'09 Giants an all-time flop

May, 18, 2011
5/18/11
2:24
PM ET
We're all familiar with disappointments. The job you didn't get even though you aced the interview. The double-bogey on 18 when you needed a par to break 80. The second season of "True Blood." Disappointments are sad facts of life, and sports fans know this as well as anyone.

With this in mind, Football Outsiders has ranked its 10 most disappointing NFL teams Insider of all time. Only one NFC East team made the list, and we don't have to think back too far to remember it.

[+] EnlargeGiants fans
Tony Kurdzuk//The Star-Ledger via US PresswireComing off a 12-4 season in 2008, Giants fans expected a lot more than they got from the underachieving 2009 team.
The 2009 Giants authored an all-time collapse, starting the season 5-0 and losing 8 of their final 11 games while averaging more than 30 points allowed. As FO's Sean McCormick writes in his post, those Giants "finished the season by allowing 41 and 44 points in their last two games, prompting owner John Mara to issue a public apology for the team's effort."

What I remember is that it was worse than it even looked. The 5-0 start was a mirage. It included four wins against lousy teams and the one in the first-ever game at Cowboys Stadium in which Dallas ran for 251 yards but lost by two points thanks to turnovers. The game that made them 5-0 was against a Raider team that was less competitive than the East Dillon Lions were on the night when Coach Eric Taylor made them forfeit their inaugural season opener.

So what the Saints did in Week 6 (and what the Eagles did twice, and what the Broncos did, and what the Panthers and Vikings did in those final two games) was more in line with what that year's Giants were all about. They couldn't stop anybody. They hated defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan (who would be fired after just one year on the job), and by the second half of the season they weren't even trying. The games they won in the second half were (a) a home game against the Falcons in which neither team could stop the other and the overtime coin toss effectively decided the outcome, (b) a Dallas game they won on hate and spite because they were still mad at Flozell Adams for the first matchup and (c) a memorable Monday nighter in Washington in which the Redskins set a new standard for quitting. The 2009 Giants stunk, and that 5-0 start was just camouflage.

Having witnessed this up close, I was expecting more of the same when the 2010 Giants started to go bad. But while the '10 team did lose two of its final three games, there were key differences. Sure, they fell apart in the second half against Michael Vick and the Eagles. And they got thumped a week later by a Green Bay team that was clearly putting together something big. But you never saw the lack of heart and effort that defined the second half of that 2009 year. They won that Week 17 game against Washington that they hoped would get them into the playoffs. They rallied around Tom Coughlin and cheered in the postgame locker room when he announced where the world could plant one.

There are still championship players on the Giants' roster, and had they followed up the collapse of 2009 with another in 2010, they ran the risk of being labeled a bunch off quitters. Instead, they fought. The 2010 failure can be chalked up to the brilliance of Vick and the jelling of the Packers as much as any New York failure. And fortunately for the sake of Coughlin and those Super Bowl veterans, that 2009 season now stands on its own as one of the NFL's all-time disappointing seasons.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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