Time to catch up on the NY Giants, comment on what it all means and where the team is headed.
1) Garrett. The big news this week was the firing of Jason Garrett. Garrett is a good guy, but a weak Coordinator. His schemes are archaic and ineffective. I have mentioned this in the past- follow Dan Schneier on Twitter. He practically makes any daily commentary unnecessary, leaving me to just tend to bigger picture focus. Dan has been chronicling the deficiencies in Garrett’s offense since last season, and we can’t say we are surprised at all. The NFL’s version of the Medusa is here on one play reviewed by another analyst, Dan Orlovsky. It cannot be unseen. Warning, you may turn to stone if you look at it:
2) The First Ten Games. The Garrett exit is part of larger dominoes shaping up. We have to take a step back; before we get to the season’s end housecleaning, let’s get a sense of the Giants final record for 2021. Earlier this year, we projected that the Giants would finish the tough part of the schedule (which ended Monday night with a loss to TB) at anywhere from 0-10 to 2-8. They finished 3-7. Ahha, an uptick?! Not in the slightest. Let’s review the past schedule and balance each Win/Loss versus a true assessment of what each opponent represented.
Loss to Denver. At 5-5, they are the mediocrity of the NFL. Denver has beaten NYG, NYJ, JAC, WAS, and a Dallas team that did not show up. They lost to the more credible opponents.
Loss to WAS. At 4-6, another garbage team at 2-6 who has now begun to play a little better, beating TB and CAR. Thankfully the Giants do not face WAS again right now (they play them the last game of the season), or else they would probably lose.
Loss to ATL. This was the season crusher. Atlanta is extremely similar to the Giants. They feed off the dregs and have zero chance against competent teams. Who has this 4-6 team beaten? NYG, WAS, NYJ and NO. Aah, yes, New Orleans. We get to talk about them next.
Win vs NO. I did not see this one coming, but it fits neatly into the weak narrative. The Saints are this year’s enigma. Even inside that game, it was an enigma. How does a 21-10 lead with 9 minutes left in the game evaporate against a garbage team like the Giants? To be fair to the Giants, this was the one game all season their OL pass protected. OL narrative, anyone?! The Saints made 4 mistakes to hand the game to the Giants. (Hey, it happens with garbage teams, as the Giants handed the game to WAS and ATL in the prior 2 weeks.) First, they went into the Prevent Offense. Second, when they could not get pressure on Jones, they did not mix up their fronts and confuse the easily befuddled Giants OL. Third, and this one blew my mind, the single greatest RB pass threat out of the backfield, Alvin Kamara, had zero receptions (and 0-1(?) targets)…. against a Defense that hasn’t stopped TEs and RBs since Antonio Pierce. Oh, and did I mention that Crowder (as well as IR Martinez) were out? Fourth, and last, the Giants were not running the ball well for most of the game. 2 of their 20 carries generated half their yardage (including a Jones run for 20 yds)…. yet the Saints were biting on play action. The Saints are now hobbled by injuries and the lowly Falcons beat them. At 5-6, they are good enough to win and bad enough to lose at any moment. (The Thursday night 31-6 pasting by BUF is part of this understanding that the Giants win was against a team in transition post Brees.) Fitting that the Giants game ended off of a coin toss in Overtime.
Losses to DAL, LAR and TB. These teams are 7-4, 7-3 and 7-3. They are the types of teams you measure your competitiveness against. The Giants got shellacked by each one of them, 44-20, 38-11, and 30-10. And the scores of each one of these games weren’t as close as the blowouts each game represented. Consider that it was 38-3 before 8 points of garbage time vs the Rams. Or that it took a muff by Mike Evans plus a Tackle eligible for the final score not to be 30-3 vs the Bucs. These are the games that remind you why the Giants are in need of some serious retooling.
Wins vs CAR & LVR. The victories against CAR and LVR are more a statement about the NFL than the Giants. At 5-6 and 6-5 respectively, these teams are part of what I call the soft underbelly of the NFL. The injury to Christian McCaffrey and the dysfunction of the Raiders are a metaphor (along with the uncompetitiveness of the Giants) for massive mediocrity. Carolina was a good football team to start the year. McCaffrey went down, and the team suffered. After limited action in his first game back, his second game back together with Kyler Murray’s absence and a new QB enabled a win by Carolina vs AZ. So the Giants were fortunate to play the Panthers when they played them. The Raiders game would have been a loss without the stellar play of Xavier McKinney.
Loss to KC. The Giants battled in this game. The Chiefs were a weak team at 3-4. The Giants game jump-started a 4 game winning streak for KC. Do not let their 7-4 record fool you. They are sloppy and heavily penalized. Kelce is busy dropping balls. Mahomes is throwing INTs. The Offensive tackles have not recovered from the injuries and offseason bloodletting. KC was fortunate to miss Aaron Rodgers (Covid) and their best performance may have been last Sunday vs DAL. The Giants squandered an opportunity to beat KC, a la WAS and ATL. Sound familiar? A Jones INT giftwraps a KC TD. Crazy personal foul penalties. Graham had a good defensive gameplan with 2 deep safeties but the Giants offense could not finish.
