New York Giants: Perry Fewell

No final decision yet from the New York Giants on a new defensive coordinator, but it appears as though they've interviewed all of the candidates they plan to interview and hope to have a decision by the end of the week.

In the meantime, they are also closing in on a deal with Tim Walton, the former defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, to join the staff as their defensive backs coach. Walton would replace Peter Giunta, who was fired last week along with defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.

Once the Giants hire a new defensive coordinator, they will seek his input on the construction of the defensive coaching staff. And that could mean some other defensive assistants would be replaced or shuffled into different roles, as happened on the other side of the ball last year after the Giants hired Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator. But head coach Tom Coughlin has final say on the coaching staff, and Walton appears to be a guy they'll bring on regardless of who they pick for coordinator.

Walton was the Rams' defensive coordinator for one season -- 2013 -- after spending four seasons as the defensive backs coach for the Detroit Lions.

The Giants interviewed their own former defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, for the coordinator position Wednesday. He's viewed by many close to the situation as the front-runner, though at this point they have not informed him that he's their choice. They also are considering former Raiders head coach Dennis Allen and former Giants linebacker and current Buffalo Bills defensive line coach Pepper Johnson.
The New York Giants on Tuesday interviewed former Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen for their vacant defensive coordinator position. Allen is one of four known candidates to replaced the fired Perry Fewell as Giants defensive coordinator, along with Raheem Morris, Pepper Johnson and Steve Spagnuolo. Here's a look at what Allen brings to the table:

Allen is only 42 years old, which I can personally assure you is a very young age and indicates a man still very much in his prime. He had one season as an NFL defensive coordinator -- in 2011, with the Broncos, who went 8-8 and won the AFC West and a playoff game with Tim Tebow as their quarterback. The Broncos that year ranked 20th in the NFL in total defense, measured by yards allowed.

Off of that performance, a 39-year-old Allen was hired as head coach of the Raiders, a position for which he almost certainly was not ready and in which he went 4-12 in each of his first two seasons before starting the 2014 season 0-4 and being fired. Three of the Giants' defensive coordinator candidates -- Morris, Allen and Spagnuolo -- are former head coaches. Their combined record as NFL head coaches is 35-97. You could say that, as head coaches go, these guys are really good defensive coordinators.

Regardless, my point on Allen is that he's no retread. If the Giants are looking for a fresh, young, nimble mind to lead their defense, Allen should not be ruled out of that category simply because he's a failed head coach. It was shocking that the Raiders hired him when they did, and had they not done so, it's entirely possible he'd be a red-hot defensive coordinator with teams banging down his door for head coach interviews.

Before he was the Broncos' defensive coordinator, Allen spent five years on the defensive coaching staff of the Atlanta Falcons from 2002-05 and then five more on the New Orleans Saints' staff from 2006-10. His position-coach background is with defensive backs, but his first job with the Saints was as an assistant defensive line coach. And yes, I do find it interesting that three of the Giants' candidates -- Morris, Allen and Spagnuolo -- all have backgrounds as defensive backs coaches, especially because the Giants fired defensive backs coach Peter Giunta along with Fewell last week.

I can't handicap this. A lot of people seem to think Spagnuolo, whose interview is Wednesday, is the favorite. He may be. I know there's a strong sentiment among many in the Giants' building in favor of bringing him back. But I also know that there are those who want it to be Johnson, the former Giants' linebacker who's been an NFL assistant coach -- though never a coordinator -- for the past 15 years. Unless Johnson totally botched the interview, I will hold to my prediction that he gets the job, but that's little more than an educated guess. If it's Allen who ends up with the job, though, you shouldn't be upset just because he couldn't coach the Raiders. Nobody since Jon Gruden has been able to do that.
It's a big week of interviews for defensive coordinator at the New York Giants' facility. After interviewing former Giants linebacker and current Bills defensive line coach Pepper Johnson for the job Monday, the Giants interviewed former Raiders head coach Dennis Allen on Tuesday and are planning to interview former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo on Wednesday.

