Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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07 Feb 2008

Scramble for the Ball: We're Going Back and Forth

by Bill Barnwell

The point at which you realize your team is going to win the Super Bowl is the moment at which all the stupid nonsense you go through supporting a team becomes not only worth it, but null and irrelevant. Before the year started, I picked my team, the New York Giants, to be the worst team in football. I've been accused of being biased both against and toward them, or biased toward and/or against their Super Bowl opponents, the New England Patriots. When Tom Brady's final pass fell incomplete, this did not matter to me.

The calm, reserved, thoughtful part of me knows that, in the course of one single game or even several single games, a lot of things can happen that aren't indicative of anything, that aren't signs of a great team, but that doesn't mean anything was wrong with the effort or performance of your 2007 New York Giants.

What made the game so much fun was that, well, the Giants played with the Patriots. Yes, they were lucky to recover all three fumbles in the game. Sure, Eli Manning didn't have an MVP-caliber game. It doesn't matter. They played one of the greatest teams in NFL history to a virtual dead heat by both simple and advanced metrics, and when some luck bounced their way, they took advantage of it and came out legends.

The idea that "luck" is an insulting discourse to use in reference to a Super Bowl team is, to me, a little silly. Any team needs luck to win. There are just too many scenarios in a season, in the playoffs, in a game, that a team goes through in order to not require some luck to get somewhere. Do the 2005 Steelers, the closest equivalent to this Giants team, win the Super Bowl if Ben Roethlisberger doesn't make a miraculous tackle on Nick Harper following a Jerome Bettis fumble? Do they win if Harper's wife doesn't slice up his knee during the week?

Go back two years prior to that. The Panthers tie up the Super Bowl against New England, 29-29, with 1:16 to go in the fourth quarter, on a Ricky Proehl touchdown catch. John Kasay boots the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, meaning Tom Brady only has to go 36 yards, not 56. Adam Vinatieri gets his chance to kick a game-winning field goal and does. If the Patriots are buried deep in their own half instead, and can't advance far enough in time to attempt a field goal, do the Panthers win the toss in overtime and use their momentum to win a game? Do we think of the Patriots' dynasty entirely different as a result? Perhaps.

The point isn't that those teams are any better, or any worse. It's that those teams have their histories, their measures of merit, defined by incidents they have little or no control over. For every story we see about a man who switched his flight at the last moment and avoided being in a plane crash that would have ended his life, there's likely one unreported one about someone who switched onto that flight at the last moment and ended theirs. Sometimes, there are simply things that are out of our control that cause dramatic differences in our lives, and there's nothing we can do about them. The same thing happens to Super Bowl winners.

And yet, thinking about all this as the clock struck :01 and the Giants needed to -- yes! -- kneel to win, I didn't care. I jumped around in a stupor, silly with excitement, hugging and high-fiving people I'd met a half-hour earlier (True story: FO TWIQ impresario Ben Riley had his DirecTV feed lock up immediately after the Burress touchdown, causing us to sprint next door to a neighbor's apartment to catch the end of the game.), attempting to comprehend what had happened.

Corey Webster went from fake corner in Week 3 to world-beater. Kevin Boss went from roster-filler to key player. Ahmad Bradshaw came out of obscurity to beat out Ryan Grant for a spot in the lineup, and then somehow developed into an integral part of the Giants offense over the course of five weeks. Shaun O'Hara bravely battled through injuries to neutralize Vince Wilfork, and David Diehl, he of the 13.5 sacks allowed in the regular season, kept Richard Seymour off of Eli Manning.

Oh, and Eli. Yes, we saw something more like the regular season Eli in this game, putting throws in awkward spots (one of which led to the interception off Steve Smith's hands) and being part of the chicken/egg conundrum that are his receivers' drops, but on the biggest throws of the game, Eli was perfect. He hit Boss perfectly in stride, while his lob to Amani Toomer was a duck, but a duck only Toomer could catch. His most impressive throw, though, was the bullet to David Tyree for the Giants' first touchdown, a perfectly thrown pass through traffic that was exactly what and where it needed to be.

By the end of the game, I didn't care whether any of these things was sustainable, a trick of a small sample, or proof of future performance. All I cared about was that sitting through all the stupid things I'd been through since Bill Parcells left was worth it. Rodney Hampton falling into a hole for two yards at a time while failed picks like Jarrod Bunch and Thomas Lewis sprinted around and took jobs away from Dave Meggett and Ed McCaffrey. All the bitterness faded. Chris Calloway's fumble in the Vikings loss. The Kent Graham-Dave Brown quarterback wars. Jason Sehorn tearing his ACL returning kicks in the preseason. Jason Sehorn later getting burned on a go route by Brandon Stokley, of all people, in the Super Bowl. The Jessie Armstead touchdown that got wiped off the board by a nonsensical holding call. The utter meltdown of Shaun Williams and the rest of the team in the playoff loss to the 49ers. Trading away the pick that would have resulted in Shawne Merriman rushing the passer next to Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan, and Justin Tuck, all to acquire a worse quarterback at a higher salary. Brian Westbrook's game-winning punt return. The disaster against Carolina, the meek defeat by the Eagles a year later. All of it's inextricably part of being a Giants fan, just like the lucky breaks and the imperfections they showed in the regular season. When they had to run the camera crews off of the field so that Eli Manning -- my pitiful, comically "unstoppable" Eli Manning -- could down the ball and make it official, I didn't care about the flaws or the past. There was only the present and the brilliance of the moment, illuminating all the imperfections and heartbreak to the point where they were simply blended into some ugly history. In an instant, my favorite team was something it had not been for a long time and seemingly never would be again: They were champions.


