Sunday Morning QB: For Rex & Tom it looks as if end is near

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiRobert Sabo/New York Daily News
Rex Ryan’s NY Jets will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

New York, New York, it used to be one hell of a football town.

It’s only the second weekend in November, but it feels like the end of December: Mostly empty seats in the third quarter of Monday night’s Giants blowout loss to the Colts, “Fire John Idzik” planes flying over Jets practice last week and the inevitability of the third straight season of no playoff football in New York.

Tom Coughlin and Rex Ryan used to be feisty, angry and disgusted in their news conferences following defeats. Now, as the losses pile up — eight straight for Ryan and three straight for Coughlin — resignation seems to have set in for two incredibly competitive men. It happened to Ryan about a month ago and to Coughlin after the Monday night loss.

They know their teams are not very good, and while there were times in the past when they were capable of willing their teams to victory, that doesn’t work with inferior talent.

The fire is gone in Coughlin and Ryan. In a couple of months, this could be the first time the Giants and Jets are both looking for head coaches since 1997, when the Jets hired Bill Parcells — there was strong sentiment in the Giants organization to bring him back — and the Giants hired Jim Fassel. There have been three other times they’ve each started off the season with new coaches (1974, 1977, 1983), but ’97 was the only time neither team promoted from within.

So, if Coughlin joins Ryan as the scapegoats for really poor personnel decisions by their general managers, the Giants and Jets will be in direct competition in a limited pool of candidates. Ryan’s fate seems pretty clear-cut. He is 1-8 and will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year and will be fired at the end of the season. The future of Idzik, the embattled and unpopular GM, will be decided by Woody Johnson. He needs a football man to make football decisions. If he wants to keep Idzik around to manage the salary cap, that would be fine.

I don’t think the Giants will fire Coughlin, but if this turns into a 6-10 season, John Mara and Steve Tisch might strongly suggest to him that it’s time to retire. After winning two Super Bowls, Coughlin deserves the right to go out on his own terms, but football is a cruel business, and there aren’t many fairy-tale endings.

The Giants made the first move toward pushing Coughlin aside when they forced offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride’s resignation when Mara said the offense was “broken” the day after last season ended. Coughlin had no intention of firing Gilbride, but after watching Mara speak on television, Gilbride expedited his plans to retire. At this point in Coughlin’s life — he’s the oldest coach in the league at 68 — there’s little chance he had any desire to install a new offense and learn Ben McAdoo’s system.

Coaching is not the issue with the Giants, despite Coughlin’s sock snafu last week. The Giants’ problem is personnel. Jerry Reese hit a home run in his first draft in 2007 when all eight draft choices made the team and seven were on the active roster as rookies for the Super Bowl victory over the Patriots. Long snapper Zak DeOssie is the only player remaining from that class.

Is it Reese’s fault that Jason Pierre-Paul looks like a one-hit wonder? He was unblockable in his second season and was a key reason why the Giants won another Super Bowl. JPP had 16.5 sacks in 2011 and has 16.5 sacks in his other 3½ seasons combined.

Is it Reese’s fault David Wilson’s career prematurely ended with a neck injury? Or that Hakeem Nicks just stopped producing?

It all goes on Reese’s record. He has built up plenty of collateral with the two Super Bowl victories, so even though the Giants are struggling, he’s not going to face the same scrutiny and criticism as Idzik. I don’t get any sense that Reese is in trouble. If the Giants make changes after the season, I think Coughlin goes and Reese stays, but that countdown clock he put the locker room last year will be ticking on him.


