Don't Believe the Hype

Deflating Those Lofty Preseason Headlines for the Jets and Giants

Nothing in sports journalism quite matches the pabulum and platitudes of preseason football headlines. Each summer, at least if you read the New York dailies, every journeyman will have a Pro-Bowl season, every undrafted rookie will make the team, and every January we can expect a Subway Super Bowl. But by the time the leaves fall off the trees and the egrets fly south from the Meadowlands, reality falls harder than a Dave Brown incompletion. Even the coaches are sick of reading it.

"I've been telling the team, 'We have a lot to do. All that wonderful stuff that's being written about you guys right now is just individual stuff,' " Giants head coach Jim Fassel said in the preseason. "You've got to quit reading that stuff and go out there and work." Believing your own press is a recipe for disaster in sports. As a public service, the Voice thought it would be nice to make the upcoming season a bit safer for players and fans by letting a little air out of some of those lofty headlines the papers have set afloat.


The Headline: "What, Us Worry?!"
(New York Post, Aug. 25)

The Gist: Giants players dismiss concerns over potential for winless preseason before falling to 0-4 after home loss to Baltimore.

The Reality: Following that exhibition loss to the Ravens last month, Fassel said he had never "looked more forward" to the end of the preseason. No wonder. An 0-4 record when your job's on the line can't be good, even if the games don't count. Record aside, the Giants' preseason served as a showcase for the team's major weaknesses—lack of depth along with iffy defense and special teams. And, contrary to popular opinion, the Giants have yet to prove their revamped offense can score points. Although the unit has shown it can move the football, New York averaged only 15.5 points per game in the preseason (9.5 per game with the first-team offense).

"There's been a lot of turnover on this team, a lot of new players," said cornerback Jason Sehorn, when asked about the sense of urgency for 2000. "Players come and go just as much as the coaches. We as players are judged by how we perform on the field and [Fassel's] judged by how he prepares us. We have to improve this year or a lot of us will be gone." And they're not off to a good start.

The Headline: "Shades of Simms, Perhaps, in Collins"
(New York Times, Aug. 12)

The Gist: New starting QB Kerry Collins is the first signal caller to demonstrate a combination of "accuracy, strength and poise" since Fabulous Phil, generating excitement about the Giants offense for the first time in years.

The Reality: Collins has "made some throws we haven't seen around here in a while," says Fassel. But at least one scout, speaking to the Voice on the condition of anonymity, still questions whether Collins has the decision-making ability and footwork necessary to become an elite QB in the NFL. Exhibits A and B: his 52.5 percent career completion rating and 66.1 overall QB rating. The biggest problem the Giants' passing game has had in recent seasons, however, has been the lack of a running game. Last year, Giant rushers averaged only 3.3 yards per carry (24th in the league). With no ground game, defenses could focus on stopping the pass. If the Ron Dayne/Tiki Barber backfield combo comes through, Collins should be okay. If not, he'll look more like his predecessors—Brown, Danny Kanell, and Kent Graham—than Simms.

The Headline: "Giants Barrow Backers"
(News, Aug. 4)

The Gist: New middle linebacker Mike Barrow idolized Giants Hall of Fame LB Lawrence Taylor growing up. Can he restore the Big Blue D to its LT-era glory?

The Reality: No. Blessed with speed and sound instincts, Barrow is a fine player, but not a Hall of Famer. Even with Barrow, Fassel says his defense "doesn't have a lot of pass rush right now." That, coupled with an iffy secondary, means the Giants will be lucky if the D can get back to where it was two years ago, much less to when LT played. "We have to show that we can play consistently as a unit, and we haven't done that yet this year," said linebacker and leader Jessie Armstead.

The Headlines: "Giant Hopeful Has Golden Opportunity"
(News, July 29);
"Jomo Starting to Impress"
(Post, Aug. 3)

The Gist: Two unknown free agents make big impressions in camp.

The Reality: Despite starting the preseason opener in place of injured Michael Strahan, defensive end Jomo Cousins was among the team's last round of cuts at the end of August. Jack Golden, a rookie free-agent linebacker from Oklahoma State, made the team as a reserve. His claim to fame? He cost the Giants a preseason win in Jacksonville by tackling teammate and fellow rookie Fred Lewis in the Giants end zone following an interception, forcing a fumble, which was recovered by Jacksonville for the game-winning score (Lewis was later cut from the team). The Giants' success this year will depend on veteran acquisitions such as Barrow and a revamped offensive line. After all, mistake-prone kids won't save the coach's job.

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