Check out the Football Outsiders comics archive and Jason's wacky Gil Thorp blog.

Playoff Draft Results

Speaking of imperfections, I don't really want to discuss my performance in the playoff draft at much length, but I do want to offer my congratulations to Sean McCormick, who won the FO Playoff Draft with a final score of 188 points. Buoyed by nice games from both Tom Brady and Wes Welker, Sean barely overcame Jason Beattie, who finally got a game from Randy Moss but could only finish with 182 points. Doug Farrar finished third on 166 points, Aaron fourth with 156, editor-on-loan-to-Germany Tim Gerheim with 136, and finally myself with ... 61. No asterisk needed for sucking.

As for the Best of the Rest, we must give massive props to "mrh," who not only overcame all other selectors, but in fact, picked the best team of anyone, Outsiders or non-Outsiders. At a whopping 218 points, his team, which featured five Giants, blew away all competition. Second place was "DerekZ" at 182.

Thanks

And, with this, we draw Scramble to a close for the season, as we've discontinued the free agent off-season pick'em contest for a variety of reasons. As always, it's been a pleasure, but I wanted to thank several people. One of those people is not Jason Beattie, whose comics were consistently funnier than my columns and, really, anything else on the Internet. Someone needs to learn how to not overshadow the writers. Vince Verhei put up with a lot of hacked-together sentences submitted to him late at night with seeming aplomb, and FO interns and researchers like Parker Woodard and Chris Povirk helped out with data projects throughout the year.

Of course, the people who I really need to thank are you, the readers. How would I ever remember how wrong I was about everything? Thanks guys and girls, and see you at book time.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 07 Feb 2008

82 comments, Last at 12 Feb 2008, 3:22am by Scott

Comments

1
by David (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 2:28pm

The Eurodisney joke caused me physical pain. Well done.

2
by BillB (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 2:40pm

Scramble for the loose ball?

3
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 2:41pm

You mentioned your Playoff Fantasy performance, and you didn't mention prop bet results? For shame, Mr. Barnwell, for shame.

4
by Cyrus (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 2:42pm

Lets see if the Giants can overcome the past two similar Super Bowl winners fates...

Pittsburgh won as a #6 seed, then Big Ben hurt a car with his face, had an appendectomy and overall blew it that season. Tom Brady wasn't enough to make the 2002 Patriots great again, but then they became a "dynasty".

I think next year will be an off year for the Giants, followed by a few years of eliteness.

5
by Joe in Seattle (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 2:44pm

No mention of the Jay Feely game!?!? Thought for sure that was gonna get a mention.

6
by Noah of Arkadia (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 2:46pm

I'm so glad you touched on the fact that Eli didn't play that well. It wasn't all Smith's fault in the INT, like you mention: the ball went to a tough spot, especially considering Smith's body position. And Eli also seemed to hold on to the ball too long at times, especially against the blitz.

I also liked the fact that you used "pitiful" to describe Eli, because that was exactly my girlfriends reaction when he first saw him in this game (a compassionate kind of pitiful, like when she sees a little puppy). Her second reaction, a few minutes later was. "My God! He's just terrible!"

Another thing that grabbed my attention was Tom Brady's face after the rush started getting to him. He seemed something like terrorized/anguished, I don't know. I've never seen an expression like that before. Great pain might possibly explain it, but also great fear.

Again, my girlfriend said it best: "He's terrified of losing to the dork! It would be humiliating!" Best explanation I've heard.

The wisdom of girlfriend non-fans.

7
by stravinsky (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 2:54pm

Is it ironic or does it mean something that the last two "improbable" Super Bowl winners (Pittsburgh and New York) both beat teams that made significant runs towards undefeated seasons? The 2005 Colts made it to 13-0 and 2007 Pats to 18-0 before losing.

8
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 2:57pm

The anti-Patriots bias of this column and this site is sickening. You nerds living in the Aaron's mom's basement should try watching football sometime instead of dryhumping your precious spreadsheets.

9
by RickD (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 3:00pm

re: 7
Well, it certainly isn't ironic. It might be coincidental.

10
by Jon (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 3:02pm

Bill, you make it sound like being a Giants fan is torture. It's maddening sometimes, sure. But this season has put the franchise back where it belongs, at the forefront of the NFL.

Being a New York Football Giants fan isn't about self-loathing. Not in the least. That belongs in Queens and Philly. Be loud, be proud, and hold your head up high.

11
by Bill Barnwell :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 3:10pm

The two Giants fan-Outsiders are either from Queens (me) or live in Queens (Al).

12
by JasonC23 (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 3:14pm

I was all set to congratulate Bill heartily on a fantastic column that pretty much mirrors my feelings when the White Sox won the 2005 World Series...

...and then I read #8 and I couldn't stop laughing. Well played, Trogdor.

(And seriously Bill, great job, you really did a fantastic job of capturing the unabated [to the QB] joy of the moment.)

13
by Dean (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 3:14pm

So while you're sitting here in Queens, are you eating refriend beans?

(sorry - couldn't resist)

14
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 3:29pm

#5... I agree 100%. Bill has to mention the Seattle game. It spawned a Saturday Night Live parody the next week.

