Sunday, January 20, 2008
Congratulations to the New York Giants
This blog is primarily devoted to baseball but I wanted to take a moment to congratulate the New York Giants for earning a trip to the Super Bowl with their 23-20 win over the Green Bay Packers. Hopefully the momentum they have built winning three road playoff games will carry them to another victory and a Super Bowl championship. I am not a New York Giants fan but their all out effort in their final regular season game against the New England Patriots earned my respect and made me fan.
I have always believed a team should give maximum effort to win the game every game. I understand the current conventional wisdom is to rest players for the playoffs but I have little respect for teams that take a game off to rest players for the playoffs. Tampa Bay's John Gruden took this approach heading into the Bucs' final game of the season. In an article in The Tampa Tribune Gruden's plan for Tampa Bay's final regular season game was to rest the starters, get the younger players experience, and begin preparation for the playoff game against the Giants. Losing the final regular season game was of no consequence to Gruden and the Buccaneers. Unfortunately, Gruden's approach has become an accepted practice in the NFL.
Heading into their December 29 game against the undefeated Patriots, the Giants were faced with a similar situation as Tampa Bay. The Giants had already clinched a playoff spot and knew they were going to play the next weekend in Tampa Bay. New York had nothing to gain by playing their starters and trying to win the game and the conventional wisdom was the Giants should do as the Buccaneers and rest their starters. Many experts believed the Giants would indeed take the game with New England off, rest their injured and banged up players, and being preparing for the playoffs.
But Giants' coach Tom Coughlin and many of the Giants key players did not approach the last game as a chance to rest. In an article at ESPN.com, Coughlin is quoted as saying, "Our objective is to win...that's what we work for, that's what we prepare for, that's what we practice for. And it will be no different this week." In the same article Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, who was suffering with the lingering effects of a sprained ankle, made it clear how he believed the Giants should approach the final game of the season, "No one in here is screaming 'Let's rest,' I can tell you that...guys want to play. It's the last regular-season game and its at home. Guys won't want to sit down...Coach Coughlin said we're going to play to win the game. Whatever we have to do to do that, that's what we're going to do. No matter what it is, we're going to do it." Unlike the Buccaneers and other NFL teams, the Giants were going to go all out in their game with the Patriots.
The December 29 Giants-Patriots game was one of the best professional football games I have ever seen. There is no question the Patriots are one of the greatest teams in the history of the sport and they were playing to finish the regular season undefeated. The Giants were playing with pride to win a football game. In the end, the Patriots won and finished the regular season undefeated but the Giants came out of game with confidence, pride, and momentum. As the Patriots game progressed, Giants quarterback Eli Manning seemed to grow and mature into a solid NFL signal caller. The benefits the Giants gained by playing the Patriots game to win have carried them to three road playoff victories and the opportunity to play the Patriots in the Super Bowl. I firmly believe if the Giants had rested their starters against the Patriots, they would not be playing in the Super Bowl. I wonder if John Gruden has second thoughts about his approach to his final game of the regular season after his team lost to the Giants in the opening round.
It would be a wonderful ending for the Giants if they could beat the New England Patriots and win the world championship. But regardless of how the Super Bowl turns out, Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants deserve the admiration of every sports fan for respecting the true spirit of sport and competition by giving everything in their final regular season. I am now a Giants fan because they understand something that many teams in all sports have forgotten, there is no such thing as a meaningless game.