Giants reflect on 2012; begin 2013 plan

Posted Dec 31, 2012

Coach Tom Coughlin and GM Jerry Reese begin 2013 planning for 2013

One day after one of their biggest victories in years, the Giants today spoke only of loss.

And the biggest hurt of all was a lost opportunity – to win the NFC East, make the playoffs and defend the championship they won a year ago. They held a 2½-game lead at one point in the division, but lost some key second-half games and did not qualify for the playoffs, despite their 42-7 thrashing of the Philadelphia Eagles in their season finale yesterday.

“The bar is set very high here and we didn’t get the job done,” general manager Jerry Reese said.

Coach Tom Coughlin held a final meeting with the 2012 Giants and it was not a particularly happy one.

“We are disappointed that our season is over, we are not happy that we’re not continuing to play. As I told the players, I don’t like the exit meeting. I don’t like it at all,” Coughlin said. “I don’t like saying goodbye. I don’t like the unfulfilled. A year ago, we walk from the last exit meeting to get on a bus to go to the Canyon of Heroes parade. That’s kind of where we are emotionally. It’s not an easy day, under any circumstances. To not be in the playoffs, is not, certainly not as the season began, what we would’ve expected.”

The Giants finished 9-7, the same regular-season record they had when they went on to win Super Bowl XLVI last year. But this season, that mark reduced them to postseason spectators.

“Our goal is to win a championship every year and when you don’t win it, it’s an opportunity lost as far as I’m concerned,” Reese said. “We felt like there were some talented players on the roster, but it really doesn’t matter because we didn’t come together as a team at the right time. We could’ve closed the division out a couple times and we didn’t get the job done. That’s really disappointing, because we had plenty of chances. You want to go into the season saying, ‘We have a nice roster. We’re going to be relevant.’ We were relevant up until yesterday and still had a slim shot to make it in Week 17, but we should’ve closed the division out a couple weeks before we even got to yesterday. We didn’t do it. That’s disappointing for us.”

“To be 9-7, yes, is much better than 8-8, no question about it,” said Coughlin. “(It’s) not good enough and I think all of our players are very much aware of that, that our goal was obviously to get into the tournament, we didn’t get to the tournament. So we’re disappointed in that. We did play some of the finest games that we’ve ever played here throughout the course of this season against very, very good football teams. But we weren’t able to sustain that week-in and week-out.”

Quarterback Eli Manning, who turns 32 on Thursday and will be in his 10th NFL season in 2013, admits these missed opportunities frustrate him more than they did five years ago.

“Definitely - just because you know as you get older, your seasons are becoming more limited,” Manning said. “In my nine years here, I’ve seen talented teams and have been on teams that weren’t as talented. We were able to get by with some things and win games, but we felt that we have talent, we have playmakers, we’ve got guys who get it, who understand what it takes to win, and play at a high level. To waste that opportunity is disappointing.”

Both Reese and Coughlin held season-ending news conferences today. They bared their disappointment, said they will evaluate the season and every player on the team and reminded everyone that teams always make changes in the offseason.

Neither man offered anything in the way of details. But Reese sounds as if the Giants can contend next season by tweaking the roster and not blowing it up.

“I don’t think we’re that far off, to be honest with you,” Reese said. “This team will look different next year, but I think we’ll have a good core of players coming back and I think we can see what we can do in free agency in the offseason. Of course, we always have the draft (the Giants own the 19th selection in the first round). We’ll start rebuilding a team and the evaluation process has started already. We put our heads together and we let our emotions die down a little bit and really step back and see what happened. Why are we not playing right now? There are 20 other teams having this same conversation right now. It’s not unique to us. Everybody goes into the season hoping that they’ll have a chance to make the playoffs and have a chance to play in the Super Bowl.”

Coughlin also said he sees the core of a championship team when he looks at the roster. But that doesn’t preclude the possibility of substantial changes being made.

“Nothing stays the same,” Coughlin said. “You’re going to have, you change. Some of your younger players have to develop, quite frankly, in more ways than just one. One of the things that you find a lot of times with young players is they struggle to get their arms around what the National Football League is all about. For some, it happens quick. For others, it doesn’t. There will be some people in that category that will be major surprises, and probably some that will be disappointments.”

Those young players might think they’ll see largely the same team when they report to training camp in the summer. But the veterans who have been around for a while know differently. They are aware players such as Chase Blackburn, Will Beatty, Lawrence Tynes, Kenny Phillips and Martellus Bennett are free agents.

“Each season, there are going to be changes,” Manning said. “That’s part of football. “There’s going to be new players coming in, teammates that you’ve been with for a number of years that aren’t going to be on the team anymore. So, it’s always something that you deal with as it comes up. I think that’s what’s upsetting. I think, mostly, it’s that we felt, I felt, that we had great talent on this team. We had a team that was very capable of making the playoffs, making a run, and a chance at winning a championship. When you have talent, and you have the guys that are committed, focused, and want to be good, and it’s important to them, you hate to waste those opportunities, because you just don’t know how many times you are ready to win a championship and you have everything in place.”

Defensive end and captain Justin Tuck said the Giants have the key elements in place to contend for a championship next season.

“When you talk about championship teams it always starts with the quarterback position,” Tuck said. “I think we have a great one and then you go to just the sum of the parts. Our offensive line is intact. Yes, everyone says they’re getting old, but they kept Eli clean for a lot of games this year and they played well. We have a 1,000-yard runner (in Ahmad Bradshaw). We’ve got young wide receivers that are up-and-coming and continuing to seem to get better. We have some holes in our defense as far as stopping the run and it will be something that we’ll definitely evaluate strongly this offseason scheme-wise and personnel, but I still feel very confident in our scheme. I still feel very confident in the talent that we have on defense. That’s the same defense that in those last six games last year shut people down and for whatever reason that didn’t happen for us this year, but I have no reason to doubt we’ll have the opportunity to turn that around next year.”

*Reese was asked whether he expects to reach a long-term contract agreement with wide receiver Victor Cruz.

“All that is part of the evaluation process,” Reese said. “Obviously, we talked a little during the season about an extension with him, but obviously it didn’t work out. We’ll see what happens during this offseason.”

*Defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who just completed his 10th season with the Giants, said last week that he understands the common thought that he will play somewhere else next season. Reese sidestepped a question about whether that might be true.

“The evaluation process will take care of itself,” Reese said. “Osi has been a terrific player for us. I tell you guys this all the time, he’s one of my all-time favorite players in the National Football League. Not just Giant, all-time favorite players. I was happy to see him stay healthy this season and when he’s a healthy guy, he’s another guy that has some tread left on his tires. He’s still got a lot of football left in him.”

*Coughlin was asked whether, after a season with so many peaks and valleys, he ever feels like he doesn’t want to coach anymore.

“No, but I’ll say this to you, the losing part is hard,” Coughlin said. “It’s very hard. It gets harder and harder, I think, the older that you get. The competition and the winning is what fire you, what gives you the true, true desire to seek more. But the losing part is very difficult to get over.”

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