By: Chad Jay
Today, another key cog during the Coughlin/Eli administration bit the dust, as 11-year veteran O-Lineman David Diehl officially announced his retirement.Ex-New York Giant Warrior David Diehl
To many Giants fans, this news was met with thunderous applause and shouts of "FINALLY!!!" Hey, even Diehl knew what the "deal" is:
"I kinda had the feeling that this would probably be the last one."
It's the right decision, as a combination of injuries and age (33) zapped Diehl of his athleticism -- which was never his trademark to begin with -- and slow feet and diminished power are a poor recipe for success.
In his heyday, though, Diehl was a versatile asset; a "Swiss army knife" Big Blue could plug in anywhere and never skip a beat. But with increasing regularity, he found himself entirely more likely to pick his QB up off the turf, than pick up an oncoming rusher.
Unfortunately, the Giants were so ravaged by injuries in 2013 that Dave was thrust into several roles he was ill-equipped to win...
... much to the delight of the Defensive Lineman lined up directly across from him.
For the past two seasons, Diehl was a swinging gate, surrendering an unfathomable number of QB pressures, hurries, hits, and sacks. Sites that grade performance on a play-by-play basis routinely ranked him DEAD LAST -- he was an overmatched player way past his prime.
In many ways, his exit mirrors that of Kevin Gilbride (discussed in our previous entry). Like KG, Coach Coughlin was loyal to a fault with DD, showing the kind of faith that officially crossed over from admirable to foolish.
Father Time spares none, and the Not-For-Long league sees yet another warrior exit stage right.
The once-great David Diehl
As is the case with KG, one could argue that this is an "addition by subtraction" scenario. But just because Dave went out with a whimper, that doesn't mean his many positive contributions should be forgotten.
So let's recap his glory days, as he deserves to be remembered more fondly than the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none he left as.
For several seasons, Diehl was Mr. Dependable: a hard-worker, setting a tone of toughness through his willingness to play through an assortment of aches, pains, and injuries -- ones often serious enough to require offseason surgery to repair.
Plus, we often forget the long, controversial '07 offseason when Jerry Reese entered the fray as GM. JR's first big "splash" move, of course, was the unexpected and unceremonious dismissal of incumbent Left Tackle Luke Petitgout, famously labeling him a "marginal player," and sending waves of criticism throughout the Tri-State area.
The burning question: Who's gonna protect Eli's blindside now?
The answer turned out to be a guy already on the roster...
...one who'd never played the position before as a pro.
That "guy," of course, was David Diehl. And his move to LT was criticized, dissected, and over-analyzed ad nauseum.
Reese is off his rocker!
Eli's gonna get creamed out there!
The uproar was deafening.
But lo-and behold, the plan worked, as that very same year, Diehl and Co. kept Eli's blue and white jersey relatively devoid of brown and green...and the New York Giants shocked the world by handing the 18-0 Patriots their one-and-only loss, while adding a third Super Bowl trophy to their case.
(***Funny how these moves are the "biggest deal in the world" at the time, but when they work, we quickly forget all about them.)
For the next 4 seasons, Diehl handled his business admirably at arguably the most important -- and challenging -- spot along the Offensive Line for two Super Bowl winning teams. He also earned a well-deserved Pro Bowl berth in 2009, after having been a key contributor to a mauling rushing attack that featured two 1,000 yard rushers in Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward in '08, solidifying the age-old axiom that guys make it to the Pro Bowl one year late.
Not too shabby, particularly for a former 5th round pick, eh?
Off the field, Diehl was a stand-up guy, who represented the Giants organization with class and dignity (...his DUI arrest back in June of 2012 notwithstanding). On it, he was more "Rudy" than, say, Walter Jones -- he was never going to overpower anybody, and he wasn't even a tortoise's estimation of quick.
He survived for 11 seasons on sheer will, true grit, and heart.
He never made excuses and almost never failed to suit up.
He restructured contracts, accepted pay cuts, and changed positions without making a peep.
Yes, David Diehl was a true blue Giant, through and through, embodying everything we look for in our players...and that's the one I'll chose to remember; not the turnstile who, for the better part of the past two seasons, was responsible for much of this:Eli under fire was the "norm" in 2013.
The future of the New York Giants Offensive Line
(*Warning: it ain't pretty*)
For anyone who didn't crash land from Mars and watch football for the first time in 2013, it was painfully obvious that problem numero uno for the GMEN was the atrocious play of the O-Line.
It's now of paramount importance that Jerry Reese rediscover his magic touch, and devote the vast majority of his resources -- whether via Draft, Free Agency, crafty trade, betrothal of daughter Jasmyne Danielle -- to repairing what was inarguably a bottom-5 unit that:
- Gave Eli no room to operate, evidenced by his "happy feet," and bailing out on throws when he had a clean pocket and could've waited an extra tick or two.
- Couldn't move anyone off the ball, relying on the brute strength of Andre Brown, and the quasi-resurrected careers of Peyton Hillis and Brandon Jacobs to churn out 2-3 yards per tote.
- Lacked discipline, with entirely too many false starts and holding penalties.
Sure, injuries played their role, with RG Chris Snee and C David Baas placed on IR early in the season, thrusting reserves into starting roles they unfailingly failed to impress at.
But none of the aforementioned members of the Giants' "MASH" unit are locks to return in 2014, so we've got our work cut out for us.
Think about it...
Diehl: Key backup -- gone.
Snee: Mulling retirement, per ESPN, though this is more speculative than concrete.
David Baas: Likely a cap casualty.
Kevin Boothe: Meh. Just a guy -- and no lock to be re-signed.
So, that means the New York Giants have ONLY TWO definite Day-1 starters in Will Beatty -- fresh off a disappointing response to his huge payday -- and Justin Pugh. (And to think, Giants fans were sending Reese enough hate mail to clog a landfill over the Pugh pick. Guess it wasn't such a dumb move after all.) I won't even list the likes of James Brewer, Brandon Mosley, or Dallas Reynolds among our assets because, well, unfortunately I've seen them play football.
So where does that leave us?
In dire straits, it appears, as we now have three gaping holes along the O-Line. If they aren't properly plugged, Eli may want to consider joining Diehl in retirement.
- How will you remember David Diehl?
- How many picks should be spent on the O-Line in the Draft?
- Who do you have your eyes on in Free Agency?
Please leave your comments below.
By: Chad Jay