The Giants also interviewed Washington defensive backs coach Raheem Morris for the job last week, but he does not appear to be under serious consideration. It's unclear whether the Giants will interview more candidates later in the week or next week, or whether they plan to make a decision soon. Former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, who was the Bills' defensive coordinator this past season but won't be joining Rex Ryan's staff in Buffalo next season, is a logical candidate for the job but as of Tuesday afternoon had not been contacted to schedule an interview.

The Giants fired defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and defensive backs coach Peter Giunta last week after a 6-10 season in which their defense ranked No. 29 in the NFL. They'll make at least one assistant coach hire in addition to the new coordinator, and the new coordinator is likely to want to make a new hire or two of his own.

I'll have posts looking at the candidacies of Allen and Spagnuolo later Tuesday and/or Wednesday morning.

Giants defensive coordinator update

January, 12, 2015
Jan 12
A week after letting go of defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and defensive backs coach Peter Giunta, the New York Giants are still early in the process of rebuilding their defensive coaching staff. The first step is sure to be the hiring of a new coordinator to replace Fewell, but they're taking their time and looking around. Here's an update on a couple of the names you have or haven't heard:

Pepper Johnson. The former Giants linebacker, who coached under Bill Belichick in New England from 2000-13 and then was the Bills' defensive line coach this past year, interviewed for Fewell's old job Monday. He is a strong candidate for the position.

Steve Spagnuolo. The former Giants defensive coordinator is currently the Ravens' defensive backs coach. And with Baltimore having been eliminated from the playoffs Saturday night, Spagnuolo is available to interview. As of Monday afternoon, the Giants had not yet reached out to Baltimore to request permission, but they definitely plan to, and likely will interview Spagnuolo before the end of the week. Many consider him the favorite.

Raheem Morris. Washington's defensive backs coach interviewed for Fewell's old position last week and is well thought of by Tom Coughlin and the current Giants' management. If he doesn't get the job, it's possible they could hire him for a lower-level assistant coach position such as Giunta's. But that decision likely would be up to the new coordinator and whether Morris would want such a position.

Dave Merritt. As Adam Schefter noted Monday evening, the Giants have spoken to their current safeties coach about the defensive coordinator position. Merritt is a long shot at best for the big job, but it's interesting that he has had discussions with his bosses about it.

John Fox. Just let go Monday as head coach of the Broncos, the former Giants' defensive coordinator is more likely to get a head coaching job (Bears?) or take a year off and/or work in television in 2015 than take a defensive coordinator job right away. It's entirely possible that, if Fox is still on the market next year and the Giants have moved on from Coughlin, Fox could emerge as a candidate to replace Coughlin. But that's just speculation at this point.
If this were really all about 2015 -- if New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin really were looking at this coming season as a "make-or-break" one for his career -- then Perry Fewell would still be the defensive coordinator.

[+] EnlargeCoughlin
Jim Brown/USA TODAY SportsTom Coughlin is in search of a new defensive coordinator, and that speaks volumes for where the tenured coach is at in his career and with the Giants.
Think about it. If Coughlin really believed he only had one year left as Giants coach, why wouldn't he keep all of the coaches with whom he's comfortable -- the men in whom he believes as fellow leaders? If all he cared about was his own job security -- or his own "legacy," to borrow a word that was being thrown around in East Rutherford last week -- then what would be the point of rebuilding the defense under new leadership. That kind of thing takes time. If Coughlin were being driven by the idea that his time with the Giants was short, big change wouldn't be the way to go.

This is where I think people get it wrong about Coughlin. There's an assumption that everyone acts only out of self-interest, and there's a fair bit of evidence in the world today that the assumption is safe. But I don't think that's the way Coughlin coaches the Giants, and I think the fact he's looking for a new defensive coordinator one year after hiring a new offensive coordinator demands we give him the benefit of the doubt.

Coughlin has coached the Giants for 11 years. He's won two Super Bowls as their coach. He is a significant part of the franchise's history, and as such he is invested in its long-term success. Whether he's the coach for one more year or two more years or five more years or eight more years, Coughlin is bound by his sense of professional duty to do what's best for the Giants -- not for himself.

From the outside, Coughlin's job security didn't look super-solid going into 2014. Yet he still brought in a new and untested coordinator in Ben McAdoo, knowing it would take time to get the offense running as well as it could. A man who thinks his time is short doesn't operate that way. But it was the best thing for the Giants to do at that point in their franchise history, and so that was the move Coughlin made.

