By SAMANTHA DESMOND
Perry Fewell has some explaining to do.
Sitting at a pathetic 3-6 record going into Week 11, the Giants have lost four straight games, three of which by painfully large margins. They say that defense wins championships – can someone send Fewell a memo?
His defense can’t seem to win a game these days. After being dealt a striking blow by Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle offense last week, the Giants have officially been declared the NFL’s worst defense, surrendering 404.9 yards per game.
To make matters worse, the Giants are careening towards a franchise-worst defensive season after giving up at least 423 total yards in four straight games. Cue Tom Coughlin on damage control, and Perry Fewell sweating in the hot seat.
The loss against Seattle was not surprising, considering the Giants have imploded on defense time and time again over the course of the last two seasons. It did, however, highlight some glaring inadequacies in Fewell’s system, which has been battered by injury and lacks effective depth. The roster is devoid of any real pass-rushers, aside from an underutilized Robert Ayers and a half-inspired Jason Pierre-Paul. The linebacker corps is slow and without its anchor, Jon Beason. The secondary is inexcusably incompetent, despite boasting veterans Antrel Rolle, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara (before his season-ending injury).
The Giants players have said in recent days that they simply need to “play better.” I applaud them for at least identifying the obvious. However, saying that you need to be “better” and showing a pulse on the field are two drastically different concepts. Fewell and his defense have consistently been scorched through the air and on the ground for the last four weeks, and it’s high time that someone in the Giants organization admits that the man calling the shots, not the personnel, might be the problem. Even though, let’s face it – the personnel are certainly an integral part of the problem.
Although Fewell has a Super Bowl win on his resume, his tenure as defensive coordinator in New York has left much to be desired. The Giants are facing their third straight season without a playoff berth. The defense is uninspired and ineffective, and has hardly performed as expected over the last three seasons. Fewell himself has demonstrated that he is unable to get things back on track, with adjustment after adjustment failing to yield results, all while digging a giant-sized grave for a once prosperous defense.
This is hardly the progress that Big Blue fans expected to see, especially with co-owner John Mara referring to the Giants’ defense as “broken” after a disappointing 2013 campaign. Money was invested in players who have, to date, underperformed or been lost to injury. The majority of the attention went to an offense that was completely rebuilt around Ben McAdoo’s West Coast offense. The “broken” defense received little to no attention by comparison, so it is no wonder that it has not found itself on the mend.
And so the pressure is on for Fewell, who has to make some drastic changes against Colin Kaepernick and the 5-4 San Francisco 49ers. Although San Francisco has struggled some in their 2014 campaign, the Giants’ defense will have their hands full on Sunday afternoon as they look to contain Kaepernick, Frank Gore and an explosive Carlos Hyde, who should put up big numbers after Lynch systematically dismantled Fewell’s unit on the ground. Kaepernick is mobile, and Russell Wilson was able to rack up substantial yards with his legs against Big Blue. We can only hope that Fewell has studied tape, but it might be too little too late.
My verdict? Fewell will finish 2014, but after failing to produce a playoff-contending defensive strategy for the third straight season, the Giants will look for new leadership. One Super Bowl is nice Perry, but this is New York – the main stage. Excellence is not just demanded – it’s expected. There is no other option at this point for Big Blue. Should Coughlin continue after 2014, he will be placing calls to find someone capable of running a quality defense.