The 2013 New York Giants literally have nothing to play for anymore.
It's unfamiliar territory for team and fans alike. While they haven't been perennial Super Bowl contenders, the Giants have played many meaningful December games since the team drafted quarterback Eli Manning back in 2004. That won't be the case this time around, as the Giants were eliminated from the playoffs last week when they were drubbed by the San Diego Chargers out west.
Among the many issues that plagued the Giants during a disappointing season were injuries. It has, over the past month or so, become clear that Justin Tuck was, for whatever reasons, not 100 percent in the early stages of fall. Jason Pierre-Paul has been dealing with back issues since 2012.
It's now a shoulder problem that should see Pierre-Paul's season end early.
Reports emerged on Friday that Pierre-Paul had been advised by doctors to shut it down for the rest of 2013. Coughlin dismissed those rumors when speaking with reporters on Friday, and Pierre-Paul told the media on Thursday that he was “getting better, day by day.”
That's fine and all, but there is a difference between feeling better in your everyday life and feeling well enough to play in a regular season NFL contest.
The Giants have nothing to gain in putting Pierre-Paul out on the field for a single play in the final three weeks of the season. His saving what has personally been a down season with a couple of solid performances won't mean anything to anybody if he picks up any type of serious injury. New York will need JPP healthy and ready to go come next August, not now.
One could say the same about cornerback Corey Webster. Webster, who is recovering from an ankle injury, won't be an available option when the Giants host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. He, like Pierre-Paul, is having a rough campaign. Webster has appeared in only four games in 2013.
Shutting Webster down isn't just about the health and wellness of the nine-year pro. The secondary of the Giants could experience a massive overhaul next season. Those on the coaching staff and in the front office have two things in particular to contemplate beginning on December 30:
Would it be worth it to bring Terrell Thomas, who is set to become a free agent, back next year?
Is Prince Amukamara ever going to evolve in a solid No. 1 or No. 2 player at the CB position?
Thomas, who lost back-to-back seasons due to torn ACLs, has stayed healthy all season. He won Defensive Player of the Week back in October, and he has shown glimpses of the player of old on multiple occasions. He's also been beaten several times, including once for a touchdown in the losing effort at San Diego.
Amukamara has had a good season, and he has undeniably evolved into a better overall player. With that said, he continues to not meet the hype and expectations that come from being the 19th overall player taken in the 2011 NFL Draft. Some who have created 2014 mock drafts are predicting that New York will again go cornerback with the team's first overall selection next spring.
Seeing those two play a few more games without having the help of Webster could benefit the franchise down the road.
Manning has, when asked, said all the right things about remaining focused and the Giants attempting to close out the season with as many wins as possible. While I believe that Manning and his teammates aren't thinking about the draft, those in charge of the club have to begin planning for the future. I'd be fine with even Manning holding a clipboard in Week 17.
There is nothing for the Giants to gain this holiday season, but plenty that could be lost.