Likewise, this month's search for a new defensive coordinator is likely to be wide open. Sure, they could talk to former coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and decide he's the best man for the job. And if they hire him, obviously you could make the argument Coughlin is defaulting to a situation that makes him comfortable. But if he really were doing that, he'd have kept Fewell in the job and gone into his "make-or-break" season with the staff in which he believed so strongly just a few months ago.

I think it's important, when analyzing Coughlin in general and this coordinator-hunt specifically, to consider the kind of person Coughlin is, what he's meant to the Giants and what the Giants mean to him. I think it's fair to trust him to hire the coordinator who's the best bet for the organization in the long run, regardless of what it means to his own immediate future. He cares about winning and about his legacy, yes. He admitted as much last week. But he's been with the Giants long enough that he cares what happens to them after he's gone. And I think you'll see that show up in this process.
There's nothing wrong with Steve Spagnuolo as a defensive coordinator candidate for the New York Giants. They know him. They like him. Tom Coughlin is comfortable with him, and he'd excite a good portion of the fan base with memories of the 2007 season and Super Bowl XLII.

I just don't think that's the way the Giants should go.

[+] EnlargeDennis Allen
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesSteve Spagnuolo may well be primed for a return, but the Giants owe it to their defense to consider fresh ideas from potential coordinator candidates such as Dennis Allen (above).
The Giants have an opening at defensive coordinator following Wednesday's firing of Perry Fewell. And as they look to fill it, they need to be thinking about the future rather than the past. The team's news release announcing the firings of Fewell and defensive backs coach Peter Giunta said that the Giants had "initiated a restructuring of their defensive coaching staff," and if that's the case, then there's no reason not to make it an extensive or even complete restructuring.

This time last year, after longtime offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride left, many assumed the Giants would turn to former assistant Mike Sullivan as their new offensive coordinator due to his familiarity with the team and the offense. Instead, they hired the unproven Ben McAdoo to install a completely new and different offense, and his first season as a coordinator left them encouraged for the future.

Bringing back Spagnuolo for defense would be the Sullivan-type move. Again, nothing necessarily wrong with that. But I think they should be trying for the defensive equivalent of the McAdoo move.

Throw the whole thing open. Look at everybody you can think of and find the guy you think is the best coach. If he happens to run a 3-4 defense instead of the 4-3 the Giants have run for the last two decades, so be it. The Giants likely are looking at big personnel changes in the front seven this offseason anyway, so it's not as though they would have to force a bunch of entrenched 4-3 guys into a 3-4.

The point is that this shouldn't be a 2015-focused hire but a hire that's focused on the next five or 10 years. The Giants aren't just coming off one or two bad years and looking for a patch job. They're in a big-time hole that they have dug with years of bad drafts and resulting personnel deficiencies. It's a bad place to be, but it's also one that offers them the opportunity to decide and shape what they want to be, going forward, in the long term.

They realized this a year ago when they went out looking for a new offensive coordinator, and they need to take the same approach at defensive coordinator this year. Find someone with fresh ideas. Find someone you believe in as a coach and a leader -- someone you believe your players will follow even if they've just met him. Find someone you think can someday be a candidate to be your head coach, which is what they believe they have in McAdoo. Decide what you want to be as a defense going forward and give the new coordinator the power to establish and teach it.

That could mean someone like Pepper Johnson, the former Giants linebacker who's been an apprentice coach for the past 15 years. It could mean someone like Al Holcomb, a former Giants assistant who's currently coaching the Carolina Panthers' linebackers. It could mean someone like Dennis Allen, who at 42 is still a bright young defensive mind even if he didn't have success as a very young head coach in Oakland the past three years.

And in the end, it could be Spagnuolo. The Giants could survey all of their candidates and still decide that Spagnuolo is the best coach for the job -- that his ideas are still forward-thinking and that he's still eventual head coach material even though that job didn't go well for him in St. Louis. It's a perfectly legitimate conclusion for them to reach. But before they reach it, I think they need to start the process by throwing it wide open and thinking ahead, not back.
With Perry Fewell out after five years as New York Giants defensive coordinator, here's a partial list of possible replacements, in no particular order:

Pepper Johnson, defensive line coach, Buffalo Bills: Former Giants linebacker and two-time Super Bowl champion was with the New England Patriots' coaching staff for 14 years before joining Buffalo's in 2014. If the Giants decide to go the unproven-coordinator route as they did on offense last year with Ben McAdoo, Johnson will be among their top candidates.

