2020 Finishes 6-10

Instead of adding to this post as the week progresses, we will discuss the Gettleman/Mara press conference in a followup post this weekend. Here is the narrative for 2020 as the Giants head into 2021:

1. This was a successful rebuilding year. Anyone who is crushed that the team didn’t make the playoffs… I can’t help that. At 6-10, if you are crestfallen then all I can say is that what happened to them vs <AZ CLE BAL> would have in almost all likelihood awaited them the following weekend. The team picks at 1.11. Onward.

2. The Giants found their head coach. To juxtapose this, in ~Nov 2018 we called Pat Shurmur “a loser.” Judge is a fighter.

3. I came into 2020 thinking Jones was a franchise QB. I’m not so sure after his sophomore effort. Some good, some disturbing (see last post) trends. If he has time to throw the ball, he has enough…

4. Everything is Offensive Line. Everything. The second of 3 pillars of success – “PROTECT QB.” This young unit is the metaphor for team health. Good OL, team good. Bad OL, team bad. Continue to throw draft resources here. I don’t care if other areas of the team need it and OL is the squeaky wheel that gets (more than it’s fair share of) the oil. Fix it. Make it great. End the double digit losing seasons by fixing the OL, overdrafting if necessary, to get depth too.

5. Evan Engram was part of 6 interceptions this season. Jones threw a total of 10 INTs. Engram is simply too much of a liability for this team and the Giants need to move on.

6. Let’s make this perfectly clear. The third pillar is RUSH THE QB. So getting an edge pass rusher is more important than getting a Wide Receiver. I can rattle off oodles of quality Round 2-3 WRs. Claypool, Metcalf, McLaurin, AJ Brown. It’s not as easy to do that with Edge.

7. Gettleman is not the answer. Get a new GM. I said this at the end of 2019 and little has changed. Yes, you can argue Bradberry and Leonard Williams. He could have still gotten LW anyway w/o the draft capital. And we are still left with the same problems of his repeated poor decisions, which aren’t going away just because the team took 2 extra years to rebuild than it should have.

More on everything as I supplement the post this week. Onward to 2021.

Seattle Win, Arizona Loss

The Giants giveth. The Giants taketh away. These are the telltale signs of a rebuilding year. Just when 4 straight wins had optimism running rampant amongst the Giants faithful (admit it, you couldn’t wait for the Arizona game to start all week long), the Cardinals dropped a heavy dose of reality into our living rooms.

Joe Judge gets his first demerit for bringing Daniel Jones back too soon from a hamstring injury.

Joe Judge gets his second demerit for not taking his immobile sitting duck QB out much sooner. (Halftime??!! See below.)

The Offensive Line was having great difficulties. They gave up 8 sacks. Even though they were back-loaded (4 of them came in the last 2 garbage time drives), Jason Garrett needed to make adjustments in the playcalling to help both his QB and OL. We will paraphrase the quote from Joe Gibbs for the 6th time on this blog- “I will not pass the ball unless I can block it up.” This means if you can’t protect the QB, yet you need to pass, try different passes that work under such circumstances- flares screens slants, quick outs… whatever gets the ball out of Jones’ hands fast and takes away the aggressiveness of the opponent’s DL pass rush.

There was one play that really shook me to the core yesterday. It was the final Giants possession of the first half. Let’s set the table. You have the ball at your own 24 yard line with 1:44 left in Q2. You are down 13-0. You have 2 timeouts. There has been a complete inability to drive anywhere (the Giants would not get past midfield until Q3). Still, there is some hope of trying to get some points on the board before the end of the half. 1st down short pass for 4 yards. 1:25 left. 2nd and 6, Jones in shotgun. 2 seconds go off, nothing there. Pressure coming from the right side. 3 seconds. It is Haason Reddick getting past Matt Peart on the right side, Jones’ side where he sees the rusher. He slides left. Jones has a history of not protecting the ball well. He has been coached to protect the ball by throwing it away or taking the sack. Except there is one extra key ingredient today that should make Jones extremely wary and careful.

Hint… Paragraph 2 …. Paragraph 3.

Jones is a sitting duck with a hamstring injury. He is immobile.

His attempt to move left is akin to Grandma with a walker trying to stay ahead of Usain Bolt.

As usual, Jones is a day late and a dollar short. He now tries to protect the ball well after failing most miserably to outrun Bolt (played today by Reddick). Except now he can’t get his arms around the ball quickly enough and the ball is fumbled. Miraculously, the ball takes an extremely kind bounce and the Giants claim victory by only taking a 15 yard loss. A sensible draw is called on 3rd down to get some yardage and thankfully they are able to punt and somehow get AZ to miss a long FG. They get into the lockerroom with a semblance of order, only down 13-0.

