Jerry Reese is coming under fire again.
It isn't fans or the media or Osi Umenyiora that is coming after him this time, though. It's former Giant Barry Cofield, who sounded off about the Giants G.M. and the entire organization as he prepares to face them in his first game as a member of the Redskins.
Cofield has some problems with the way the Giants dealt with several of the veterans who left the team this summer, although he doesn't have any issues with his own treatment before he decided to sign with Washington. Cofield didn't pull many punches when sharing his thoughts on the matter with Mike Garofalo of the Star-Ledger.
"Some other guys I played with, sweat with and bled with, I don’t think it was right, the way things went down with them," Cofield said. "A guy that’s been there for 10 years like Rich [Seubert] gets hurt and you fire him? That’s the best way to put it. And don’t forget about Osi. I don’t think that’s right either."
The departures of Cofield, Seubert, Shaun O'Hara, Chase Blackburn, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss have been discussed ad nauseum, as has the Osi Umenyiora contract situation, but this is the first we've heard from another player who was in the locker room. You have to imagine that there are other Giants that feel the same way -- Eli Manning has certainly sent hints in that direction -- and it can wind up being bad for a team if they feel that all loyalty is a one-way street.
That said, Reese's job is to put together the best possible team and letting emotional attachments that have nothing to do with on-field production get in the way of that is a really bad idea. Reese cut ties with popular players because he either felt they weren't good enough or worth the money offered to them and he's paid to make just those decisions.
Check that: He's paid to be right about those decisions.
Reese played a high-stakes game of chicken with Umenyiora (with ownership backing, obviously) and lost pretty spectacularly when Umenyiora showed up at camp just long enough to secure this year's salary and then decided to have surgery. He could have pulled the trigger on a trade that is now impossible and he now needs to hope that Umenyiora will pass on more further elective operations during the season.
He has also chosen not to lift a finger to bring in outside help for a secondary ravaged by injuries and it doesn't look like he's going to do anything radical to replace Jonathan Goff either. The team kept three rookies at linebacker and one of them, Greg Jones, looks like the starter for Sunday's opener in the middle.
We discussed yesterday how the reliance on rookies -- 10 on the current roster -- could impact the way the Giants season played out. We didn't mention how much that decision has to do with Reese, but Cofield's comment really drives the point home.
Reese has cast his lot with 10 rookies and several other players acquired under his watch in the last few years. He has said, therefore, that these players are going to make a better Giants team than the one we saw the last few seasons and that they will succeed where the others have failed.
It's a pretty bold play, but it is one that can turn into a jackpot for Reese. It will be hard to criticize him much if he can radically reshape his roster and manage serious injuries while returning to the playoffs.
If he doesn't pull it off, though, it will be hard to believe he really knows what he's doing at the helm of the team. He's made some good moves since taking over for Ernie Accorsi, but this is the first Giants team that doesn't wear the brand of the previous regime and it's failure would deservedly be placed squarely on Reese's shoulders.
Reese looked like he was willing to accept those terms in training camp when he briefly guaranteed a playoff trip, but he's backpedaled faster than the cornerbacks who keep blowing out their knees in the last few weeks. That's a pretty bad sign as there was something admirable about Reese's willingness to go down with the ship he designed.
None of that will matter in the final reckoning, though. The record, not the attitude, will determine whether Reese gets to go for another sail.