The Honeymoon's Over for the Giants

The Giants' loyalty has gone from reason for praise to reason for criticism

Right up until last week's loss to the Ravens, it was hard to find anyone willing to say that something was wrong with the Giants. 

Every loss and every shaky performance in a win was written off as a championship team going through the motions until they got to the point in the season when they would simply turn the throttle up and take over the league. Now that it is clear that no such switch ever existed, there's a race off the Giants bandwagon to rival the scrum after someone screams fire in a crowded theater. 

After a season in which we were told time and time again that the Giants were a championship contender even though they played like a .500 team fighting for a playoff berth, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post now admits that no one on the team had a good year. All of a sudden players like Chase Blackburn are no longer the heart and soul of the team, but limited players whose lack of talent is a problem for the franchise. 

After telling us on a weekly basis that the Giants would win because Eli Manning is elite and because Tom Coughlin knows what it takes to win, Schwartz's colleague Steve Serby points to arrogance as one of the reasons why their season has gone wrong. Funny how quickly confidence turns into arrogance, isn't it?

The Giants aren't any better or worse this year than they've been in the last four years. Their timing was spot on last season, but the overall picture wasn't any different despite the attempt to turn the intangible into something real. 

At least no one who spent the post-Super Bowl period telling people how stupid they were for thinking Coughlin should be fired if the Giants missed the playoffs are now calling for Coughlin's head. It's bad enough that they are speculating about Justin Tuck's future and criticizing Jason Pierre-Paul after spending the whole season firm in the belief that the lack of sacks is not a sign that the defensive line is failing to produce. 

While the opinions of writers and others in the media are unlikely to have much impact on the decisions made by the Giants this offseason, the reaction to the fairly predictable turns this season has taken speaks to the need for the team to approach this offseason with a much colder analysis of the situation than they did this year. Loyalty and the faith that things just work out in the end for the Giants won't cut it this time. 

That means giving David Diehl a fond farewell and finding younger offensive linemen with upside to rebuild the fraying remains of the group that the Giants desperately tried to keep intact despite mounting evidence of their shortcomings. It means figuring out whether players like Ahmad Bradshaw and Kenny Phillips can be counted on in the face of mounting injuries and deciding whether Corey Webster's bad year was an anomaly. 

Those aren't easy choices, especially for a team that has been slow to pull the plug on formerly productive players in the past few years, but they are ones the Giants have to make as they attempt to turn their team from one that relies on good timing and fortune to one that makes all of its own luck in the years to come. 

Whether they win or lose against the Eagles and whether or not they make the playoffs, that question will remain the one the Giants have to answer before next season gets started. 

Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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