Having survived a kind of semi-scare from the worst team in the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks now turn their attention to the New York Giants, the second-worst NFL team that plays its home games in New Jersey.
The Giants are yet another example of the league’s merciless tendency to turn champs into chumps. On Feb. 5, 2012, as head coach Tom Coughlin was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in four seasons — only Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs and Bill Belichick have won more Super Bowls — he appeared to be a Hall-of-Fame candidate.
This would be the same Tom Coughlin who couldn’t put down a challenge flag in time to dispute an obvious incompletion Monday night. Coughlin’s bumbling attempt to pull the flag out of his sock found the Giants’ defense focused on the sideline instead of Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck, who hurried up to take the snap before throwing the first of four touchdown passes.
The 40-24 defeat left the Giants at 3-5 and the 68-year-old Coughlin on the hot seat, a status he shares with his MetLife Stadium counterpart, Jets coach Rex Ryan. The Jets are 1-8 and would seem more inclined to make a coaching change before the Giants do, but at least Ryan, for all his social-media pratfalls, hasn’t been seen flummoxed by a sock on national television.
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In any case, it’s autumn in New York, a season better romanticized by the glittering crowds and shimmering clouds Ella and Frank used to sing about than the 14 games New York’s NFL teams have combined to lose.
The struggles of the Giants and Jets correspond with those of the Yankees and Mets. None of the four qualified for the playoffs in 2013, and barring a Giants’ comeback that would border on insane, 2014 is looming as another washout.
How often does New York endure two consecutive seasons without any of its football or baseball teams reaching the playoffs?
Last time it happened was in 1979-80, when Derek Jeter was in preschool and Lawrence Taylor was in college. Since then, 11 world-championship teams have paraded through the “canyons of steel” streets of Manhattan. (Five with the Yankees, four with the Giants, one with the Mets, and another with the NHL’s Rangers, who won the Stanley Cup in 1994.)
You’d think such sustained success would make it easy to root against anybody affiliated with a New York franchise, and I must admit to a past participation in the ill will. But then I enjoyed nine days in New York for Super Bowl XLVIII. More to the point, I enjoyed nine nights there.
My departing flight following the Seahawks’ victory got delayed 24 hours because of a blizzard. Let it snow, I said to myself. There’s worse places to be stranded than New York, and few better.
In addition to distinguishing itself as a terrific Super Bowl host — the only snafu involved an overwhelmed rail-transit system on game day — New York has opened itself up as a destination for pro athletes who aren’t fondly remembered in Seattle.
Alex Rodriguez, for instance. Even though the former Mariners shortstop lost his capability to make news on the baseball field years ago, he’s still making news. (According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, it was learned Tuesday, Rodriguez paid his cousin nearly $1-million to keep a vow of silence over A-Rod’s illegal PED use.)
Rodriguez, suspended for the 2014 season, is 39. His career has reached the checkmate phase: No moves left, nowhere to go, finished.
And the Yankees, bless ‘em, still are on the hook to pay him $61-million through 2017.
The Jets, meanwhile, are thrilled about how they were able to acquire Percy Harvin from the Seahawks for a potentially inconsequential third-day draft pick. Harvin caught 11 passes for 129 yards last Sunday, and returned two kickoffs for 88 yards, and picked up another eight yards on a handoff.
Envisioned as the dynamo who’d provide the Seahawks offense with a dimension sure to give defensive coordinators headaches, Harvin turned out to be more of a headache for his own coaches.
But he’s been welcomed in New York, where his explosive versatility is seen as best reason — and maybe the only reason — to pay attention to what’s shaping up as the most disappointing season in Jets’ history.
As for the Giants? My scouting report on them is simple:
If Hawks quarterback Russell Wilson completes a pass that appears vulnerable to replay review, Wilson needs to execute a quick snap. No huddle, no communication with the sideline.
Just do it, while the opposing coach gropes for the flag stuck in his sock.
I love New York.