Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes and More

Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes and More

The Giants made history, in a way, when they named Jerry Reese as their new general manager. He is an African-American and, as such, only the third to hold this high of an executive position in NFL history.

"I would be fooling myself if I didn't think it was by the favor of God that I'm sitting in this chair," he said at his formal introduction (the announcement was made the day before, Monday, Martin Luther King Day), and then he added his highly personal feelings on that timing.

"I feel it's my turn to carry the torch," he said. "I am proud and I am determined to succeed for all those who went before me and endured this process."

Reese had served as director of player personnel under outgoing general manager Ernie Accorsi, and in winning the job beat out three in-house competitors -- Chris Mara, brother of team president John; Dave Gettleman, director of pro personnel; and Kevin Abrams, assistant general manager/capologist.

The team also interviewed former Redskins and Texans general manager Charley Casserly, and the team of John Mara and team chairman Jonathan Tisch was rebuffed by New England personnel director Scott Pioli. The Patriots had given permission for him to be interviewed but Pioli declined.

"I am going to work closely with (head coach) Tom Coughlin," Reese said, "and we already have a good and close relationship. We have been on the road together working out players and we basically feel the same about most football things. But I have to say that my position puts me in charge of coaching, and if and when a coaching change has to be made, it will be my decision."

John Mara smiled, and reflected on an exchange between his father, Wellington, and George Young on the day Young was hired (Feb. 14, 1979) as the team's general manager.

"Someone asked George if he was in total control," Mara said, "and he turned to my father and asked if he was. My father replied: 'Yes, he is, but if he decides he has to trade our next three first-round draft picks, I would hope he'd run that by me first.' Jerry has the same authority."

Reese said his first order of business is to meet with various department heads (of which he is now supervisor) and to find a way to continue his "hands-on" method of working when he has added so much more to his agenda.

"I am going to be successful," he said. "There is no other choice."

NOTES, QUOTES

The Giants moved quickly to fill the void at defensive coordinator when, less than a week after naming Kevin Gilbride their new offensive coordinator (from quarterbacks coach) they reached into the nearby coaching pool of the Philadelphia Eagles to snag linebackers coach Steve Spagnuolo and elevate him to the vacant position.

"Steve is a young man I had an opportunity to interview and I was impressed by his detail, his energy and his enthusiasm," said head coach Tom Coughlin. "He has coached all defensive positions and he has been a scout as well. He knows this game."

Spagnuolo, 47, worked under the well-respected defensive coordinator Jim Johnson in Philadelphia since 1999, and his linebackers -- as the entire Johnson defense -- acquired the reputation as aggressive, blitzing and fast.

"We need fast, athletic linebackers," he said. "I am honored and thrilled to make this move. And frankly, I'm a little overwhelmed."

Spagnuolo's linebackers frequently harassed the Giants for the past several seasons, and he took special delight in unleashing MLB Jeremiah Trotter whenever the two played. Perhaps the 6-3, 262-pound Trotter is an example of the work Spagnuolo can do -- when he left the Eagles four years ago to play in Washington, he was ordinary at best, yet when he returned to Philadelphia to play in the Johnson-Spagnuolo style, he earned a Pro Bowl nomination.

The expectation is that the Giants will look for at least two new linebackers, one in the unrestricted free-agent market, the other in the draft, and that both will have the quickness and speed Spagnuolo wants.

--As expected, Kevin Gilbride was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator to replace fired Jim Hufnagel. Gilbride called the plays for the final two games of the Giants' season.

"It was an opportunity for Kevin to demonstrate his leadership skills, and I thought he did a good job," coach Tom Coughlin said. Based on that performance it became clear to me that he is deserving of the role of offensive coordinator. The good thing is that he has worked hand-in-hand with Eli (Manning), and Eli and the offensive team will welcome this announcement.

"I made the decision to create a spark and I think a spark was created. I think the offense - the players and the coaches - rallied around Kevin and certainly gave evidence that this was something that they are most excited about continuing."

