Taking Your Losses

You’re thinking this is a post about the loss this past Saturday. But you would be incorrect. This is about a move the Eagles made two years ago that laid the foundation for where they are right now. It won’t get discussed very much (well, not until the Eagles have 2 weeks of media attention before the Super Bowl), but we’re talking about the Carson Wentz trade.

Everyone is rightly focused on this year’s moves, like obtaining Gardner-Johnson for a song, getting AJ Brown (24 years old at the time, and re-signed) for 1.18 in the draft, and picking up Bradberry at a discount when the Giants had to make him a cap casualty. Yes, these moves were all fantastic. But it would not be possible without swallowing a bitter pill first, a year earlier.

Let’s set the table. The story begins in 2016, when the Eagles traded up to 1.02 and selected Carson Wentz. Wentz did well in the NFL, and lead the Eagles in 2017 towards the playoffs (2nd team All-Pro season) before tearing his ACL late in the season. Nick Foles, his brittle backup, took over and got them to the Super Bowl title.

Things between the Eagles and Wentz were going well enough for the Eagles to exercise his 5th year option and then sign him to a contract extension as their franchise QB in 2019. The deal was 4 yrs $128M and most of it was guaranteed. This is where things quickly went off the rails.

You’d expect the commitment to Wentz to be very very strong now. Spending $108M guaranteed… guarantees commitment. But the dynamic between him, HC Pederson, and the Eagles soured. I won’t go into all of the reasons why; this article explains the divorce.

Taking your losses is risk management. It is an act of courage. It is an admission of error. Human beings make mistakes all the time. Yet many are afraid to admit error because they feel they will lose the respect of others. Those who do come clean are stronger because they face the truth. They made a mistake. They are perfectly imperfect. Admission of a mistake frees them up to move forward instead of investing in additional losses. Thankfully in football, there is a record of wins and losses. That holds those who can’t confront their mistakes accountable.

I was not in Philadelphia to hear the local media and the fan reaction, but I am sure Roseman and Company took major heat. Either the masses were killing them for making the deal, they were killing them for taking a beating on the Eagles’ future without Wentz, or they were killing them for both. Kudos to all of them, and the owner too, for pressing forward.

Here is the thing about taking losses- if done properly, it stems the bleeding on a situation that may very well go from bad to worse. “When you are in a hole, stop digging.” Well, taking your losses means that you stop digging. We see these actions by GMs and they know from the inside that they have a problem. As a former trader, we had a saying when you had a trading error- “If you want to have a big problem, start with a small one.” So the rule in trading was to cover an error asap, else it was sure to grow. Don’t ask me why. It just does. “Confront the brutal facts.” They are all part of the same reality—- the sooner you accept defeat and move on, the sooner you’ll be able to get onto a better path.

In the 2021 offseason, the Eagles moved on from Wentz. In 2022, they were in a position to acquire some missing pieces around the rookie Hurts contract. Here it is, the end of the 2022 season, and the Eagles are knocking on the door of a Super Bowl. It could not happen without jettisoning the Wentz contract to the Colts. They architected the salary cap of the rookie QB contract to plug in the pieces elsewhere that they simply couldn’t do if Wentz were still there.

One step back to go two steps forward. The lesson is in exactly what Joe Schoen has done here with the NY Giants in his first season. He had no choice but to take his losses on the salary cap and jettison some muscle (Bradberry) after all of the fat was cut. Schoen also took his losses on Kadarius Toney. There is no greater example of moving on from your losses than trading away your Round 1 pick from only a year ago. Now, Schoen has much more cap space going forward.

It’s hard to see the path after getting bounced in the playoffs. We want to believe that if we levered 2022, kept Bradberry, and grabbed a WR at the trade deadline, that the Giants could have gone even deeper in the playoffs. Schoen instead respected the plethora of holes he had and felt otherwise. Let’s celebrate the coaching hire he made, how they overachieved, and how the table is set for even more competitiveness as the cap gets cleaned out further.

Take the pain now. Live to fight another day. Roseman did it, and it became a spring board a year later. Schoen and Daboll will be able to build the team for 2023, 2024 and beyond as a result of losses taken in 2022. Great things lay ahead. One step back to go two steps forward.

