Giants could look a lot different next season
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This could be it.
Unless the Giants make the playoffs, Friday will be their last practice of the season. And for many, given the nature of the business and the disappointment that missing the postseason would bring, it could very well be their final workout with the team. Changes will be made this offseason, and some Giants already are looking around and wondering.
"There's going to be a lot of guys that are gone next year and, you just never know, you never know who's going to be going," Ahmad Bradshaw said. "It could be me. It could be anybody. You've just got to praise the time that you've got with the guys that are here."
Such is the uncertainly of the future, but there also is some uncertainty about the immediate past. As the Giants try to reconcile their 2012 season -- a year in which they tried to build a bridge from a Super Bowl championship to this season but now appear unable to complete the span -- they still are groping for answers.
Even Tom Coughlin hasn't nailed down a reason why the team has oscillated so much during the year and fallen so far in the last month. They won six of their first eight before losing five of their last seven. They had a 21/2-game lead in the NFC East after nine weeks. Now they are a game out and clinging to the miniscule chance of a wild card.
"We need some real soul- searching," Coughlin said, "not only by me but by the people in that locker room."
Coughlin did give a hint about one of his theories when he pointed out that while the offense and defense have floundered in the last two weeks, he's been happy with the play of the special teams.
"How do you explain special teams playing as well as they played and the other two phases as poorly?" Coughlin asked. "That's a very good question . . . Those are normally the guys that are fighting for a job. To hang on."
In other words, perhaps some of the veterans have gotten too content and comfortable. Perhaps that "soul-searching" Coughlin referenced will take place this offseason in the form of high-priced veterans being ushered out while those special-teams players inherit larger roles.
Coughlin distanced himself from that correlation, but it's an easy one to make, especially for a group of players defending a title and, for many of them, two in five seasons.
"It's tough," Chris Canty said. "You have to guard against complacency, you have to continue to do the things that allow you to ascend and improve . . . Sometimes what might be good enough one year, or one game, is not going to be good enough."
No team has won back-to-back Super Bowls since the Patriots after the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Since then, no defending champion has even won a playoff game. The Giants could be the third team in the last seven years to win a championship but fail to make the postseason the following season. The Steelers have done that after each of their two most recent titles.
"I just think winning in this league is difficult," Mathias Kiwanuka said. "Every week you go out there and teams will vary what they do one way or another. Winning a championship in general is a very difficult thing. We're not thinking about repeating, we're thinking about this group right here, trying to make a run to get us a ring."
And unless they can figure out a way to do that, "this group right here" might not be here for long.