Giants coach Tom Coughlin said that he'll be playing to win Sunday's season finale and won't use it as an opportunity to evaluate backups and young players. One veteran won't be part of the effort, however. Brandon Jacobs is going to have knee surgery, ending the most disappointing season of his career after 15 games.
The disappointment doesn't just stem from the fact that he ran for only 835 yards or his 3.7 yards per carry. It comes from the choice that the Giants made to sign him to a long-term contract before the season, bidding farewell to Derrick Ward, and the fear that years of playing human bowling ball may mean that things aren't going to get any better in the future. It's the second-straight year where Jacobs has experienced knee problems and the fourth straight year that will end without him playing in all 16 games.
At 6-4 and 265 pounds, Jacobs doesn't look much like your typical running back and that makes it difficult to project exactly where he goes from here. Generally speaking, backs of any size don't age well once they start picking up nagging injuries and close in on 30.
That creates a bit of a conundrum for the Giants entering the offseason. Jacobs, 27, and Ahmad Bradshaw, 23, seemed like a perfect match entering the season because their mix of power and speed provided the Giants with everything you'd need from the running back spot. If Jacobs isn't capable of being much more than a slightly better version of Ron Dayne, however, the Giants need someone who can make him the secondary back and it isn't clear that Bradshaw's that guy. He's a good back, to be sure, but his own injury issues make it hard to buy into the notion that he could carry the ball 22 times a game and wear down defenses before he wears down himself.
There are other issues with Jacobs. The most positive thing to come out of this Giants season has been the development of Eli Manning and his receiving corps. With their offensive line in need of refurbishment, it would serve the Giants well to put a premium on pass blocking and Jacobs has never been terrific in that facet of the game. He also isn't much of a receiver out of the backfield, something that they'd be wise to focus on when thinking about the offensive look of the team going forward.
All of that said, a betting man would put his money on Jacobs returning in 2010. He probably wouldn't bet on Jacobs returning in the same role, however, and neither should the Giants.