After back to back 1,000 yard seasons in 2007 and 2008, the New York Giants felt obligated to pay Brandon Jacobs handsomely; $25 million over four years, to be exact.
The Giants were impressed by Jacobs’s productivity, if not his durability. After the retirement of Tiki Barber, Jacobs was given the majority of the carries. He played only 11 games in 2007 and 13 games in 2008, yet still managed to break the 1,000 yard mark in each year. In 2008, the Giants had the best rushing attack in the NFL and Jacobs scored a career-high 15 touchdowns.
The numbers were there, but so were the intangibles. At 6’4 265 lbs, Jacobs was one of the most feared runners in the game. When he broke into the open field and gained speed, no one wanted to stand in his way. Just ask LaRon Landry of the Redskins. The only way a team could stop Jacobs would be to gang tackle him; one defender would not be enough. In those two previously mentioned phenomenal years, Jacobs averaged five yards per carry. Theoretically, the Giants should have given the ball to the former So. Illinois Saluki every offensive play.
After his pay-day prior to the 2009 season, something happened to Jacobs that prevented him from being the player that struck fear in so many of the NFL’s defensive players. Less people were being “trucked.” Individual Cowboys, Eagles, and Redskins were bringing down Jacobs on their own.
The numbers provide evidence of his demise. In 15 games in 2009, the most he played in as a starter, Jacobs failed to reach the 1,000 yard mark. He averaged only 3.7 yards per carry, his lowest output since his rookie season and managed only five touchdowns. Worse, Jacobs was getting stopped consistently on third and short. He had the lowest number of first downs (43) since he was named a starter in 2007.
Many people blame the hard hits that Jacobs took during his first two years as a starter and during his second year, when he was basically used solely as a 3rd and 1 battering ram. Others say that Jacobs sustained an injury early in the season and played through it because he was told it wouldn’t get worse. Naturally, there are the critics who believe that Jacobs is simply not as motivated after he put the guaranteed $13 million in his bank account.
If I were Tom Coughlin, I wouldn’t waste a second trying to figure out what’s wrong with Jacobs.
My reasoning: Ahmad Bradshaw.
Bradshaw was the Giants’ 7th round choice in the now famous 2007 NFL draft. He wasn’t expected to make the team, let alone make an impact. Since his rookie campaign, Bradshaw has done nothing but produce. That year, Bradshaw was a late season discovery, only carrying the ball 23 times, but for an average of 8.3 yards per carry. This included an 88 yard game-clinching touchdown burst against the Bills that officially sent the Giants to the playoffs. It’s feasible to say that without Bradshaw, the Giants wouldn’t have won the Super Bowl.
In 2008, Bradshaw was beat out in camp by Derrick Ward for the backup spot to Jacobs. Both Jacobs and Ward rushed for 1,000 yards, taking away publicity from the fact that Bradshaw averaged over five yards per carry when he was called upon.
Last season, as Jacobs primary backup, Bradshaw rushed for a career high 778 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging almost five yards per carry. He had more touchdowns and first downs than Jacobs did, even though he carried the ball 61 fewer times. It is also important to mention that Bradshaw was battling injuries last season as well. He had surgery on both feet and on his right ankle this past offseason.
For a whole year, Bradshaw has outperformed Brandon Jacobs. Currently, he is outperforming Jacobs. There is no doubt in my mind that Bradshaw would be my starter in the season opener against the Carolina Panthers.
Last season and in 2007, the Giants rushing plan was to beat the opponent down with Jacobs all game, and then have them chase the feisty and fresh Bradshaw in the fourth quarter.
Last year especially, this plan did not work.
I like this plan better: Have Ahmad Bradshaw start and get the majority of the carries for the first three quarters. Bradshaw is a guy who always fights for extra yards, and who rarely gets tackled by one player. He is a free agent next season, and I’m sure he will be as motivated as ever to wreak havoc on all of the Giants opponents. Then, in the fourth quarter, have a fresh and fierce Jacobs come into the game to take the bulk of the carries, or at the very least, convert on third and short. The last thing a middle linebacker wants to do in the fourth quarter is tackle a 265-pound running back.
Regardless of what the plan is, the NFL is a performance business. Jacobs has clearly been outperformed over the past year and has done nothing in camp this year, or in the preseason to show that he has regained his prior form.
It’s time for Coach Coughlin to give the starting spot to the man who has earned it.
About the Author
Written by Chris Ippolito
Grew up in Holmdel, NJ. Studied at Marist College. Worked as personal intern for hockey analyst and writer Stan Fischler of MSG network. Interned at MSG network for school credit during Fall of 2008. Worked as play by play broadcaster for the Danbury Westerners of the NECBL in summer of 2007. Passionate about baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. I mostly follow New York teams, but I pay attention to what goes on outside the tri-state area very closely. I feel as though I write so that people can both relate to and understand what they are reading. I am honest, but I also try and look at issues from different perspectives. I will do my best to both inform and entertain while contributing to this website.