Chris Palmer, the former head coach of the Browns who was Dallas' quarterbacks coach last season, was hired to take Gilbride's place and focus on developing quarterback Eli Manning.

--New general manager Jerry Reese struck a note dear to fans of the team when he said: "Just making the playoffs is not enough any more," a reference to the team's two straight first-round ousters in the last two years. ... Reese played defensive back at the University of Tennessee-Martin -- and the Giants actually had a player from that school, G-T Joe Taffoni (1972-1973).

--RB Tiki Barber, now officially retired, finished his 10-year career as a Giant with back-to-back games of 371 yards. ... "I'm not really emotional about ending this career," he said. "It was a great career, a great 10 years, but it was time to move on and do something else."

Barber is thought to be on the verge of signing a contract with FOX Sports, although there had been rumors of interest on the part of ESPN as well.

--Word is that WR Amani Toomer, who'll be 34 and who missed the second half of the season with torn knee ligaments, may not make it back next season.

--DE Michael Strahan, who missed most of the second half of the season with a sprained foot and a stretched Lis Franc ligament, is planning on returning. He is going to be 35 and is currently tied with former LB Lawrence Taylor for team career sacks with 132.5.

--The Giants are rumored to be "the other team" when the Miami Dolphins act as the home team in a regular season game next fall in London, England. The game is said to be scheduled for late September or early October. The Giants are scheduled to visit the Dolphins in any case next season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "George (Young) was patient and just sat back during drafts. Ernie (Accorsi) was an aggressive trader. I feel I am somewhere in between those two, but if I see a player I like in the second round and he is listed as a third-rounder, I might take him anyway just to make sure I get him." -- Giants' new general manager Jerry Reese.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Center Shaun O'Hara and K Jay Feely are the only two UFAs of note and Reese said he expects to meet with both players' agents soon. "I am grateful that Ernie (Accorsi) left this roster almost fully signed," he said. "It eliminates a lot of the headaches."

Head coach Tom Coughlin attended Reese's introduction and was effusive with his praise, but when it came to the subject of "tweaking" the roster and finding (and fixing) the so-called "hot spots," he backed off. "That's not for today," he said. "Today is Jerry Reese's day."

The Giants will have the 20th position in the first round, and while much work is still left to be done, consensus opinions hold that the player will be either a RB or an OT. The retirement of Tiki Barber leaves a gaping vacancy, and the injury to veteran OLT Luke Petitgout (fractured fibula) might retard his return. Petitgout will be 31 and a nine-year veteran next season.

Outgoing GM Ernie Accorsi on the draft: "This is the thing I will miss most," he said. "It is the most exciting time of the year and I looked forward to it from the day it ended to the next year when it started again. We kind of worked on the draft on a year-round basis."

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Eli Manning. Backups -- Jared Lorenzen, Tim Hasselbeck.

Manning completed his second full season as a starter and the results were mixed at best. He did not blossom into a clone of his brother Peyton. He did make mistakes. He still throws off his back foot sometimes. He still makes a few unwise decisions. But the team insists he is their quarterback of the future and will not listen to anyone suggesting he was the wrong choice. The team did trade a passel of draft picks to San Diego for the rights to sign this first overall selection, including their pick of QB Philip Rivers, their third in 2004 (K Nate Kaeding), their first in 2005 (LB Shawne Merriman) and their fifth in 2005 (traded to Tampa Bay for OT Roman Oben, a former Giant). His two-year record as a full-time starter is 19-13, his record for two playoff games is 0-2. Eli threw 24 TDs and 18 interceptions in 2006. Lorenzen is the 295-pound QB who has limited ability; Hasselbeck, brother of Seattle's Matt, is a journeyman at best.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Brandon Jacobs, FB Jim Finn. Backups -- RB James Sims, RB Robert Douglas, RB Chad Morton, RB Derrick Ward.

