New York Giants
Giants coach Tom Coughlin has been here before.
In the NFL playoffs, that is.
He made his first appearance in 1990, when he was an assistant under Bill Parcells, and that Giants team went on to win Super Bowl XXV.
He was in the playoffs twice as coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, twice earning a spot in the AFC Championship Game (and twice losing it). But it is the experience that counts as his Giants prepare for their first-round playoff game against Carolina.
Coughlin notes there is a definite difference during the playoffs in team attitude and intensity level, and he thinks it must be experienced before a player can truly understand the impact the playoffs have on a team.
"You need more from your playmakers," he said. "You need them to lift the team, to show the younger guys how to do it. And you must avoid penalties. You cannot shoot yourself in the foot; you cannot make those kinds of mistakes."
As to the opposition, Coughlin spoke only in superlatives.
"Carolina is a very physical team," he said. "Your mistakes are magnified against a team like that. You have to eliminate them. Carolina comes in with a plus-16 (turnover margin) and we are a plus-12. So both teams have an emphasis on takeaways and not giving the ball away. You can't be penalized. All of these things, and others, are magnified as you go into the playoffs."Being at home, Coughlin admits, is a positive. "But you have to play smart and physical," he said, "or it doesn't much matter if the other team can take advantage of your mistakes."
--TE Jeremy Shockey (ankle) missed the final regular-season game against Oakland, the first one he's missed this season, but all indications are he will be ready for the playoff game against Carolina. "I think I could have played, but it was better that I didn't," he said. Coach Tom Coughlin, somewhat more cautious, said only, "Jeremy is improving daily. The outlook is positive to get him on the practice field, if not Wednesday then Thursday."
--DT Fred Robbins (hamstring) and DE Eric Moore (hamstring) are "still struggling," according to coach Tom Coughlin, who put them in the day-to-day category.
--QB Eli Manning, who is still struggling but now has completed his first full season as a starter, finished with 3,762 yards and 24 touchdowns, completing 294 of 557 passes. He finished 10 attempts short of the team record and is now fifth in passing yards per season. "I feel I am playing more consistently now than earlier in the season," he said. "I still make some poor decisions but I feel like I'm managing the game better, seeing things well."
--RB Tiki Barber came within 20 yards of the NFL rushing title, finishing with 1,860 yards (Seattle's Shaun Alexander had 1,860). "I think this team has a lot more talent than previous playoff teams," he said. "I know the quarterback (Manning) is a lot younger than the one we had in 2000 (Kerry Collins), "But he is very confident, he doesn't get flustered, so we know he's going to bring the same leadership he brought all season."
--WR Amani Toomer, the nine-year veteran who was generally discounted this season, had a banner year as the "other wide receiver" to Plaxico Burress. "I had a good season and I had fun playing," he said. He finished with 60 receptions for 684 yards and seven touchdowns.
--WLB Nick Greisen praised all the backup linebackers who have been juggled into the lineup throughout the season. "I think it's great," he said. "I told the guys that we can't be the weak link, that I know there are new guys and new faces, but we have all played football before." It is likely that Greisen will stay at WLB even if starting MLB Antonio Pierce (high ankle sprain) doesn't return, because freshly signed Kevin Lewis, the Giants' starter at MLB for all 16 games last season, was re-signed and played well against Oakland.
--DE Michael Strahan was poked in the eye by Oakland T Chad Slaughter, and Strahan was screaming and cursing at him as he was being led off the field, his eye bloodied. "That's a hell of a way to block," he said later. But the next day he said that when he came back to the field, Slaughter "tried to say he was sorry." Did Strahan accept the apology? "I'm not sure, I don't know," he said. "I haven't seen it. But everybody who did see it told me that it looked like he spread his fingers and took a straight poke at it (the eye)."
Eagles coach Andy Reid is facing the possibility of losing his top personnel advisor and his offensive lieutenant.
Tom Heckert, the team's director of player personnel, will interview with the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday for a general manager-type position with that organization. Sources close to the situation say Heckert is Vikings owner Zygi Wilf's top choice, and that Heckert is very interested in the position, which would give him final say over all personnel decisions.
If Heckert takes the Vikings job, he likely would be responsible for hiring a replacement for coach Mike Tice, who was fired Sunday by Wilf. One of the people who probably would be near the top -- if not at the top -- of Heckert's list of head coaching candidates is Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress.
