Fresh Rushing Game Just One Reason New York Giants Are ’13 Super Bowl Contenders

Once Dez Bryant’s knuckles were ruled out of bounds on this play October 28th, the New York Giants sat comfortably atop the NFC East at 6-2, 2.5 games ahead of the Eagles and Cowboys, primed for another playoff appearance. Coming off a Super Bowl championship, it was logical to feel confident the experienced Eli Manning could lead his team through a serious championship push for the second straight year.

Ultimately, it seemed the Giants grew complacent with their game and let their guard down to ultimately miss the playoffs entirely, an utter disappointment for a franchise and fan base expecting more.

But 2013 will be different for Eli & Co. The brightest light at the end of 2012’s depressive tunnel was a renaissance of New York’s running game, one with energy we haven’t seen since Tiki Barber’s pre-Eli days. Journeyman-turned puzzle piece Andre Brown showed fans his brute force capabilities and rookie David Wilson showed us the explosive step Ahmad Bradshaw never offered. Couple this with New York’s weaker schedule and the fresh pressure to avoid a second straight “losing” season, the New York Giants will contend for the Super Bowl in 2013.

An athletic neophyte, Wilson’s agility and 4.40 40-yard dash (video) offer a glimmer of hope Big Blue can represent a game-changing back comparable to a Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, or even Robert Griffin III (According to the New York Times, Wilson has run the 40 in 4.29 seconds). While a long shot, there’s finally enough quickness to evoke a glimmer of hope.

In the last five games of the regular season, Brown recorded five touchdowns on only 35 carries, many in Brandon Jacobs-like short yardage situations. While I couldn’t find the numbers, I don’t remember Brown rushing for a loss many times in those games.

If there’s chemistry, this duo has the potential to propel the Giants to the other end of the rushing spectrum. Both of their ’12 performances qualify for guaranteed rushes in ’13, but this “friendly” competition will add fuel to their respective fires. That extra drive should ultimately bring out the best in one, if not both of the Giants’ running backs.

In its best-case scenario, the Giants’ new-found rushing game will force defenses to allocate more attention on the ground, therefore leading to more open receivers and an even more successful passing game.

*How the Giants won last year’s Super Bowl with the league’s worst rushing numbers is a mystery I will never solve. And while given his fair share of kudos, I feel Eli’s 2011-12 accomplishment is still underrated given that statistic.*

The only other silver-lining of New York’s underachieving season is the motivation it offers for the upcoming campaign. Before this year’s Baltimore Ravens, no team since the 2006 Steelers won a Super Bowl the year after winning a playoff game. While winning is always the ultimate goal, I theorize an underachieving season finale is heavier motivation to win than the fire to repeat. Look at the 2012 Miami Heat.

But while arguments supporting New York’s new rushing game and theories of losing seasons are nice, they’re subjective. Plus, coming into 2012 Wilson and Brown combined for four career rushes. How will they tweak their game to counter defenses’ adjustments? Brown will enter 2013 off a broken fibula and Casper the Friendly Ghost could have blocked better than Wilson. But New York’s 2013 strength of schedule is the most tangible reason the Giants will at least make the playoffs. The scheduling committee gave the Super Bowl champion Giants games against all winners  of the ’11 NFC conferences – Packers, Saints, and 49ers. This year, New York will face a much weaker schedule, one that includes the dreadful AFC West. Take out the 13-3 Broncos and that conference boasted a 13-35 overall record this year (2012 standings).

With fresh assets at hand in 2013, a favorable schedule and a new-found motivation to elude the taste of failure, it will be a season Giants fans should look forward to. I correctly predicted the Giants would not make the playoffs in 2012, but am predicting a serious playoff representation in 2013.

Plus, the Giants have home-field advantage in this year’s Super Bowl whether they play or not. That cherry-on-top motivation may put them over the hump should they hit their stride come December.

How the Media Literally Killed Joe Paterno

Back in November, I posted my “Tiger Woods write-up” that argued Tiger Woods’ failure to win another tournament would be the saddest story in sports history. Right on cue, Woods won the Chevron World Challenge two weeks later.

Even if Tiger Woods never had another top 20 finish, his story would forever be dwarfed by Joe Paterno’s.

Remember the bully in your elementary school who picked on the weakest kid to raise his/her self esteem? Today’s media is the adult version. “Let’s pick on the most popular name of the group at fault so we can get the most attention to our media outlet.”