PHL 38 NYG 7

I was at a wedding, so I missed the game. Fortunately I was spared what you all went through.

Schoen and Daboll have resurrected this franchise. That the NY Giants had 9 wins, that they went to the playoffs, that they won their first playoff game in 11 years… it’s a remarkable accomplishment during a rebuilding year. Yes, we wanted more from this game, but it will keep the players, coaches and front office focused on improving the team. The offseason awaits with a young roster and many ways to fill needs that couldn’t be done with a (previously) restricted cap. Stay with us for free agency and the draft. Linebacker and Offensive Line. We have a Quarterback. Onward to 2023!

Philadelphia Preview

Everyone suffers from a condition called selective memory. It is the in/ability to remember certain things but (conveniently?) forget others. Many Giants fans have selective memory about the miracles (beyond the helmet catch, of course) that were required to win Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. In the Divisional Playoff in the XLII run, Dallas was the #1 Seed and they beat the Giants both times during the regular season. One of the lesser known details that is either not remembered or simply not well known is that in Q3 of that playoff game, DAL Left Tackle Flozell Adams got hurt. The entire game changed after that happened. Osi Umenyiora was all of a sudden able to pressure Romo and the distinct edge that Dallas had evaporated. What is easy to remember- the Gmen won the Super Bowl that year. What is not as easy to remember- the Gmen received some BIG LUCK from Adams’ injury. It is this blogger’s opinion that the Giants simply lose that game without Adams leaving the game.

Am I trying to diminish XLII? HELL NO!! Luck (variance) simply has more to do with a season’s outcome than we would like to admit. Luck works both ways. There were years where bad luck (variance) killed a Giants season… the bs pass interference call right before Flipper Anderson killed 1989. Plaxico 2008. Hey, if Gilbride adjusted in 2008 or if the Offensive Coordinator of Dallas adjusted to the loss of Adams by helping with Umenyiora quickly, the outcomes can still change. Making in-game adjustments is hard.

In previewing the PHL-NYG game, I think back to the parallels of Adams 15 years ago. Divisional foe. TD+ underdog. Playing the #1 seed. Beaten twice. Getting hot for the playoffs. Completely disrespected. Giants QB finding his way in the Wild Card round. It is a tough ask to pull out a win, but this is why they play the game. I suspect the Giants will need a piece of luck, be it some help from the referee, a lucky bounce or two, (Toomer having) two defenders bump into one another, or perhaps a recurrence of an injury to a PHL player that changes the dynamic as it did with Flozell Adams. No, we are not rooting for a PHL player to get hurt, but merely instead illustrate that the Giants will probably need some help to get past this team.

The Giants are not the same Giants team that got their doors blown off in the first game (a 48-22 drubbing). Many things have changed since then.

First: the Giants were without McKinney and Jackson, two of the best players on Defense. Versus a team as deep as the Eagles, the Secondary was spread paper thin with Jason Pinnock, Zyon Gilbert, and Tony Jefferson together getting meaningful playing time. The result was a cascade of bad coverage. Both Smith and Brown got easy TDs in the first matchup, which I do not think will be there this time with Jackson and McKinney both back as defenders.

Second: the Giants offense in no way resembles the one that the Eagles saw in that first contest. To quote Dan Schneier, the offense used to run through Barkley and now the offense runs through Jones. Or as I would say it- Jones has the ball in his hands on first down, not Barkley. It’s a far more robust attack. It is the way a 2020’s NFL Offense needs to become in order to win a championship. No, I am not saying the Giants are ready right now to win a title, but what I am saying is that this transformation over the past month is what gives the Giants a way of being more competitive at the right time. People are shorting the Giants. Even I dismissed the Giants playoff chances (probably a number of times this year) because the Offense was not ready for primetime. An offense that runs through the QB is ready for primetime.

Third: Daniel Jones continues to accelerate his play. He seemingly has more confidence every week and has gone from game manager to playmaker. His play this past weekend was elite. Elite QBs make a difference. They make good decisions and they make great plays.

