Tom Coughlin spoke this past week about one of his college coaches, Ben Schwartzwalder, telling him the adage about throwing the football and how there are only three possible outcomes, two of them bad.
Needless to say, it’s been a long time since Tom Coughlin was in college. Football has changed.
“That’s not the case in this league,” he said.
The NFL is more of a pass-first league than ever these days, and while Coughlin has always had a mandate to establish the run in his offense, when he faces the Jets on Sunday, there is a chance he’ll abandon that tenet as others have this season . . . with success.
The best example is the Patriots, who ran the ball only nine times in their 30-23 win over the Jets on Oct. 25.
“The Patriots will plan according to what success, obviously, they think they can have,” Coughlin said, recalling a 2012 Patriots game against the 49ers in which they threw 65 times. “So they do what they believe they can do and they take good care of the ball while they’re doing it. However you can move the ball, that’s the way to go.”
Is that the case for the Giants, too?
“Well, I’d consider anything,” Coughlin said, “but I would rather play like the Jets play, to be honest with you. I’d rather have 29 runs, too. I think we’d be a much better team if we were balanced that way.”
The fact is, they are not. They are coming off a game in which they ran for 33 yards against the 30th-ranked run defense and now are facing a Jets team that is first in the NFL in run defense.
They’ll also be doing it with a banged-up offensive line. Justin Pugh (concussion) and Weston Richburg (ankle) were limited in Wednesday’s practice and starting right tackle Marshall Newhouse missed the workout with a sore back. The Giants also put starting guard Geoff Schwartz on injured reserve during the week.
Add to that some potential holes in the Jets’ secondary because of injuries — along with the absence of Darrelle Revis — and the Giants may be scheming for a chuck-fest.
While the 69-year-old coach seems willing to accept the new state of pass-happy NFL play-calling, the 34-year-old quarterback and 38-year-old play-caller are more old-school fuddy-duddies.
“I think you’ve got to get the run game going,” Eli Manning said. “You’ve got to try to get something. We’ve got to run the ball, we’ve got to get some positive runs. You can’t be stuck throwing it every down versus them.”
“We really don’t want to go down that road,” offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said of abandoning the run. “They’re good against the run. We have to get our run game going, we know that . . . We anticipate going into the game and being able to run the ball this week. It’s important to us. We need to play with some balance. We don’t want to be a throwing team.”
In the last four games, 64 percent of the Giants’ plays have been passes. Against Washington, they rushed for 24 yards on their first seven plays, 9 yards on their last 60 plays. In the second half, they ran for 1 yard.
“We thought we had it going early in the game last week,” McAdoo said. “It never really got back on track after that. We need to get the run game going.”
Running back Shane Vereen, who spent the previous four years with the Patriots, said he’s not sure how the Giants will play it this week.
“I don’t know what Sunday is going to show for us, but it worked for New England and it’s worked for a couple of teams,” he said of abandoning the run. “We’ll see.”
Vereen said that as a running back, he would not be disappointed if the Giants were to use that strategy.
“Regardless of your position, at the end of the day, you have to win the game,” he said. “Whatever you have to do to win, that’s the most important thing . . . Across the board, their defense is stacked. They’re very good. If we can find some type of advantage in one area, I’m sure we’ll do it.”