Looking at the Giants this season and the past few years, some interesting things arise. The Giants are 1 of 4 teams to make the playoffs each of the past 3 seasons. Three of those teams (Patriots, Colts, Giants) have won Super Bowls during the past 4 years and the other team, Seattle, lost in the other Super Bowl. Is it possible the Giants were better than people thought?

Bill, I think we should give last year's team a pass on their last second playoff loss to Philly. Based on what we've seen this year, maybe last year finishes much differently with Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck both available for the last 9 weeks of the season.

15
by Bill Barnwell :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 3:33pm

Strangely, the Seattle game didn't bother me that much. Not really sure why.

I mean, it's pretty obvious that the Giants were better than people thought. I don't know if a streak of playoff runs is indicative of future performance, but on the level, it would imply that a team is pretty good. I think it's more of the "in a small sample, if you can get in, you can string together a couple of games" variety of predicative data.

See, Kevin, that's the thing -- you can't, because teams get hurt more often than they don't. The Giants staying healthy (Kiwanuka and I suppose Smith aside) for most of the season is a rarity, not the rule.

16
by johnt (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 3:41pm

6: It might have been a tough catch (I don't really think it was that hard, but ok), but he did an excellent job of putting it where there was no chance of it being intercepted. The fact that it then ricocheted off Steve Smith's hands in a completely different direction and straight to a DB is just pure bad luck (just like the eternally-cited bad luck of the Patriots in recovering 0/3 Giants fumbles).

17
by goathead (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 3:58pm

16: I'm with you. I still can't figure out why people are blaming that int on Eli, every time I watch it the ball hits smith in the hands. And its the kind of throw where if dropped, usually the QB get praised for at least putting it where only his receiver has a chance. Apparently not if the QB is named Eli.

18
by Yuri (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 4:02pm

I would still like to wish that the Scramble returns to the 2-writer format on a regular basis, not just on prop bets. Nothing against Bill, but a dialogue is more fun!

19
by Hemlock (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 4:24pm

I don't know how relevant this is, but I need soap box, damnit.

I completely, 100% understand the "haters'" feelings towards the Patriots. I can say I might feel the same way if I lived somewhere besides New England. But that doesn't change what the Patriots accomplished this season, in my opinion.

The goal of every projected playoff contender at the beginning of a season is to win the super bowl. In that respect, the Patriots' season was a failure. But their SB loss only indicates their mortality: their season wasn't a gimmick or the product of cheating, they could have lost on any of those 18 Sundays they played on before the super bowl. But they didn't, and in most games they were dominant. Tom Brady and the Patriots had a spectacular '08 season, just like Peyton Manning and the Colts had a spectacular '04 season.

Hat's off to the Giants for their improbable and unforgettable (if boring) victory. Maybe "defense wins championships" overstates the case, but "defense CAN win championships" was proven this past Sunday. Hopefully Archie's happy now, I'm looking forward to pick #7 in the coming draft!

20
by Jets fan (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 4:27pm

I think it's hilarious to see a Giants fan recounting their "misery". Try rooting for the other team in town.

21
by RoyFlip (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 4:30pm

RE being a Giants fan: The NYG have played in 18 NFL Championship games but have won only 5 times. Good enough to break you heart. As an 8-9 year old, I cried in the early 60's when they would lose. (Yes, I am that old.) I imagine Buffalo and Minnesota fans feel the same way I did back then.

22
by Noah of Arkadia (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 4:47pm

17, You can't completely blame Eli for it, either. But had he put the ball between Smith's numbers he would have caught it 99% certain. Then again, a receiver has to make that catch, too. So it's a chicken and egg thing, like Bill very aptly said.
The thing is, Eli made several of those throws. One that comes to mind is a completion on 3rd down. The problem is that the throw was short and the receiver had to come back beyond the first down yellow line to make the catch. So, was it a good throw? Hm...

23
by Harris (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 5:02pm

I will tolerate kvetching from exactly two fanbases and in this order: 1) Cleveland and 2) My own Philadelphia. Everybody else, especially fans from a city with something like 35 total professional championships, can shut the hell up.

That said, congratulations. Now I'm going to kick the first puke I see in a brand new Eli Manning jersey.

24
by Tom D (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 5:14pm

Re 19:

Boring?! What game were you watching because I certainly don't think it was the Super Bowl, one of the most exciting games I've ever seen.

Re 23:

Shouldn't Bill's fans and Viking's fans be included?

Not to mention the Cardinals and Lions, who while having won a Championship have about 50 years of futility to behind them.

25
by Independent George (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 5:15pm

#16,17, 22 - I agree completely; I've long been bearish on Eli, but I thought he performed extremely well in the Super Bowl. While it would be nice if QBs hit their receivers between the numbers on every pass, it's a completely impossible expectation even under the best of circumstances. Generally, I think that if it hits a receiver in both hands, it should be caught; the only exceptions I'd make exceptions are for monster hits from defenders (Marlon Mecree-Reggie Wayne), or cases where the receiver only gets both hands on it due to circus-like body contortions.

Also, I have no way of knowing whether this applies, but I've noticed that a lot of 'inaccurate' throws are in fact due to the the QB having to throw past the offensive/defensive linemen. A lot of times, when they show the the angle from the endzone camera, seemingly bad passes are in fact arced just barely over the helmets of ther offensive line, or past the outstretched hands of defensive linemen.