Steve Spagnuolo, assistant head coach/secondary coach, Baltimore Ravens: Some in the Giants' hierarchy are pushing for a return of the coordinator who helped coach Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck & Co. to that Super Bowl XLII upset over the undefeated Patriots. But it's no sure thing, as the Giants want to look at all options. And that "assistant head coach" title could mean the Ravens (who are still alive in the playoffs) don't have to let Spagnuolo out of his contract for anything less than a head coach position.

Mike Smith, former Atlanta Falcons head coach: Smith was the Jaguars' defensive coordinator for five years before becoming Falcons head coach in 2008, and is well liked and respected by Giants coach Tom Coughlin.

Mike Nolan, Altanta Falcons defensive coordinator: Likely to be a free agent once Alanta hires Smith's replacement. Nolan was Giants' defensive coordinator from 1993-96 under Dan Reeves.

Dennis Allen, former Oakland Raiders head coach: Seen as a bright defensive mind who likely will be on several teams' lists as coordinator candidate.

Jim Schwartz, Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator: Still under contract in Buffalo, but if the Bills' new head man wants to pick his own coordinator, the former Lions head coach will be among the hottest candidates around.

Vic Fangio, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator: Fangio wants the Niners' head coaching job, and if he doesn't get it, he's not likely to stick around.
The end of the New York Giants' season does not mean the end of the weekly Twitter mailbag, oh no it most certainly does not. We have not yet begun to Twitbag or whatever.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Based on what we heard at the postseason news conferences Tuesday, it sounds as though the Giants have not ruled out using the franchise player designation on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. The price is very high -- likely around $15 million -- but other than that the move makes sense if the Giants want Pierre-Paul back next year but are too worried about committing to him long-term. They have very real reasons to worry about that long-term deal, given the injury issues he had in 2012 and 2013 and the uneven nature of his performance in 2014. Pierre-Paul is looking to cash in with a big deal, and it may be tough for the Giants to compete for his services if they allow him to hit the open market. If Pierre-Paul realizes that his performance to date doesn't merit a top-five pass-rusher deal, it's likely he and the Giants can work something out before they have to make a decision about franchising him. But if he's determined to hit the market and see what he can get, then franchising him may be their best bet for keeping him in 2015. I don't see them using the franchise player designation on Rolle, but I do think they will be able to work out a deal with him.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I expect the secondary to be among the top offseason areas of focus for the Giants this year, along with the offensive and defensive lines. But the second part of your question is key, because they may decide to address the secondary simply by bringing back the guys they had this year and hope they stay healthy. Just because Walter Thurmond tore a pectoral muscle in Week 2 doesn't mean the Giants think any less of his abilities as a nickel cornerback, and the injury might help them bring him back relatively cheaply. They have Prince Amukamara's $7 million option picked up already, but they can negotiate around and get the 2015 cost down if they want to, and Amukamara was having a strong season before his biceps tear. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played hurt all year, and he'll surely be back. If they can keep that threesome healthy in 2015 and address safety, they should have a strong secondary. The law of averages says they can't possibly have as many defensive back injuries next year as they did this year. Right? Right???

@DanGrazianoESPN: They have to address the pass rush. If they bring back Pierre-Paul, they need to find another piece for the other side to go with Robert Ayers, because Mathis Kiwanuka is unlikely to be back. Kerry Wynn showed promise late in the season, and there's still hope that Damontre Moore can figure some things out and make use of his considerable natural ability. But I would expect the Giants to add at least one veteran pass-rusher, and if they can't bring back Pierre-Paul, more than one. On the offensive line, they'll surely bring back tackles Will Beatty and Justin Pugh, and the expected return of Geoff Schwartz from his injury-wrecked season would solidify one of the guard spots. From there, it's a matter of deciding whether Weston Richburg's future is at guard or center (they thought center when they drafted him last year) and adding a guard or center who's an upgrade over John Jerry or J.D. Walton. From where I sit, there's more work to do on the defensive line than there is on the offensive one, but that doesn't mean they should ignore opportunities to upgrade on the offensive line if they have one. I'm not super-high on Beatty as the answer at left tackle, and if I were the Giants and had the chance to take a potential franchise tackle at No. 9, I'd do it.

