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We like to think of the New York Giants as a blue blood NFL franchise. They've been around since the early years. They have four Lombardi Trophies. Some great players are part of Giants lore.
The truth is, it has been a while since the Giants did anything to be proud about.
Since Feb. 5, 2012, they haven't won a playoff game (though that was a big win, in the Super Bowl over Tom Brady's New England Patriots). They've been to the playoffs only once since then, and they got blown out in the wild-card round. In 19 of the past 21 seasons, the Giants didn't win a playoff game. The two Super Bowl runs with Eli Manning have given the Giants a pass that other dysfunctional franchises like the Washington Commanders and New York Jets don't get.
In the 10-plus years that have passed since the Giants' last playoff win, they've made miserable decisions at every turn. Whether it's hiring the wrong coaches, giving Dave Gettleman too long as general manager, botching the benching of Manning and not knowing how to properly regroup from that, screwing up draft picks, overpaying free-agent busts or even blowing a goodwill gesture to give Pepsi to fans, the Giants have been a debacle.
“I kept thinking during the season that we hit rock bottom and then each week it got a little worse,” Giants co-owner John Mara said when asked if the end of last season was the most embarrassing point in his 67 years around the team, via NJ.com. “I’m not proud of saying this, but if I’m going to be 100% honest, I would have to say the answer is yes.”
The only hope is that a new regime figures a way out of the mess. Former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was hired to replace Joe Judge, whose second year was punctuated by him curiously running quarterback sneaks and punting in the season finale, a sign he'd quit on the team. The new GM replacing the retired Gettleman is Joe Schoen, who like Daboll comes from a suddenly successful Bills organization.
There's a lot of work to be done. Quarterback Daniel Jones is still a big question mark, and is probably getting a fourth season as starter only because the Giants invested the sixth pick of the draft in him and need to see it through. Saquon Barkley had a troubling, quiet season coming off ACL surgery. Kenny Golladay is coming off a 521-yard, zero-TD season after signing a four-year, $72 million contract a year ago. Kadarius Toney, a 2021 first-round draft pick, hasn't endeared himself to the organization. The Giants' salary cap issues were so bad they had to cut cornerback James Bradberry, one of their best players, leaving them perilously thin at the position.
The Giants were 4-13 last season and while a big part of that was a horrendous 0-6 stretch when Jones was sidelined due to injury, it's not like New York is a lot better on paper than a year ago.
Maybe a coaching change will bring about an uptick. Judge quickly proved to be in over his head. The Daboll hire got rave reviews and he brought in a good staff headlined by respected defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale, who was added after Patrick Graham surprisingly left for the Las Vegas Raiders. Still, Daboll is a rookie head coach in a tough market. There's also a fair question about how much Daboll had to do with Bills quarterback Josh Allen's stardom, and how much of Daboll's reputation grew due to being fortunate enough to coach Allen. Plenty of hot assistants through the years suddenly haven't looked like geniuses after they've been detached from a star quarterback.
The Giants have some potential building blocks in pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, once considered a favorite to be the first overall pick of the 2022 class, and offensive tackle Evan Neal. Those players were drafted fifth and seventh overall, respectively. The extra top-10 pick was a final gift from Gettleman, who moved down in the 2021 draft when the Chicago Bears wanted Justin Fields and were willing to trade a 2022 first-round pick. There are some other quality players still on the roster, like safety Xavier McKinney, cornerback Adoree' Jackson, offensive tackle Andrew Thomas and defensive linemen Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. Not every move Gettleman made was terrible.
Maybe Daboll has some magic from his time in Buffalo and transforms an offense that was miserable under former coordinator Jason Garrett. Martindale has enough pieces to work with on defense to turn that into a respectable unit. In a weak NFC, maybe a playoff berth is possible.
That would be nice for Giants fans. They might not remember what it's like for their team to be good.
The Giants' biggest free-agent addition was guard Mark Glowinski, who might not be a big name but was a smart signing that fills a position of dire need. The addition of quarterback Tyrod Taylor raised eyebrows, with Daniel Jones being in a make-or-break season. The cap-strapped Giants lost players like cornerback James Bradberry, defensive tackle Austin Johnson, tight end Evan Engram, pass rusher Lorenzo Carter, safeties Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers, cornerback Keion Crossen and guard Will Hernandez. Not all of them will be missed.
The Giants' draft was good, but it's easy to get a good grade when you have two top-seven picks. Some picks after the first round, like undersized receiver Wan'Dale Robinson over some bigger-name prospects, were questionable. The success of this offseason hinges on whether edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and tackle Evan Neal turn into stars.
Theoretically, Brian Daboll could turn Daniel Jones into the next Josh Allen. Realistically, when the Giants declined Jones' fifth-year option they were admitting he likely isn't their long-term answer.
Jones has 21 touchdown passes in 25 starts over his past two seasons. It's not like the Giants haven't put talent around him. Jones' past two seasons have been cut short due to injuries.
