Because of that crown, people in the Big Apple have trouble understanding that the team simply isn't that good.
In The New York Times' preview of the Giants' upcoming season, Andy Benoit asserts that the team would go 12-4 if they were in the NFC West. He also predicts a second place NFC East finish.
Benoit must have a very dry sense of humor.
It can be argued that the Super Bowl XLII champions won the title for basically one reason: their very talented defensive ends got to Pats quarterback Tom Brady.
Otherwise, the team was very average, and the roster has only declined since.
Remember when Brandon Jacobs was really good? When they claimed to have a running back trio called "Earth, Wind and Fire?" Or when Plaxico Burress hadn't shot himself yet? Or Amani Toomer was a steady second option?
The offense wasn't a juggernaut then. Now, it isn't nearly as talented. The team ranked 12th in Football Outsiders' rankings in 2009, and it's hard to imagine the team improving much.
Their offensive line was another strong point on the 2007 team, and two years ago, the running back trio did have a great regular season. Still, this is not an elite group. According to Scouts Inc., only Chris Snee is a Top 10 player at his position. Shaun O'Hara may be a Pro Bowler, but the linemen that generally get that honor depends on the market they play in and the number of times they are on national television. Few fans actually know any better. At left guard, Richie Seubert is a liability and the unit as a whole is generally a little over the hill.
What about pass-blocking contributions from the running game? That's not really Brandon Jacobs' forte, despite his size. Ahmad Bradshaw is too small to provide protection for quarterback Eli Manning. Kevin Boss, likewise, is more of a pass-catching tight end.
In terms of moving the ball on the ground, Jacobs took a big downturn in 2009, averaging 3.9 yards per carry after two years at 5.0. Generally, veteran running backs don't have second winds in their careers. Bradshaw is a good change of pace back, but his productivity per carry too has declined each year since he entered the league.
As for Eli's weapons, Boss had a breakout year in 2009, except for the fact that he actually was just Football Outsiders' 17th best tight end for the season. Steve Smith looks like a legitimate NFL receiver, but he's probably not a No. 1 guy on a great offense. Youngsters Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham aren't NFL starters just yet.
And then there is the issue of Manning himself.
While often hyped as an elite quarterback, that's a tough claim to back up. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, Philip Rivers, Matt Schaub — all are statistically superior, and one could easily argue that Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Donovan McNabb, Carson Palmer, and Joe Flacco are better too. Is the 14th best quarterback in the league "elite?"
He's certainly not the kind of guy who can turn Smith and Nicks into superstars.
The Giants' offense may be pretty good, but that's not going to be enough.
Their defense is going to be bad enough to make sure of that. Football Outsiders ranked the unit 21st overall in 2009, and that was with their best linebacker Antonio Pierce. They've done very little to upgrade. They brought in Antrel Rolle at safety and drafted the raw but explosive edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, but they needed linebackers. Michael Boley is their only proven starter, and he's not exactly a world-beater. Defensive back Terrell Thomas had a good year last season with five picks, but Corey Webster and Kenny Phillips are borderline starters at best.
The defensive line, featuring Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Osi Umenyiora, Pierre-Paul, Chris Canty and Barry Cofield is great, but it is so stacked when compared to the rest of the team that one can't help but wonder why the Giants haven't made trades.
Unless the line is getting sacks at a surreal clip, this defense is going to struggle.
The biggest reason why, in truth, is their schedule.
Other than penciling in a win against the Lions at home in Week 6, the rest of the season has no gimmes. Carolina, Chicago, Jacksonville and Seattle weren't great last year, but it won't be easy for the Giants to beat all of those teams. Outside of the NFC East, Big Blue faces Green Bay, Minnesota, Houston, Indianapolis and Tennessee — all very tough games. A fair estimate of their record outside of the division would be 5-5 or 6-4, so 12-4 if they were in the NFC West still wouldn't happen.
The NFC East, thanks to a big offseason by the Redskins, is now probably the toughest division in football. Dallas and Philadelphia were the fourth- and fifth-best teams in the NFL last year according to Football Outsiders, and it's hard to imagine either team declining. The Giants were 17th, just four spots ahead of Washington. If it's projected that the Redskins will improve to approximately 15th or so, it's tough to argue that New York isn't the worst team in the division.
Basically, the team is staring 7-9 in the face.
The New York media doesn't do well with 7-9, and Tom Coughlin, even though he is just three years removed from a championship, is far from immune from the New York media's wrath. He's also not very good at handling the negative attention.
After the Eli grimaces, blowout losses at the hands of Peyton and Mr. Favre, and Coughlin scream-fests, the often grim-faced coach will probably be on the way out.
His likely replacement is pretty obvious. Bill Cowher didn't take a job after 2009 because he "wasn't ready," which was a polite way of saying that Dallas, New York and his hometown, Carolina, didn't fire their coaches (yet). While it is entirely possible that either the Panthers or Cowboys could pull the plug this year as well, Wade Phillips has much more talent to work with, and John Fox has much lower expectations.
There's no question that the Giants cannot live up to the high expectations from 2007 afterglow. The only question is whether or not Cowher will still be in the CBS studio by the end of the season.
Maybe with that coaching turnover, Giants fans could stop thinking of their team as Super Bowl champions and start over. They need to.
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