26
by Dude. (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 5:16pm

The point at which you realize your team is going to win the Super Bowl is the moment at which all the stupid nonsense you go through supporting a team becomes not only worth it, but null and irrelevant.

Share that drink with the Seattle apologists on staff, B.B. The point at which you realize that in the only Super Bowl appearance you're ever likely to have in your lifetime, you've managed to lay a turd against a weak opponent is when the cost of all that other nonsense becomes prohibitive.

/acceptance is the most importance step.

27
by Independent George (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 5:18pm

#24 - The Lions might stink, but the Pistons, Tigers, and Red Wings have been outstanding in recent years.

28
by Hemlock (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 5:21pm

24: that's what pisses me off about the internet: ignore all of the substance of what I asid and focus on the two paranthetical words that you don't agree with. Don't be so self-important.

29
by Gerry (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 5:25pm

"The Giants staying healthy (Kiwanuka and I suppose Smith aside) for most of the season is a rarity, not the rule."

True.

But a team losing, on top of injuries to assorted other players, pretty much every single linebacker in 2005 (remember who we started in our last regular season game or the debacle to the Panthers) and losing a whole different batch of linebackers again in 2006 is a rarity. I mean, the Giants weren't going into the late season and playoff games with some replacement level players forced into action, they were going into games with either their entire linebacking corps or damn near to it as replacement level (or below) players.

No doubt we were fortunate with injuries this year. But we weren't just normal with injuries the last two years. We were unfortunate with how they were concentrated at one set of positions. When the linebackers are crud, then suddenly teams could run and suddenly the pass rush wasn't as dominant and suddenly our secondary was badly exposed.

I do think that we were not as bad as people thought.

This post-season? Healthy linebackers. Who made plays. Which let the D-line start to dominate. Which let the secondary appear to be downright serviceable.

30
by Harris (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 5:29pm

#24 Bills fans I'll allow, but the Twins went back-to-back in the early 90s. Plus, it's not just about losing, it's about epic, soul-destroying losing. The Lions just stink, but Browns fans twice had their hearts ripped out by John Elway before losing their team altogether. Michael Jordan nearly destroyed a city when he (pushed off) hit that shot.

31
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 5:36pm

Re: 19

I know you're just trying to protect yourself, but calling that game "boring" is perhaps the funniest thing I've ever seen. The first 3 quarters weren't exactly riveting, but that 4th quarter was probably the most exciting quarter of football I've ever seen.

32
by Rick (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 5:38pm

I think alot of teams were better than people thought, but everyone was so caught up in New England, Dallas and Green Bay that they stopped thinking clearly. Then the Chargers and Jacksonville got hot, and they were flavor of the month.

But I think there were about 15 teams that had a legit shot at it all this year, in RETROSPECT. When you consider the close games New England had with Baltimore and Philly, and the way the Jets played them tough the second time, it's clear teams were finally figuring them out.

I don't think this Giants team is likely to move on to "eliteness". Certainly not in a manner similar to New England's recent streaks. They will be very good, in all likelyhood, though.

33
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 5:50pm

Re: 28

I'll address the "substance" of your first post.

Firstly, telling someone not to be so self-important in their response to your post crowing about how great the Pats are regardless of finishing the season with a loss is hilarious.

Secondly, in the pantheon of history, the 2004 Colts will be a footnote. And so will the 2008 Pats. Twenty years from now their fans may still be talking about how great they were and that they might have been the best team of all time, but when everyone else looks back the only thing they'll remember is that they were the team that lost to The Immaculate Helmet.

And nothing could make me happier.

34
by Matt (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 5:53pm

15: Jeremy Shockey was knocked out for the year and Plaxico Burress was limited down the stretch by a nagging injury. The secondary got battered - one game had two low-round rookies starting at safety. I suppose the Giants didn't lose anyone huge entirely, but how was this an especially lucky injury year?

Oh, and also Smith and Kiwanuka.

16, 17: Totally with you guys on the Smith ball. That...was lucky, but it's the kind of luck that usually averages out over a year.

On Manning: Eli wasn't spectacular on Sunday, but projected outwards to sixteen games this game is around a top-ten season after the opponent adjustments. It says something, although I'm not sure if it's about his postseason success, the nature of criticism in New York, or what, but it wasn't a pitiful game - especially given that Adalius Thomas finally showed up to play. So Justin Tuck was robbed, but he's not the first defensive player to lose out to mediocre QB play and won't be the last. (Amani Toomer never gets even considered, amazingly - he's one lousy read from a 100-plus yard game, and that read is the fault of the actual MVP. For all the talk about the D-Line, Toomer was awesome.)

On the analysis, once and for all: Week 17 duped us all. The Giants were, for a while, considered the team most likely to "get" New England because of the pass rush and what Indy/Philly/Baltimore did with theirs. Then came the actual game and the pass rush came - but was eternally a step short of Brady. Normally we presume that hurries will be sacks next time, but with Tom Brady involved we chalked it up to his greatness...so when the Giants got hot and the Pats cooled off (the DVOA numbers cited to say otherwise didn't have a "No Tomlinson, 1/4 Gates and almost no Rivers" variable), they were paradoxically given LESS of a chance because we had a warped vision of what a possible Giants over Patriots victory could look like - of course Eli couldn't throw for 300 yards again, but who was to say Brady could survive that heat again?