Fourth: Isaiah Hodgins has come out of LITERALLY nowhere to become an X WR. We have chronicled his rise on this blog and told his story. Yet he keeps getting better and better. Things like this do not magically happen to franchises where they manufacture a WR out of thin air. Yet this is pretty much what happened to the Giants in 2022. It is why there is so much optimism in Giants Nation. We know this. No one else really knows who Hodgins is.

Those 4 things should make the game a lot more competitive. The point spread reflects this, at 7.5. The Giants gained a little respect. Jones gained a lot of respect.

Can the Giants win? Yes. Will they win? They need to play near perfect and get some breaks. Consider that the Vikings were the #31 pass defense. The Eagles are #1. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Minnesota anymore. Bradberry (remember him? ugh), Gardner-Johnson, and Slay lead a tough unit. Reddick, Quinn and Cox lead a tough DL. Edwards is also in the mix. On Offense, you have Kelce and Johnson as 1st team All Pro and AJ Brown and Jalen Hurts as 2nd team All Pro. Of course personal accolades do not make a championship team, but the Eagles are loaded.

I don’t like statistics like #1 or #31 ranked, preferring top 25% and bottom 25%. Here’s the thing about a top 25% defense- they’ll stress your efforts. To quote Mike Tyson again: everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Daniel Jones was elite vs a bottom 25% defense. Against a top 25% defense is he punched in the mouth and does he get forced into more mistakes? Jones keeps improving so he may be up to the task. We have to be fair to him and recognize that a tough defense will give Jones fewer choices and make it harder for him to look as good as he was in Minnesota. In more tangible terms, it was one thing for Slayton and Hodgins to get these wide open looks, but the CBs and Safeties of the Eagles will not be as passive or magnanimous. They will have to earn more and Jones will have to continue to be accurate.

Lane Johnson is coming back from a groin injury. He will need surgery after the season but will play through it. What if it flares up during the game? “Lane Johnson is the second most important player on the Eagles’ roster,” explains Wonder, the UltimateNYG Draft analyst. “Assuming he plays, the Eagles are too deep and should beat the Giants.” What about the Giants resurgence making it a competitive game? Wonder respects the transformation of Daniel Jones greatly this season but explains that the Eagles defense is a different animal from the Vikings. “Jones is not going to get easy open WRs the way he did vs the Vikings. Slay and Bradberry are excellent corners, and Gardner-Johnson is back from injury, which will stiffen up their defense. Plus, the Vikings pass rush was Hunter. The Eagles pass rush is everybody.”

This is where we go back to Flozell. Hurts did not look so good in his comeback. He rates to be better after 2 weeks off. What if Lane Johnson is not 100%, or needs to come out? Expect him to play the entire game. The Giants need Ojulari to play (“day to day”) and for Thibodeaux to test Johnson. The mere fact that Johnson will need surgery after the end of the season tells us he cannot be 100%. That’s what needs to be the Giants path to a win.

Let’s talk about Hassan Reddick. Reddick, like Hunter, has a speed move around the EDGE to get to the QB. This blog discussed with such disappointment how Peart got beat at the end of the 2nd Quarter by Reddick (at that time with Arizona), and then how Jones allowed himself to get sack stripped. Those days are thankfully long gone. Jones, whether it is just him or probably through good coaching, is now stepping into the B gap on that speed rush from the right side. Hunter sells out. Reddick sells out. One of the reasons why Michael Strahan is such a legend is that he never sold out on his pass rush. He always was mindful of pocket contain. One of my favorite plays of all time which I have discussed before but need to retell here is in the game before the Dallas playoff game in 2007 vs Tampa Bay, Strahan is rushing the QB perhaps slightly wide, and Jeff Garcia steps into the B gap but Strahan knows his responsibility to maintain pocket integrity in his rush and he quickly goes back to his right and stops Garcia before that mobile QB can have any ideas of running wild. Strahan, yes Strahan, forced Tampa Bay to punt, and the Giants won that game. Minnesota, on the other hand, could not get off the field because Hunter could not do what Strahan did. Reddick does not do that either. His pass rush says- my number one job is to get to the QB, often at all costs. Reddick has added a cutback move where he can spin and go back toward the B gap, but it is not like Strahan where he is minding pocket contain. The difference for the Eagles is that they also have interior linemen like Graham and Cox who can clean up inside. So when Jones squeezes out, those defenders may very well be there to stop the gap. If I am the Eagles coaching staff, it is easy to watch the film and alert these players to what is happening. The Vikings, for their part, got help from a LBer who filled that gap, and Jones was no longer running wild in the second half. The point here is that Giants fans should not expect easy low hanging fruit, but if Reddick sells out, make him pay.

