At 5-9 and completely out of the playoff picture, the New York Giants and head coach Tom Coughlin have a dilemma on their hands. Do they continue to play their starters, risking injury simply for the sake of pride, or let younger players get meaningful reps that will help in the evaluation process as the team shifts focus to the 2014 season? Victor Cruz is battling both a concussion and a lingering knee problem; in light of this, there should be no hesitation to shut him down for the rest of the season.
Coughlin is an old school coach. Very rarely do you see him making progressive decisions with his players. He’s reluctant to play even the most talented of young players, living in constant fear of the mental mistakes they could make. He has also rarely sat his players towards the end of seasons, believing it’s always in the team’s best interest to play the players who give the team the best chance to win.
He did this last year, in 2009 and even in 2007 when the Giants had locked up a playoff spot. The only time he has rested his starters was in 2008, when the Giants locked up the No. 1 overall seed with a week 16 win over the Carolina Panthers. It took being the best team in the conference for Coughlin to actually rest his starters.
On the subject of risking injury he seems to not pay it any mind, considering it was also his decision to play Andre Brown late in a meaningless preseason game, a decision that cost him Brown for the first eight weeks of the season. Who knows where this Giants team is with a healthy Brown? The bottom line here is Coughlin doesn’t seem the type of coach to make players “healthy scratches,” and will probably play any healthy starter for the rest of this season.
But with Cruz he should take no chances. Concussions and knee injuries are two of the most devastating injuries in terms of ending careers. As it happens, Corey Webster hit season-ending IR today and the Giants responded by signing WR Julian Talley off their practice squad. Seems to indicate they are worried about Cruz’s health for this Sunday’s matchup with the playoff-contending Lions.
If Cruz is unhealthy it could be a blessing in disguise, as Coughlin’s decision making would be taken out of the process completely. If he ends up playing Cruz, risks his long term health for nothing and Cruz suffers a long term injury, it could be a decision that costs him his job.