What. Was. Jones. Thinking?

This is the exact opposite of pocket poise. This is pocket puke. A QB can have all the skill in the world, but until he starts using proper judgment, he is a liability to the entire team.

I believe there is franchise talent in Daniel Jones. I am not so confident in his balance. Good QBs show field awareness. Great ones have eyes behind their heads. Right now, Jones has not figured out anything about the pocket. I do not know how that gets fixed. He has had plenty of experience. The coaching staff worked with him nearly all of offseason (despite Covid) on technique to control/reduce the turnovers. Here at the end of the first half when the risks are large, when you are hobbled, your first job is to protect the ball. These are rookie mistakes. For a QB drafted 1.06 overall near the end of his second season, I am very concerned about whether he can rid himself of this problem.

The Giants are committed to Jones. He still needs the time to prove himself and to correct these issues. He certainly deserves another year. The Giants will give him two years, if not more. Gettleman has more invested in Jones than we have invested in Gettleman.

The Giants Have Turned the Corner

This is the first post during the 2020 season. There is a reason for probably the longest period of silence on this blog in the 14 years we’ve been writing. It is called REBUILDING. Twitter followers keep seeing the same #Rebuilding hashtag on a regular basis because that is the story of the season. Finally we have some good news to discuss… a 2 game win streak, 3-7, Joe Judge leadership, and some bright spots coming together for this team.

THE GIANTS HAVE FINALLY TURNED THE CORNER.

Patrick Graham and the Giants Defense are doing really well. They are keeping the team in most games. They have the 11th ranked defense and the ranking would be even better if it was adjusted by the Offense. As an example, the Offense is ranked 30th, dragging down Defensive measures via time of possession. Offensive turnovers are 26th ranked, but Defensive Turnovers are ranked 4th in the NFL, starkly showing the disparity. Xavier McKinney will likely come back after the bye; Giants Nation eagerly awaits what they will look like when he adds that dimension of speed and game awareness to an already good unit. Remember that one of the reasons why McKinney will help the Defense is that he can be used in so many ways. Down the road, that will aid unpredictability, making the Defense even better than it is right now. That is exciting. The Defense will be one edge pass rusher away from being a total monster. That is extremely exciting.

James Bradberry has been the best player on the entire team. What a Free Agent signing! He is almost a shutdown corner, having a tremendous year. PFF has 13 Cornerbacks who are statistically ranked above him, but that is irrelevant to me because Bradberry is taking away half the field.

Let’s go right to the crux of what determines Giants failure and Giants success… The Offensive Line. We have been arguing it over and over till we are <Blue> in the face that this Franchise has been horrible because of the reactive response to this problem. The time for being proactive was 2010-2012. Reese missed that opportunity, and the Franchise has been behind the 8-ball ever since. Even when presented with a gift in 2016, the falling Tunsil (whom we had as our #2 ranked player in the entire Draft), Reese never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Enough of the past, let’s discuss the present…

Andrew Thomas is beginning to improve. He is still ranked near the bottom of all NFL Tackles, and the worst of the 4 “elite” prospects. But he is beginning to execute. He had only one miscue vs the Eagles. Think about that when you think about Ereck Flowers, who had ~1 miscue each series.

OL Coach Marc Colombo, before his firing: “(Thomas) has a new air of confidence. The past couple weeks he has played really well. His timing has been better. His pass sets have been better. His run blocking has been better. We just have to keep growing. I’ve noticed a more confident Andrew the past few weeks.”

Shane Lemieux is subbing for Will Hernandez, who has missed 2 starts due to Covid. I am not sure if it is confirmation bias, but I like what I see from Lemieux. PFF does not. But Baldinger is excited about the same things I am.

#BigBlue is back. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/2YhSfJX22U— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) November 16, 2020<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>.<a href=”https://twitter.com/Eagles?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Eagles</a&gt; <a href=”https://twitter.com/Giants?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@giants</a&gt; on 4-2! This is the play where you take control of the NFC East. No one is laughing anymore. When you convert this; it’s far more than a 2 yard TD run. It’s a “Cultural Change”.

There are less miscommunications on assignments with Lemieux in the rotation. Stunts and pass offs seem to happen more smoothly. So Lemieux may not yet be the best pass protector (lol, he is statistically the worst), but at least he is on a body.