Jason Kelce is 35 years old. He probably benefitted from the rest as much as anyone. It is shame for Giants fans that Kelce should be ready for the 25 year old menace named Dexter Lawrence. Lawrence may get some pressures, but he rates to not rack up consistent pressure like he did versus Minnesota. Versus Minnesota he got 8 pressures. Versus PHI on Dec 11, he got 1. The Giants simply will not win when their best player generates 1 pressure. We need a lot more from Lawrence. If Martindale can scheme Lawrence to go against RG Seumalo and waste Kelce, all the better. Unfortunately this is simply a bad matchup for Lawrence because Kelce rates to neutralize the Giants best disruptor. I would like to believe that he will do more this game. It is going to take everything from Lawrence to make it happen.

There is one area where the Giants have a distinct edge. It’s the coaching staff. In 2008 the Giants were the #1 seed and lost to PHL because they were outcoached. If Kafka can gameplan an ascending Jones, and Martindale can lean on Jackson and McKinney, it makes the game more even. There is a lot for the new January Giants to do that they could not do in December. This game is a big ask. The coaches have to find a way. They have found a way all season. I trust them to not only gameplan properly but also to make the in-game adjustments to give the Giants a chance.

The two players I’ll be watching are Hurts and Johnson. If both are fine, it’s going to be hard to beat PHL.. not impossible, but very hard. Like in the Dallas playoff game of the 2007 season, play them tough, keep it close, and seize on a moment when something breaks your way. The Giants need to play their “A” game. Shock the world. I give the Giants a chance to win, but not a big chance. The oddsmakers imply the Giants have a 24% chance of winning. I think that is about right. The Giants rate to win 1 out of 4 times they play this game. Make this the 1. Play this team competitively, make them earn everything, stay in the game, make the in-game adjustments, and seize on that lucky break. That is the recipe for pulling out a victory.

NYG 31 MIN 24

Giants fans put a run on the supply of blood pressure medications in area pharmacies. Is it safe yet to open my eyes?! I can only speak for myself, but it feels like I aged a few years from that game. But it was worth every second of it!!!! THE FREAKING NY GIANTS ARE HEADED TO THE DIVISIONAL ROUND!!

So let’s review Sunday morning’s blog post and see how we did in the game preview:
▪️variance in football
▪️Giants will win
▪️Run the B gap when Hunter goes wide on the speed rush to help out Evan Neal
▪️Dexter Lawrence all day long vs Bradbury to wear him down for the 4th Quarter
▪️worried about Hockenson
▪️not worried about the Giants Offense

So how did that look? Let’s review. (1) The variance in this game was nuts. Who was that **** ****** ref who called Stud Dexter Freaking Lawrence for ************** unnecessary roughness when he completely and cleanly tackled Cousins before and while he was throwing the ball??????!!!!!!! The potential implications of that call could have been huge. *15 yards *Fresh set of downs *Nervous breakdowns across the greater NY metropolitan area. (4) Note how Dexter Lawrence at the end of the game was taking Bradbury to school, pushing him into Cousins nearly every snap. In my opinion, it was Sexy Dexy who was the big difference maker on those last two Defensive possessions when the Giants needed it most. He wore down Bradbury and there was no answer. Frankly the Vikings needed to double Lawrence, they didn’t, and it cost them. (2) The Giants won. More on that later. (3) In the first half, it was all B gap. Hunter sells out on Neal wide. Jones has the B gap between Right Guard and Right Tackle. He either steps up and finds the open Receiver or he tucks the ball down and runs. He did both to perfection. The runs destroyed the Vikings until the second half when (they adjusted and moved) a LBer moved in to close the B gap and Hunter stopped going wide, which helped Neal on pass rush too and gave Jones more time. (5) Hockenson was again a menace. 10 receptions for 129 yards. Martindale picked his poison and said I gotta control that nightmare Jefferson (22 yards in the final 53 minutes) so I bend and don’t break. I wasn’t particularly pleased that Thibodeaux was held on one of those TD scores, which changes that to a FG from a TD. (6) “This NY Giants Offense is much better (than the previous matchup).” That might be the understatement of the year.

