Addition by subtraction, so the theory goes. Utter horsebleep. Pundits like Mike Vaccaro would have you believe that since these two Pro Bowlers went away due to retirement/injury, that the fact that the Giants are in the Super Bowl is damning evidence of how these guys were not really helping the team win. Ridiculous assertion. Sometimes you have to wonder how they can come to such conclusions.
I was quick to take a slap at Barber at the end of preseason (see Point #4 in link) when the former Giant took shots at the Giants. As a professional, he should have moved on and become more objective. Instead he got s’d into the role of former locker room news source. Too bad for him and too bad for the Giants. The fact that his contributions to the team have to be defended here is simply because of the misinformation being put out by guys like Vaccaro who fabricate a day’s work off of the scantest evidence. What facts does Vaccaro use to support his conclusion? You got me! Read the article yourself, linked above. He says the record speaks for itself. He quotes three people, two of which are not saying anything at all about these players and the third who is merely giving an obvious report about the unity of the team. There is not one solid piece of concrete fact that demonstrates his conclusion.
I will do the opposite and list some points that perhaps can dispel this myth before it becomes accepted as reality:
1) Before the season began, I listed 7 questions the Giants were facing. Specifically NOT mentioned was the loss of Barber in the running game. The only thing mentioned was how the Giants running backs would do in pass-catching responsibilities. How could the loss of a 1500 yard Pro Bowl runner not be a question?… the answer was easy… the GIANTS WERE LOADED AT RUNNING BACK. In fact, in preseason I pointed out that the Giants had more depth at RB than I had seen in many years. And coincidentally, while everyone was bellyaching about the trade Reese made, giving up Ryan Grant for a 6th rounder, this blog has been putting out the word on the talents of Ahmad Bradshaw. DOESN’T REESE’S MOVE TO TRADE A PRACTICE SQUAD RB FOR A 6TH ROUND PICK OFFER AS EVIDENCE THAT THE GIANTS WERE NOT GOING TO SUFFER A LOSS FROM BARBER’S RUNNING PRODUCTION? That having Jacobs, Ward, Droughns and Bradshaw was going to fill the void? OF COURSE IT DID!
2) Evidence? 2006 Pro Bowl year by Tiki Barber. Giants get 134.8 yards per game in the rushing department. 2007 Jacobs and Ward carry the load. Giants get 134.2 yards per game in the rushing department. OTHER PLAYERS WITH TALENT STEPPED UP. The results were nearly IDENTICAL.
3) More evidence? ALL FIVE STARTERS ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE WERE HEALTHY THIS YEAR AND STARTED ALL SIXTEEN GAMES. With the exception of O’Hara missing the Tampa Bay playoff game, these 5 starters have started 5×19=95 -1 O’Hara miss = 94 starts out of 95 max! That is tremendous support for the team and tremendous support for the running game in 2007. This unit’s continuity continues to pay huge dividends for the team, so to insinuate that the loss of a RB is why the team might be doing better now than then does not fit with the other contributions taking place.
4) Speaking of the Offensive Line, if you want to compare 2006 to 2007 and wonder aloud about maybe where the REAL explanation is for success, perhaps it was REESE CUTTING LUKE PETITGOUT. I will be fair here and point out that I was surprised and confused by the move when it first happened. I was concerned about the loss of depth that move created, as it forced Diehl over to LT and now we no longer had the luxury of Seubert as a 6th man. Indeed, Diehl has been the weakest link to the line in moving over to the difficult position at LT, giving up the most sacks of anyone on the line. But in perhaps THE BIGGEST ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION, the GIANTS LOST THE MYRIAD NUMBER OF PENALTIES CAUSED BY THEIR LEADING OFFENDER, LUKE PETITGOUT! In 2006 the Giants were 11th in the NFL, with 101 penalties, ~6.5 per game. In 2007 the Giants were 27th in the NFL, with 77 penalties, less than 5 per game. THAT IS HUGE. 1.5 penalties EVERY GAME. That is Luke Petitgout no longer being with the team. Penalties KILL offensive drives. That is 1 or 2 less drives per game being killed. And at 27th in the league, it speaks to how the team has been extremely competitive in this area and putting itself in better positions to win.
5) Bill Belichick commented about the NY GIANTS a few days ago (video linked). His FIRST item mentioned for recent improvement in the team?… SPECIAL TEAMS, where he pointed out how in all three of the playoff games the Giants outplayed their opponent. Special teams field position was probably the single most important reason why the Giants beat the Cowboys. We march down the field to score at the end of H1 because of a good kickoff. Without special teams, the Giants could easily be watching the rest of the playoffs instead of playing in them, but Vaccaro would have you believe it is the absence of Barber and Shockey?
6) And what about Eli Manning? If there is one statistic that could be damning of Shockey, it is that Manning got a lot better after Shockey went down. But to draw that conclusion, it would be to ignore other much larger facts already discussed in previous blog entries (two of which are linked). Did Manning’s copious use of the pump fake during the Tampa Bay playoff game 3 weeks ago having anything to do with Shockey not being there? If anything, it would have helped Shockey AS WELL, giving that large TE more space and more of a target for Eli. Maybe some of this ascendency of Eli has more to do with finally getting a healthy 3rd quality WR in Steve Smith back, coincidentally right when Shockey WENT DOWN?!!!! Maybe it had to do with Plaxico Burress playing a lot better, having huge games versus the Patriots and the Packers. Was Shockey responsible for the 3 INTs and 5 fumbles in Buffalo by Eli? He was not even in that game!
7) Could this late season surge maybe be the HELP from Barber?!! Yes, it was Barber who bitched and complained about how late in the season players were fatigued. They had no legs left for the games because they were getting worn down by Colonel Coughlin’s relentless practices. The players were no longer fresh, and the 2005 and 2006 swoons were probably a direct result of this. Coughlin would not listen to Barber. But the Giants administration did- they told Coughlin to start listening to the players, and he reluctantly changed to save his job and created his ‘leadership council.’ One of the things that council of players has told Coughlin about is going a little easier in late season practices to save the players’ energy for the games on Sunday. Plaxico Burress SPECIFICALLY MENTIONED THIS when asked about the change in his head coach (video 1:20 time). Do you think that losing Barber and Shockey made this team the road warriors? Well, HAHA, maybe Vaccaro is right for the wrong reason- that Barber LEFT because he got tired of not being listened to by Coughlin, but that IN TURN forced changes to make the Giants a better organization… one which could now be competitive in December and January. So maybe we ought to THANK Tiki Barber for putting us on this road.
8) The best for last- rookie Ahmad Bradshaw…. could it possibly be that THE REAL CAUSE AND EFFECT was not Shockey going out in W15 vs the Skins, but W16 with Jacobs going out and Ward already on IR??? THAT, my blog friends, is when this offense really took off, when Bradshaw carried the second half offense in the winds of Buffalo when it could no longer throw a SINGLE PASS!
Maybe what we need to respect is the FACT that Football is an extremely complicated game with so many moving parts that it is impossible to assign differences in play to one or two variables. This blog could write a novella on the changes that have transformed this team. So to the Vaccaros of the world who want to take a quick and easy one at these Pro Bowl guys, either start giving us concrete facts or please stop with the wild throwing of paint on the wall and seeing what the public wants to see stick.