The New York Giants have made it clear that there are two things the team won't be losing. Eli Manning will continue to guide the offense and Tom Coughlin--as announced by co-owner John Mara--will continue to call the shots as head coach from the sidelines. Now if the team could find a way to get back some of the 45 turnovers they had last season.
The Giants will be spending the second off-season in a row, on their couches, watching the Seattle Seahawks--a team they beat 41-7--take their lowly 7-9 record into the playoffs, then watch the Chicago Bears--a team they crushed--in a playoff game next weekend. The Giants can only wonder how they turned a 10-6 season into a bad dream.
The remaining two-thirds of the vaunted and successful "Earth, Wind and Fire" Giants backfield of 2008 should be called "Dirt and Air" for the way Jacobs falls to the ground on too many short yardage situations and Bradshaw, because it seems like that is what he's carrying, after dropping the ball at the slightest touch from an opposing linebacker.
For all the gaudy numbers (Bradshaw, 1235 yards and Jacobs, 835 yards) this two-back system seemed like it stalled too many times. Now Coughlin and GM Jerry Reese must consider their options. Bradshaw is one of 21 Giant players not under contract for 2011--that is if there is a 2011 season--and Jacobs is in the middle of a four-year contract extension worth $25 million.
The last time Jacobs, 28, was seen he was storming out of the Giants locker room, carrying a torn garbage bag containing his gear like a 270 pound Grinch, cursing at photographers. The surly and disruptive running back snapped back, "Click, click, click. You're all taking pictures of Brandon Jacobs leaving, wondering if he's going to return. That will be your caption for tomorrow. Well, f--- you all." Maybe Earth knows something we don't. Players who talk in the first person seem to get traded a lot.
Meanwhile, Bradshaw, 24,--the more versatile back--looked back at a season that fizzled out at the end. He had two 90 yard performances in the final nine games and four of them were losses. Never mind the six costly fumbles. Turnovers--something the Giants (NFL leaders with 41) can do without. Eli had 25 but he's still has a job.
Coughlin sat both running backs at some point during the season and, while Bradshaw took it in stride after he lost the title of No. 1 back, Jacobs turned it into a WikiLeaks conspiracy and pouted on the sideline. It wasn't until Bradshaw's game-killing fumbles became more frustrating than the one-dimensional Jacobs 3-yard gains that Coughlin started the big man again with some success.
Reese now has to make a choice. The two-back system seems to be in vogue around the NFL, but it doesn't always work. It's been two years since the Giants made the playoffs and their tag-team running game doesn't seem as dominant as in the past. This Yin and Yang was unreliable and seemed more like Stumble and Fumble in 2010.
The limited role Jacobs had played may have tweaked his ego and he became a disruptive force in the locker room last season. He still occasionally goes head first into the turf like a larger version of Ron Dayne and has not lived up to his billing since his contract extension (despite injury concerns) in 2009. He is due for some big money soon.
Bradshaw had the worst case of fumblitis since Dave Krieg and wore down as the season played out. Although he is more of a receiving threat than Jacobs and has the ability to break open a game on every play, he was a M*A*S*H Unit of injuries--wrists, ankles--and it showed during that final stretch. If Coughlin can rid Bradshaw of his poor ball handling--ala Tiki Barber--Bradshaw could be the complete back the Giants need, and one of the best in the league.
Jacobs and Bradshaw, as a duo, and their and down seasons are something the Giants need to address. It's like Superman stuck with Robin. The big guy needs no sidekick. Has a team or backfield looked so invincible one week only to fall faster than the Metrodome roof the next?
If the NFL and the player's union do negotiate a collective bargaining agreement, and there is a 2011 season, the Giants should hand the ball to Bradshaw. Just make sure there is a little Stickum on it.