TSX Team Report

Next season, when the Giants decide they need to try a field goal, they'll get Ryan Kuehl to snap the ball to holder Jeff Feagles, who will place it upright and, hopefully, in the allotted time for kicker Mike Hollis.

And when they have failed to move far enough offensively, they'll call for a punt, and this time it will be a direct snap from Kuehl to Jeff Feagles.

So what's odd about that?

All three men are among the Giants' newest veteran free-agent signees, and if you think they didn't take their lapses on special teams seriously enough, they even added the NFL's all-time return leader, Brian Mitchell.

Oh, right. They also signed a defensive end named Keith Washington.

So what's with all this special teams activity? The Giants, as you might recall, finished 10-6 last season. They earned a playoff spot and went to San Francisco, where they built a 38-14 lead late in the third quarter. Then, of course, they blew it, all of it, and trudged off the field with a 39-38 loss.

Except trudged isn't quite the right word. The snap on a potential game-winning field goal from Trey Junkin was awry. Holder Matt Allen did the best he could to put it down, but there was no time. So the punter tried to throw a pass while the kicker, Matt Bryant, wondered why a hole didn't open up and swallow him before he had to try to explain all this to the slavering media.

The pass was thrown and the 49ers' special teams guy, Chike Okeafor, tackled the intended receiver, who just happened to be guard Rich Seubert. But while the officials did blow that call -- Seubert had reported earlier as an eligible receiver -- they didn't mistake another guard, Tam Hopkins, who had run downfield -- way, way too far downfield to avoid the illegal receiver flag.

And since time had run out, that was the ball game.

It was the fourth or fifth amateurish indiscretion by the special teams and head coach Jim Fassel had enough. More than enough, in fact. He swore on the flight home and again the next day to the assembled media that special teams was not going to be a problem any longer.

So Allen the punter is gone. Bryant the kicker is gone (more on him in a moment). Junkin the snapper is gone. It's a brand new snap-place-kick trio that will greet the fans this season.

In the end, one must wonder exactly what Matt Bryant did wrong. He was a rookie kicker who had failed previous opportunities and was working in a pawnshop outside of Orange, Tex., for three days after the Giants released him from training camp. But they called him back when another kicker, Owen Pochman, came up lame.

So all the little pawnbroker (5-9, 190) did was make 26 of 32 field-goal opportunities, and three of the misses were a direct result of bad snaps or ridiculous attempts to put the ball down. Nevertheless, his 26 field goals were second in the team's history for a single season. He even made three of four between the 40- and 49-yard line, added 30 of 32 extra points and finished with 108 points, third highest single-season scoring number in team history.

So what, exactly, did he do wrong?

Nothing, really. He just wasn't a boomer downfield and his kickoffs weren't going far enough and he didn't have all the experience one would like to see (at least the experience Fassel wanted to see) and he became a victim of the sorriest ending in the history of the team.

Kuehl was signed earlier from Cleveland, as were Feagles from Seattle and Mitchell from Philadelphia. Hollis, however, is the newest signee, a free agent from Buffalo who is even smaller than Bryant (he's 5-7, 180). But he has kicked for eight years and he is a ridiculously accurate game-winner and, well, what can you say bad about a kid who grew up in Lula, Ga., you know?


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