The New York Giants have severed ties with three members of their Super Bowl-winning team from over a year ago. The timing is right for a Big Blue makeover, after a limp title defense in 2012.
The Giants finished this NFL season at 9-7. However, unlike the 2011 campaign, the Giants surrendered the NFC East title to the Washington Redskins and missed the playoffs. It was a major disappointment after having secured their second Lombardi trophy in four years. The response to that disappointment has been swift and merciless.
Firs Big Blue cut outside linebacker Michael Boley. He recorded a game-high 10 tackles in Super Bowl 46 against the New England Patriots. However, the once ultra-athletic Boley appeared to lose a step or two this season.
He was no longer the dependable coverage ace, or all-action weak-side linebacker the Giants used in a variety of ways. Boley was quickly joined by familiar faces on the scrapheap, in the form of running back Ahmad Bradshaw and defensive tackle Chris Canty.
The key to these moves is that they create room for an urgently needed youth movement on the Giants roster.
Bradshaw's dismissal was arguably the most high-profile of the three. However, it wasn't without justification. The 26-year-old did top 1,000 rushing yards in 2012, only the second time he has managed it in his career. However, niggling injuries and the penchant for fumbling have often blighted Bradshaw's stay in the Big Apple. This season also saw him contend with competition from a pair of young upstarts.
First-round pick David Wilson endured a torrid start to life in the NFL. His early fumble during the season-opener against the Dallas Cowboys and the apparent tears that followed, seemed to doom Wilson.
However, the youthful speedster quickly carved out a niche as a dangerous kick-returner. He was eventually granted an expanded role on offense and didn't disappoint. Wilson's lightning-quick acceleration sets him apart from any Giants runner of the last decade and maybe even beyond that.
He gives Big Blue a dynamic, multipurpose, big-play threat. That's something Bradshaw hasn't managed to offer consistently. The six-year pro has instead become tougher between the tackles. The problem is Giants head coach Tom Coughlin can look at the early-season form of Andre Brown and be convinced he already has a power runner. The 227-pound bruiser averaged 5.3 yards a carry and scored eight touchdowns, before suffering a broken leg in Week 12.
The point is the Giants have options in the backfield. Wilson is the kind of weapon the franchise hasn't had for years and he fits with the more wide open offense the Giants have run since Eli Manning came of age.
Canty's release also heralds a move towards a roster overhaul and a younger team. The veteran interior lineman is no longer the force against the run he once was. Canty also doesn't offer much as a pass-rusher. Youngsters Linval Joseph and Marvin Austin are the future at defensive tackle for Big Blue.
Joseph is the kind of big, wide body, every 4-3 defense needs along its interior. Austin possesses the initial quickness to apply consistent pressure to the pocket, provided he can stay healthy and reach his potential.
The Giants are right to start their youth movement in earnest now. The timing is just right and the history of the franchise shows it. The Giants present-day situation is similar to the one Hall of Fame head coach Bill Parcells faced, shortly after winning his first Super Bowl crown with the G-men in 1986.
Parcells' title-defending troops slumped to 6-9 the next season. He decided to give his veteran core one more year, but they missed the playoffs again in 1988. After the '88 season, the Big Tuna decided to wave goodbye to the old guard and regenerate his team through the draft.
The result was a 12-4 finish and a stunning return to form in 1989. Coughlin needn't waste any time giving his old guard one more season. Now is the right time to begin giving the modern-day Giants a much-needed makeover.