The New York Giants are far from a perfect football team. Their flaws were on display for much of the regular season as they rode a weekly rollercoaster. Tom Coughlin’s team seemed to shift focus from week to week looking like champs one week and chumps the next.
What made the New York Giants world champions was more than a drop by Wes Welker, a poor decision by Tom Brady or a great throw by Eli Manning. All of those factors contributed to the Giants’ 21-17 Super Bowl stunner against the previously invincible Pats.
What gave the Giants a chance to be champs and eventually got them a second ring in four years was the ability to dig deep when it matters most.
If the Oakland Raiders ever want to see another Lombardi added to the cabinet then they’ve got to take a page from the Giants’ formula. Not much separated the Giants from the Raiders this past season. Both teams needed help to make it into the postseason. Both were teetering on the brink of an early vacation. Both controlled their own fate down the stretch.
The difference between the two is simple.
When the Giants saw an opportunity to take their football destiny by the horns, they went forward without hesitation, possessing supreme confidence in their talents and perfect execution of their game plan.
When the Raiders saw an opportunity to take their football destiny by the tail, they cowered into a corner, rolled over in the clutch and lost all faith in what had put them in position to win their division and go forward into the NFL’s championship tournament.
On paper these teams aren’t that different.
Both teams have the ability to give you different looks in the running game with two unique running backs. The Raiders just so happen to have an elite game breaker in Darren McFadden when healthy. In fact, the Raiders ran the rock infinitely better than the Giants with Michael Bush carrying the load.
Both teams boast of a talented receiving corp. The Raiders receivers are slowly coming into their own while the Giants’ group is clearly ready for primetime.
Both teams view their defensive line as the foundation upon which titles are built. The Raiders just wish they could get the consistent and clutch performance from their unit similar to what New York got from theirs during the biggest moments of the season.
Where the two teams greatly differ are in some of the most important areas.
Carson Palmer is no Eli Manning. Whereas Palmer has all the tools like Manning he has yet to display the unflappable nature necessary to weather the storm of the NFL pressure cooker.
Hue Jackson was no Tom Coughlin. Whereas Jackson wanted the world to know how smart he was, Coughlin would rather assume blame, deflect praise and hold his team privately accountable.
On paper there isn’t too much that separates the Giants from the Raiders. It only took one more win than Oakland for the Giants to take their division and romp through the playoffs. A little more focus down the stretch could have given Oakland that one extra win they needed to be the best of the AFC West. A lot more focus and for all we know Jackson would still be employed and Reggie McKenzie would have to follow the lead of his cocky head coach.
The biggest difference between these two franchises is revealed in the biggest moments.
The Giants snoozed through much of the regular season yet turned it on when they knew a chance at playing for the Lombardi was on the line.
The Raiders rolled through the first half of the NFL season and took their foot off the gas when they so badly needed to accelerate through the finish line.
The Giants weren’t always dialed in. But you’d better believe Coughlin and his staff knew what buttons to push and when the appropriate time was to push them.
The Raiders lacked the necessary focus of a champion. The coaching staff clearly had no clue what was needed to get the silver and black back on track with the season on the line.
On paper the differences aren’t so glaring that the Giants exist in another football universe than the Raiders. However the game tape reveals all.
Dennis Allen might be the man that will get the Raiders back on top. He might also be keeping the office warm for the next stiff that blows into the Bay. There is only one way to know that answer. Allen should be aware that he’s inheriting a team that has been knocking on the door of the playoffs for two years running. This is not a total rebuild and McKenzie should recognize that too. What the Raiders need is to examine the blueprint established by the Giants. It doesn’t take a perfect season to win a title. It takes perfect execution at key moments to hoist a Lombardi.
If 8-8 is good enough to make the playoffs then that is all that matters. Forget getting into the postseason with home field and a sexy record. Just make the tourney and wreck shop. The rest is window dressing for sports talk radio.
The Raiders have been within shouting distance of winning their division for two years running. Taking that next step shouldn’t require a complete overhaul but that is what’s happening. Hopefully amid all these sweeping changes in the East Bay the real focus won’t be lost. A better effort in key moments is the difference between champs and chumps. The Giants proved that once again. Hopefully the Raiders were taking notes this time.