The hardest part of the early end to the Giants season was the fact that they were eight minutes away from being seen as a serious contender for a shot at another Lombardi Trophy.
Not far behind that is the fact that it could be quite a long while before we get a chance to see Big Blue in action on the field. The pending labor war promises to be an ugly one, since the owners seem convinced that they need to slap the players around so that they can keep more of their own money even in face of every skyrocketing interest and revenues. That's their (more than a little silly) choice to make, but it does have the potential to take our beloved game away from us for far longer than we'd prefer.
How can we cope? By obsessing over changes to the roster, of course. General manager Jerry Reese has already said that the team won't deal with any free agents until there's a new collective bargaining agreement in place, so it will be up to us to vote up or down on those players. And we won't stop there. Players under contract won't escape our scheming minds as we look into the future of the Giants.
Ahmad Bradshaw: He'll be a free agent and he should be back with the Giants next season. His fumbling issues are alarming, but Tiki Barber proved that such things can be eliminated over time. Finding another back with his explosiveness isn't nearly so easy, which means this decision is a simple one.
Brandon Jacobs: Time to cut bait. Jacobs had his moments this year, but his final numbers (847 yards, 5.6 yards per carry) seem out of whack with his actual production. Some of that has to do with the way he piled it on against crummy teams and disappeared in big games. But that's not why we're ready to see Jacobs in another uniform. From his depressingly unpunished helmet throw into the stands against Indy to his telling the media to f*** themselves on the final day of the year, Jacobs confirmed that he's an embarrassment. Let him be someone else's in 2011.
Steve Smith: He's a free agent and coming off an injury, but the Giants shouldn't hesitate to bring him back for another spin.
Kevin Boss: Another free agent who should be back next season. His hands aren't great, but he's a solid blocker and seems to find holes in opposing defenses.
Shawn Andrews: The Giants can't hang around and hope his back is well enough to start at left tackle. They need a real answer so David Diehl can move inside. Andrews is just another question mark.
Barry Cofield: If we were just basing this on his play, the free agent would be a yes vote. He's a resounding yes thanks to his "I'm being tased" celebratory dance. Cofield has been undervalued for much of his Giants career and he's wanted a bigger contract. It would be a big risk if Reese kept that trend alive at the negotiating table and a devastating loss if Cofield played his ace card and simply walked away.
Mathias Kiwanuka: He's a free agent coming off a serious neck injury, never a combination that creates much leverage for the player. That would presumably enable the Giants to snap him up for a nice price, but the emergence of Jason Pierre-Paul and need to actually address the mediocrity of the linebacking corps means it is time to move in another direction.
Osi Umenyiora: Increasingly a one-dimensional player and he's coming off a good enough year that he could generate some interest on the trade market, but he's going in the keeper column. That could change if the labor issues are ironed out sooner rather than later, but the Giants need to be beastly in the pass rush and losing Umenyiora runs counter to that plan.
Keith Bulluck, Michael Boley: Two-for-one special. Neither of the starting outside linebackers are good enough and both should be upgraded before next season.
Deon Grant: The veteran safety had a nice season and could go from being the third man on the Giants to a starter somewhere else as a free agent. It would be swell for the Giants to keep him, but Antrel Rolle's deal -- if not his unspectacular play -- and other needs for money makes that very difficult. Want to keep him, but he's likely going elsewhere.
Matt Dodge: Seriously?
Kevin Gilbride: There are rumors that he's up for the UConn head coaching job and his getting it might be a blessing in disguise for the Giants. Never as bad as his critics would have you believe, but Gilbride's not that good an offensive coordinator either. A new voice could also help Eli Manning take another developmental step.
Perry Fewell: If he doesn't get a head coaching job, he should absolutely be back.
Mike Sullivan: If your quarterback coach can't step in and help the quarterback stop throwing interceptions, is he really a quarterback coach?
Tom Quinn: See Dodge's comment and double for the special teams coach who should have been fired moments after the second loss to the Eagles.