Gates is being dissed by PFF. But he is moving up slowly in the rankings, as he is improving the last few weeks.

Matt Peart will be taking Fleming’s job soon enough. If you unclick the minimum snaps toggle for Offensive Tackles, Peart is ranked 15th in the NFL given only 107 snaps. He is obviously being groomed. So far so good.

The Giants need to keep throwing Draft resources at this group. Do not leave it to chance. NUKE IT. Have depth for crying out loud. We are sick and tired about being sick and tired. Challenge or replace Hernandez, Fleming et al with better players who will give Jones more confidence under Center.

A few days ago there was the big news item that OL Coach Marc Colombo was fired. As details have emerged, the story is that Judge got more hands on with the OL over the past few games, because he believed the players were not getting taught proper technique from Colombo. (There are conflicting reports indicating Colombo did help Thomas.) Judge brought in an assistant Dave DeGuglielmo (whom he worked with in New England) to help with the coaching/teaching of technique. Colombo resisted and was fired. There are a lot of things here. (1) The OL improvement was accelerated when Judge got involved. (2) The young OL can improve if given proper coaching. (3) Joe Judge is a Head Coach who has the necessary leadership to get the Giants to the next level. These three things are all huge. By hook or by crook, Judge is going to get a good teacher for this young OL and get them where they need to be. That is enormous. Judge is building a house, and the foundation of that house is the line of scrimmage. The OL is the key to better QB play. Everything will flow for the team once the OL is playing effectively. We see from the Colombo switch how valuable instruction is to the development of the unit. Time will tell if improvement continues. There is a competing narrative about Judge micromanaging the OL, but I read the past 3 weeks as having a positive implication for the OL and for the entire team. Judge has prioritized the improvement of the OL. He will not be passive about this crucial part of the team.

Let’s look at the pattern of Judge’s actions as Head Coach. He cuts Baker loose. He sits and disciplines his veteran WR Golden Tate. He fires an assistant Coach who does not put the team ahead of himself. No one is questioning Judge’s authority. And no one questions his willingness to do everything he can to win.

We started writing this blog post before the Colombo incident. And 2 days after we got the cherry on the cake for perspective on this turnaround… the words from Bill Parcells himself, confirming what we are seeing.

“I’m fired up about them,” Bill Parcells told Newsday from his home in Florida. “They’re getting better. They’re improving. I like their coach. I just know he has established some law and order, and I think that’s a good thing.”

Remember, the turnaround for Parcells came in 1984, after a 3-12-1 rookie HC season, when he was resolved to do it his way with his players. Veteran instigators like Gary Jeter were shipped out and Parcells let it be known he was in charge. Law & Order. The Giants went 9-7 and got to the playoffs. The rest, they say, is history.

Parcells likes what he sees from the Defense and he likes Daniel Jones too.

Speaking of Jones, it is impossible to imagine the Giants succeeding without a Franchise QB. The 3 core foundational elements to succeeding in the NFL are QB, Protect QB, Rush the QB. It is not an accident that Daniel Jones did not turn the ball over in the last 2 starts, and the Giants won both games. Can he stop hemorrhaging the ball? To this blogger, he is a Franchise QB if he protects the ball, and he is a replaceable starter/backup if he cannot. In the first 8 games, he averaged over 1.5 turnovers per game, turning the ball over 2X per game in 5 games and once per game in 3 other starts. Tying some of this back to the lack of protection he has received from the OL, Jones has been sacked an AVERAGE of 3X per game. He has the 3rd most sacks in the NFL and is similarly the 3rd highest sacked QB per pass attempt. So two things need to get better- more consistent QB protection AND more deliberate ball protection.

Get. It. Through. Your. Head. Throw the ball away. Take the Sack. Less is more.

So where are the Giants if
The OL comes together?
Daniel Jones protects the ball?
They get a pass rusher?

The Giants can be fairly competitive. They have hung in games against teams with winning records, like the Rams and Bucs.

Notice how things are slowly coming together WITHOUT Saquon Barkley. Running backs are hood ornaments. Someone asked on Twitter where the Giants would be with Barkley this year- my answer was 3-7. Gallman has quietly scored 5 TDs in the last 4 weeks. RBs need to block for the QB and catch passes in a passing league. Passing is what is driving this league.