35
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 6:03pm

Jeremy Shockey was knocked out for the year and Plaxico Burress was limited down the stretch by a nagging injury. The secondary got battered - one game had two low-round rookies starting at safety. I suppose the Giants didn’t lose anyone huge entirely, but how was this an especially lucky injury year?

*cough*Rams*cough*

36
by Jon (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 6:08pm

20, that's exactly what I was getting at. We've had so many memorable moments. The teams that we're "supposed" to hate the most (personally my hatred is 100% directed at Dallas), the Jets and Eagles, have suffered far more.

There was a wave of injuries the past few years, true. But there were plenty of good moments too, and when you look at the long run of the franchise, Giant fans have had it pretty good. Not remotely consistent, but the highs have balanced out the lows.

37
by Tom D (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 6:15pm

I still disagree that the first 3 quarters were boring, like a good thriller movie they were building up the suspense for what was to come. Not to mention, I had a feeling the whole game that the Patriot's offense could break huge play at any time and the Giants defense was just holding on by the skin of their teeth.

38
by doktarr (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 6:17pm

Bravo to Bill (and Aaron's article too) for showing that it is possible to be rational about the game without losing the basic joy of being a fan.

I am surprised the last line of Jason Beattie's comic cleared the censors, but it's pretty funny. Trogdor #8, awesome. Low hanging fruit, perhaps, but well done.

39
by Tom D (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 6:21pm

Re 28:

If you didn't want people to respond to those words you shouldn't have written them. However, I do have something else to say about your post.

Defense wins championships might be a cliche, but I don't there has been a winner who didn't put forth a very good defensive effort in the playoffs and Super Bowl. I also think within a season defense seems to be more consistent while offense is more sporadic, at least in terms of points scored, not necessarily in terms of quality of play.

40
by Kurt (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 6:22pm

Im with Jon, Harris etc. Since Parcells left the team, the Giants are 9 games over .500, with seven playoff appearances in 18 years, 2 Super Bowl trips and one championship. We don't have to root for a team owned by a clown like Jerry Jones or Dan Snyder, we don't have five guys seting arrested every offseason, no TO-type drama. Tack on the Parcells years, which were glorious, and the last 25 years have been pretty damn good for Giant fans.

41
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 6:23pm

#34: Jeremy Shockey was knocked out for the year

I firmly believe the Giants won the Super Bowl because of that injury- not that Kevin Boss is the next coming of Mark Bavaro, but Shockey has been an overrated locker room cancer ever since Eli came along. Right now, I'm hoping more than anything that Jerry Reese trades him for a say, a second or third-rounder.

42
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 6:26pm

Congrats to Bill and all of the other Giants fans. I wrote them off after week one, and was very wrong about that.

I was wondering how I could be so wrong about a team, and here are a few things I didn't see coming.

1. Aaron Ross and Corey Webster turned into a decent pair of cornerbacks. After the first few games, I didn't see that coming.

2. Remember when Strahan was holding out, and there were all sorts of stories about how team chemistry was awful, and how the team was quitting on Coughlin? Between NYG, Jax, SD's late season run, I think we've learned (again) that maybe team chemistry is overrated.

3. Kiwanuka turned into a good player in the playoffs, and the LBs turned into an asset instead of a liability.

4. The whole oline was a bit better than I expected, Snee turned into a star, O'hara was very good, Diehl was better than expected, etc.

5. I thought they would clearly miss Tiki, because of his impact in the passing game, and didn't think he could be replaced by a seventh round rookie.

6. Steve Smith and Amani Toomer showed up in the playoffs, giving the Giants more than one receiver.

7. Who saw Eli becoming a great QB the last five weeks of the season?

43
by KW (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 6:29pm

RE: Steve Smith Interception

I wound up watching the Superbowl ata friend of mines with some guys who really know their football (2 guys there played NFL Europe football and another coached at the same level). One of these guys felt that the interception was entirely on Steve Smith. He reckoned that Smith comes out of his break on the wrong foot resulting in him not being in the ideal position to catch the ball and then after that made a basic mistake of batting the ball up when he failed to catch it.

That said that is easily one of the best games I have seen in a long time, even the quarters where the defenses were dominating were entertaining to watch as the teams battled to counter one another.

44
by Herm? (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 6:34pm

It looks like we're crossing lines into other sports, but it may be time define the rules and crown the right to a city's fanbase who is most allowed to wallow in their own misery.

To define it, I think of 2 divisions:
1. Being a bad team - apathy and absence of passion
wheras
2. Being a good to great team, only to fail to win a SB - passion and misery

Toying around with DVOA % and DVOA rankings:

In the Apathy Division, Arizona is FAR AND AWAY the worst team of the DVOA era.
They are followed distantly by a pack of Detroit, New Orleans, and Atlanta.

When I read the data, the thing that surprised me most was the worst offense in the DVOA era.

Worst Offense: Chicago Bears (Arizona 2nd worst)
Worst Defense: Arizona
Worst Special Teams: St. Louis (Arizona 2nd worst)

In the Misery Division, the most consistently good teams to not win a SB were Jacksonville #1, Philly #2, and KC #3.

45
by Tom D (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 6:48pm

Re 44:

I'm surprised you're surprised by the worst offense in DVOA era, the highlight of Chicago's offenses in that era in the 2001 team lead by Jim Miller, Anthony Thomas, and Mary Booker. Seriously, that's the best offense we've had in 13 years.