The challenge here is to replace the retired Tiki Barber (1,662 yards rushing, 2,127 from scrimmage). After 10 years he decided to leave -- "with my health," as he said. Now he is going to be sorely missed. The coaching staff may have trouble believing he's really gone until training camp comes around and he isn't there. Jacobs is the heir apparent, a gigantic (6-4, 265) power runner who showed improvement in his second season. He gained 423 yards on 96 carries and had nine TDs, but he isn't quick, he isn't a slasher and he may be prone to injury. His style of running almost predicts that. Finn is a dependable FB and an outstanding blocker almost never called on to run or catch. Simms, Douglas and Ward are training camp fodder; Morton was the KO and P return specialist but his age (30 in April) and his injury (torn knee ligaments) probably mean he's done.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Jeremy Shockey. Backups -- Visanthe Shiancoe, Darcy Johnson, Jason Randall.

Shockey made it to another Pro Bowl, and when he remained healthy he was one of the top three or four TEs in the league. Unfortunately, he is not always healthy and while he missed just one game he was banged up and not close to 100 percent in several others. He is continuing to improve as a blocker and complains that he doesn't get the ball thrown to him often enough -- this despite leading the team with 66 receptions (along with 623 yards and seven TDs). He is something of a "loose cannon," too, and has frequently complained in public and to the media about the team being "out-coached and unprepared." Shiancoe, a third-round pick out of Morgan State in 2003, has developed into a solid blocker and is still working on catching skills. Johnson and Randall will be easily replaced.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer. Backups -- Tim Carter, David Tyree, Sinorice Moss, Michael Jennings, Darius Watts, Anthony Mix.

Burress is a feared commodity at 6-6 and 225 with world-class speed, and he responded this season with 63 receptions, 988 yards and seven TDs. He is also somewhat of a malcontent and that has caused him to speak out frequently as well as to wave his hands and kick at the ground in frustration at a badly-thrown pass. Sometimes, by his own admission, he "takes a play or two off," but usually he's dependable and productive even when double-teamed. Toomer, the Giants' old veteran, missed the final eight games with torn knee cartilage and at the soon-to-be age of 33, his 12th NFL season is somewhat in doubt. Behind him is Carter, with great size-speed numbers but prone to injury and dropped passes; and Tyree, more valuable on special teams. The rookie Moss was going to be an offensive threat but he spent most of the season nursing a strained quad. Jennings has some speed, Watts doesn't have much of a chance and the over-sized Mix (6-4, 235) has potential.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Luke Petitgout, LG David Diehl, C Shaun O'Hara, RG Chris Snee, RT Kareem McKenzie. Backups -- T Bob Whitfield, T Guy Whimper, T Steve Edwards, G Grey Ruegamer, G Rich Seubert.

There will be a serious problem if Petitgout, the eight-year veteran and a quietly professional OLT, cannot come back from his fractured fibula. The team didn't put him on Injured Reserve for the first six weeks after he was hurt, hoping he'd be able to return for the end of the season and/or the playoffs. He didn't. He was sorely missed. Whitfield filled in for him until that became an untenable situation, then positions were jockeyed with Diehl winding up at left tackle. Diehl has played four of the five OL spots and played them all well; in addition, he has yet to miss a game in four years. O'Hara is going to be a free agent and says he wants $3 million a year, which means he is probably going to play somewhere else. Snee was listed as one of those who got a "bum deal" by not making the Pro Bowl; he keeps getting better and will be an anchor for a long time, if healthy. McKenzie is reliable, a far better run-blocker than a pass-protector, but clearly of value. Whitfield, who'll be 36, will be gone. Whimper was a rookie with promise. Edwards is camp fodder. Ruegamer is a veteran who can play all three OL positions and should be retained. The Giants love Seubert.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LDE Michael Strahan, LDT/NT Barry Cofield, RDT Fred Robbins, RDE Osi Umenyiora. Backups -- DE Mathias Kiwanuka, DE Justin Tuck, DT-DE William Joseph, DT Jonas Seawright, DE Adrian Awasom, DT Titus Adams, DE Tommy Davis.

