By Andrew Garda
In OTAs (Offseason Talk & Analysis) all through June and July, the Sports on Earth NFL team will break down each team's offseason transactions, boldest moves and burning questions as they prepare for training camp. Click here for links to every entry in the series.
If you listened to sports radio in the New York/New Jersey area after the New York Giants season ended in December … well, God help you.
After you stopped your ears from bleeding you probably heard an awful lot of panic and overreaction.
It was a bad season, but the way the callers talked about it, you'd think it was an abject disaster of world-shattering proportions. There might have been zombies or at least rage-virus monkeys.
In reality, it wasn't that bad, though despite lacking any low or high-budget movie apocalyptic quality, it was pretty ugly.
When the season began, everything went wrong. The defense recovered, but the offense never got back on track and the Giants skidded to a halt with a 7-9 record. It was the first time the team had been sub-.500 since head coach Tom Coughlin's first year with the organization.
People lost their minds.
The sports radio caller hive mind came to the conclusions that head coach Tom Coughlin was too old to be effective as a coach, and Eli Manning had transformed into a terrible quarterback overnight. As far as the hive mind was concerned, their departure was clearly imminent.
While in reality the sky was not falling, changes needed to be made and were executed by the team.
The question is, were they enough to turn things around in the quick manner expected by fans who were spoiled by two Super Bowls in the last decade?
In an "up-for-grabs" NFC East, the franchise and its fans expect success and anything less could cause another sports radio implosion.
Biggest Offseason Move: Adding Ben McAdoo as Offensive Coordinator
While former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride's offense had been effective for most of his tenure, the 2013 version ranked as No. 28 in the NFL and rarely found itself firing on all cylinders. Not all of that can be pinned on Gillbride, but unlike defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, Gillbride seemed unable to make any adjustments to correct course and salvage the season.
So it was fortuitous he wanted to retire (read: was asked to retire) for a Giants team feeling like it needed to move in a new direction.
Enter Ben McAdoo.
McAdoo had spent the last eight years in Green Bay with Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, first as tight ends coach and then as the quarterbacks coach working closely with Aaron Rodgers.
There shouldn't be any concern that he has no experience calling plays as he told NJ.com's Jordan Raanan that it's something he was being trained for in Green Bay.
McAdoo says he has been groomed to call plays. Early indications are he will do it from the field, not a box #giants- Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) June 19, 2014
McAdoo showed up immediately after he was hired and began working closely with the entire coaching staff to see how what he envisioned would fit with what the Giants wanted to do.
What might that look like?
Well, based on what we saw offensively in Green Bay, you can expect versatile offensive linemen, more support from the fullback position, as well as a rapid-fire offensive pace.
Plays will be designed to get the ball out quickly which was one way Green Bay has overcome the offensive line issues they have faced almost every season since dinosaurs roamed the earth. The playbook will contain plenty of quick slants and simple routes to get the ball into the hands of the receivers and allow them to do some damage on their own and to prevent defensive lines from having the time to get to Manning.
Overhauling the scheme won't fix all the issues the offense faced in 2013, but it will definitely give the Giants tools to react and adjust to them.
Biggest Gamble: Releasing Justin Tuck
Everyone points out that the team finished the season winning five of its last eight games, but not as many folks seem to realize how much that was about the heavy lifting the defense did. It wasn't just the last half of the season really, as the entire defense carried the offense a lot in 2013.
It was clear that Justin Tuck was not the same player he had been in his prime. While some graded him out well at season's end (Pro Football Focus gave him the only double digit grade on the Giants' defensive line and ranked him as the No. 7 overall 4-3 defensive end) his overall abilities have clearly diminished.
Why is this a gamble then?
Because what they could miss isn't simple production, but leadership.
Yes, Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka (if both are healthy) can replace the numbers, but are they truly ready to step up and be a leader both on and off the field?
Jon Beason had grown into a leader for the team after he was acquired from the Carolina Panthers last season, but he injured his foot and ESPN's Dan Graziano reports that he isn't expected to even practice again until September.
So who fills that leadership gap?
If the remaining players can't step up, the defense may not be able to carry the team if the offense struggles.
Biggest Question: Offensive line
Last season, Football Outsiders ranked the Giants offensive line as the 18th best for pass blocking and a horrid 30th in run blocking. Pro Football Focus ranked them as the 28th worst overall line.
The eyes of actual Giants fans probably ranked the line somewhere between "I'm going to cry" and "Arc of the Covenant Meltdown."
When their season ended, the Giants immediately went into action to address the line woes. They signed Charles Brown, John Jerry and Geoff Schwartz and then drafted center Weston Richburg from Colorado State.
The team got younger and more athletic on the offensive line and they did it quickly.
Of the moves on the offensive line, the most underrated is Schwartz.
Drafted in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL draft, Schwartz has been with three teams prior to landing in New York. The Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs all let him go within a couple of seasons, but he has always been a solid addition to the line at every destination.
Brown struggled in New Orleans last year and Jerry is recovering from injury, but Schwartz comes in with no health issues and no issues on the field. He's incredibly versatile and is able to line up at either guard position or even right tackle in a pinch.
Lining him up in inside will solidify the interior of the offensive line and not only secure it for pass plays, but open things up for run plays as well.
At the end of the day though, will it be enough? The line got younger, but not healthier considering injuries to not only Brown, but Chris Snee and Will Beatty as well. They have to worry about whether Justin Pugh can build on his great rookie season and if Richburg can step up at center or J.D. Walton can perform after missing every game since Week 4 of 2012.
That's a lot of "ifs" to worry about.
Bold Prediction: This will be Tom Coughlin's last season
Win or lose, good or bad, Coughlin is going to call it quits after this year. Bringing in McAdoo feels like a potential tryout, and Coughlin looked really tired after last year. At 67, he's at the end of a fantastic career, one which he will finish on his own terms.
This is the year he calls it a day.
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Andrew Garda is a freelance writer currently murdering internet trees in the name of NFL football. A member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he is a contributing writer for Sports on Earth and has been featured on sites such as Bleacher Report, The Jets Blog, Comcast Sportsnet, Footballguys and CheeseheadTV. Garda has been credentialed for many NFL drafts, Senior Bowls, pro days and various NFL events and currently lives in Montclair, N.J., where you can't swing a stick without hitting another sportswriter. Follow him on Twitter at @andrew_garda.