They have gotten a big break in the schedule, with as many lousy teams this year as there were last year. But there is no blaming the Giants for that: Past teams would have lost to an Atlanta or a San Francisco or a Miami. These Giants beat all of them.
These Giants have taken care of business.
Because of that, and because I'm in a rather giving mood as the holiday of thanks nears, the Giants deserve some rewards for all their hard work and perseverance. So I felt inclined to drop some trophies in lockers during the bye week.
These awards are subject to change in the second half of the season, of course, with everything else being subject to change, including the coach's job security, in the final eight games.
Without further ado, the envelopes, please:
MVP: Left tackle David Diehl. Hey, name another player in a position of such importance dissed by more people than Diehl before the season. He hasn't just handled the most important position on the offensive line. He's excelled at it.
Nobody appreciates Diehl's work more than Eli Manning, who hasn't had to worry about 280-pound men sneaking up and slamming him to the turf while he tries to find an open receiver.
LVP (Least Valuable Player): Lawrence Tynes. He only earned this modest award because the academy hasn't developed a "Worst Kicker on Earth'' honor. But Tynes' misses, a least a couple of them, have had extenuating circumstances, and it says here that he'll get his act together in the second half.
Unsung player: Center Shaun O'Hara. He's done as fine a job as anyone creating holes for the running game. And he's stayed away from committing penalties.
Sportsmanship award: Running back Reuben Droughns came over from Cleveland to become a change-of-pace back with Brandon Jacobs expected to carry most of the load. Jacobs has carried most of the load. But Droughns has become a third running back behind Derrick Ward, totaling just 155 yards as both Jacobs and Ward have had more than 400 each.
And Droughns hasn't grumbled about his lack of touches, at least publicly, when he would have been forgiven for whining a bit. A prediction: At some point in the second half, the Giants will dearly need Reuben Droughns. Jacobs seems to get hurt every other week, and Ward has had some bumps and bruises as well.
Best Big Blue Gesture: Plaxico Burress. Plax came to the Giants with a reputation for being a bit of a me-first malcontent. But Burress has seemed to grow up even from last season, when he danced about the field reminding us that the ball hadn't come his way.
But Plax has been great while playing hurt. And he showed his softer side in a touching moment against Washington after Greg Gadson, the Army lieutenant colonel who lost both legs during combat in Iraq, spoke to the team before the game. When Burress scored the Giants' go-ahead touchdown, he recovered his spiked ball, sprinted to the sideline and handed the ball to Gadson.
Best disguise: Tight end Jeremy Shockey. Is that really Shockey providing all those mundane post-game quotes? And I'm not completely sold on Shockey, a la Plax, graduating from the team's rebel without a cause to a mature young man.
But give the tight end his due. Shockey hasn't once laced Tom Coughlin for his lack of coaching ability. And for the most part, Shockey has been a model for younger students on the roster. So in the language of London, his most recent international stop, let's raise a pint for the once flamboyant tight end, and hope he keeps his even-keeled approach the rest of the way.
Most Improved Player: Eli Manning. I know, he hasn't exactly blown us away with his play lately. Manning needs to get his completion percentage over 60 percent and cut down on interceptions. But he's a better quarterback than he was last season, and he will continue to improve as the season moves along. He's making better decisions. He's grasping the fundamentals of the position.
And yes, Tiki, Eli's become a more assertive leader.
Most Improved Coach: Thomas Richard Coughlin. To jumble a well-known '70s popular lyric: meet the new boss, vastly different than the old boss. In one offseason, Coughlin's gone from a coach's coach to something resembling a player's coach. He's not only listening to his players, but hearing them. Even Coughlin's sideline demeanor, once a blend of Lombardi and Jason from Friday the 13th, has moved toward calm and poise.
He keeps this up and we are going to start inviting him to our weekly Texas Hold 'Em gatherings. Or at least offer a standing invitation to post-game meetings at Houlihan's.
Most Creative Coach: Steve Spagnuolo. Let's face it, two games in and Spagnuolo had us wondering if we could drop him back off on Andy Reid's doorstep. But Spags has instilled play-making ability and confidence in this defense.
Rookie of the Year: Cornerback Aaron Ross. Wow, a Giants cornerback who can not only stay within an area code of receivers but catch the football when it touches his hands. What in the name of Will Allen did we do to deserve this!?
Comeback Player of the Year: Cornerback Sam Madison. And you said Madison was on the downside of his career. OK, I said it, and many Giants fans did as well. But Madison has shown the instincts that made him a perennial Pro Bowler in Miami, where, rumor has it, the city once housed an NFL team.
The Roger Clemens Award: Michael Strahan. In recognition of the right-hander with a recent penchant for skipping spring training, Strahan has turned in a decent first half despite blowing off training camp.
Yeah, it took Stray a few games to get his football legs, and yeah, we would be much less forgiving if the record were 2-6 instead of 6-2. But Strahan has shown signs of turning in a terrific second half, something Clemens failed to achieve with the 2007 Yankees.
Maybe Strahan can pull another anti-Clemens in the coming months: help his team make some noise in the playoffs. Then Coughlin will get something that Joe Torre couldn't: a reasonable contract extension.
G-Man's Midseason Awards
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