Unless you are talking about the Cardinals.

46
by Arson55 (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 6:48pm

Take it from a Cowboys fan that dislikes both teams: That Superbowl was the best I've ever seen. I loved watching Tuck, Umenyiora, et al, show what a great defensive line can do. I loved the close defensive game, and then there was the burst of action at the end. With a couple of great escapes from Manning, that inspired one of my fellows on the Dallas Cowboys fan forum to comment, "Why is Romo playing for Eli?" The simply marvelous catch from Tyree. And finally the celebration as an NFC East rival took down the evil empire.

47
by Mikey (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 6:56pm

Bill, I agree that it's perfectly valid to acknowledge the role of luck in winning or losing a game, but....

Roethlisberger's tackle against Indy wasn't really chance. It may have been surprising, but he made the play.

Same with Kasay's kick in XXXVIII. There wasn't any real luck involved, per se. He just failed to execute.

But whatever. Congrats to you.

48
by Herm? (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 7:06pm

45
My "no-numbers assumptions" figured Chicago had at least average offenses, I don't know why...maybe I'm still replaying William Perry's TD's in my nightmares...but it looks like they're pretty consistently below -10% or worse, and none above 0%.

49
by Hemlock (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 7:08pm

Geez you guys are angry. Take some deep breaths eh?

50
by Clyde (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 8:17pm

I agree with #46. It was great football. NFC East styled smashmouth is the best. Let's note the NFC East has produced the most SB champions by far.

51
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 8:24pm

Mikey #47

Ben's tackle on Harper was an extremely unlikely event. He gets full credit for it, but it was a very long shot that he'd make it. And super long shots are often described (non-pejoratively) as luck.

#1: How was Ben so many yards back from the LOS on a play that was expected to ba a goal-line plunge? 9 times out of 10 the QB is standing about the 5 YL and looking into the EZ, unable to backpedal to midfield. Kudos for a VERY fast reaction.

#2: How does a relatively slow 240 lb QB keep up with a 190 lb CB, with one running fwd and the other backwards? Again, maybe 1/10 chance of keeping up? Probably longer odds. Kudos for being a stud athlete.

#3: What are the odds that a pivotal game-changing player happens to be the one who was stabbed in the leg by his wife the night before? The odds on this are closer to 1/1,000. Ben gets no credit here, without some sinister conspiracy theory.

#4: How many QBs make effective tackles downfield? Granted, Ben had size on his side and a good wingspan, but it's a little like watching a 400 lb elk gore a 150 lb cougar--yeah, it can happen, but the world usually works in reverse. Being kind, I'd say those odds are 1/3. Again, kudos for his athleticism.

If I am reading Excel right, that's about 3.3 chances in a million. Not sure what that is if not lucky... "highly unlikely" seems to understate it. (much like the Immaculate Helmet play... one in a million? probably.) With Kasay's kick going OB, I guess you have a more empirical method of figuring those odds: how many did he do all year and what was his OB kick rate? My guess 4-5% or less, say a 1 in 20-25 chance. Again, pretty unlikely equates to good luck for one side and back luck for another. Every fumble bounce and many non-thrown flags fit the same description. Although with the flags, an objective observer might study film and say that refs failed to call 6 clear penalties in every playoff game this season. If they are consistent, then it's neither lucky nor unlucky--everybody has the same chances. But if one game stands out for an anomalous and hugely bad call, well, that's luck/misfortune. Luck needn't have a bad rep--it's like air, all around us, every day, we just don't always notice. My $0.02.

52
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 8:25pm

Bill, this was great writing.

Also, you were wrong about various things and you're clearly biased and a hack and blah blah blah. That troll never gets old.

53
by Jason (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 8:29pm

44, re cities' respective degrees of misery, I haven't updated this 40-year count of actual vs. expected titles since I put this up two years ago, but Indianapolis is the only city on the losers' list that's improved its lot since then.

54
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 8:31pm

Clyde, that's a litle unfair to say since four divisions didn't exist until 10 years ago. Hard to ridicule the North/South divisions since their history is so short. (Even if teams that moved can take their old SBs with them, the AFC S is stuck with 2 Colts SBs and 2 recent expansion teams, plus the formerly cursed Oilers. That's just not an apples to apples comparison.)

But damn, Skins, Dal, Giants... they have a lot, you are right about that. Let's see, who's missing from that list...?

Eagles fans, you may resume your teeth-gnashing.

Clyde, which Div is next? AFCE with 1 Balt Colt, 1 NYJ, a few Fish and a few Pats SBs? Who is missing from THAT list? Let the gnashing also commence in Buffalo.

55
by goathead (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 9:18pm

Re: Ben's miraculous tackle. Bear in mind that if not for a completely blown call earlier in the game, this one was unlikely to have been within reach. The football gods were just righting a massive injustice.

56
by Gerry (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 9:30pm

42-"Kiwanuka turned into a good player in the playoffs"

I think that you are confusing Kawika Mitchell with Mathias Kiwanuka. Kiwanuka was on IR throughout the playoffs, IIRC.

57
by goathead (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 9:40pm

56 correct, kiwi went down about 3/4 of the way through the season. And he was a disaster at LB, wound up moved back to the D Line since he was unable to properly defend on either pass or run plays from the LB position. Interestingly, "genius" D-Coach Spagnuolo is the one who put Kiwi at LB for 2.5 games, by halftime of the G's Skins game it was clear this just wasn't working out.

