Paul Schwartz: Isn't this just incredible? Here we are, trying to decide how to divvy up the credit for the Giants remarkable 4-1 start. Kenny, I bet we're both in agreement here that a while back we figured the assignment heading into the bye week would be more along the lines of figuring out who gets the most blame for all the losing. Well, that's not the case and in this case distributing the credit is a worthwhile endeavor. Of course, once again you're on the wrong side of the debate. Clearly, Tim Lewis has put his stamp on a defense that is playing far better than anyone could have expected. Even more clearly is that it's the head coach who gets to take the longest bow for what's transpired thus far.
Ken Palmer: What a surprise, Paul takes the conventional viewpoint, the uneducated approach, you could say. Of course, Tom Coughlin receives and deserves plenty of credit for the Big Blue turnaround, but anyone who knows anything (this would exclude you, Paul) realizes that Tim Lewis is the real reason this club started 4-1. Coughlin's offense still can't get into the end zone nearly enough to be a playoff contender and is still coming up short when attempting to consistently move the third down marker. Lewis's defense? All that unit has done is everything. After bombing in Week One, Lewis has this new crop of defenders playing with aggression and emotion. It's plain for (almost) all to see that New York's defense is what has the Giants fans all worked up again.
PS: Isn't it just like you to think small? Lewis is responsible for only part of the team. He's been great at getting his guys to swarm to the ball, magnificent in getting his guys to force 15 turnovers in the first five games. But that's only half the story. Coughlin has succeeded in changing the entire culture of the team in a relatively short period of time. He's whipped this team into shape. That's not Lewis' doing, that's Coughlin's doing. Look, I'll make this as simple as your limited intellect can handle. Coughlin hired Lewis to clean up the defense and he's done it. But the Giants hired Coughlin to clean up a considerably larger mess and he's in the process of doing just that.
KP: Of course, Paul, you are overlooking the most important factor here. Coughlin has much more to work with than Lewis. Coughlin's had the hardly difficult task of getting guys like Kurt Warner, Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey to play at a high level. That's about as difficult as trying to get you into the media lunch line on Wednesdays. No challenge there. All Lewis has had at his disposal is Michael Strahan. By the way, you think Strahan prefers answering to Lewis or Coughlin? Don't bother answering, Paul; that was a rhetorical question. Besides Strahan, Lewis has taken an entirely new unit and put it in position to succeed. Through five games, the Giants had allowed 37 fewer points than last year (109-72), including just slightly more than 10 a game during the pre-bye four-game winning streak. And Lewis is obviously much better at positioning players. He moves Strahan around to expose mismatches; Coughlin moves Shockey so he can block.
PS: Once again, you deal in generalities and not specifics. It was Coughlin who demanded that Tiki Barber stop fumbling, or else. Presto, no more fumbles. It was Coughlin who demanded that Kurt Warner reduce his interceptions and work on his ball security. Viola, he complied. It was Coughlin who insisted the Giants improve their turnover ratio. Bingo, the Giants through five games led the league at plus-11. They say a team in time reflects the personality of its coach. Well, don't the Giants look an awful lot like the image Coughlin wants to portray? This team hasn't been fashioned in Lewis' image. It's all Coughlin. Come to think of it, what would a team fashioned in Kenny Palmer's image look like? Oh yes, the Bad News Bears. Or the 2004 Phillies. Or the 2004 Nittany Lions.
KP: It would be shortsighted and foolish to give Coughlin credit for all the forced turnovers, which is exactly why Paul chooses to do so. It's Lewis who's running around the practice field screaming like crazy for his guys to strip the ball. It's Lewis that has turned Kevin Lewis into an NFL middle linebacker. It's Lewis that has the secondary not missing a beat after losing two of its top three safeties. And it's Lewis that has this defense playing quickly and aggressively. Warner and Barber improved because they want to keep their jobs. The Giants defense improved because of Lewis' teachings and aggressive manner.
PS: There's a reason why the wins and losses are attached to the record of the head coach and not the coordinator. Coughlin has to make all the decisions, not just the ones that pertain to the defense. Don't forget, Coughlin's forte is offense and although he doesn't call the plays it's his system and philosophy that has been implemented. Looks pretty good, doesn't it? Credit Lewis for turning the defense into a cohesive force. But credit Coughlin for the dramatic turnaround that's afoot. And credit Palmer for finishing second once again in another one of these debates.
KP: This team is winning because of its defense. This team needed a much bigger overhaul on the defensive side of the ball. Coughlin's had next to nothing to do with it. And Lewis is more of a players' coach, someone who will accept input from time to time. Think Ike Hilliard's running to Coughlin because he sees a play he thinks he can exploit? Doubt it. However, Lewis accepts suggestions from all angles, which helps create a winning environment. He has his assistants list their top defenses in 15 different categories before formulating a game-plan. It's Lewis that will call Strahan from the press box and ask his input. That's the reason these defenders are playing so high above their head. Lewis treats them like men and values their opinion, giving them more confidence as a result. It shows on the field. The Giants are winning because of their defense. That's why Tim Lewis deserves all the credit in the world for Big Blue's early success. And that's why I should find a more capable partner for these Giants debates. This is getting way too easy.
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