By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts History Harrier
Back in August, when NFL types were breaking down the season to come, the scouting report on the Giants was pretty simple: they’ll score, but is the defense good enough to get them into the playoffs?
After all, New York was one of the most consistently good offenses in the league, and had been for the entire run of Eli Manning with Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Kevin Gibride (here for the last six seasons).
Check out their year-to-year rank in the only offensive stat that really matters, points scored:
- 2005: 3rd
- 2006: 11th
- 2007: 14th
- 2008: 3rd
- 2009: 8th
- 2010: 7th
- 2011: 9th
- 2012: 6th
Manning may have been a bit inconsistent from week to week, but by the end of the season he always had the Giants playing well enough on offense to contend for the playoffs.
And then came the Great Crash of 2013.
Not only are the Giants bad offensively, they’re really bad – 30th in the league bad. After averaging 24.97 points a game over the previous eight seasons, they’re down to 17.9 this year. Making matters worse, they’ve already played seven games against teams in the bottom 10 scoring defenses.
The strangest part is that this collapse came with essentially the same cast as the 2012 team, with a couple of replacements that don’t add up to the sum of the failure.
The Giants’ offensive regression has been so bad this year that we had to check into Room 237 of the luxurious History Hotel for a full day of intensive stat treatments.
The result? It’s not unprecedented, in recent history at least, but it’s pretty damn close.
Assuming the Giants stay in the No. 30 spot as a scoring offense, they will have dropped 24 spots in a single season – the second biggest year-to-year drop there’s been.
Only 11 teams have dropped 20+ spots over the last 25 seasons, and their stories all have a bit more of a predictable feel than the Giants’ does.
1989 Jets: From No. 6 to No. 26
The 1988 Jets came out of nowhere a bit as an offense, emerging from a series of mediocre offenses for a banner season behind QB Ken O’Brien, RB Freeman McNeil (a great back lost in the dustbin of history) and WR Al Toon. Leading the offense was Rich Kotite, still on the upswing of his career.
But in 1989, with O’Brien, McNeil and Toon all missing about a half season, the Jets took a big step back and coach Joe Walton was fired. Kotite landed in Philly as the offensive coordinator and got the head job the following season.
1994 Oilers: From No. 4 to No. 28
The 93 Oilers were Super Bowl favorites before losing to the Chiefs in the playoffs; with Warren Moon at the helm and coach Jack Pardee’s Run-and-Gun offense, they were a thing of beauty.
And then Moon took the money and ran to Minnesota and the Oilers completely fell to pieces, finishing dead last in the league in scoring behind QBs Billy Joe Tolliver, Bucky Richardson and Cody Carlson. Pardee was fired halfway through the year, replaced by Jeff Fisher.
His coordinator was fired too. Guy by the name of Kevin Gilbride.
1996 Cowboys: From No. 3 to No. 25
This was one of the strangest teams in memory – the Cowboys actually made the playoffs despite the huge falloff, thanks to a dominating defense.
Michael Irvin did miss the first five games, but the famed triplets were healthy for the final 11 and the scoring average didn’t change much from the 17.9 PPG that was down almost 10 points from the prior Super Bowl run. The offensive line was intact, and coordinator Ernie Zampese was also in the booth, chain-smoking butts and calling the same plays that had won them Super Bowls.
Much like this year’s Giants team, that Dallas squad was a puzzle no one could figure out. Barry Switzer got one more year, but another poor offensive showing got him fired after the 1997 season.
2000 Redskins: From No. 2 to No. 24
Norv Turner’s time in Washington was so-so, but his Skins caught fire in 1999. Behind Brad Johnson, RB Stephen Davis and 1,000-yard receivers Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell, the Skins won 10 games and made the playoffs.
But Westbrook went down in Week 2 of 2000, the line had three different starters, Johnson (and Jeff George) couldn’t recapture the magic and Turner was fired with three games to go.
2002 Rams: From No. 1 to No. 23
Nobody saw this one coming. The Rams had three solid years of Greatest Show on Turf-dom under their gold belts when they started 0-3 under Kurt Warner (seven INTs, one TD) before Warner broke his finger. Marshall Faulk was hurt, and by the time Marc Bulger stepped in to save the season the damage was done.