@DanGrazianoESPN: The case for keeping Perry Fewell as defensive coordinator is the same as the case for keeping Tom Coughlin as head coach. You do it if you like the way he coaches and can't come up with a clearly better option. There's a comfort level with Fewell, ample explanation (injuries, years of poor drafts) for why the defense struggled this year, and the knowledge (based on experience) that he can win for you if the right circumstances and pieces fall into place. The Giants don't like to fire coaches if they don't have to. They believe in continuity in positions of leadership. And if Coughlin thinks it's a win-or-else year in 2015, why shouldn't he stick with the people he picked and in whom he believes? I don't know what will happen with Fewell, and it's entirely possible that the Giants could announce next week that he's being replaced. But that's not the way the wind was blowing at week's end, and it's not as though they don't have reasons to keep him if that's what they decide to do.

Thanks for all of the questions. Enjoy the playoff games. 
New York Giants fans who have been hoping to hear that defensive coordinator Perry Fewell or special teams coordinator Tom Quinn would be fired may have to prepare themselves for disappointment.

I'm not saying things can't change, or that organizational pressure couldn't prompt Tom Coughlin to replace one or both of his coordinators. I'm just here to tell you that, as of now, from what I'm being told, he's leaning strongly toward keeping both of them. And if you've been following what's going on with the Giants, you shouldn't be surprised.

Following up a 7-9 season with a 6-10 season and missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six years would, in most organizations, be grounds for a coaching overhaul -- starting with the head coach. But the Giants aren't going that way. Ownership is judging Coughlin on factors other than his recent win-loss record and giving at least another year to turn things around.

That absence of significant consequence for the continued losing isn't the product of inertia as much as it's the way the Giants are doing business. And if it's good enough for the owner, and the owner says it's up to Coughlin to pick his coaches, then why wouldn't status quo be the way Coughlin would decide to go?

People close to the situation say Coughlin believes the Giants' problems this year had to do with (a) personnel shortages on both sides of the ball that have been a problem for several years now due to ineffective drafts and (b) an incredible number of injuries. For those reasons, he's disinclined to hold Fewell accountable for the performance of the defense. The man was without three of his top four cornerbacks for the bulk of the season, after all.

Even the coaching staff move they have made reeks of a desire for continuity. When quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf decided to leave after just one year, the Giants replaced him with Mike Sullivan, who was an offensive assistant on Coughlin's coaching staff from 2004 to 2011 with the Giants and was Eli Manning's quarterbacks coach in 2010-11.

Again, just something to think about as you wonder what's going to happen here. Changes could still take place, later today or next week, as Coughlin and his staff continue to evaluate things. But the way the wind is blowing right now, I'm thinking Fewell is back as defensive coordinator as the whole crew takes the plunge together for what might only be one more year.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few quick thoughts on the New York Giants' decision to bring back coach Tom Coughlin for the 2015 season:

[+] EnlargeTom Coughlin
John Munson/NJ Advance Media for TODAY SportsTom Coughlin will return in 2015, but whether his staff will be intact remains to be seen.
• I don't get the sense this decision was made Sunday night. My impression is that the Giants were worried after the Week 13 loss to Jacksonville that the team might collapse and force them into a tough decision, but that the three straight wins that followed reinforced their conviction that Coughlin remains a strong and more-than-capable coach who prepares his teams well and gets them to play hard for him. They also believe he was done in by a stunning number of injuries to a roster that was a work in progress to begin with.

Additionally, the differing ways in which he has handled issues and incidents that have come up with young players such as Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. in recent weeks demonstrated that he still has an ability to connect with players on an individual level as each case demands.

Coughlin is the man the Giants want as their coach. They never wanted to think about moving on from him after this year, and they're glad the team played well enough in December to back up their belief that he's the man to oversee Year 2 of this rebuild.