Let’s talk about the Giants Offense. They were spectacular. Daniel Jones was spectacular. Isaiah Hodgins was spectacular. Frankly every receiver was outstanding. Even Slayton, with that one drop, played well. Barkley and Breida were so clutch. The coaches used Barkley well and Barkley delivered huge catches, huge YAC, huge runs, huge TDs. Bellinger isn’t a rookie anymore (besides that huge penalty that cost the Gmen 4 points).

Daniel Jones looked like an elite QB today. If that’s the future then let’s go. If he gets better protection and better WRs it’s going to be incredible. He needs that, if only to stop running and putting himself in harm’s way. Was there any pass Jones didn’t make?! There was a key defensive batted (deflected) ball on 2nd & 7 and that (great play) is the only thing that stopped him. I don’t know how to offer any stronger superlatives for Jones. It was a completely masterful performance. Every pass, every run, every throwaway. Of course the coaches have catalyzed this transformation but Jones is the one who must do it all on the field, and boy did he do it all on the field. I haven’t seen that kind of QB play since Eli Manning in 2011, which coincidentally or not, was the last time the Gmen won a playoff game.

The Giants defense was run over at times today…. Ok, for a chunk of the game. But McKinney Thibodeaux and Lawrence made some great plays. I was pissed at Holmes for not finishing a gang tackle which created 4th and inches instead of 4th and 2. But on the next series he dropped Cook on a flare for a 4 yard loss. Nothing gets me more excited than watching Thibodeaux chase down a ball carrier after a reception in the flat. Love that effort.

And then there’s Lawrence. The big man has been elite all season, dollar for dollar the best player at his position on the entire Giants roster. He was a disruptive force again routinely. Lawrence’s season on the interior DL is without question the best I’ve witnessed in all my many decades as a Giants fan. And I don’t think it’s close. He saved the Giants. We might still be watching in OT if not for him.

Special shout out to a guy who wasn’t on the roster until November, and two months later he racks up 8 catches, 105 yds, and 1 TD. Isaiah Hodgins, take a bow. You are filling big shoes as an X WR, and you did it with an ankle injury. Not only is Hodgins making big grabs, he’s sure-handed, knows where the sticks are, gets separation, and gets his toes in bounds. He’s money. He’s going to get paid nice money. We already talked about what a great job Schoen and Daboll did to snag him off waivers. Now it’s time for Hodgins to get the kudos for killing it. It’s NFL prime time and Hodgins just keeps playing bigger and bigger.

The Giants are the only road team which came out of Sat/Sun Wild card with a win. The coaching was great. I have 2 friends who I watched the game with who are witnesses to my rants about passing on 1st down in this game. The passing game set up the run game. This is why the team is different now than it was through the first 14 games.

Cajones to go for it on 4th down on your 45 yd line. I wanted that. Olsen wanted it. Daboll wanted it. Jones got the sneak. The drive failed on Slayton’s drop 3 plays later but the Giants pinned them at the 12 yard line. Plus the Viking had to burn all 3 timeouts after the 4th down conversion, which effectively is like another possession. We’re seeing it more and more- the sneak, rb handoff, or the reception that needs the hard yard… AND THEN A PLAYER COMES FROM BEHIND AND PUSHES HIM FURTHER. Vannett and then Barkley pushed Jones an extra yard on that 4th & 1 to leave no doubt of a stupid (variance!) ref spot.

Next is Philly. Be careful what you wish for, Philly fans, you just might get your doormat Giants matchup next week that you wanted. If you are paying attention, the Giants aren’t the team you walloped a month ago.

Let’s enjoy this win. Onto the Linc.