Just because the Giants are getting on track does not mean that Gettleman should continue to be the GM. He makes mistakes and bad decisions regularly. The team should have been here, rebuilding in 2018. He blew 2 years on “adult” Pat Shurmur. He blew 2 years trying to win now. He blew 2 years before drafting Thomas, Peart and Lemieux and finally going after the unit that was responsible for the decade of misery. Deandre Baker was cited as having red flags with “questionable attitude” before the Draft, yet the Giants GM traded UP into Round 1 for this risk. Between wasting picks on Barkley (yes, a waste) and Baker, blowing an early Round 3 pick on Leonard Williams and then having to tag him, signing a bunch of FAs in 2018 who were duds, and a series of other bad moves, Gettleman must move on. The Giants must move on. Reese never traded down in 11 years as a GM. Gettleman has never traded down in 8 years as a GM. Is this the guy you want making these decisions? I do not believe he puts the franchise in the best position to be successful.

Cincinnati can be a win. The Giants play 4 teams after that with a combined winning record of 25-13. So do not get too high if they are 4-7 and do not get too low if they are 4-11.

Judge and Graham are building. The franchise is finally rebuilding. Hold onto the ball, Jones. Protect Jones. Keep investing in the OL. Get a pass rusher in 2021. The Giants are on the way back. They have turned the corner. This is how you rebuild. We see it. Parcells sees it. Judge is putting them in a position to compete. Between developing a lot of young players and adding a couple more, this team will be in a position to start winning. NY Giants football is back.

Camp Covid

The impact of Covid on the NFL has been significant. Posting within Covid has been resisted here because the general information vacuum is much larger. We would already be finished with two preseason games by now, but have none. Instead we get to comment on a good play in scrimmage by a random player. Jumping to conclusions without at least seeing some contact in preseason games makes no sense. Even with preseason it’s a fool’s errand. Trivia question- In 2008 the Detroit Lions went 0-16. What was their preseason record? Yes it was 4-0. So all you want to do is look for individual performances, and we don’t even have that this year.

This season is one large question mark. September will be scrimmage and October will be rounding into form. There simply is no substitute for live action. Since football injuries are such a huge concern for coaches, they’ll forego the contact as much as possible. Fans are thus left with guessing and extrapolation. Noise.

With that qualification, we’ll make some observations that we think are correct but admit are part conjecture. At least we’re warning you of the greater chance for error in what is here.

Judge vs Shurmur. Judge’s words have everyone excited. His actions are clearly sourced from the Parcells-Belichick tree. The failure of the past 2 years can be sourced to Shurmur and Gettleman. More on Gettleman later.

Shurmur is a stark reminder of the difference between a (good) coordinator and a (bad) head coach. There were 3 things that disappointed me greatly last year. 1. Daniel Jones’ ball protection. 2. Will Hernandez’s run blocking. 3. Lorenzo Carter’s disappearing act. My sense was that all three things listed were addressable and correctable. This was palpable underachievement. I believe that Judge has the ability to fix at least one, possibly two, and hopefully all three things. Just imagine where the Giants can be with those added improvements?!

Gettleman made a lot of moves in 2018 which said “win now.” I don’t want to rehash them. This year he went for youth and depth at Offensive Line, which showed more patience and deliberate focus on the future than rushing for high priced Free Agents (“B” players at “A” prices) right now. The team still lacks a pass rusher. Markus Golden compromises pocket integrity in order to get sacks, so the team still lacks the true consistent ability to get to the QB. That’s ok. It’s a genuine rebuild, where the team will ideally get that player in the 2021 Draft. This path is more robust. It comes with a more lasting payoff.

Addition by Subtraction. We tweeted about this when the news hit that Nate Solder would be opting out due to Covid. I genuinely hope this does not come off as being callous. I’m sure Solder is doing what is right by his family.

Solder sitting out is a big win for the Giants. The Giants are in a rebuild. You may as well get Andrew Thomas started at Left Tackle as soon as possible. I wasn’t happy about Thomas taking Right Tackle and switching once Solder was done. Thomas is the future. Solder is the past. Onward.

The opportunity of 2020. Fans are trying to envision a way to go 9-7 and make the playoffs. They are hopeful that Judge will put the discipline back into the team. They are hopeful that position coaches like Marc Columbo will turn around the OL. They want tangible results in the won-loss column. I am as well, BUT NOT IN 2020. Manage your expectations. The opportunity of 2020 is getting snaps and experience for this younger roster. This season will be a success if Covid doesn’t interrupt the opportunity of the Giants to get these young players to learn the new system, to communicate with one another and PLAY in the NFL. If we get a 12-14 game season where the Giants players are competitive by the end of the season, that will be a successful year. As modest as those goals are for 2020, the following season the expectations from this NY Giants blogger will rise considerably. I’m excited about the 2020* asterisk paying off big in 2021.