Childress also reportedly is a candidate for two other vacant head coaching positions -- in Kansas City, where Dick Vermeil retired, and in Green Bay, where Mike Sherman was fired Monday.
"We'll see how it works out in the next couple of days," Reid said of the possibility of losing Heckert or Childress, or both. "I know there's interest in our staff.
"We've been very fortunate to keep people together as long as we have. It's bound to happen sooner or later. I understand that. We're lucky enough where we have some pretty good people on our staff who can fill in and do a good job."
If Heckert leaves, the likely replacement would be Heckert's 34-year-old assistant, Jason Licht, who has been with the Eagles for three years. If Childress leaves, assistant head coach Marty Mornhinweg, who was brought in by Reid in 2003, probably would take over the offensive coordinator role.
Quotes and Notes
--Reggie Brown finished his rookie season strong, catching 13 passes in the Eagles' final two games. His 43 receptions were the most ever by an Eagles rookie. "I think in the last two games, I got into my groove," said the second-rounder out of Georgia. "I settled down and became a more consistent player out there. Earlier, in the second half of the season when I first started (after Terrell Owens was suspended), I was a little inconsistent. I began to feel a little more confident in my abilities and knowing exactly what to do in certain situations. I am going to look back at it as a learning tool. I was not as good as I think I could have been, but (my season) was all right."
--Right tackle Jon Runyan made his 144th straight regular-season start Sunday against the Redskins. Whether he'll be making No. 145 with the Eagles or another NFL team remains to be seen. The 32-year-old Runyan will be an unrestricted free agent in March. He would like to stay in Philadelphia, but he is not going to take substantially less to stay. "It's probably going to turn into a bidding war," Runyan said. "That's what it (always) comes down to. We'll see what happens down the road here. I'd like to stay. I like it here. But we'll see."
--S J.R. Reed, who missed the entire '05 season after suffering nerve damage in his leg last year trying to jump over a fence, probably won't be able to play in '06. Coach Andy Reid said it would be a "struggle" for Reed to play next season.
--DE Jerome McDougle, who missed all of '05 after getting shot in the abdomen just before the start of training camp, is putting weight back on and should be ready to participate in the club's minicamp in April.
--WR Todd Pinkston, who still is recuperating from a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in training camp, said he's not sure whether he'll be ready to participate in the spring minicamp, but he feels confident he'll be OK by the start of training camp.
--RB Correll Buckhalter is probably a longshot to return with the team in '06 after suffering his second major knee injury in three years last summer.
--QB Mike McMahon's status won't be decided for several weeks. McMahon started seven games after Donovan McNabb went out for the year and didn't play very well.
REPORT CARD VS. REDSKINS
PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- For only the second time in seven starts, Mike McMahon managed to complete 50 percent of his attempts (16-for-31). But he also threw a costly interception and lost a fumble. His replacement, Koy Detmer, threw another interception.
RUN OFFENSE: B-minus -- Bruce Perry, who spent the first 14 games of the season on the practice squad and had just one carry going into Sunday's game, rushed for 79 yards on 15 carries.
PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- The Eagles gave up two big plays -- a 54-yard pass to Santana Moss that set up a touchdown and a 41-yarder to James Thrash that set up another score. But Mark Brunell completed just seven other passes in 25 attempts.
RUN DEFENSE: D -- Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts combined for 142 rushing yards against the Eagles. Portis had two rushing TDs.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- The Eagles' coverage units didn't allow the Redskins much on returns. P Sean Landeta had another strong performance. David Akers nailed both of his field-goal attempts, including a 49-yarder that hit the crossbar and bounced through.
Bill Parcells does not know if he's going to return for 2006.
At 64 and in his 18th year of coaching, Parcells says he has a decision to make about his future.
He's set to make $4.25 million next season in the final year of the four-year deal he signed in 2003.
Parcells will take some time away before making his decision.
If he does anything but return to the sidelines in 2006, it will be a surprise to the players who know him best.
Quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who played for Parcells in New England and signed as a free agent from Buffalo in the offseason, said he expects his coach to return.
"I would be surprised if he is not back next season," Bledsoe said. "It's always been a year-to-year thing with him. I didn't come here with any expectations, but I would be surprised if he wasn't back."
