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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Glauber: Coughlin should replace overmatched Sheridan

Philadelphia Eagles' DeSean Jackson grabs a long pass

Philadelphia Eagles' DeSean Jackson grabs a long pass over New York Giants Corey Webster during the first quarter. (Dec. 13, 2009) Credit: MCT Photo

Giants fans looking to make Bill Sheridan the scapegoat for the team's mounting problems on defense will be disappointed by coach Tom Coughlin's one-word answer Monday.

When asked if he will stick with his embattled defensive coordinator for the remainder of the season, Coughlin replied, "Yes."

But the continuing problems on defense, especially in the wake of Sunday night's meltdown in the 45-38 loss to the visiting Eagles, should at least prompt Coughlin to consider benching his rookie play-caller.

With the Giants set to face the Redskins Monday night in yet another critical NFC East game, Coughlin ought to consider something similar to what he did before another late-season Redskins game three years ago.

Remember in 2006, when Coughlin was so exasperated with his sputtering offense that he sacked offensive coordinator John Hufnagel and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Kevin Gilbride? The Giants beat the Redskins to reach the playoffs. A year later, Gilbride's offense was a major factor in the team's run to a Super Bowl title.

With the defense continuing to sputter and Sheridan showing an inability to live up to the legacy left by Steve Spagnuolo, it is time for Coughlin to seriously consider a similar move.

But is there really an alternative like the Hufnagel-Gilbride situation? Well, if I told you the Giants have an assistant coach on staff who has won a Super Bowl as a defensive coordinator, would you be interested?

That coach is Peter Giunta, the former Rams defensive coordinator under Dick Vermeil when St. Louis won Super Bowl XXXIV after the 1999 season.

Giunta currently is assigned to coach the Giants' cornerbacks. On his watch, Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, Kevin Dockery and Terrell Thomas have developed into fine defenders.

Giunta was a finalist for the defensive coordinator job after Spagnuolo left, but Coughlin chose Sheridan. That decision is proving costly, with Sheridan appearing overmatched in far too many games.

The Giants have one of the NFL's worst defenses. They're allowing an average of 25.4 points per game, 28th in the league. The only teams worse? The Chiefs, Bucs, Rams and Lions, teams with a total of seven wins.

The defense was particularly galling against the Eagles. With the Giants ahead 31-30 in the third quarter, the Eagles took the lead when Donovan McNabb hit DeSean Jackson on a 60-yard touchdown pass.

The play was indicative of the Giants' problems. Sheridan called for two-deep zone coverage, an alignment designed not to allow deep passing plays by assigning two safeties in deep pass coverage. But one of those safeties, Michael Johnson, bit on a pump fake by McNabb and moved up in the coverage. Jackson, who ran a deep crossing route from right to left, got behind Johnson to make the catch.

"It's something you don't expect to happen," Coughlin said.

Another defensive transgression: When Osi Umenyiora sacked McNabb in the second quarter, the ball flew out of McNabb's hands and was dropped by Michael Boley. The play was ruled a fumble but the Giants didn't pounce on the ball, thinking it was a dropped interception. Even if you think it's an incompletion, how do you not pick up the ball, just in case?

Coughlin asked Sheridan's players that very question in a team meeting Monday. No one had an answer.

For now, Coughlin stands by his coach. "I let him know my support for him, and I also let him know that it has to be better," he said. " . . . The inconsistency part of it is disturbing.''

It's disturbing to the point that Coughlin needs to take action. With Sheridan almost certain to be gone after the season, Coughlin ought to think back to what he did with his offense in 2006 and apply the same thinking to his defense in 2009. And he ought to do it before it's too late.

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