- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Walter Thurmond III was not with the New York Giants for very long. The former Seahawks defensive back signed as a free agent last spring, played two games for the team before suffering a season-ending injury, then signed with the Eagles this spring. But he was around long enough to form an opinion, and when asked as part of an interview with Bleacher Report to compare Seattle coach Pete Carroll, Giants coach Tom Coughlin and Eagles coach Chip Kelly, this is, in part, what he had to say about Coughlin:
"Coach Coughlin is the same type of person, but we battled through injuries last season. Yes, he's a little old-school, but he's starting to come around to the times. He doesn't believe in the sport-science aspect like Coach Carroll or Coach Kelly and the newfound technology for the players. His style takes a hit, because he doesn't believe in this aspect. He believes in winning, but he doesn't believe in the modern medicine to progress the players to that next level."
So, a couple of things on this, if I might...
Giants injuries are definitely a Major Thing. According to Football Outsiders, the Giants have led the league by a significant margin in a category they call "adjusted games lost" over the past two seasons. In 2013-14 combined, the Giants' adjusted games lost total was 278.4. The second-highest total in the league over that time is the San Diego Chargers' 210.1. The league average the past two years is 141.9. The Eagles' total of 80.8 is the lowest in the league over that stretch, which comprises Kelly's first two years in the NFL.
Go back a little bit further into FO's databases, and you find that the Giants ranked 25th in adjusted games lost in 2012, 26th in 2011, 22nd in 2010 and 19th in 2009. So while the past two years have reached ridiculous levels, it's not as though this is an entirely new problem for them.
Thurmond's comments could lead one to point fingers in familiar directions. Coughlin is the oldest head coach in the NFL at 68. Ronnie Barnes has been the team's head trainer since 1980. Giants strength and conditioning coach Jerry Palmieri has had his job since 2004 and has been Coughlin's strength and conditioning coach for a total of 20 years, including one at Boston College and eight with the Jacksonville Jaguars. There is circumstantial evidence on which to base a theory that the Giants might be old-school sticks-in-the-mud who are slow to adapt some of the modern concepts for which Kelly has received so much attention in Philadelphia and at the University of Oregon before that.
But just because you've been around for a while doesn't mean you're not open to new ideas (heck, Carroll is the second-oldest head coach in the league, right?), and the Giants chafe at the notion that they have their heads in the sand with regard to modern medicine.
"You would have to ask Walter what he is referring to specifically when it comes to comparing and contrasting," Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon said in an e-mail Tuesday morning. "But the fact is, over the past 2-3 years, we have adopted and implemented a few programs: the GPS system we employ to monitor workload, diet in terms of offerings and preparation in the dining hall, and sleep studies. Those are a few of the things we have done as we continue to evolve."
But even if we accept the idea that the Giants are up on the latest advances and working to apply them, being around the Giants makes it easy to understand why someone like Thurmond might say what he said. In Philadelphia, it's clear that Kelly is leading the charge on sports medicine and its NFL application. With the Giants, old-school Coughlin might embrace the advances behind the scenes, but outwardly he rolls his eyes and throws his arms up in the air when discussing things like "recovery stretches" that shorten his training camp practices. That doesn't mean he's opposed to the idea of applying modern medicine in an effort o fight off injuries; it's just his act, and the way he communicates his personal feelings about modern training techniques certainly could lead a player to conclude that they're not as important to him as they clearly are to Kelly.
So I don't think Thurmond was trying to paint Coughlin as some sort of out-of-touch fogey. But I do think the recent injury statistics, combined with the longevity of the people in key positions overseeing the Giants' medical program and the organization's well-publicized loyalty to its own established ways of doing business in other areas, naturally lead to questions about whether those things are connected. Those questions must continue to be asked. It's entirely possible that the Giants as an organization have been slower to adopt and apply modern medical practices than some other teams have and that it's cost them in the standings. It's just not fair to jump to the conclusion that it's because the head coach is a 68-year-old grump who misses training camp two-a-days.