EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants co-owner John Mara demanded change after a disappointing season and coach Tom Coughlin is delivering, starting with his coaching staff.
Coughlin fired defensive line coach Mike Waufle on Wednesday afternoon, three days after the season ended and just two days after Mara said that the play of the defensive line was one of the team’s biggest disappointments in an 8-8 season.
Waufle is the second Giants coach dismissed this week. Coughlin fired rookie defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan on Monday.
The defense gave up 427 points this past season — 30th in the NFL — and was a no-show in the final two games, giving up a combined 85 points. Opponents scored at least 40 points in five games, the first time that has happened to the Giants since 1966.
A former Marine, Waufle was well liked by his players. His unit was one of the key reasons that the Giants defeated the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in February 2008.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was sacked five times in the game.
The Giants led the NFL with 53 sacks in 2007, but they had 42 last season and 32 this season. The run defense, which is keyed by the line, also allowed 15 yards more per game compared to 2008.
Injuries hurt the defensive line. Justin Tuck played most of the season with an injured left shoulder and free agent acquisition Chris Canty was bothered by hamstring, calf and knee injuries. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora and tackles Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield didn’t have good seasons coming off knee surgeries.
Defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, another free agent signed in the offseason, contributed very little.
“What I didn’t expect was and probably the biggest area of disappointment was the lack of pressure on the passer,” Mara said on Monday. “We thought that would be our strong suit coming into the season. For whatever reason we didn’t generate consistent pressure on the quarterback. And I think that hurt us tremendously this year.”
New York’s 95 sacks in 2007-08 were the NFL’s second-highest total.
Defensive ends Michael Strahan, Tuck and Umenyiora were Pro Bowl selections in Waufle’s six seasons with the Giants, with the three each having at least nine sacks in the 2007 season.
“I am extremely saddened by it,” Umenyiora said of Waufle’s dismissal in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “He is a great coach and we have a special relationship. I’m sure he will be OK though because there should be very high demand for a coach of his caliber.”
Waufle was hired by Coughlin when he took over as coach in 2004.
Before joining the Giants, Waufle was the defensive line coach for the Oakland Raiders for six seasons.
Coughlin also will have to decide whether to keep cornerbacks coach Pete Giunta, safeties coach Dave Merritt and linebackers coach Jim Herrmann.