Mike Martz added an offensive coordinator the following year, and the Rams rebounded to No. 2 in scoring offense after benching Warner following a six-fumble opener.
2003 Raiders: From No. 2 to No. 26
The 2003 Raiders certainly had the offensive braintrust. Head coach Bill Callahan, an offensive guy, had Marc Trestman as his coordinator, Jim Harbaugh as his quarterback coach, and reigning league MVP Rich Gannon as his quarterback.
What could possibly go wrong? Everything.
Gannon (38) only lasted seven so-so games before getting hurt, and Tim Brown (37) and Jerry Rice (41) found out that they were old as the Raiders crashed to earth – never to really recover, at least not yet.
2004 49ers: From No. 9 to No. 30
The 49ers had been slowly fading from glory before this season, where they crashed and burned to 2-14. It wasn’t exactly tough to figure out why – QB Jeff Garcia, RB Garrison Hearst and WR Terrell Owens were all dispatched after the 2003 season, leaving a cast of no-names to fill the great uniforms.
Dennis Erickson was fired, but the biggest loser was offensive coordinator Ted Tollner, who got another shot with Detroit in 2005 and after a failure there never returned to the coordinator spot.
2008 Bengals: From No. 11 to No. 32
With Chad Johnson playing hurt and Carson Palmer lost to injury in Week 4, the Bengals couldn’t recover. RB Cedric Benson (3.5 YPC) made few friends in his first year as a Bengal, and Marvin Lewis’ job was on the line.
But owner Mike Brown stayed patient, Benson emerged as a stud, Palmer stayed healthy, and the Bengals were back in the playoffs. Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski didn’t survive another bad offensive year in 2010, though, and was replaced by Jay Gruden.
2010 Vikings: From No. 2 to No. 29
This is the most precipitous drop ever, and an untoward end to the great career of Brett Favre. After a magical 2009 season where everything went right – except for the final offensive play of the Vikings’ year, a poor pick in the NFC title game – it all unraveled as 41-year-old Favre couldn’t recapture the magic.
Coach Brad Childress was fired, Favre retired (although reports are that he looks good throwing in Mississippi!), and the Vikings returned to a run-first look behind Adrian Peterson.
2011 Colts: From No. 4 to No. 28
Peyton Manning got hurt. Jim Caldwell got fired. Jim Irsay opened a Twitter account.
2012 Eagles: From No. 8 to No. 29
This is still a fresh one – it’s worth noting that in addition to Michael Vick going down with injuries, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy also miSsed time and the offensive line was a mess. As much as Chip Kelly and Nick Foles are getting credit for the turnaround this year, the health of his line and skill players have been huge.
And as Andy Reid is proving in Kansas City, the dude can still coach.
SO, WHAT ABOUT THE GIANTS?
The scoreboard in terms of coaches surviving these year-to-year plummets isn’t so good.
Eight of the 11 were fired, either during the season or after it, and Tom Coughlin is certainly on the hot seat in New York.
What makes the whole thing so strange is that there’s no real explanation for it all. Manning has been in there every week, with a mostly intact line, throwing to his two star receivers (Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz). The running back position has been hit by injury, but the Giants were one of the worst running teams around in 2012.
The only comparison on our list is the 1996 Cowboys, who also had a proven track record of success and similar personnel before falling off the stat cliff.
Gilbride, always a much-talked about figure, could be the sacrificial lamb if Coughlin survives, but that hardly seems fair – how does a guy who coordinated two Super Bowl wins and five straight top-10 offenses get the boot after one year?
It mostly boils down to Eli, who has been asked to put this team on his back and carry it and has failed miserably. Even if his 25 interceptions are inflated by garbage time chucks, he’s still been one of the worst QBs in the league. He’s taken a league-high 11 penalties, he’s been inaccurate, he’s been just plain bad.
Maybe when the season’s over, it’ll quietly come out that he was nursing an injury all year.
That’s about the only explanation that makes sense … not that it’ll be much solace if Coughlin and Gilbride are looking for work at season’s end.