58
by Doughboy (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 9:52pm

The NFL Films Game of the Week treatment is up... a couple of things that showed up on the film there that wasn't apparent from the Fox treatment:

1. Shots of Spagnuolo on the sideline telling the Giants' D: "if Brady changes the protection, we're gonna be ready to change the blitz." (6:23)

2. Asante Samuel was very very close to picking off the TD to Tyree. (10:58)

3. Pats should've been called for a 15 yd facemask on the opening kickoff.

59
by vis (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 9:59pm

23, 24 Minneapolis definitely has to be in the conversation for most abused fan-base, especially when you consider the other 3 major sports.

The best NBA player they ever had is surrounded by crap for a decade, then shipped off for dimes on the dollar to Boston (suddenly turning that moribund franchise into Championship contenders).

Their baseball team spends decades in the cellar, finally breaks through to steal a WS Pennant, and then their best baseball player goes blind, and the future-of-the-franchise stud youngster all of a sudden forgets how to throw to first base. This sends the franchise into a tailspin for another decade and a half, until a fireball pitcher explodes on the scene, gives everybody hope again, and then leaves for the Mets.

If all this wasn't enough, their entire hockey team was shipped off to Dallas.

Only Philly & Cleveland huh? Sheesh. Where's Will Allen? We haven't even discussed the Tavaris Jackson Experiment.

60
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 10:21pm

56: D'oh, thanks for the correction.

61
by vis (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 10:22pm

42, point 2: The disproof of "team chemistry"

On the contrary, I think this SB run shows us how important team chemistry really is. The previous several years, the G-Men started hot then self-destructed at the end of the season. The self-destruction seemed (then and now) largely attributed to personal clashes involving a hard coach and several me-first cancerous personalities. The biggest narcissist left to play TV-host, and the 2nd breaks his leg late in the season and ceases to interact with the team. Meanwhile, the aforementioned hard coach realizes he's been losing his players and actually changes his stripes. The team gels. They play 5 straight games they aren't supposed to win, that everyone says they can't win. They pull together, us-against-the-world and all that jazz, getting tighter and more confident with each step, and crest the SB mountain with a LESS individually talented team than they'd had in the previous two seasons.

I'm no lab-rat, but that sure sounds like chemistry to me.

62
by Paul (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 10:37pm

The quote I want to hear is
"You've just won the Super Bowl. Where are you going now?"
"The Playboy Mansion. Truly the happiest place on Earth."
At least for Hef. Besides, how much does Hef pay for that kind of advertising? As much as Disney? Though Penthouse would probably have paid more, but they don't have the same history.

63
by Harris (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 11:12pm

#59 I guess, but I'm not just looking for bad teams. Terrible management decisions help, but I can't really think of a Minnesota team snatching defeat from the jaws of victory except for that 15-1 Vikings team. I want a fanbase that's suffered through standing at the cusp of greatness only to see their dreams collapse in misery and recrimination. Losing the hockey team might make a difference but, eh, it's only hockey.

64
by Clyde (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 12:06am

Yeah SB winners is not fair to the north/south division. But the division with the most SB losers is.....the AFC East....

65
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 12:29am

"While in Paris..."

Best. Jason Beattie. Joke. Ever.

I've scrolled past it three or four times now, and every time, I stop and laugh.

66
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 3:08am

63:

0/4 in the Super Bowl

Drew Pearson's pushoff

Darren Nelson

Gary Anderson

41-0

Nate Poole

If you want to see a fanbase that's suffered, that's been close to greatness but seen it all come apart, here we are.

67
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 3:11am

61-fair enough. What I should have said is that team chemistry is not predictive. It's one of those things that is (almost) always seen in retrospect, and is incredibly fluid.

It's sort of like clutch hitting in baseball; it exists but the effect is so small that by the time you have enough data to tell whether a player is clutch or not, his career is over. Team chemistry is similar to that, but more complicated because there are a million variables going into it, and if just one changes-the head coach starts taking Prozac-the outcome can change 180 degrees.

And that is why all talk of team chemistry should be regarded with extreme skepticism. That and the Reggie Jackson A's.

68
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 4:31am

#61:

Well, let's also not forget that the Giants were fortunate to have basically everyone healthy during the playoff run- starting with Smith coming back from a nearly yearlong injury. (Each of the Giants' recent second-half swoons were mainly the fault of injuries and schedule.) The only missing impact players were Kiwanuka, who plays on the ultra-deep DL, and Shockey, who I've said time and again has done more harm than good.

But that last point gets back to the whole "chemistry" idea...

69
by Travis (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 9:40am

Well, let’s also not forget that the Giants were fortunate to have basically everyone healthy during the playoff run- starting with Smith coming back from a nearly yearlong injury.

There were some injurires - O'Hara and Madison missed the now-forgotten Tampa game, Ross hurt his shoulder in the Dallas game, and Burress was playing hurt throughout the playoffs. But, these Giants were far healthier than the 2005 and 2006 versions, both of whom were using players with uniform numbers in the 40s at linebacker.

70
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 11:55am

Re: 63

The only stretch of football that could possibly be more heart-breaking than Philly's '01-'04 stretch would be Buffalo's '90-'93 stretch. Nothing else is even close.

