STATEMENT: The combine is the single most important thing when evaluating college players.
EISEN: Fiction - Jerry Reese said it at his combine news conference: the Giants place more emphasis on a player's performance during the college season than what he does at the combine. How a player responds in game situations is more valuable in terms of scouting than how he handles the combine drills. After all, how often does the standing broad jump come into play during a football season?
SCHMEELK: Fiction - The combine is a useful tool in evaluating players but not the most important thing. It's nice to know bench press reps, 40 time, and broad jump distances but teams are drafting football players, not Olympians. The stuff these prospects put on tape during the course of a college football season is far more important than what they do at the combine. Tape doesn't lie.
SALOMONE: Fiction - Its appeal is in its tangibility. It's a process for scouts (and fans) to wrap their heads around finite numbers and stack up players based on pure athleticism. However, I just don't how much running and jumping in spandex translates to football. It's more about what you've shown on game film. But scouts, coaches, and general managers are smart enough to know how to weigh the week in Indianapolis. In the meantime, it gives us outsiders something to talk about.
*STATEMENT: The best players in college are wise not to participate fully at the combine.
*EISEN:Fiction - It's never good to show an unwillingness to compete, especially when you're about to enter the NFL. Unless a player has an injury that prevents him from performing at a high level, players should avail themselves of every opportunity to show off their skill sets. Quarterbacks might be reluctant to throw to unfamiliar receivers, but scouts are looking more for arm strength and accuracy and the combine provides them with an opportunity to demonstrate those attributes.
SCHMEELK: Fact - From a selfish perspective it makes perfect sense. A player like Andrew Luck is only going to hurt himself at the combine, throwing to receivers he is unfamiliar with that might not run great routes. He has absolutely no upside in working at the combine. The same can be said for the clear cut consensus number one players at other positions. It can only hurt them. It hurts the scouting process, since teams have to wait for Pro Days to see these guys in action, but for the those types of players it's the best move.
SALOMONE: Fact - In poker, you don't take a card when you're holding a full house in hopes of getting four-of-a-kind. Same applies to top flight prospects. There's an overwhelming chance it will only hurt them. If they're that highly touted, then they already have shown enough on film in real games. They'll be fine without it.
*STATEMENT: The Victor Cruz 99 yard catch against the Jets was the turning point of the Giants season.
*EISEN:Fact - Remember the situation. The Giants had lost five of six games, including a desultory defeat the previous week to Washington. They were 7-7 and a loss to the Jets could have eliminated them from the playoffs. They trailed in the game, 7-3, and were backed up on their one-yard line with halftime less than 2½ minutes away. It was third-and-10, so without a conversion, the Jets would get the ball with terrific field position. Then Cruz took a short Eli Manning pass and turned it into a 99-yard touchdown. The Giants went on to win that game by two touchdowns and rode that momentum all the way to a victory in the Super Bowl. Without that play, the Giants might never have been in the playoffs.
SCHMEELK: Fiction - I had a tough time with this one. I was going to go with fact under the assumption the turning point of the season couldn't come any earlier than the Jets game because of how poorly the Giants played against the Redskins the week before. Instead, I traced the season being saved to game at Dallas on December 11th. If the Giants lose that game, the season is probably lost. There were many big moments in that game, but none were bigger than the Jason Pierre Paul blocked field goal of Dan Bailey to prevent the game from going into overtime. Just a reminder of how fragile a Super Bowl season can be, everyone should recall the Tony Romo overthrow to Miles Austin. If the Cowboys complete that pass the game is lost, and probably the season. The line between Super Bowl and a lost season is that thin.
SALOMONE: Fact - I'll bite. While the ending in Dallas gave you the feeling that the Giants had that certain magic, the Cruz 99-yarder gave them a breath of life that they held all the way to the trophy presentation in Indianapolis. Essentially a playoff game on Christmas Eve, the Giants were on the verge of their fourth three-and-out of the half (second consecutive) against the Jets when Cruz broke free. The Giants were down 7-3 at that point, and their only points came on a frustrating field goal after failing to punch it in from first-and-goal on the two-yard line. That play and that game steered them back on course.
*STATEMENT: Kevin Boothe was the biggest Free Agent signing in 2011
*EISEN:Fact (with an asterisk) - It's not so much the Boothe signing, but the philosophy behind it. The Giants prefer to finds personnel solutions in-house. If none is available, they will look outside the organization. The Giants were confident the players they had and believed they didn't have to sign a lot of so-called big-name free agents. They brought back players who knew their team and their system and who had produced in the past – Boothe, Dave Tollefson, Deon Grant, etc. They stuck to their guns rather than make a publicity grab. And they went out and got help where they needed it, most notably with Steve Weatherford and David Baas.
SCHMEELK: Fiction - Kevin Boothe was invaluable this year, playing both guard and center when injuries plagued the offensive line. But even with him in the lineup, the Giants were still one of the worst rushing teams in the NFL. Instead, I'll go with Steve Weatherford, who was a godsend at punter and brought back memories of Jeff Feagles. His performance in the Super Bowl will be one to remember for a long time. Chase Blackburn, despite arriving in November, was a huge signing as well.
SALOMONE: Fiction - Boothe, Chase Blackburn, and Steve Weatherford were invaluable, yes. But I'm going to go with Deon Grant, who I thought flew under the radar in terms of leadership on that defense. Signing late, the 12-year veteran said, in his introductory press conference after the first preseason game, that he came back because he thought he had something to finish with this team. And he did. And now he has won a championship at every level – high school, NCAA, and professional. I'm a big believer in chemistry -- especially in football -- and I think Grant had a big part in that this season.
*STATEMENT: The final drive in SBXLVI was better than SBXLII
*EISEN:Fiction - Both were great, but when the Giants took possession at their own 12-yard line with 3:46 remaining in Super Bowl XLVI, Eli Manning had demonstrated many times that he is the master of the fourth-quarter comeback. Was anyone really surprised that he led the Giants on an 88-yard touchdown drive? In Super Bowl XLII, Manning's reputation wasn't quite as strong – and the Giants were trying to come from behind against a Patriots team that was undefeated and seemingly invincible. And Manning and the Giants still pulled it out. It's hard to imagine any possession topping that one.
SCHMEELK: Fact - If you watch the two drives from start to finish, the drive in Super Bowl 46 was much crisper. Eli Manning was in complete control of the drive and the Giants never even had to convert a third down. There was only one incomplete pass on the entire drive and the throw to Mario Manningham was just perfect. The drive to win Super Bowl 42 was dramatic to be sure, but it was also sloppy. Manning had four incompletion passes, was sacked once, nearly threw an interception that went through the hands of Asante Sameul, and threw it up for grabs at least once. In my view, going back and watching Manning navigate that drive, it was obvious he was still a young and inexperienced quarterback. David Tyree's miracle catch came on third down, and without it the Giants would have had to convert a 4th and 5 from the 44 yard line. I'll go with Super Bowl 46 any day.
SALOMONE: Fiction - It's splitting hairs, but when I see "better" in reference to a Super Bowl, I think of it as "more memorable." And, for me, that will always belong to the drive that will go down in history with David Tyree's catch. But does it really matter? They were both Super Bowl heroics for the ages, and Mario Manningham's catch will be right up there with the all of them. You know, the one that sparked a nine-play, 88-yard drive that Eli Manning never let see third down. I may have to rethink this…