With that said, here’s my opinion of the people who are most responsible for the Jerry Sandusky scandal, from top to bottom:

Jerry Sandusky……………………………………………………Accused of child misconduct
Tim Curley & Gary Schultz…………………………………….I’ll mention these men later
Joe Paterno…………..Told administrators, not police, what McQueary said he saw Mike McQueary………………..Witnessed Sandusky in the shower with a young boy

This is the order of people I thought got the most attention on ESPN and other news programs. If you disagree, let me know in the comments:

Joe Paterno
Jerry Sandusky
Mike McQueary
Tim Curley and Gary Schultz

You may not know who Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are – and that’s not your fault, because they received barely any attention. The former Penn State athletic director and former university vice president, respectively, were legally responsible for informing police about the situation Joe Paterno had told them. They did not. Paterno’s legal responsibility was to inform university administrators, which he did.

I want to clarify I am not pardoning Joe Paterno of fault. I’m not arguing he shouldn’t have gone to police instead of solely his direct contact. However, he is one of two people (Mike McQueary) of the five listed above who legally did what he was supposed to do.

After the scandal, I believe ESPN and other media outlets focused a disproportionate amount of negative attention on the Penn State head coach because of his iconic reputation, which gave their stories more “juice.”

This article by ESPN’s Jemele Hill summarizes what ESPN drove into overkill – that Joe Paterno should have gone to police, not just university administrators. The argument is sound, but received far too much attention compared to the attention on the fact Jerry Sandusky should not “sodomize a ten-year-old boy.”

But our 24/7 media frenzy attacked the head coach for not informing police, and many people were calling for Paterno’s firing. The sudden negative attention put Penn State in an awkward position, and only four days later made the loud decision to let go of the man who started as an assistant coach 61 years earlier.

When the national majority was calling for the firing of coach Paterno, I think this was Penn State’s thought process:

“The media says the nation wants him fired. Our reputation is in serious danger. If we want to preserve our reputation, it’s in our best interest to give the nation what they want, and as quickly as possible.”

We live in a country so scared to be politically incorrect, especially on a large-scale. The politically correct thing to do in this situation was fire Joe Paterno. It didn’t matter he was the longest tenured major college football coach in the nation nor he devoted almost three-quarters of his life to the program.

On November 9th, Joe Paterno was fired via a phone call from Steve Garban, chairman of the Penn State Board of Trustees. Less than two weeks later, he was admitted to Mount Nittany Medical Center because of lung cancer.

Just over two months after news broke over Paterno’s treatable form of cancer, he develops “minor” complications, then dies only days later.

My gut tells me Joe Paterno would still be alive if the media handled the situation with a more patient and softer approach. Joe Paterno experienced first hand what it’s like to have a large proportion of the country against you.

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who sat down with Paterno during a three-way interview at State College in July, mimics these thoughts in a recent interview with ESPN’s Rece Davis. At 2:34 he says, “I wish (this) whole thing would have been handled differently. I think how it was handled certainly had an impact on his longevity of life.”

An 85-year old man who only knew love and support was abruptly thrust into the inescapable snake pit of the media blacklist. Then, the same man who three weeks earlier coached his football team to their seventh straight win, discovered he had lung cancer.

Joe Paterno’s death on Sunday closed the book on a legend. He cannot return from this tragedy to come back and coach his team to a national title. He will not be around if new developments show he was less at fault. Unlike Tiger Woods,  he does not have the potential to rise back to the top. Unlike Tiger Woods, Joe Paterno did not commit an act of wrongdoing.

Without undermining the irreversible damage he did to those young boys, Jerry Sandusky destroyed a legend. A man who’s final game was scripted to be the most celebrated moment in college football history, a man who devoted his life to the growth of young players and their university, a man who forewent a normal retirement to continue working the one job he’s ever loved, was villianized then let go seemingly in one fell swoop because of the work of a monster. This modern day Iago has done more damage to more people than we may ever know.

My professor Phil Anastasia said it best today: Joe Paterno was Jerry Sandusky’s last victim.

This Shakespearean tragedy is so incredible because it combines one of the greatest heroes and greatest falls reality can construe. Empty from loneliness and dejection, we watched the biggest rockstar in college football slowly die more every day for ten weeks. We saw how a broken heart may eat away at one’s desire to live.

A human being, a husband, a father, I believe Joe Paterno is a tangible example of how modern media literally killed a man.