Both Strahan and Umenyiora made the Pro Bowl after the 2005 season; both missed games in 2006 due to injury, a total of 12 between them. Now both are said to be healthy (Strahan had a strained Lis Franc ligament in his right foot; Umenyiora had a strained left hip flexor). In the interim, first round draft pick Mathias Kiwanuka showed he had the skills for that status. He played extraordinarily well, finished with 55 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions, 23 QB hits and two forced fumbles. Cofield was a revelation, a fourth-round rookie pick who started all 17 games and played well (67 tackles, 1.5 sacks). Robbins was another surprise, a veteran of seven years who had 62 tackles, 5.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries. The bad news was the continued disappointing performance by former No. 1 pick William Joseph, who cannot seem to claim and hold a starting position. Tuck is a promising DE who was injured (foot) and missed the final 10 games of the season. He'll be back fully healed and might contest for a starting job. Adams and Davis are names between commas; Seawright has some promise but couldn't sustain pre-season performance levels. Awasom has some value but not much.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- SLB LaVar Arrington, MLB Antonio Pierce, WLB Brandon Short. Backups -- SLB-WLB Carlos Emmons, SLB Reggie Torbor, MLB Chase Blackburn, WLB Gerris Wilkinson, SLB Tyson Smith.

Arrington, an expensive veteran free-agent signing, ruptured an Achilles tendon in the sixth game of the season and was lost for the rest of the schedule. He should be fully recuperated and rehabbed and figures to make a strong push for his starting job. Pierce had another top-quality season -- a team-leading 159 tackles and 11 passes defensed -- and showed no signs of slowing. Short was unexpectedly effective when Arrington went down and Carlos Emmons had to slide over to SLB, and he should be back albeit in a reserve role. Emmons will not be back; he can no longer run well enough. Torbor led the team in special teams tackles but failed to produce when given a chance to play regularly. Blackburn is going to be the next starting MLB and perhaps can compete at SLB. Wilkinson was a promising rookie pick with speed and strength. Smith is a camp player with some ability.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Corey Webster, RCB Sam Madison, SS Gibril Wilson, FS Will Demps. Backups -- CB R.W. McQuarters, CB Kevin Dockery, CB Frank Walker, SS Jason Bell, FS James Butler, CB E.J. Underwood, CB R.J. Cobbs, CB Gerrick McPhearson.

This is an area where lots of help is needed, not just healthier players. Webster was injured, but prior to that had a disappointing season and the former No. 2 draft pick in 2005 must show dramatic improvement to stay off the bench. Madison was signed in the UFA period and played reasonably well, as did FS Demps (although he had some issues with poor tackles and mis-reading coverages). McQuarters started much of the season as a replacement and in reality did quite well despite some breakdowns. Wilson, too, had a fairly strong season with periodic lapses. Walker should be gone, more for his uncontrollable temper on the field than lack of play. Bell filled in nicely, as did Butler. Underwood had been the surprise of training camp until suffering a shoulder injury and spending the season on Injured Reserve. Cobbs doesn't show much, McPhearson was a draft pick and as such will earn one more chance.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Jay Feely, P Jeff Feagles, LS Ryan Kuehl, KR Sinorice Moss, PR R.W. McQuarters.

Feely is going to enter the UFA market unless the Giants sign him quickly, and the six-year veteran has much value. He made 23 of 27 field goals last season and was perfect on 38 PAT tries for 107 total points. He could put his KOs deeper downfield but they are, by and large, acceptable. Feagles ended his 19th season and will be 41 years old when the 2007 season starts. He feels as though he'll come back for at least one more year, which should please the Giants since he averaged 40.2 yards per 77 punts (37.0 net) and was effective with inside-the-20 kicks (27 of them). Kuehl is reliable and hasn't had a bad snap in a long time, but is somewhat of a waste since he doesn't play another position. Moss came on after a near-season long bout with a strained quad and looked, at time, electrifying with his KO returns. He may be the permanent replacement for the veteran Morton, who was injured (knee) and might not be back. McQuarters was adequate for PR but might lose that job to Moss as well. Jennings has great speed but for some reason fell into disfavor with the coaching staff and didn't play much.

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