71
by goathead (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 11:58am

Any Giants fan can tell you they really weren't healthy through the playoff run. In fact, if you look back at the wildcard round predictions you'll see one reason the Giants were picked to lose was that the secondary had major injury problems. They wound up playing all 8 draft picks in the TB game, largely due to injuries!

The funny thing is that they actually seemed to improve the team through injuries - and this was a recurring theme through the year. Jacobs goes down, Ward looks awesome. Ward goes down, wow where did this Bradshaw kid come from!!!

Without injuries, Webster likely have seen limited time, and he was a huge part of the playoff success.

72
by James, London (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 11:59am

Jason saves his best for last. That's awesome. Possibly libelous, but awesome.

73
by goathead (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 12:01pm

Wanker, the Vikings would like to discuss heart break with you. The Browns can come to the party too (but will get laughed at for never getting to experience heartbreak on the big stage).

74
by Ian (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 2:35pm

Good job, Bill. Thanks for keeping Scramble alive.

75
by The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 2:40pm

Could the title of this article possibly be a reference to Dr. Steel?

76
by DGL (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 2:56pm

#51: You also should factor into it the improbability of Bettis fumbling in the first place. His career fumble rate was 1.18%, and in 2005, as a mainly short-yardage inside runner he'd carried the ball 110 times without a single fumble. The safest imaginable play for the Steelers was a Bettis dive - and he fumbled.

77
by Sid (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 7:09pm

Great year, Bill. Thanks

78
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Sun, 02/10/2008 - 2:41pm

Great analysis (with screengrabs) of the Giants' domination of the Pats OL here.

(yes, it's a Pats fansite, but the first four posts in the thread are superb. You can really see how the Giants owned the Pats OL)

79
by mrh (not verified) :: Sun, 02/10/2008 - 6:44pm

we must give massive props to “mrh,”

Late to the thread, but thanks. Of course, I would never have drafted that team in the "real" draft. The only analysis that I can take credit for is that the NFC was more wide open than the AFC, therefore it made sense to load up on the available players from an NFC team and get lucky if that team made a run. My first choice of teams to do that was the Redskins, but a couple of others beat me to it, so I went with the Giants instead. The rest is history for the Giants and a fleeting mention for me.

BTW, bragging rights are nice and all, but next year, how about giving the BOTR winner a year of premium access?

80
by Jerry (not verified) :: Mon, 02/11/2008 - 3:08pm

It was impossible to continue reading after you said that you thought the Giants would be the worst team in football. That type of "analysis" is so faulty that I just can't respect anything else from the author.

I'm a Giants fan and I'm far from a homer, but nobody who knows anything about the Giants could've predicted they'd be the worst team in football. Could they have been a 6 win team? Sure. But not a 2 win team. No way. They just have too much talent, and it's not hindsight to say that. Good OL, Good receivers, great DL. Really, that's enough for 6 wins.

81
by LI Matt (not verified) :: Mon, 02/11/2008 - 8:25pm

#4: Lets see if the Giants can overcome the past two similar Super Bowl winners fates…

Heck, I'm just hoping they overcome the fate of their own past Super Bowl teams -- their best record in the year following a Super Bowl appearance is 8-8 (1991).

82
by Scott (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 3:22am

I guess it gets lost in the hoopla over the mighty Patriots losing and the game winning drive, but where is the respect for the playoff run by the Giants defense? No it wasn't like the 85 Bears or the 84/89 49ers, but it was a hell of a lot more impressive than the one that's been beat to death in the media: the 2006 Colts.

Sure the Giants didn't have a historically bad run defense, but they gave up 314 pts on defense (Indy allowed 325 last year) and teams like GB/DAL/NE were 4-0 and scoring over 31 in every game against them in the regular season. They beat all of them teams in the playoffs, on road/neutral fields, and held them to 20 or less. None being more impressive than holding the Patriots to just 2 TDs. They played 3 different offenses that scored at least 393 pts (offense only scores) and beat them all. That's rarely happened in a SB run.

They played against Favre, Romo, Garcia and Brady. All made the PB and had exceptional seasons (well not so much on Garcia). Yet the best scoring any team did was 20, and GB needed a bit of luck with a stripped fumble on an INT in the 4th quarter to get to 20.

Meanwhile the Colts get credit for dominating the Chiefs and Ravens. That wasn't surprising. Both of those teams were pretty offensively challenged all year. Maybe if the Chiefs started Huard they would have had a shot, but they went with scrambled eggs at QB. Both of those teams were also basically straight up the middle rushing teams, which the Colts just stacked the box against and made easy tackles. We've seen McNair/Billick/Baltimore struggle to score in the playoffs in the past. This wasn't that surprising. Then the key game of their run, they give up 27 pts to the only legit QB they see, and they have to win a 38-34 classic shootout to advance to the SB. Sure the defense made some nice 2nd half adjustments and got the final pick, but that game was about the offense not being stopped. Then in the SB they had the luxury of playing Rex Grossman in the rain, arguably the worst QB to start a Super Bowl. When Rex has a bad game (very common), that was a team that had to rely on huge ST/DEF plays to score. Aside from Hester's opening kick return, they weren't making those plays. Grossman of course threw out a terrible performance, and what's lost in there is the 112 yards on 15 carries by Thomas Jones. If the Bears have a real QB in that game, they put up a much better fight.

All the ballwashing for Bob Sanders and the Colts defense, yet their run doesn't even hold a candle to what the Giants just accomplished defensively.