Receiver Keyshawn Johnson said Parcells has not given him any indications through his body language or conversations that he is ready to call it quits.
"He hasn't told me anything," Johnson said. "He said he would let me know if he had any news."
It was the same response from cornerback Aaron Glenn. Parcells was the primary reason he signed a two-year deal with the Cowboys in the offseason. He has no expectations of Parcells not being back for 2006.
All acknowledged that nothing is guaranteed at this point, but they all want him to return.
"I'm a big fan of coach Parcells," rookie defensive end Marcus Spears said. "He taught me a lot. I can't control what happens, but I hope to see him next year."
Quotes and Notes
--The Cowboys' 2006 opponents have been set. Along with the traditional NFC East foes Philadelphia, Washington and the New York Giants, the Cowboys will face off against the NFC South and AFC South. By finishing third in the NFC East this season, the Cowboys' other two opponents will be Detroit from the NFC North and Arizona from the NFC West. Here is where those games will take place next season:
Home: N.Y. Giants, Philadelphia, Washington, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis
Away: N.Y. Giants, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Carolina, Arizona, Jacksonville, Tennessee
--Running back Julius Jones missed out on his preseason goal of 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns.
So he set his sights on rushing for 1,000 yards and making history. With Thomas Jones of Bears already over the 1,000 yards, the Jones brothers seemed poised to become the first siblings to top the 1,000-yard barrier in a season in NFL history.
With Julius Jones needing 42 yards against the Rams' 30th-ranked run defense, it seemed like a sure bet.
Julius Jones gained only 35 yards on 15 carries to come up 7 yards short.
--With their 9-7 record this season, the Cowboys finished tied with Miami, Minnesota and San Diego. With a .523 opponents' winning percentage this season, the Cowboys will draft 18th overall in the first round.
--Quarterback Drew Bledsoe was sacked 49 times in 2005 following five sacks against the Rams. It is the most sacks of a Cowboys quarterback since Don Meredith's 58 in 1964. It was also the Bledsoe's fifth season of 40 or more sacks.
--Defensive end Greg Ellis and linebacker DeMarcus Ware shared the team lead with eight sacks this season. By doing so, Ellis becomes just the second Cowboy in club history to lead the team in sacks for five consecutive years. Jethro Pugh also led the team five straight years from 1968-72. Ellis has now led the Cowboys in sacks six times during his career, the second most in club history behind Harvey Martin's mark of seven seasons leading the club in sacks. Ware's eight gave him the second most in club history by a linebacker. He also posted the third-best single-season sack total by a rookie in club history.
--WR Terry Glenn recorded 44 receiving yards in the season finale against the Reams, giving him 1,136 receiving yards for the season. That is 11 yards shy of his career-high set in 1999. His total is the ninth-best single-season total in club history.
--WR Keyshawn Johnson recorded five receptions against the Rams to move into the NFL's all-time top 20 for career receptions. Johnson is 20th with 744 catches for 9,756 yards and 60 touchdowns.
--RB Tyson Thompson became the club's single-season record holder for kickoff returns and return yards when he finished with 57 returns for 1,399 yards.
--TE Jason Witten is the first tight end in club history to record back-to-back 65-catch seasons.
REPORT CARD VS. RAMS
PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Drew Bledsoe passed for 242 yards and a touchdown but threw two interceptions and was sacked five times.
RUSHING OFFENSE: F-minus -- Running back Julius Jones needed 42 yards to get to 1,000 on the season. He tallied just 35 against the league's 30th-ranked run defense. Blocking up front was awful.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Cowboys held the high-powered Rams to just 158 yards passing and no touchdowns. DeMarcus Ware got another sack.
RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Rams weren't great on the ground, but they did enough to hurt the Cowboys without starter Steven Jackson. The Rams rushed for 106 yards, including 61 by Aveion Cason.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Tyson Thompson set a team record for kickoff return yards for a season. He was good again Sunday with a 44-yard return. Shaun Suisham didn't prove to be any better than the previous kickers, making one of two kicks. He was wide right from 47 yards.
COACHING: D -- The Cowboys played as if they had nothing to play for. It's a shame because they deserved a better finish. They should have ended up 10-6 instead of 9-7.