Tom Coughlin, the Giants' new head coach has added six assistant coaches to his staff.
Last week he named former Pittsburgh Steelers' assistant Tim Lewis as his defensive coordinator, the job from which Lewis was dismissed a week earlier by head coach Bill Cowher.
Then on Tuesday he hired Jerald Ingram as running backs coach, Jerry Palmieri as strength and conditioning coach and announced the retention of two assistants from the recent Jim Fassel staff -- tight ends coach Mike Pope and assistant special teams coach/administrative assistant to the head coach Mike Priefer. Each of the retained coaches served in similar capacities last season.
He also named another former colleague when he was an assistant coach with the Giants, Mike Sweatman, as special teams coordinator.
In deciding to retain Pope, Coughlin called him: "The best tight ends coach in the business." The two worked together under Bill Parcells when Coughlin was the wide receivers coach from 1988 through 1990. Priefer, whose father is the special teams coach in Detroit, was hired just last season by Fassel.
Ingram worked with Coughlin both at Boston College and then later with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and was primarily instrumental in building the Jags' running game to one of the NFL's most efficient. For three consecutive years (1998-2000) the Jags gained more than 2,000 yards, and in each of those seasons Fred Taylor gained a minimum of 1,200 yards.
It will be Ingram's task to find a way to keep RB Tiki Barber, the Giants' best, from fumbling. He left the ball on the ground nine times last season and lost it six times.
Pope, who is 61, spent eight years with the Giants under Parcells and five more with Fassel. Between Giant stints, he worked in New England, Cincinnati and Washington. Five of the tight ends he has coached have gone to play in the Pro Bowl -- Ben Coates, Tony McGee, Rodney Holman, Mark Bavaro and Jeremy Shockey.
It is also thought that he was kept partially to assuage Shockey, the temperamental but highly gifted tight end who has earned Pro Bowl placement in each of his first two seasons in the NFL.
Ingram, 42, was a graduate assistant coach at Michigan (his alma mater) before moving on to Ball State University. He then joined Coughlin at B.C. in 1991. Palmieri worked at Oklahoma State, North Carolina and Kansas State before he joined Coughlin at Boston College and, subsequently, with the Jaguars.
Sweatman, 56, was the Chicago Bears' special teams coach the last three years, and prior to that worked with the Minnesota Vikings, the New York Jets, New England and the Giants. He has been to three Super Bowls and has two rings -- with the Giants in XXI and XXV. He was also on Bill Parcells' staff with the Patriots. He was with the Giants previously from 1985 through 1992, working with Parcells (and Coughlin from 1988-1990) and one year with Parcells' replacement, Ray Handley.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--It is becoming more and more likely that 12-year veteran DT Keith Hamilton will announce his retirement.
The 32-year-old, who has spent all of his NFL career with the Giants (as an underclassman draft pick in 1992), hinted strongly that if Jim Fassel were to be dismissed he would not want to start all over again with a new head coach and staff.
Besides, Hamilton still has a charge of possession of controlled substance(s) hanging over his head.
Court appearances were delayed during the season stemming from a May 22 charge levied by a policeman in Morris County, N.J., who stopped Hamilton at 3 a.m. and found cocaine and marijuana, with an open container and drug paraphernalia.
--One of the major offensive problems encountered by the Giants last season, when they sank from preseason conference co-favorites to a 4-12 cellar-dweller, was the absence of a blocking tight end.
General manager Ernie Accorsi allowed the best in the business, Dan Campbell, to sign on as an UFA in Dallas. Those he hoped would fill the bill -- Marcellus Rivers, Darnell Dinkins and rookie Visanthe Shiancoe -- were disappointments and now a blocking TE appears once again on the team's wish list.
Former head coach Jim Fassel, thought to be a sure thing in acquiring another job, seems to be close to being shut out in the open market. He was labeled the favorite in Arizona and that job went to Denny Green. He interviewed in Buffalo, Washington, Chicago and Oakland and was rejected. But no harm, no foul -- his contract with the Giants, which still had one year remaining, guarantees him $2.7 million this year even if he decides to sit home and eat peanut butter and crackers all day.