3) Xavier McKinney. McKinney is a bright spot (along with Quincy Roche) in an otherwise forgettable season. This is really McKinney’s first season as a pro, having lost the vast majority of 2020 to injury. Logan Ryan, a 9 year veteran with 2 rings from his days with the Patriots, says “the sky is the limit” for McKinney. High praise. Ryan continues…
“He’s a really good player. He’s a smart player. He works hard. He’s productive because he’s good at finding the ball in the air. The good thing about Xavier is he had a ton of success in college, obviously, and he came from a program that’s used to that. He’s able to come to work each and every day and he doesn’t seem like he’s acting any differently with the success. He seems like it’s what he expects of himself and what we expect of him. He’s playing well beyond his years, and that’s what we expect him to do.”
4) Giants D. When I am wrong, I admit it. I believed the Giants would have a Top 5 defense this season. They rank 26th. Woof. What happened? (1) The Giants are playing a lot of soft zone. This worked against Mahomes vertical attack but others were comfortable going underneath. Note how Brady the master was patient, going underneath and then went vertical as soon as Graham went with 1 high safety. Good QBs and good teams make the adjustments.(2) Bradberry went from being a shutdown corner to (at times) an invisible liability. Against TB, one play summed it up, where he could not make a tackle when he had his arms wrapped around the ball carrier, and the play went from no gain to a ~10 yard gain. His dominant play last year is simply not there this year. My best guess is he’s playing with an injury that is compromising his play. If you have another explanation for how a player goes from terrific to mediocre in one season, I’m all ears. (3) The preseason loss of Martinez was bigger than I thought. (4) Leonard Williams got paid and now he is back to what we knew he was all along- a solid interior DL who can make some “Secondary” sacks but is certainly not worth trading picks for, tagging, or 3 years/$63MM. Even so, his production has fallen off worse than I (or most) expected. (5) The Edge pass rush impact from Carter, Ximines and Ojulari has been mostly crickets. Ojulari has been active, with 5.5 sacks, yet most of this has come against weaker competition, putting more emphasis on the feast-famine of the NFL’s soft underbelly. He’s a rookie, so it is fine, as he is exactly where he needs to be. But the 2021 Edge pass rush is simply not there, especially against the better opponents. Rookie Quincy Roche had a key sack to end the game vs the Raiders. This is how you win games. Without pressure, you lose games. For the Giants, it is more about losing.
5) Daniel Jones’ 3rd year. This is a hot button for many fans. Franchise QB? Or not? Everyone can agree that the lack of an Offensive line and a credible Coordinator are not helping Jones. But these things merely amplify weaknesses in ball protection and (lack of) pocket poise. We see Jones’ warts. The only time this season he credibly led a 4th Quarter comeback was against the Saints when he had requisite protection. Re the problem with pocket poise, Orlovsky is a little more blunt with his choice of words.
I am not so fast to jettison Jones. I have two reasons why. The first is to nuke the OL with 4 picks in Round 1, Round 1, Round 2 and Round 3 of next year’s Draft, assuming the requisite talent is there. (Side note: the next GM will use 2 of those 4 picks on OL and congratulate himself.) The second reason is that I’d rather have these young OL players hammer Jones with rookie mistakes than turn my next QB into David Carr. Essentially I want to develop my OL before drafting the next QB. Maybe, small maybe, Jones looks good enough with a terrific Coordinator and consistent credible protection. If not, then the OL is ready to plug in a QB in the 2023 or 2024 Draft.
6) Overdrafting. It is worth another visit to the concept of what we mean by overdrafting. Every player has a perceived AND projected worth. Regulars to this NY Giants blog know that we said on Draft day in 2019 that Daniel Jones was overdrafted.
Overdrafting means taking a decent player much sooner than he should be taken. It is as much about squandering draft resources as it is in not getting an impact player. The reason I am coming back to this point is that Mark Schlereth brings up a dynamic here which colors the error from Gettleman coveting Jones.
You have to have a mindset that you are going to walk away from a player if you cannot get him where he belongs. There are too many answers (other good players) and too many landmines (overdrafting, busts) in the draft. Gettleman fails to incorporate this into his thinking, believing he is all-knowing. Hence Barkley full bloom love in 2018, Jones overdrafted in 2019, the Baker trade up into Round 1 to take a player with a serious red flag (work ethic, nothing directly to do with why he was cut, but why yet another R1 pick underperformed from Day 1), and Thomas the first of 4 consensus elite OL picks taken (significant value squandered). Schlereth’s 50 second dismantling of the Jones selection is as simple as it is true. It’s one of many reasons why Gettleman’s decisions have failed the Giants. Remarkably, if that one move would have worked, it would have saved the Giants and Gettleman. It did not, and fittingly he will not last as the Giants GM.