Some midseason awards:

Top Five Teams (in order): Cardinals, Patriots, Broncos, Colts, Cowboys

Bottom Five Teams (worst listed first): Raiders, Jets, Jaguars, Bucs, Titans

MVP: DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys

Offensive Player: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots

Defensive Player: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans

Coach: Bruce Arians, Cardinals

Biggest Surprise: Cardinals

Biggest Disappointment: 49ers


It’s the little things that make Tom Brady great. He might be the slowest-running QB in the NFL, but last week against the Broncos, his side-to-side movement and ability to step up in the pocket created time and passing angles that allowed him to rip up the Broncos secondary. As the game was nearly over, he shook Bill Belichick’s hand and shouted, “Way to go, baby. 7-2. We needed it.” Has any player ever called the warm and cuddly Belichick “baby” before? . . . After Big Ben threw for six TDs against the Colts two weeks ago and then another six last week against the Ravens, it’s scary to think how many he’s going to throw against the Jets Sunday. The NFL record is seven. I put the over/under at eight. Just kidding, I think. If Jets can hold him to five, it will be a job well-done. . . . Who says the Jets have nothing to play for? If they can beat the Steelers, they will avoid the first nine-game losing streak in one season in franchise history. They lost 12 in a row between the 1995 and ’96 seasons. . . . If JPP and Antrel Rolle are going to be dissect their teammates’ psyche, it would be nice if they could make a play every now and then. When LT, Harry Carson, Carl Banks or Michael Strahan spoke up, they had credibility.


The other day, while we were waiting outside for the Ray Rice hearings to break up, Plaxico Burress came walking down 46th St. He was not signed this year after missing all last season with the Steelers with a shoulder injury. Any chance he tries to play again? “I’m done with football,” he said. One foolish gun incident completely changed Burress’ legacy. He and Eli Manning could have been the most prolific passing combination in Giants history. When Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg on Thanksgiving weekend in 2008, it ruined the Giants’ chances of repeating as Super Bowl champs — Burress caught the winning TD against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII — and prison time cost him two prime years of his career. The Giants have never found anybody like Burress. His incredible wing span made every wayward pass from Manning look like it was right on target.


Jerry Rice was so good he set the NFL record for touchdown catches with 22 in 1987, even though he played only 12 games because of the strike. At that rate, in a full 16-game season, he would have caught 29. When Randy Moss broke the record with 23 in 2007, Rice congratulated him, but also pointed out he did it in four more games. I asked Rice — he’s doing promotional work for MetLife financial planning — what kind of numbers he could put up if he was playing now, considering the rule changes that severely limit what corners can physically do to stop receivers. “I never like to guess, I never try to put pressure on myself,” he said. “But with the way football is played now, maybe every year over 100 catches, close to 2,000 yards and hopefully 20 or more touchdowns.” He might be underestimating. His best season for catches and yards was in 1995 when he caught 122 passes for 1,848 yards. He had over 20 touchdowns in a shortened season. I think his line today could be: 140 catches, 2,200 yards, 25 TDs. So, does Rice wish he played under these rules? “I think it’s unfair,” he said. “I’m an old-school guy. I preferred the contact all the way down the field. With the new rules, you can’t put your hands on a receiver anymore. It puts defensive backs in a little bit of a bad position. They can’t fight all the way down the field. That was the phase of the game I really enjoyed. I wanted to be able to battle all the way downfield, knowing exactly where this guy is at all time, then come out of my route and make the catch.” Advice to Roger Goodell: Put Rice on the competition committee. It’s one thing to put in rules penalizing dangerous hits, but ridiculous to force DBs to play two-hand touch.

Brue Arians was 60 years old when he received his first opportunity to be a head coach when Indy’s Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with cancer during the 2012 season. The Colts were 9-3 under Arians’ watch before Pagano returned the last week of the season. The Colts made the playoff and Arians was named coach of the year. That finally earned him a team of his own when the Cardinals hired him in 2013. He was 10-6 in his first season but missed the playoffs. The Cards are 7-1 this year, the best record in the league. That’s 17-8 in two years. After starting 3-4 last year, Arizona is 14-3 in the last 17 games, the best record in the NFL…Darrelle Revis (Patriots) and Antonio Cromartie (Cardinals) would look pretty good as the Jets starting corners this season. The Jets could have had them both, they both wanted to return, but Idzik was not interested. Revis has two INTs and the Cromartie has three. As a team, the Jets have one.

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