10:44 am Jun. 25, 20121
A weekly column about what the Giants are up to when they're not playing football.
Speaking with reporters, Tom Coughlin summarized his message to his players on the eve of their six-week break before training camp:
“Let’s make sure we can all get back together with a smile on our face and a stern look in our eye when we come back together on [July] 26th.”
“A smile on our face and a stern look in our eye.” That’s a little more poetic than Coughlin’s usual blunt urgings (“Finish”), and describes the fine line that champions walk between well-earned confidence and complacency. It’s also one of those sports koans used to pinpoint the un-pinpointable frame of mind needed for optimal performance. (Think Crash Davis’s imploration to Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham that baseball must be played “with fear and arrogance.”)
The last time the Giants were in this position, they responded with their best stretch of football in around 20 years. That 2008 season had an aspect of retroactively justifying what many had dismissed as a fluke: The 2008 Giants had the excellent regular season that the 2007 Giants didn’t. Put the 2007 playoff run and the 2008 regular season together, and the Giants were a worthy champion in one calendar year of football.
There have been enough radical vacillations in performance since then to know that these Tom Coughlin-era Giants are capable of a wide range of possibilities. This is a team whose first 14 games last year convinced most people that the coach should be fired, but whose final six games convinced them that he should make the Hall of Fame.
Both outcomes, mediocrity and immortal glory, are plausible. Which is why it’s possible to approach the season with a smile on your face and a stern look in your eye.
SAM BORDEN OF THE TIMES REPORTS THAT THE GIANTS are at the vanguard of what will likely become commonplace across the N.F.L. in the next decade: teams using technology to track the fatigue, movement, and hydration levels of their players during practice.
Thirty-five Giants participated in a pilot program during the last round of practices by being hooked up to G.P.S. devices and heart monitors. The immediate, obvious benefit is knowing how much the players are exerting themselves, which will enable coaches to know how much they can and should push them.
Other benefits of doing so seem to be more vague, but suffice it to say it all falls under the unassailable logic of “The more information, the better.”
Perhaps in future years there will be more of a scientific link between in-game fatigue and injuries. Given this, a more scientific treatment of conditioning can present a competitive advantage.
Apparently this stuff is common in other sports like soccer. More obviously, it’s common in individual sports like running. Here’s the money quote from Ronnie Barnes, the Giants’ head trainer and a venerable institution in East Rutherford:
“Football is really the last bastion of sports, where you don’t really look at that. Yet we train them like heck, and we don’t really know whether they’ve recovered or not.”
In other words, so much of football is about conditioning. The fact that teams aren’t more scientific in their approach to it seems silly.
Reducing injuries should be a particular priority for the Giants, because they haven’t fared too well in that area over the past several years. Last year, according to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost metric, which takes both missed games and probable-questionable listings and adjusts to the importance of the player, the Giants were the seventh-most injury-ravaged team in the league.
In 2010, they were the 11th most injured; in 2009, the 13th; and in 2008, the 10th. (Osi Umenyiora’s preseason season-ending knee injury, plus a certain after-hours gun discharge, was largely responsible for this.)
ELI MANNING WORKED THE DRIVE-THROUGH WINDOW at Dunkin’ Donuts in Secaucus on Tuesday as part of an endorsement deal that will also include commercials.
The theme of most of the stories written about this, and because it’s the offseason, there were plenty, was how Eli’s broadening of off-the-field commitments won’t intrude on his preparation for the season. This has become a pillar of the Eli-Coughlin era: They are nothing if not prepared.
It speaks well of the Giants that even in this profession of obsessive playbook studying and coaches who sleep in their offices, the Giants’ two leading men stand out for being on top of their shit. It’s this ethic of punch-the-clock professionalism and competence that has helped the Giants whether the many rough stretches of the Coughlin era.
IN THIS NICELY WRITTEN STORY ON RUEBEN Randle on SI.com, one sentence in particular caught my eye:
“The former all-state high school quarterback then finesses a crisp, 40-yard spiral back to an assistant and strolls back to his previous position.”
The Giants’ offense under Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride has been staunchly anti-gadget. It has also been very good. That said, it never hurts an offense to have another tool at its disposal.
BART HUBBUCH OF THE POST WRITES ABOUT what seems now like the redundant signing of Shaun Rodgers, who has been sidelined all offseason with a mysterious elbow injury.
Perhaps because Rogers’ injury has lingered, the Giants re-signed Rocky Bernard to a one-year deal (although the Giants denied that one had to do with the other). It’s likely there will only be one roster spot for the two of them, and Bernard probably has the inside track: First, he did yeoman work in this very role last year (33 percent of the snaps). Second, Tom Coughlin praised his savvy and, more importantly, his conditioning level.
As for Rodgers, the photos accompanying offseason stories about him have implied that he’s not fairing well in his career-long quest to keep his weight manageable. Maybe this explains why Rogers was short with the media this week, per Hubbuch.
More by this author:
- Gary Cohen, the anti-Michael Kay, also broadcasts during his time off
- Blue blood: The harsh logic behind the cutting of Bradshaw, Canty and Boley