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“Almost Embarrassing”

A candid but contrite Carl Banks gives his take on the defense’s Chernobyl meltdown this past Sunday night along with a few other thoughts. 

Carl’s opening statement: “To be honest with you it’s almost embarrassing.” People have asked Carl “did we overrate the talent on this defense?”  His response is that “you can ask any good DC in football’ and if “you have 5 to 6 good players you are ahead of the game” which apparently he believes they have.  (Banks said explicitly on Sunday night in the postgame that the Giants had roughly 7.)  Right now there are “some things blatantly wrong with what’s going on” and it appears that Sheridan’s game plan was “completely wrong with the way they approached this game.”  He feels the “thing that is disappointing is that you prepare on Monday” and “you come into the week knowing exactly what the Philadelphia Eagles like to do” as “they are one of the top teams in the league at passes of over 30 yards or more  but yet the middle of the field is always open.”  The Eagles “are a big play team, they like to attack you down the field.”  Your game plan should revolve around stopping them “on first down as they are tops in the league with 6.6 yards per play on first down,  you can’t allow big plays in the passing game,  got to make tackles in space” and most importantly “you gotta’ be able to defend the middle of the field.”  One would use the word frustrated rather than deflating when Carl states “there is nothing more deflating than to watch a defense just give up play after play after play.”  The offense was put in a tough position as “every time the offense went on the field it was different deficit.” Carl says “I scratch my head.. you guys can see some of the obvious but the play where McNabb overthrew Reggie Brown and you have a safety covering him.. you just can’t do that.”  We all know that they are “already challenged at the safety position” and “you want to minimize their exposure.”

On DeSean Jackson’s 60 yard bomb “the first breakdown came when he gets a free release off the line of scrimmage.. somebody should be at the line of scrimmage jamming his little butt” but “no one did that all day.”  The second aspect was that “there are 2 safeties on the field.. one was on one side of the field and the other side of the field was wide open” which “look(ed) to be that there had to be a breakdown somewhere or just a bad configuration on the defense.”   Apparently, Michael Johnson was locked in on back-up tight end Alex Smith and blew his assignment. 

Banks states “collectively you put the blame on the defense on both the coaches and the players” but “fundamentally when you look at some of the defensive configurations you just wonder how they found themselves playing defense with no one in the middle of the field” and furthermore he states “the best laid defensive game plans are the ones that everybody can execute.”  Okay, so shouldn’t we put the brunt of the blame on the coaching? Banks states that “when you are challenged at safety position” the best thing to do “is to keep things in front of them like they did against Dallas.” 

On offense Banks postulates that the “offense was in a rhythm” and gives “credit as they stayed with their game plan and did not hit the panic button” after being down a quick 14 points.  In general he believes that “there are a lot of positives about this offense, more positives than negatives” but “gotta have a defense that gives you a good chance to win.”  He defends Manningham a little as those end zone passes by Manning were leading Manningham “to the sideline versus to the back of the pilon.”  The running game has improved in his opinion as “they were running vertical not bouncing around.. that’s what you have to do against the Eagles, as they love to shoot gaps.”  He hinted that they were “back to when they were the #1 run team in football.”

In response to a question posed about the 5-0 start and the difference since, he made some very cogent statements.  We all know they played some real cream puffs and “when you play inferior talent you tend to gloss over the mistakes that come back to bite you when you play better talent.” Their “attention to detail just never got it under control.”  It is evident that we have witnessed the fact that when “you play against better talent they tend to exploit the things you gloss over in victory.”  You overcome these weaknesses by doing “your homework even in victory because the things that you don’t do well are normally the things that teams try to exploit.“  One caller how Sheridan’s in-game adjustment is absolutely horrible and wondered why he doesn’t dial up more blitzes.  Carl’s response was “there’s a point that can be made there but.. if you can’t cover you shouldn’t be blitzing.”  Banks has “had the opportunity to visit with Sheridan a few times” and Banks feels that “he doesn’t appear to me as a guy who is so arrogant that he won’t make adjustments and I have seen some of those coaches who are.”  
Banks’ most compelling statement and analysis relates to what adjustments need to be made when things are not going well: “Sometimes you can have the best game plan but if it is not working you have to get everyone on the same page and if you have to simplify everything and concede certain plays, as long as you are not giving up big plays then that’s an effective defense. You’ve got talent up front and they’re not getting there and your handicapped at the safety position and it’s been a revolving door all day….. so you got Aaron Ross back there who is a natural cornerback who you put back there for his range” and so “you don’t create situations where these guys are out of position.  I have to be honest with you, you just got to keep stripping it down, stripping it down until you’ve got something that everybody can play.”

Overall, a very good autopsy report by Banks.  He kept saying that the disastrous defensive unit is a “collective” issue but clearly hinted that the brunt of the issues lay with the coaching and schemes.  Last week we lauded Sheridan for instilling youth and speed in his game plan to overcome the weaknesses at safety or the “middle of the field.”  Well apparently he suffered amnesia and lost sight of what the defense accomplished versus Dallas.  The fact that his players have suffered communication lapses, blown assignments, and dropping-the-pass-rusher-into-coverage who ends up looking like a child lost in a shopping mall is all on the coordinator.  Just because he understands and has the confidence that his game plan is bulletproof does not constitute success per Banks.  “The best laid defensive game plans are the ones that everybody can execute.”  Well, they aren’t being executed, so what does that say about you Mr. Sheridan?  What about when “you’re handicapped at the safety position” and so obviously “you don’t create situations where these guys are out of positions” and exposed?!  Great coaches and leaders understand their player’s weaknesses and strengths and will incorporate plays to maximize the utilization of their strengths while masking their weaknesses.  Have we not addressed this issue on this humble blog?

However, let’s go back to Banks point about “gloss(ing) over mistakes in victory” and how this can be attributed to the coaches but also to the severe void of leadership on this team.  Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Phil Simms and most recently Strahan were all great leaders “who tell it like it is.”  In a recent interview with Mike Freeman on CBSSports.com Strahan added that the Giants need someone “to get in guys’ faces and push them.”  Of course “that’s not an easy job” as “It’s easy to just sit back and watch and say nothing.”   Currently “that’s what the Giants players [on defense] are doing” as “no one is taking charge” and “they’re still searching for someone to do that.”   As Freeman states, the bottom line is that “the Giants defenders are too nice, too complacent and too comfortable.”  Do you think Taylor, Carson or Strahan would be satisfied by victories after Dallas drops 31 points on you in the middle of that illusory 5 game winning streak?

Finally, the fear is that the defense’s ineptitude will overshadow the bigger problem that starts at the top of the coaching tree.  The “positives” that came out of this recent game will likely garner evidence to support TC from ownership while TC will keep the status quo at Offense and Special Teams but will overhaul the Defensive coaching unit.  The OC is the extreme example of a coach who hasn’t a clue about maximizing his player’s strengths while masking his weaknesses.  We cannot afford to waste time as the inconsistency of this team over TC’s tenure is evidence enough.