7) The Remaining 7 Games. 2 PHL, WAS, DAL, MIA, CHI and LAC. I can see the Giants going anywhere from 0-7 to 4-3, hence finishing anywhere from 3-14 to 7-10. Let’s assume the best outcome, splitting the remaining 4 divisional contests and beating MIA + CHI. How does Mara respond to 7-10? We know how he will respond to 5-12 or less. The point here is that 7-10 is the same as 3-14. What difference does it make if you can cobble together 7 garbage wins or 3 garbage wins? Who cares if you can beat MIA? Or split with WAS? Yes, improvement will always be welcome in the remaining portion of 2021. We want to see the Giants develop younger players like Ojulari, Roche, Thomas and McKinney. Many others will not survive a new GM and Head Coach.
8) Decisions vs Outcomes. Suppose someone gives you the following proposition: we flip a coin and if it lands heads I pay you $60 and if it lands tails, you pay me $40. Do you do the coin flip? Yes, all day long. Each flip has a net positive expected value of 0.5*($60) + 0.5(-$40) = +$10. Every time you flip the coin, it’s like someone is handing you a net $10 bill. Now if you flip the coin once, and it comes out tails and you lose, was the decision to flip a bad one? NO! It’s a mistake to make a determination on the decision to flip the coin based on any one outcome.
This framework of Decisions vs Outcomes applies directly to individual Draft decisions. If the decision is structurally flawed (where the attributes are net negative relative to other choices), then the Draft decision is incorrect. And vice versa. It doesn’t matter that Jones is a HOFer or a bust. That’s the outcome. Both possibilities existed on Draft Day and both possibilities still exist (although both extreme outcomes are less likely). Gettleman will be judged on the outcomes of ALL the decisions he has made, which sum to the aggregate performance on the field. So when we see (a) win now in 2018 (b) Barkley’s diminished impact (c) Daniel Jones’s imperfections (d) DeAndre Baker’s trade up & bust (e) inability to effectively prioritize Offensive Line and (f) win now in 2021, it sums to 18-40. Those structurally flawed decisions yielded a slew of negative outcomes, which collectively have doomed the Giants. Should it really matter whether the Giants finish 3-14 or 7-10? Does either outcome imply a more or less favorable assignment to Gettleman’s decisions which led to this state of the franchise? We urged Gettleman’s release after Year 2. We have not seen anything to change that opinion. In fact, the best decision of Gettleman’s tenure, trading down from 1.11 to 1.20, was asterisked by the razor thin luck(!) of Philadelphia trading ahead for Smith. If you have to ask whether we care about the outcome of Smith’s career, then you need to reread the section.
9) John Mara. I have this fantasy. I want to see Mara come into the end of season Press Conference and say this: “This past season is one of great disappointment for the organization, the fans, and ownership. I hold myself completely responsible for everything that has happened. I hired Dave Gettleman. I approved the head coach hiring. My administration suggested Garrett (source: Raanan). I said in no uncertain terms that 2021 would need results, especially after we emptied the tank and went aggressively through Free Agency. We failed on all levels. Having had one of the worst records in the NFL since 2017, that singularly must be on me. No one else. I keep going inside the Giants family for answers, whether that is for the GM search committee or the GM himself. This approach has failed. We can no longer do that. Loyalty is a cornerstone of this organization. Successive failure borne from loyalty means I am serving no ones’ best interests by remaining loyal. It is now obvious to me that I have lengthened this process considerably by staying within these walls. We must look beyond. Hence, I am obtaining the assistance of the NFL in setting up a GM search. To the organization, the Tisches, the fans, we must do better and I take full responsibility for a decade of mostly uncompetitive football.”
And then I woke up.
Who am I kidding? Do I really think Mara miraculously finds enlightenment and figures out that he is the ultimate source of this franchise’s dysfunction? We’re thinking logically here, that one need only look in the mirror to find the answer to having the worst record in the NFL since 2017. I give Mara’s odds of taking full responsibility + searching COMPLETELY outside the organization for a new GM about a 10% chance. If you believe that Gettleman, Barnes, Chris Mara, and even the dated Rolodex of Ernie Accorsi need to be sent into retirement/packing for the good of the franchise (which will be the net result when a GM from outside the organization clears out the deadwood), maybe sending a copy of this post to 1925 Giants Drive E Rutherford 07073 can shake that tree. But I wouldn’t waste your time. Mara knows better than the fans. Until these football addicts stop showing up at games and hurt him in the wallet (or keep embarrassing him like they did at the 2011 Super Bowl championship 10 yr anniversary celebration), he’s never going to figure it out. This morning we have a report that the Giants will try to stay within the Patriots system for Judge’s sake. NO! This is the same backward thinking. This organization desperately needs a fresh set of eyes, so why would you limit it to 2 trees (NYG + NE)? You need to look everywhere. The next GM needs to be completely detached from Judge to make an objective decision about the HC’s future. In fact, if I’m a GM candidate interviewing for the Giants job and they put ANY strings on the hire (ie protecting Judge, Chris Mara, or anyone else in the organization), I politely walk away. That’s a job set up for failure. This report, if true, would only confirm the level of dysfunction at 1925.