The start of something
Giants win has free agents, teams dreaming big
Posted: Wednesday February 6, 2008 11:29AM; Updated: Thursday February 7, 2008 3:47PM
For most players, the Super Bowl represents the culmination of one season and a reminder that they still have six or seven more weeks of relaxation before off-season conditioning for the next one begins. They relish this free time, which is so hard to find come April and especially during the seven-days-a-week job that the NFL becomes in late July.
This year, however, they'll enter the break motivated by the Super Bowl stunner and suddenly more interested in New York as a possible playing destination. Those are just a few of the things I Iearned while talking to players on the heels of New York's 17-14 victory over the Patriots.
The Giants are more attractive to free agents
Though no active players will make the statement publicly, for obvious reasons, many around the league have gone out of their way to avoid playing for Giants coach Tom Coughlin because of his harsh reputation. The running joke was that the only way a player would go to New York would be if the Giants were willing to compensate them for the rigidity and physical pounding that Coughlin is so well known. The Giants, in effect, had to outbid teams and overpay at times in order to bring free agents in to the fold.
With this Super Bowl win and the stereotype about Coughlin changing as word spreads that he has altered his style and lightened up a little bit, New York is looking a whole lot better as a possible landing place.
"I really believe he mellowed after watching some of those press conferences," said tight end Ryan Neufeld, who played for Coughlin in Jacksonville in 2000. "It seems like he is taking the time to enjoy it a little bit more. You need to try and foster a positive atmosphere, which we did not have in Jacksonville. The season is so long and grueling that it is hard to go to work if everyone has a negative attitude. It looks like it stayed positive there this year."
The line matters
Every NFL team has its linemen huddle up during pre-game warm-ups in an attempt to set the tone for the physical outing about to take place. Almost without fail, a veteran leader will get in the middle of the huddle, gaze intently into the eyes of his brethren and utter the words that every lineman believes intently: "We all know that games are won and lost up front. We dominate these guys physically, we win!"
I always thought and hoped that was true during my years in the NFL, yet was burned too many times by a superior effort by the opposing quarterback or an inferior performance by mine. Super Bowl XLII showed everyone that in a league dominated by playmakers at the skill positions, line play is as important as ever.