Giant Coach Allie Sherman is the fortunate beneficiary of the National Football League's latest paradox: rewarding losing coaches with long-term job security. Despite a dismal season—the Giants won only two games and finished last in the Eastern Conference—Sherman was given a 10-year contract. Feeling euphoric, Sherman said, "I am confident that the Giants will swing back up, and sooner than people think." Maybe so, probably not. The Giants have more holes than a pair of mesh stockings and, although Sherman is an excellent coach, he is not going to rebuild the team in just a year or two.
However, he did take a long step up by trading for Detroit's veteran quarterback, Earl Morrall, three weeks before the season began. Morrall gives the Giants something they have sorely needed since Y. A. Tittle's injury last year—a first-line, drop-back quarterback,
From sheer necessity Sherman had planned to make the Giants, long a passing team, a running club. "I'm not a pioneer," he said ruefully before the Morrall trade. "If I had a drop-back passer I would use him. I don't, so I'll adapt to the material."
He will not have to junk all of the special offense he had put in for the benefit of scrambler Gary Wood. Morrall runs and runs well but, most important to the Giants, he can throw long or short. Wood was strictly a short-range passer and not notably accurate even at point blank distances.
Even with the addition of Morrall, the Giant offense will stress the running game. This will be a complete turnabout for the team. Seldom in the 16-year era of Charley Conerly and Tittle did New York fans see a running offense. That was natural enough; the Giants lacked effective ball carriers. By finishing last the Giants got the best shot at the college draft and went for big backs with speed. The competition will likely be too tough for last year's discoveries, Fullback Ernie Wheelwright and Halfback Steve Thurlow. Wheelwright, a powerful runner, may have to give way to the Giants' No. 1 draft choice, Tucker Frederickson, who is not only powerful but also is a controlled runner. He can cut and, when clear, outrace the secondary. Thurlow should be pushed by Ernie Koy. Koy does everything Thurlow can do, only better, and at 225 pounds is 10 pounds heavier and nearly a second faster in 100 yards. Besides that, he throws a running pass well and is a good punter.
With the new accent on running, all of the six backs Sherman carries should have sufficient work. The rate of attrition on runners is high; Sherman is fortunate to have enough big strong ones to use them in shifts. With Morrall to man the quarterback post, Del Shofner becomes once again an important weapon in the Giant arsenal. With the weak-armed Wood, Shofner was nearly useless since Wood could not reach him on the long patterns that are his specialty. Aaron Thomas, Joe Morrison, Dick James and big John Adams round out a better than adequate corps of receivers. If the offensive line improves its pass-blocking, Morrall should be able to hit them consistently.
In the line Greg Larson has not recovered from a knee operation, and he will be replaced by either Mickey Walker, a tough refugee from the specialty teams, or Ed Adamchik, from last year's taxi squad. The Giants are fairly well off at guard, but at tackle there is uncertainty. Rosie Brown, beginning his 13th season, can't go on forever. Frank Lasky and Roger Anderson are just names. Although Sherman began a year earlier to reconstruct the defense, it is no farther along than the offense. Strong, capable players like Jim Katcavage, Andy Stynchula, John LoVetere and Jim Moran haven't yet developed the teamwork that comes with years of being on the same unit. There are two exceptionally alert and mobile first-year linebackers: Olen Underwood and Jim Carroll. The secondary has slowed and fiery Erich Barnes has gone to Cleveland.
What remains for Sherman is a choice between losing with inexperience or losing with players headed over the hill.
New York's Allan Webb (21) has it, St. Louis' Bobby Joe Conrad wants it and ex-Giant Erich Barnes (49) has him as Jim Patton angles in.