• There's a meeting scheduled between Coughlin and Giants owner John Mara at 3 p.m. ET Monday, and at that meeting, my sources say, potential changes to the coaching staff will be discussed. This could still get contentious, as Coughlin seemed to make it clear after Sunday's game that he supports defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and wants his staff to return intact. After New York went 7-9 last year and 6-10 this year, however, Mara is likely to demand that someone take the fall, and Fewell and special-teams coordinator Tom Quinn would seem to be viable targets, given the way their units performed this year.

It's conceivable that Coughlin could fight hard enough for one or the other of them -- or for his right to pick his own staff -- that the whole arrangement could still blow up and they do move on. But that seems unlikely, and, although it's no sure thing Fewell is gone, that's still the way to bet, and I would expect at least two or three coaching staff changes and maybe more.

• I know I've seemed to straddle the fence on the issue of Coughlin's job status. I don't like to do that, but in this case I can really see both sides. The case for moving on from a coach who has missed the playoffs in five of the past six years and gone 13-19 in the past two is not a hard case to make, especially when you line up Coughlin's record against some of the other coaches who lost their jobs Monday. But on the flip side, the two Super Bowl titles Coughlin has won in New York justifiably earn him a longer leash, if not the right to go out on his own terms.

The way I ultimately look at it, the Giants shouldn't rid themselves of Coughlin unless they know for sure they have a replacement ready who can articulate and establish a clear vision for the team's future. Coughlin, as an ingrained part of franchise history, might even be able to claim the right to have input on his own successor.

The Giants pride themselves on maintaining stability in high-level leadership positions, and sticking by Coughlin certainly supports that. So in the end, I think they're making the right call, although I also think they need to seriously consider doing on defense what they did last year on offense -- seek and install a new system under a new leader with fresh ideas for the future, then load up on personnel on that side of the ball in free agency.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and safety and defensive captain Antrel Rolle both stuck up for embattled defensive coordinator Perry Fewell on Sunday, following the Giants' 34-26 season-ending loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Giants entered the final week of the season ranked fifth-to-last in total yards allowed. And the final performance against Philadelphia wasn't very impressive, either. But when asked if he would like to see his coaching staff return intact, Coughlin said, "Yes, but I'm not going to say anything more about that or anything else today."

There's still a chance Coughlin could be dismissed, with the Giants missing the playoffs for the third year in a row and finishing 6-10 -- their worst record since Coughlin's first year at the helm, 2004.

But the more likely scenario is saying goodbye to Fewell, although that is far from a given.

Rolle went ever farther in Fewell's defense.

"I have full confidence in Perry, and I know what kind of coach Perry is," Rolle said. "I know when he’s at his best, I know when he’s not at his best. I also know how to work with him -- I’ve been his dog for four years, I’ve been his fill-in guy. I love to work with Perry."

Of course, Rolle may not be here next year, either -- the 32-year-old will be a free agent this offseason. The former All-Pro has been a key contributor on the field and leader in the locker room the past five years, but had a subpar season in 2014.

"I've been through this process once before, and I think you just have to take it in stride," Rolle said. "If this was my last game as a Giant, I'm very appreciative, I wouldn't change anything for the world. I've had a wonderful five years here, and I gave the team every single inch that I had, I gave 'em every single thing that I had."

"I definitely want to stay here," Rolle added. "I feel like we're building something. Although we haven't had the season that we wanted to have, I think we're still building something."

Another key player who may not be back is defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who also will be a free agent. Pierre-Paul came on strong late, with nine sacks in the final five games of the season -- capped off by two against the Eagles on Sunday. He finished with 12.5 sacks, by far his highest total since he posted 16.5 in 2011, his second year in the league.

Pierre-Paul is younger than Rolle (he'll turn 26 on New Year's Day), and more important at this stage of their respective careers. But he'll also cost a lot more money. He played well against the run the whole season. The question is, was that the real pass-rushing JPP we saw the final five weeks, or just a flash in the pan?

"I don't know what changed. I am trying to figure it out myself," Pierre-Paul said of the last five games. "I am playing better. I had to step up big time. I wouldn't say I wasn't stepping up the first couple of weeks. Injuries, man. I fought through 'em, I got healthy, and I have been on a roll. That's the game of football, you never know."

