For the second straight year, the Giants breezed right past a Thanksgiving where they had little to be thankful for (on the field, anyway) and continued sliding downhill all the way to Christmas. Last year when Santa arrived they had lost seven straight games, got their coach fired and were on their way to 4-12. This year they have lost seven straight and seemed destined to finish 5-11.
In other words - and again - they have been very, very bad, which as everyone knows means they'll get nothing but coal in their stockings on Christmas morning. But just in case Santa is feeling generous or hasn't been watching - and could you blame him if he hasn't? There must be something better on TV in the North Pole - here are a few suggestions for gifts some of the Giants would love to find under their tree:
Eli Manning - A receiver who can stretch the field. When Tim Carter went down for the season, the Giants lost their fastest player. And with Carter and Jamaar Taylor out and Amani Toomer fighting a hamstring injury, the Giants are without a downfield threat. Maybe Carter comes back healthy next year, but if not the Giants need to find their $45 million quarterback a burner. Otherwise he's never going to be able to make defenses pay when they blitz.
Ron Dayne - A new home. Maybe all this was your own fault, maybe it wasn't. Regardless, after the wonderful 2000 season you never got much of a chance here. Your contract is up. Go somewhere where you're not miscast as a Jerome Bettis-type back. Forget the last five years and go have a nice career.
Michael Strahan - A speedy recovery. Without you there is no pass rush, which exposes the linebackers, puts a huge burden on the secondary and basically kills the defense. Besides, you're on the borderline of the Hall of Fame right now. You need a couple of more productive, healthy years to seal the deal.
Kurt Warner - A starting job somewhere. The list of NFL quarterbacks who would have handled their benching as classy as you did can be counted on one hand, maybe one finger. You also proved you can still throw. Unfortunately you didn't have much of a chance behind this offensive line. Maybe you'll have better luck in Miami or San Francisco.
Tiki Barber - A new contract. The six-year, $25.2 million contract you signed in 2001 was a heist for the Giants. You are, by far, the player they can least afford to lose. If this team hadn't collapsed you would have shattered the NFL's all-purpose yardage record.
Carlos Emmons and Barrett Green - Good health. You should be much better players than last year's outside linebacker tandem (Brandon Short, Dhani Jones) but it was hard to tell. Maybe next year, Carlos, you can be healthy right from the start of training camp. And Barrett … well, you've had one tumultuous season. If you're back next year, may you be able to walk without a limp right out of the coach's doghouse.
Jeremy Shockey - A better game plan. You're a fine blocker, but that's not why the Giants pay you. Remember the good, old days when the Giants used to call you a "playmaker"? This year, you were more active behind the line of scrimmage and before the snap. You need plays that line you up wide, call for you to run downfield, where you can run over smaller, slower defenders - just like old times.
Ronnie Barnes - Combat pay for the Giants trainer. Don't let anyone tell you you're not the hardest working man in the Giants' organization. In the last two years the Giants have won nine games, scored 51 touchdowns and placed 26 players and counting on injured reserve. Ugh.
The offensive line - A dartboard with Joe Theismann's picture on it. It was unfair for him to label you the worst line in the league before you took a regular-season snap, and he knows it. You didn't help your argument by giving up 49 sacks in the first 13 games, but we all know it wasn't all your fault. In the meantime, hang your hats and stockings on Tiki Barber's 1,200-plus rushing yards. He didn't get them all alone.
John Hufnagel - Body armor. Your players now say they never really were calling your play-calling routine, predictable or whatever. But they were. And so was the media. You were being hit from everywhere, and thanks to Tom Coughlin's ridiculous gag rule on his assistant coaches, you weren't even allowed to defend yourself. If you come back next season, carry a shield.
Ryan Kuehl - This is your gift - your name in a newspaper. You're such a good long-snapper you're not going to see your name in ink very often.
Tom Coughlin - A bigger doghouse. It's had quite a few occupants at various times this season, but if you don't start winning soon you're going to have to build an extension. The rules, the fines, the drill sergeant routine … it's all fine when you're winning. But your players didn't like it before the winning started. And they sure don't like it now that the winning has stopped.
Ernie Accorsi - A first-round pick. And if not that, then maybe a good, long book to read on draft day while you're waiting to make your first selection in the second round. Just curious: If you knew you were sending a top 10 pick to San Diego for Eli Manning, would you still have made the trade?
Giants fans - A little blind faith. Manning is going to be a star. Coughlin will win before his players turn on him. Shockey will again become the best tight end in the league. The offensive line will jell. Strahan will get healthy. Barber will stay healthy. Hufnagel will open the playbook. Emmons will show why he was the Eagles' defensive MVP. The Wills will become one of the best cornerback tandems in football. Toomer will prove this season was an aberration, not the start of a trend. And the Giants will shake off this two-season slide and get back to the playoffs next season.
Hey, if you believe in Santa Claus, why can't you believe all that, too?