Tuesday, September 26, 2006

It IS the coaching: NFL week 3

The Monk is a Giants fan, but there are no Giants right now. The team The Monk has watched for the first three weeks this season doesn't even reach UP to the level of the futile stiffs of the late 1970s. Those teams stank like a fishmarket, but they did one thing decently well: played defense. This team doesn't. And for Giants fans of all generations from the old folks who remember the teams of the 1950s and 1960s (like PaMonk) to their offspring who grew up with the LT/Carson teams of the 1980s (like The Monk himself), that's simply unforgiveable.

Jeremy Shockey popped off Sunday after the Jints took a whupping from Seattle and said the team, especially head coach Tom Coughlin, was outcoached. Yesterday and today, Mike and Mike, the national ESPN radio show, and the NY papers criticized Shockey. But The Monk agrees with Peter King on this: it's the second time in four games that a prominent Giants player has complained about the offensive gameplan (see Barber, Tiki, 2005 postseason) and it's not an accident. Players are upset with themselves if they do not execute. Players are upset with coaches if they don't believe that executing would have made a difference. In other words, if the bad guys are prepared for you and you're not prepared for them (see Carolina 23, Giants 0), that's a coaching issue. Shockey said that the S'Hawks ran defenses that the Giants had never prepared for. The Giants made stupid mistakes early. Those are coaching issues.

Loyalty is also a coaching issue, and Coughlin lacks it from his players. The Giants defense has been handled easily by all three opponents, but the players have not pointed fingers at defensive coordinator Tim Lewis. There are three reasons for this, at minimum: (1) they are loyal to Lewis and believe in his defensive schemes; (2) they know they have not played up to capacity; (3) they believe that if they play up to their capabilities they will dominate.

The fact remains, however, that the Giants defensive schemes have been horrid. For the second straight week Troy Aikman noted that the Giants are using LaVar Arrington, a pass-rushing linebacker, in pass coverage and said that such use is NOT how the Redskins played Arrington when he had his Pro Bowl seasons in DC. The Giants have given up a bunch of short third-down completions that opponents have turned into first downs because the underneath coverage has been porous. The Giants have two sacks in three games from their Pro Bowl defensive ends. The team allowed all four turnovers in the first half last week to turn into Seahawk touchdowns -- that's pathetic. A reasonable ratio would be allowing the opponent to get 3.5 points per turnover caused or 1/2 of a touchdown -- much like one point per turnover (1/2 of a two-point field goal) is a decent ratio in basketball for the team that messed up. Considering that two of the S'Hawk drives started in S'Hawk territory, holding the latte brigade to field goals should not have been so much to ask. Instead, receivers ran free from coverage like playing Madden '07 on the easiest setting.

In other news: the Dolphins stink, the Patriots may or may not have found a receiver, the Eagles can still score, the Cardinals are awful again and the Broncos may be for real this year if . . .

First, the 'Phins are horrid. A 13-10 win at home against the second worst team in the league is rather putrid. Miami averages 12 points per game -- about what the Vikes were pulling when Culpepper was injured last season and the 'Phins have better weapons (Ronnie Brown, Chris Chambers). In other words, teams can defense Daunte.

Second, Doug Gabriel may become a key to the Pats passing game. Brady finally clicked with a wide receiver this season (other than the decent but limited Troy Brown). If the Pats can spread the ball around and actually get someone open deep once in a while, Brady will become his old self and the team should roll to the division title.

The Eagles are currently the best team in the NFC East . . . although past results are not indicative of future performance. After all, the Iggles whipped Houston (awful), rolled the Giants for three quarters (standard fare this year) and walloped the defensively challenged Niners. Given the Iggles relatively lax schedule (Niners and Packers, instead of S'Hawks and Bears for the Giants), they can contend all year long.

As The Monk predicted, the Cardinals are still poor. The question this week becomes, will Kurt Warner once again be pulled for a top-level rookie like 2004? This team has two of the best wideouts in football and a Hall-of-Fame running back, so why has it scored all of 24 points in the past two weeks? On Sunday, the answer was Warner. Personally, I'd like to see Lienart go in and thrive because he'll make so many teams (Jets, Bills, Lions) look stupid for passing on him in the draft.

The Broncos have the defense that Giants fans dream about: one TD against in three games. The Broncs fans however must dream about someone else's offense -- the Broncs have scored all of 36 points in three games. If that team EVER gets its offense together, it will be the best in the AFC.

Finally, although the S'Hawks will break the Super Bowl loser jinx this year (from 2001-05, all runners-up in previous season's Super Bowl failed to make the playoffs), the Steelers may substitute. Last Monday, they honked against the Jags; Sunday they coughed up the ball time and again to the Bengals. Pittsburgh is two games behind both the Bengals AND the Ravens, and effectively two games behind the Jags (thanks to the head-to-head loss). That means the Steelers are already in trouble in the AFC and need to climb out of it. Then again, they turned that trick last season. Stay tuned.

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