Ten Areas the Giants Have Improved And Thoughts On Coach Changes

For a 2-9 season you hope to see some indications that things are improving. It is hard to see that during a seven game losing streak. Quarterback Daniel Jones has been a bright spot for the season as detailed in my post The Giants And Daniel Jones. However overall there are areas that the Giants have improved as the season progressed. Today I list ten statistics that show a significant improvement between the last five game (weeks 7-12) and the prior five games (weeks 2-6). The recent five game statistics appear first in the following list.

  1. Giant Passer rating 97.8 (10th) from 71 passer rating (30th)
  2. Giant QB Passes intercepted of 2 (7th) from 8 Passes intercepted (31st)
  3. Total yards margin of -250 yards (24th) from -413 yards (28th)
  4. Total yards of offense allowed 1,678 (11th) from 1,980 yards allowed (28th).
  5. Defensive yards per play of 5.29 (16th) from 6.00 defensive yards per play (23rd)
  6. Opponent Rushing Yards per attempt of 3.57 (2nd) from 4.47 opponent yards/attempt (19th)
  7. Opponent penalty yards of 371 (4th) from 285 opponent penalty yards (19th)
  8.  First downs by pass of 60 (19th) from 52 first downs by pass (25th)
  9. Yards per punt of 48.4 (1st) from 44.59 yards per punt (24th)
  10. First half score margin of -5 (17th) from First half score margin of -36 (28th)

There is improvement that is hard to see during a seven game losing streak. The last five games will be critical in determining the fate of the Giants’ coaching staff for next year.  Here is a quote from a pre-season interview with Giant President and CEO John Mara.

Q: What do you need to see this season to consider it a success, or a step forward?

A: We need to win some games. I want to feel like at the end of the season we’re moving in the right direction. I’m not going to say it has to be a minimum number of games that we have to win, or we have to make the playoffs. I want to feel when I’m walking off the field after the last game of the season, whenever that is, that this franchise is headed in the right direction. That’s, to me, the most important thing.

The season is actually two mini-seasons. If Mara is looking for a franchise headed in the right direction the way the team finishes in the second half of the season is a logical place to look. The first half was  marred by factors that helped contribute to poor performance. They include

  1. Transitioning to a rookie quarterback after two games,
  2. A four game suspension of Golden Tate,
  3. The loss of Saquon Barkley for 3.5 games due to injury, and
  4. The loss of Sterling Shepard for four games due to injury.

With most starting players now returned the latter half of the season gives a better indication of where the franchise is headed. Like the ten statistics examined above the last eight games could be compared to the first eight to see if improvements are maintained or even increased.

In the article Does Firing the Head Coach Make NFL Teams More Successful? Yowana Wamala lists historical data as to why bringing a coach back after a losing season may be better than getting a new one. The data indicates that after a losing season a new coach statistically will get you about two more wins the next season. Whereas keeping the coach statistically will get you about three more wins. Three years seems to be the longest you would keep a losing coach based on the historical data. After that things typically do not get better. The article also shows that since 2007 a team’s win percentage historically decreases as the number of head coaches increase in a short time-frame of five years.

In their study paper How Much Do Coaches Matter? Berry and Fowler appear to substantiate the previous data that contrary to popular belief coaches do not have that profound an effect on the outcome of a team’s season. Specifically for NFL coaches they came in at affecting various game aspects for 18.5% to 29.3%. When it came to victories they concluded the coach effect to be 21.1%. However in a 16 game season that amounts to potentially 3 additional victories due to good coaching. That is significant for teams on the cusp of the playoffs. For teams with a 2-9 record it would not matter much. Their study would negate the view that attributes a 2-9 season to mostly the coach.

A couple of wins in the second half of the season would go a long way in improving the team outlook. However I do not believe they are required to come to the conclusion that the team is improving. Improved play by Daniel Jones, statistical improvement across the team, and close competitive games could be enough to bring Shurmur and staff back. The historical data on a coaches effect on team output and the other data on the effects of coaching changes appear to support giving Shurmur one more year if the second half of the season shows improvement. Daniel Jones has played well as a rookie quarterback. There is something to be said for maintaining continuity with a new quarterback that has been improving under the coaching staff.  The Giants are already on their third head coach and one interim coach in five years. Unless there is some solid proven commodity available, like Bill Belichick,  it may be best to stay put for one more year.

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