Pierre-Paul did miss a little practice time with a shoulder injury this season, but he played in all 16 games. He said in recent weeks that he wants to stay with the Giants, reiterated that Sunday, and sounded cautiously optimistic that the game wasn't his final one with Big Blue.

"I am pretty sure it is probably not," Pierre-Paul said. "Like I said Friday, I don't know what the future holds. But I went out there and played great today, my teammates played great, but we didn't play great enough to win this game."

Pierre-Paul may have been great, but some of his teammates certainly weren't. And now it's time to assess them all.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The moments following the end of their 6-10 season were not, the New York Giants decided, the time to talk in depth about the future. Asked whether he thought the team was headed in the right direction and whether he wanted to be back, coach Tom Coughlin said he wouldn't address the latter but, "I think it's headed in the right direction, yeah."

But is it? And more importantly, is that the right point of view for the Giants to take as they begin their offseason evaluations?

Coughlin's micro focus is one of his coaching strengths. His ability to lock in on one week's preparation at a time and block out external noise ensures that his teams are generally well-prepared for their games. And if your focus is on each individual game, you could certainly talk yourself into thinking that the Giants are moving in the right direction. The offense looked much better in December against weak opponents. Eli Manning had a fine statistical season. Odell Beckham Jr. would get anyone excited about the future.

"You look at the games we lost, and we really feel like we beat ourselves," running back Rashad Jennings said. "And when that's the case, you know you can fix it."

[+] EnlargeGiants Selfie
Alex Goodlett/Getty ImagesIf the Giants take a hard look at themselves this offseason, they'll see they still have a long way to go to get back to a championship level.
The problem is, that game-to-game micro focus can distract from the big picture. And for the Giants right now, the big picture is one of disappointment and mediocrity. Their regular-season records the past six years are 8-8, 10-6, 9-7, 9-7, 7-9 and 6-10. Even if you add in the 4-0 postseason record that followed the 2011 season, Coughlin is still just 53-47 over the past six years -- not a record that screams "headed in the right direction."

The case for keeping Coughlin isn't necessarily that much stronger than the case for moving on. Before settling their heads once more on the pillow of status quo, the people who run the Giants need to make an honest evaluation about where their franchise stands and how much work they have to do to return it to a championship level.

For example: Coughlin seemed to be delivering a message, postgame, in support of embattled defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, whose unit ranked near the bottom of the NFL. Unsolicited, Coughlin said, "Defensively, I think we had a good plan and that the plan was well-taught." And while he has the right to defend (and choose) his own staff, the takeaway was clearly that there's a disconnect between Coughlin's evaluation of Fewell and the public perception that Fewell is a goner. If the front office and ownership believe Fewell must be replaced, there could be a fight over that between them and Coughlin in the coming days.

Which, again, is fine. These decisions shouldn't come without careful, even painful consideration. Fewell's a good guy and a good coach, but the performance of the defense this year and in recent years is the kind that gets coordinators fired. An honest self-evaluation should lead the Giants to do on defense what they did last offseason on offense: Overhaul the whole thing. Refresh it. Bring in a new coordinator, a new scheme and rebuild it with new people in key positions. It may be too extreme to say the defense is "broken," as John Mara said the offense was a year ago, but at best it's stale. The Giants trade on the idea of stability in leadership roles, and in general that's a good and too-unusual way to operate. But it can't be a crutch that keeps you from making tough decisions when they need to be made.

The Giants should be looking at absolutely everything and everyone with a critical eye. It makes no sense that the job status of GM Jerry Reese, with his draft record, isn't even questioned. It shouldn't be automatic that Coughlin, who has won playoff games in only two of his 11 Giants seasons, returns just because the Giants don't want to be a team that fires coaches. And if performance dictates otherwise, it shouldn't be a slam-dunk that Fewell or special-teams coordinator Tom Quinn comes back just because Coughlin likes coaching with them.

Huge decisions loom about player personnel, of course, at the end of all of this. They can't get lulled to sleep by the fact that the offensive line was a bit better in December than it was in September. All offensive lines are. The Giants' line still needs better players. They need to overhaul the pass rush -- the Giants' sack total was inflated by a strong finish -- either around a re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul or around a viable playmaking replacement. They need to address safety and linebacker, look honestly at the run game and decide what the best thing is to do about Manning and his contract.

