When the Giants interview Steve Spagnuolo for their head coach opening on Thursday, they likely will ask the defensive coordinator a simple question about the 2015 season: What happened?
The Giants finished last in the league in yards allowed, were within a few yards of being the worst pass defense in NFL history, gave up more yards than any team in franchise history, allowed 27.6 points per game which was third most in the league, and gave up more points in the final three games of the season than any three-game stretch in team history. Imagine if they didn’t have those 27 takeaways, which tied them for seventh best in the NFL!
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But while Spagnuolo will get his chance to explain all of that – interestingly enough, to the man who saddled him with many of the roster handicaps that led to all of it, general manager Jerry Reese – some of the players simply want to forget it.
Asked if he’ll look back on the season with a number of “what ifs” in the coming weeks and months, Prince Amukamara said yes, though not right away.
“That’s why you have to take some time away from the game and not really think about it too much or you’ll find yourself in a rubber room,” Amukamara said this week. “You’ll be going crazy. I think you take some time away from it and just try not to think about it too much.”
Ultimately, the flaws of the defense came down to one simple idea: the Giants could not finish. It was something veteran defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins railed about in training camp.
“We’ve got to learn, as a team, how to go into games with more of a killer instinct,” he said in August. “When we get hit in the mouth or go through adversity, we don’t respond as well as we should.”
And in January, Jenkins was saying essentially the same thing.
“Just learn how to finish, learn how to finish close games out,” he said this week. “We were in position in so many games this year, so learning how to finish and close games out at the end is the biggest thing.”
Linebacker Devon Kennard, hampered by injuries for most of the season, noted that on Sunday against the Eagles the defense actually did a decent job and got the ball back to the offense with 1:43 remaining.
“But we have to put ourselves in position like that throughout the whole season,” he said. “[Sunday] was one of the few times we did that on the defensive side of the ball. We need to find a way for that to be a consistent thing for us. If we had done that this year, we would have won at least a few more games.”
“We just didn’t finish,” Amukamara said. “There are a lot of games where our record could have easily been different in the last couple of minutes of the game.”
But instead of the playoffs, the Giants head into the offseason.