|Justin Tuck should be back with Giants next year. (AP photo)|
But nobody is going to look back on this season with fond memories. It was easily one of the worst starts in franchise history and was impossible to come back from. The end result was a Giants team that has now missed the postseason in four of the past five seasons. While the Giants ended the year on a positive note, beating the Redskins, it sure came at a cost with countless injuries to key players.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning suffered a high ankle sprain late in the first half and didn't return. Will Beatty broke his leg in the third quarter, a horrible end to a horrible season. Hakeem Nicks left the game in the second quarter with an injured ankle, likely ending his tenure with the team. Rueben Randle and James Brewer were knocked out of the game early on as well.
It was obviously a victory of attrition Sunday, with a whole lot of help from a completely dysfunctional and flat-out terrible Redskins team. Reports have the Redskins firing coach Mike Shanahan as soon as tomorrow morning. Things could always be worse, Giants fans.
This season as a whole was a battle of attrition for the Giants, with several players trying to survive and play their way into new deals and roles next season. Wide receiver Jernel Jernigan, defensive end Justin Tuck and linebacker Jon Beason played their way into that conversation. Nicks and Andre Brown? Well, they both likely played their way out of town, with Nicks a near lock to do that.
Jernigan could step into a bigger role next season. He had a team-high six catches for 90 yards and a touchdown against Washington. He added a 49-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter, giving the Giants an insurmountable 17-6 lead. Jernigan's emergence, along with the play of Randle this season, makes Nicks completely expendable this offseason. With Victor Cruz back and Randle and Jernigan stepping up, Manning will have plenty of targets at wide receiver next season.
On defense, Tuck made the biggest statement over the second half of the season and continued it against the Redskins in the finale. Tuck had two sacks against Washington to bring his season total to 11, with six coming in two games against the Redskins alone. The career Giant wants to return, but general manager Jerry Reese will have to decide whether it makes sense to bring Tuck back.
"It's out of my hands," Tuck said. "I think I did the best I could do warrant being back."
Tuck shouldn't cost that much, especially considering he wants to play in New York. If that's the case, there should be no reason not to bring him back.
Beason could be a different story. The linebacker completely changed the vibe around the Giants defense when he was acquired from the Panthers in a mid-season trade. The Giants went 7-4 when Beason took over a big role on defense, which can't be coincidental. He had 93 tackles in his 12 total games.
If it makes sense financially, Beason should get a new contract with the Giants. It would be extremely difficult to get rid of a player who had such a gigantic effect on the entire defense. Beason says he would love to play for the Giants next season, but he's not going to come cheap.
On the opposite side, Nicks is as good as gone. He had a terrible season heading into free agency, being held without a touchdown. Nicks likely will get a very good deal from someone, but it won't be the Giants.
Brown is a tougher choice, as he's a free agent as well. He had a couple of big games after returning from a broken leg in the preseason, but overall he wasn't feature back material. He had 13 rushes for 11 yards with a lost fumble against Washington Sunday. With David Wilson hopefully returning next year, Brown could be on his way out.
The Giants are in better position than most teams that will miss the postseason this year. There is no void at quarterback. The head coach isn't on the hot seat, at least not yet. The foundation is there for what easily could be a playoff team next season with some tweaks across the roster, especially on the offensive line.
Now, the decision-making process begins.