It's entirely possible that losing Sunday's game was a good thing for the Giants. Something about 6-10 feels a lot worse than 7-9, and if that reminds them of how much work they really have to do on this work-in-progress roster, then good. Because no matter how much they may want to convince themselves they're headed in the right direction, the Giants can't lose sight of how far they are away from where they want to be.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed and heard in the locker room following the New York Giants' season-ending 34-26 loss to the Eagles at MetLife Stadium:
  • Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't reject questions about his future, but he made it clear there were internal discussions to be had before he could deliver final answers. "I'm going to go about my business, just as I always do, unless I'm told otherwise," he said. Asked if he wanted his coaching staff to return intact, he said, "Yes, but I'm not going to say anything more about that or anything else today." Asked if he thought things were moving in the right direction and if he wanted to be back to oversee them in 2015, he said he would not answer the last part but added "I think it's headed in the right direction, yeah."
  • Coughlin said the reason rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. came out of the game late was that he was "vomiting and so on and so forth" on the sideline.
  • After a 12-catch, 185-yard, one-touchdown finale to his brilliant rookie season, Beckham said he was "looking forward to next year with a smile."
  • Jason Pierre-Paul, who is a free agent, said he would like to be back and that he would like Coughlin to return as well. "I look at Coach Coughlin as a dad," Pierre-Paul said. "You need someone like that on the team, otherwise it would be chaos." Pierre-Paul also endorsed defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, whose job status seems a bit more tenuous.
  • Owner John Mara and GM Jerry Reese declined comment after the game and likely will address the media Monday or Tuesday.

Coughlin, Fewell not focused on the future

December, 26, 2014
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- After their final practice of the season, several Giants were asked about their futures.

But coach Tom Coughlin and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell did not really entertain questions about what lies ahead for them after this Sunday's season finale.

When asked whether it ever enters his mind that this could be his last game coaching the Giants, Coughlin replied, “No, it doesn’t.”

Fewell echoed the same thought.

“I haven’t really thought about it,” Fewell said when asked whether he has thought about this perhaps being his last game with the team. “I wouldn’t even reflect on it.”
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The last game against Washington was a low point for New York Giants safety Stevie Brown. Brown was benched after getting burned for a long touchdown the week before against Houston, and was replaced as a starting safety by Quintin Demps in the Week 4 game at Washington. He would play just four of the team's 57 defensive snaps that night, and only about 20 percent of them for the next eight weeks.

"He was upset," Giants coach Tom Coughlin recalled Friday. "He was internalizing all of that, and he didn't mind discussing it with anybody that would bring it up. But he did it the right way, obviously."

Brown opened everyone's eyes with his eight-interception season in 2012 but missed all of 2013 after tearing his ACL in preseason. His road back from the injury was a tough one, and he was eager to resume his role as a starting safety for the Giants this season. But he played poorly in the first three games and says now that it was because he got too caught up in trying to make big plays happen instead of letting them happen in their time.

"When you're someone who's looked at as a playmaker and the plays aren't happening, it's frustrating," Brown said Friday. "That's when you start to force the issue."

Brown was looking for interceptions rather than handling the assignments the defense was giving him. Perry Fewell's defense is assignment-driven, and efforts to freelance have a tendency to hurt rather than help. Brown's mistakes could have been avoided if he'd simply done what he was supposed to do instead of trying to replicate his magical 2012 run.

"When I had mistakes, it was at times when I was trying to do more than I was asked to do," Brown said. "I can't be doing that."

Brown is back in the starting lineup now. He's played every snap on defense the last two weeks and is once again a starter. He'd love to start racking up interceptions again, because what defensive back wouldn't? But he's wiser for his September errors, his knee feels great, and he believes he can finish strong and carry a good feeling into the offseason.

"I told him our team needed him to play the way he is capable of playing," Coughlin said. "He got back on the field, and he has made a nice contribution. I'm hoping he can do more. He does have outstanding hands, and he does have the ability to maneuver in center field, so you'd like to think he can maybe get in position to have an interception."

Meantime, just staying in position will do for now.