I’ve been scrambling — oops, sorry, Giants fans, I’ll try to find a word not easily associated with Michael Vick. Let’s say I’ve been searching hard to find an angle on Sunday’s debacle that hasn’t been written about a dozen times by everyone one else. I don’t know how original this observation is, but let me confine my comments to this: Any coach can make a bad decision in the course of a game or perhaps even a couple of bad decisions, especially if he’s a gambler.
But yesterday the Giants suffered perhaps the most spectacular and memorable defeat in the team’s history — as Bob Costas succinctly phrased it during the postgame commentary, “This one is going to linger” — not because of mistakes Tom Coughlin made but because of things he forgot to do.
With the Giants up 31-10 and a little more than eight minutes on the clock, you play your safeties deep and your defensive ends wide to try to keep Michael Vick from completing a long pass down the middle or from running around the end for a big gain. Coughlin forgot to do this.
Vick threw a ridiculously easy 65-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brent Celek, then on successive possessions made two long runs to keep Eagles scoring drives alive — the second, a 33-yard run on-third-and-13 from the Philadelphia 12-yard line with about four minutes left, was an absolute killer.
But the worst mistakes of omission were on the Giants’ special teams.
More than 40 years ago Vince Lombardi told every NFL coach that in crucial onside-kick situations you must have your “all-hands” team — that is, the backs and receivers, the guys used to handling the ball — on the field. With the score 31-17 after the Celek touchdown, and 7 1/2 minutes left, Eagles special teams coach Bobby April caught Big Blue napping.
Here’s what he said (and it was picked up in so many different newspapers from New York to Philadelphia that I won’t bother putting up a link): “I looked over to make sure they weren’t putting their hands team in. We didn’t do an overload or anything on it” — i.e., the onside kick — “we just made it look like normal personnel. They had normal personnel. They went five up front, which was kind of the key there, and it worked out.”
Coughlin’s only response when asked about the colossal oversight was this: “We talked about the onside kick as a possibility. We didn’t put our hands team in there, no … We didn’t think it was necessary to do that at the time.”
Wanna watch a replay, Coach?
Finally, there was the punt. Ah, yes, the punt. No one asked Matt Dodge to kick it 60 yards; no one even really asked him to kick the ball to someone besides DeSean Jackson, the fastest man on either team. All anyone needed him to do was to kick the damn ball out of bounds. What was absolutely numbingly incredible about that play was that no one on the Giants’ sideline, in the biggest play of the season, made that crystal-clear to Matt Dodge.
All sins of omission. So New York Giants, soooooo Coughlin.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 20, 2010