ascension, Manningham has become the team's third receiver.
The Giants will eventually have to take care of Hakeem Nicks and Cruz, so they could have to look for a cheaper alternative at third receiver. Earlier in the season, ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reported that former Giant Steve Smith might be interested in a reunion in the upcoming season.
The Giants will have to make a decision whether Brandon Jacobs will return next season. In March, they will have to decide whether to pay Jacobs a $500,000 roster bonus and the $4.4 million he is owed for next season.
In a magazine interview earlier in the season, Jacobs talked about going elsewhere to show what he can do with more carries. But after winning a Super Bowl, he has expressed how much he would love to return.
Jacobs said his future is up to the Giants. He did restructure his contract over the summer to help the team re-sign Ahmad Bradshaw, so if that could be an option again if Jacobs is going to remain a Giant.
The Giants won the Super Bowl, but part of the cost was nearly wiping out their tight end depth.
Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard both suffered torn ACL injuries. That means they could be out rehabbing for potentially eight to nine months or longer. Wide receiver Domenik Hixon tore his ACL in the summer of 2010 and the Giants took it slowly with him and limited his reps in training camp this past August. He ended up tearing his ACL again in the second game of the season.
Ballard is an exclusive rights free agent. The team still should bring the promising Ballard back. But tight end is now one of the offseason priorities for the Giants, who have Bear Pascoe, who expected to be a restricted free agent (the NFL has not released an official free-agent list yet), and practice squad player Christian Hopkins remaining on the roster. Finding a tight end target for Manning is key.
Thomas is rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in the preseason, but he says he is ahead of schedule and recently began running. He is optimistic that the Giants will re-sign him. Ross had four interceptions starting in place of Thomas opposite Corey Webster, but will another team offer him more money than the Giants?
With Thomas possibly returning and first-round draft pick Prince Amukamara waiting in the wings, Ross could leave for a starting spot elsewhere as well.
Grant is a leader in the locker room and was a pivotal piece of Perry Fewell's three-safety look. He's 32, and the Giants do have sixth-round pick Tyler Sash waiting. But the Giants can't put a price on Grant's savvy veteran leadership.