Someone suggested that if the Giants draft Miami safety Sean Taylor with their first round pick (not likely since they draft fourth overall) that their secondary might be known as the "Wills" and the "Seans" for cornerbacks Will Allen and Will Peterson and safeties Shaun Williams and Taylor.
The hiring of Sweatman as special teams coach bring back the guy who propelled the Giants' specials to some of their finest seasons, as he nurtured and developed such return stars as Reyna Thompson and Dave Meggett. ... It is also a perfect hire for Coughlin, referred to as a Marine Drill Instructor, since Sweatman was an actual U.S. Marine.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When I was there before, we were in a meeting and Len Fontes [defensive backfield coach] was citing a stat that made his group look good. Bill [Parcells] told Len what he could to with the stat. He said that winning is the only thing that counts and I think that is what Tom is all about." -- Giants' new special teams coordinator Mike Sweatman, reflecting on his first stint with the Giants (1985-1992).
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
One of the Giants' most troublesome areas last season was the offensive line, made worst by injuries to LG Rich Seubert and lingering back injuries suffered by LT Luke Petitgout. But realistically, RG David Diehl was a rookie (fifth round) who started every game and the team feels he is only going to improve. RT Ian Allen was a disaster and will absolutely be replaced. Center Rich Bober played well but was asked to move to RT for a while and that set him back in terms of continuity since it was only his fourth season.
Now the new head coach, Tom Coughlin, feels that with a couple of "relatively high" draft picks and perhaps a veteran FA, the line can do an about-face and become one of the strong points in 2004. There are a number of UFA candidates about to become eligible to test the market, including John Tait of Kansas City, Orlando Pace of St. Louis and Walter Jones of Seattle, depending, of course, on whether their teams slap the "Franchise" tag on them.
COACHING CAROUSEL: With the hiring of a defensive coordinator, running backs coach, tight ends coach, special teams coordinator, special teams/administrative assistant and strength and conditioning coach, Coughlin's staff is still less than halfway complete.
He needs, at the bare minimum, an offensive coordinator, defensive line coach, linebackers coach, defensive backfield coach, offensive line coach, wide receivers coach and possibly a quarterbacks coach and some sort of general assistant/consultant/advisor.
It becomes apparent that none of the other assistants from the Jim Fassel staff will be hired, including O-line "guru" Jim McNally and WRs coach Jimmy Robinson, both of whom were thought to have a chance with Coughlin.
FREE AGENT UPDATE: The Giants have five potential starters who will become Unrestricted Free Agents in February. They are DE Kenny Holmes, SSLB Brandon Short, WSLB Dhani Jones, DT Cornelius Griffin and C Chris Bober. It would appear that Short, Griffin and Bober are the three targeted for the most intense efforts in hopes of retaining their services.
FEELING A DRAFT: Part of what the Giants' hope to accomplish in the draft will depend on how they fare when the UFA signing period begins. If they can garner a solid, experienced OT (John Tait of Kansas City, Walter Jones of Seattle) they can look elsewhere when the exercise the fourth overall pick in the first round and then the second pick in the second round. There is a feeling that if one of the two blue-chip QBs remain when the first round pick is made, that could be their direction.
Those two are Eli Manning of Mississippi and Ben Roethlisberger of Miami (Ohio).
It would seem that QB has suddenly become a need based on the poor performance by backup Jesse Palmer, who started the final four games of the season in place of the injured (high ankle sprain) starter, Kerry Collins.
MEDICAL WATCH: Several of the Giants were in Injured Reserve when the season ended, and it was possible that Pro Bowl TE Jeremy Shockey might need surgery for his partially torn knee ligaments. That decision has not yet been made. Others, such as CB Will Peterson (fractured vertebra) and LG Rich Seubert (compound fracture of his left leg) have already had surgery and are now in rehabilitation sessions.
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