But now that the Giants are out of the playoffs and have had some time to digest what went wrong, Jerry Reese wonders if the Giants might have been better off resting Nicks down the stretch earlier than they did.
When asked about Eli Manning's performance this season on ESPN New York 98.7 FM's "The Mike Lupica Show," Reese talked about the impact Nicks' injury had on the team.
Reese, Manning and Tom Coughlin have all said this week that Nicks' injury had a major impact on the Giants.
"(Manning) has played at a very high level and I don't think he played up to the level that he can play," Reese said. "Again I think it starts (with)... Hakeem Nicks has been one of the linchpins in our offense. He was banged up and I really think it took its toll on our offense and what we are trying to do.
"He was trying to fight through it," Reese continued. "But in hindsight, I think if we had to think about it again, maybe we would have taken him out a little quicker than we did. But that is neither here or there at this point. But I do think it affected the quarterback's play some."
New York Giants
Nicks played just one snap in the season finale against Philadelphia as the coaches went with rookie Rueben Randle, who had four receptions for 58 yards and two touchdowns. Nicks failed to have a catch in his final two games of the season and finished with 53 receptions for 692 yards and three touchdowns.
He started the season with pain in his surgically repaired foot. He then injured his knee in Week 2 against Tampa Bay and missed three games after that. Nicks said he was initially told that the knee injury could require up to eight weeks of rest but he decided to play through it.
He clearly wasn't the same player as swelling in his knee popped up from time to time. Nicks was visibly hobbled and lacked the explosive burst that has made the Giants' aerial attack lethal in recent years. Manning said the lack of practice time with Nicks, who routinely rested during the week, affected the offense.
"I think it’s important that Hakeem comes back and is the player that he was a year ago," Coughlin said in an interview on WFAN radio on Thursday. "And we need that desperately to happen, not only because of what an impact he makes on the game but also because of the versatility that is created by having Randle and (Victor) Cruz.”
"Quite frankly this year, (Nicks was) really having a lot of trouble just getting to that other gear, and (was) very frustrated by that," Coughlin later added. "But the great competitor that he is, trying to be in there every week and trying to help his team... but (it) just kind of strapped (the offense) a little bit along those lines. That was just one part of it. We had been so much a big-play team, and then we had a stretch of games where the big plays in the pass game just weren’t there."