UNDER SHERIDAN THE SKY IS THE LIMIT

When Steve Spagnuolo was hired in January 2007, after spending 8 seasons working as the linebackers coach for the rival Eagles, most Giants fans grumbled at the choice —  chalking it up as yet another reason why the embattled Tom Coughlin had to go. I still remember many of my fellow Giants cohorts arguing that the hiring of the then 47-year old Spagnuolo, who had no experience as a coordinator and was a football nomad before arriving in Philadelphia, was yet another sign that Coughlin was either too stubborn to hire someone who could challenge his authority or unable to lure a capable coach to New York because he and the Giants were perceived to be a sinking ship. And with a defense that ranked 25th in yards allowed the previous season and comprised of mostly aging or injured stars, what proven coordinator would risk their reputation to help a “jerk” like Tom Coughlin?

 Fast forward two years and the turmoil surrounding our formerly short tempered head coach has disappeared faster than a speeding bullet (into Plaxico Burress’s thigh). Many of the questions that plagued the 2006 Giants has been washed away after winning the Super Bowl in 2007 and the NFC East title last year. Who do we have to thank for the miraculous turnaround? Tom Coughlin? Jerry Reese? Tiki Barber?  All fine choices, but all fall short to the mythical coach “Spags” who was the architect and heart of a defense that stymied the best offense in NFL History.  Now, as the Giants enter the 2009 season with a loaded roster and Super Bowl expectations they face the challenge of achieving football glory without there faithful leader. And while the Giants have proven to be able to overcome the losses of star players they will now face the harsh reality of life without their star coach. Penciled in to replace him is first time coordinator and former linebackers coach Bill Sheridan who, only a decade ago, was coaching the defensive backs for perennial College Football bottom feeder Army.

 Sheridan 50, at first glance does not strike onlookers as someone poised to be the next great Giants defensive coordinator. In his first appearance with the press since being named to the position Sheridan spoke of how he wanted to “streamline” the defense and trim down the number of zone blitzes and multiple formations even after acknowledging that its complexity had been a major headache for opposing offenses leaving many fans miffed as to why he would even tamper with something isn’t broken. On top of that, his rather modest resume, which includes stops at Maine and Cincinnati before finally landing at Big Ten Powerhouse Michigan in 1998 at the age of 40 leaves a lot to be desired. Though his long and circuitous route from College Football obscurity to Giants Defensive coordinator is reminiscent of Spagnuolo’s meteoric rise, Sheridan doesn’t appear to have the same energy and inspirational ability that many attributed to Spagnuolo’s success. In fact, Giants fans can forget about any fiery in game pep talks or passionate sideline prayers that defined the live and let die Spagnuolo because Sheridan has already announced that he will be calling the game from the sky box.

 However, to say that Sheridan won’t or can’t be as successful as Spagnuolo because he is not as fiery or won’t be on the sidelines encouraging the defensive players is both unfair and inaccurate. The fact is, Spagnuolo wouldn’t have been successful if he didn’t have a great scheme or hadn’t meticulously prepared for his opponents. It wouldn’t matter how animated he was on the sidelines if what he was preaching didn’t have truth to it. One point that Sheridan hit on repeatedly to Tom Coughlin during his interview and with the media was that to be successful as a coordinator you need to be competent and have great knowledge of the schemes, he noted that players today are too smart and will pick up on any weaknesses that appear in each week’s game plan.

 There are many reasons to have high hopes for Sheridan. First of all, since he inherits a roster that already knows and believes in the system that Spagnuolo implemented he will likely be able to lessen or even dodge the growing pains that usually accompany most first time coordinators. He also has an awful lot of talent to work with. The Giants added rising stars Chris Canty and Michael Boley in Free agency and are expecting a healthy Osi Umenyiora to return from a meniscus tear he suffered last summer. On top of that, both players and coaches have raved about how knowledgeable and prepared Sheridan is. Linebacker Danny Clark calls him “one of the most intelligent football minds (he’s) ever been around” and  Fred Robbins believes that Sheridan “should have no problems adjusting to his new role as defensive coordinator.“

 While Sheridan’s decision to call games from the sky box may give Giants fans chills from the days of Tim Lewis and his placid, intellectual demeanor won’t remind many of  the gritty John Fox or the energetic Spagnuolo, Sheridan appears to have a strong mind with a plan about how he wants to conduct thid defense and if Bill Belicheck has taught us anything, you don’t need to be Mr. Personality to win games.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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