In the final week of the 2013 NFL regular-season, the New York Giants played the Washington Redskins in front of their home crowd and delivered a 20-6 victory to close out the year. Both teams started slow in the sloppy conditions but in the second half, the Giants took control of the game, even with Eli Manning sidelined by a sprained ankle. Big Blue’s defense secured the game with strong play and creating turnovers.
New York finished the season 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. After losing their first six games of the season, the Giants finished 7-3 in their last ten, something to hang their hats on heading into the off-season.
Coach Tom Coughlin had this to say about his resilient team: “They were knocked down a number of times this season, obviously. I think this is a very strong group, a group that I was very proud of, very proud to be associated with; we set out to be world champions, just like everybody else, in the 32 teams in the NFL. We didn’t achieve that, but we didn’t stop fighting. I left them with that message.”
Not all was lost this year; some promising signs emerged as the season progressed. A defense that gave up 146 points in its first four games and was ranked 28th in the league, tightened up and finished eighth overall.
“We’re a never- quit and never-die locker room,” said safety Antrel Rolle, who is a veteran leader of this defense.
An emerging star may have been discovered in the absence of Victor Cruz. Wide receiver Jerel Jernigan has stepped up with 19 catches for 237 yards and two TDs since Cruz’s injury, both scores coming against the Redskins this past Sunday. Jernigan caught a beautiful over the shoulder 24 yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning and also scored on a nifty 49 yard end-around run. Jon Beason was another shining star with a combined 93 tackles in only 12 games. It would behoove the Giants to re-sign Beason, as he proved to be a great fit in the middle of this defense.
In an off-season that promises many changes from coaches, players and the entire personnel, management and ownership of the New York Giants have a lot of important decisions to make. One of the most pressing issues is the captain of their defense Justin Tuck, who after a rejuvenated 2013 season will hit the open market if the Giants decide not to re-sign him. After two underachieving seasons in 2011-12, where Tuck recorded only nine sacks combined, this year he showed a newfound energy and racked up a team-leading 11 sacks on the season.
“I would love to retire as a Giant everyone knows how great this place is and how great it is to play for this organization, these fans, this city, this region,” said Tuck.
“It’s definitely a bittersweet feeling,” said Rolle of cleaning out his locker knowing there will be no playoffs this year.
Rolle spoke on a feeling that a lot of these players undoubtedly had leaving the facility on Sunday. There is always next year, one that will inevitably come with change. Some solidity on the offensive line in free-agency and the draft will be a priority for this Giants team. Going into Sunday’s finale against the Redskins, the Giants offensive line had allowed pressure on Manning on a league worst 39.5% of pass plays.
John Mara told reporters, “I expressed to Tom this morning that we do want him back is our head coach.”
With a franchise quarterback surrounded with weapons at skill positions, a defense that improved every week, and a two-time Super Bowl winning head coach, a lot of NFL teams would trade places with the Giants in a heartbeat. If this team can get healthy and bring in some new talent to solidify the O-line, it should get back to its winning ways in the 2014 season.