Jones is still intriguing due to his draft pedigree and athleticism, but he hasn't been accurate enough or made enough plays to give New York much reason to believe he can be a high-end starter. If the issues Jones has had were due to bad coaching and a subpar offensive line — "We’ve done everything possible to screw this kid up since he’s been here," Giants co-owner John Mara said this offseason, via NJ.com — maybe we'll find out this season.
The Giants' win total is 7.5 at BetMGM and it seems like an easy under. The arguments to take the over are better coaching, a (hopefully) healthy Jones and an easier schedule. But it takes a leap of faith to believe the Giants will double their 2021 win total and get to 8-9 or better.
From Yahoo's Scott Pianowski: "Daniel Jones heads into a prove-it season — you can say that for many Giants — and maybe Brian Daboll can help unlock Jones’ upside.
"Jones set career bests in many efficiency metrics last year — completion percentage, interception avoidance, YPA, sack avoidance — and he’s always been an athletic and resourceful runner. The Giants had comically bad receiver play last year, but part of that was tied to injury; the receivers room isn’t that bad.
"Jones is an interesting second or third quarterback to consider if you play in Best Ball contests or formats that require more than one starter. Even if Daboll isn’t a true miracle worker, he likely is an improvement over the previous clown show that ran the Giants. Danny Dimes is an interesting penny stock entering 2022."
Last season Saquon Barkley, one of the greatest running back prospects ever coming out of college, had 593 yards and two touchdowns on 162 carries for an average of 3.7 yards per carry. His backup Devontae Booker, a journeyman on his third team in three seasons, had 593 yards and two touchdowns on 145 carries for an average of 4.1 yards per carry. Booker, who was cut by the Giants after the season, had a slightly better yards per catch average than Barkley on one fewer reception, too.
Barkley's Pro Football Focus grade ranked him 58th of 62 qualified running backs. It's worth wondering, at age 25, if we'll again see the Barkley who dominated at Penn State and was awesome in winning the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Maybe being another year removed from ACL surgery will help. A 102-yard game against the Bears in Week 17 was promising.
Barkley said this offseason he feels "a lot different, a lot better, like myself again.”
"It’s a long way until September and the start of the regular season, but to be honest, I’m tired of whatever’s written about me, the bs that is said about me or this team," Barkley said in April, via WFAN. "I want to go out there and prove to this organization that the player they drafted is still there, and I can still do special things with the ball in my hand.”
Is Brian Daboll going to work out?
The biggest reason Daboll was hired by the Giants is the explosion of Josh Allen, and the Bills' offense as a whole, the past couple seasons. Daboll was creative in Buffalo. He embraced the pass-first revolution in the NFL and certainly he played a big role in Buffalo's turnaround. It's also possible that Daboll greatly benefitted from having a phenomenal quarterback who worked hard to develop his immense physical skill. In Daboll's first six seasons as an NFL offensive coordinator, with the Browns, Dolphins, Chiefs and first two seasons in Buffalo, his offenses never ranked better than 22nd in yards gained or higher than 20th in points scored. Buffalo's offense spiked to second and fifth in total yards the past two seasons. Allen's surge was obviously the key to that improvement, and how much of that should be credited to Daboll? We'll find out how much Daboll's offensive brilliance translates with the Giants, when he won't have a quarterback anywhere near Allen's talent level.
Maybe the upgrade from Joe Judge and his staff to Brian Daboll is enough to turn the Giants into immediate winners. It's possible. Daboll could turn Daniel Jones into an effective quarterback, which we've seen in brief glimpses. You can tell a story in which Saquon Barkley is healthier and explosive again, Kadarius Toney figures out how to be a pro, the offensive line is helped immensely by rookie Evan Neal and free-agent addition Mark Glowinski, and the defense takes off under new coordinator Don Martindale. Judge was a bad hire, which has been the norm for the Giants over the past decade. Daboll is exciting, and if he's a home-run hire many think he is, perhaps the Giants can rise all the way to playoff contention.
At this point, Giants ownership doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt. Sure, the hires of Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll look good, but it has been a long time since the Giants have made great decisions of any importance. Giants co-owner John Mara was blunt when asked why fans should believe he'd get the latest round of hires right.
“Well, I haven’t given them any reason to believe that,’’ Mara said, via the New York Post.
There has been a deep organizational failure for a decade. The Giants were a horrendous four-win team last season and maybe it won't be much better. Perhaps Daniel Jones struggles in a contract year, Saquon Barkley never recaptures his prime form and everything else falls apart around them. The Giants were one of the worst teams in football last season and they can repeat that feat.
My ranking on the Giants will probably be lower than most. It's hard to see a big jump coming. I like the Brian Daboll hire and think it'll work out, but it's always hard to project rookie head coaches. It's especially tough to learn while under the intense scrutiny of the New York media and fans. The Giants were 4-13 last season and while they weren't so bad when Daniel Jones was healthy, I'm not sure a healthy Jones carries the Giants too far. I think it'll be another last-place finish for the Giants and they'll start over at quarterback in 2023. Then we'll get a chance to see what Daboll can do.