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New York Giants Season Review – Grades: Diary of a Giants Fan

With the 2012 season, regrettably, in the rearview, Joe Bianchino offers his final thoughts and grades.

Al Bello, Getty Images

When I was young, I used to play a computer game called “RollerCoaster Tycoon.”  Basically, you hung out and designed and built an amusement park from the ground up – the layout, the rides, the food stands, bathrooms, sidewalks, everything.  It was the perfect game for a dude with some “Type A” tendencies.

Generally, in designing a roller coaster, I’d build beastly creations with absurd peaks followed by equally absurd valleys – the type of roller coaster a dude with “Type A” tendencies wouldn’t touch in real life.

I bring this up because as I’ve spent the past few days looking back on the 2012 Giants, I haven’t been able to help but think about those virtual roller coasters of my youth – the peaks and the valleys.

Giants fans have come to know these momentum swings all too well in recent years, and 2012 was no different.

Peak: A 6-2 start including a dominant, road win over the 49ers.

Valley: Two losses to open the historically troubling second half of the season, including an embarrassing non-effort against a beatable Bengals team.

Peak: An absolute trouncing of the Green Bay Packers.

Valley: A one point loss to the Redskins, firmly establishing Washington as a threat in the NFC East.

Peak: A 52-point effort against the Saints that made many – including this columnist – believe that the Giants were ready to turn the corner.

Valley: A pair of “What the hell was that?!” losses to the Falcons and Cardinals that saw the Giants lose control of their own destiny and, despite an impressive week 17 win, miss the playoffs.

It was an end reminiscent of an occasional design mistake that proved the virtual coaster’s last peak too high to climb, and saw its cars slide flaccidly back down the hill and rock itself to a sad, anticlimactic end – regardless of how wild and fun the ride had been to that point.  There was so much more track left to conquer, just not enough oomph to get to it.

Season-Long Grades: Offensive Line – B-: Similar to the Giants season as a hole, the offensive line was up and down throughout 2012.  Injuries had a lot to do with that, though few would argue the unit isn’t in need of offseason improvement. Still, as misleading as the statistic is, they did give up the fewest sacks in the NFL.

Running Backs – B: Ahmad Bradshaw’s injury problem reared its ugly head again, but when healthy, Bradshaw ran well and was backed up by the early season emergence of Andre Brown’s hard running and the late season emergence of David Wilson’s speed and quickness.  Healthy – admittedly, a bold assumption – the future could be bright for this unit.

Wide Receivers – C-: Nicks’ season long bout with knee and foot injuries certainly didn’t help, but there was more than that at play in the passing game’s lack of explosion.  Victor Cruz came back down to earth, no clear third receiver emerged, and the Black Unicorn was resigned to underutilization.  All of this to say nothing of the corps’ problems with drops.

Eli Manning – C-: The 2011-2012 season may very well prove to be Eli Manning’s worst enemy. Two years ago, this season’s campaign would have been celebrated by Giants fans.  This year, after a Super Bowl winning one in which Manning, to me, showed his true colors, such a season is an underwhelming one.  Too many passes were off target, too many poor decisions were made, and too many rumors swirled about the first case of “tired arm” in the history of the NFL.  Quite frankly, more is expected, and, I believe, is coming.

Special Teams – B+: Tynes was excellent, Weatherford was solid, and, in David Wilson, a kick return game emerged for the first time in years.

Defensive Line – D-: At what point does the “dominant Giants defensive line” become the “myth of the dominant Giants defensive line?”  I’m not sure when, but I’d imagine we are coming up on it.  Big Blue finished in the bottom third of the league in sacks, and too many of those came by way of quality coverage.  By far, this unit proved to be the season’s biggest disappointment.

Linebackers – B: It’s hard to pin down who, exactly, makes up the Giants linebacking corps – with names like Kiwanuka, Boley, Rivers, and Herzlich, rotating in and out throughout the season – two things are clear.  One, this unit wasn’t the problem, and two, its best player was the team’s best defensive player in 2012.  Though his skill-set isn’t an extraordinary one, Chase Blackburn was the most consistently reliable Giants player in 2012 – one who did not get the attention he deserved.

Secondary – D+: Repeated injuries saw this unit undermanned and out of their element too often in 2012, the cost of which amounting to long spells of poor play – most notably that of Corey Webster.  When all of the unit’s pieces are healthy, however, I honestly think they’re a solid one.  Kenny Phillips is a top-teir NFL safety and, paired with 2012′s defensive revelation Stevie Brown, will become the rock of a unit far better than the one we saw this season.  Still, that’s for the future; this year’s performance was, for the most part, well below average.

Coaching – D: The search for a Giants fan still enamored with the coaching of coordinators Kevin Gilbride and Perry Fewell would likely be a long one.  Their transgressions, however, have been extensively fleshed out.  So I’ll simply say this, their coaching wasn’t good, it needs to be better.  I will, instead, focus on the big boss.  Don’t get me wrong, Tom Coughlin’s job is and should be 100% safe, and his credentials are ones that can’t be argued with.  But let me ask this, at what point do habitual second half collapses become the result of a coach-related culture?

Does anyone think that this team is a 9-7 one?  Is that the harsh reality I should be facing, right now?  Because I don’t.  I think this Giants team has talent worthy of much more than that.  But two regular seasons in a row, the machine that is the NFL regular season has spit out a squad just one game above .500. What is the reason?  Who is to blame?  The answer isn’t clear, but is certainly one that will be sought throughout what will be a long, hard winter.

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