What exactly were the Giants thinking?

The winter blues have come a bit early for Big Blue.

The Giants, 1-7, are heading for another losing season, one that was originally rife with hope. The expectation was one thing, but the reality is another. Now the Big Apple core is rotten from the inside out.

It’s hard to remember a time in which a team so poorly miscalculated what its season would be, or a time in which an organization bait-and-switched its fans to this extent. It’s like biting into a chocolate chip cookie and discovering it’s oatmeal raisin.

There’s no one reason why the Giants are the football equivalent to an Adam Sandler movie this year. So it’s best to break down just what exactly the Giants were thinking, point by point, and assess blame to everyone who deserves it.

The quarterback

Expectation: With a new coach, a rebuilt offensive line and healthy receivers, Eli Manning will return to Pro-Bowl form.

Reality: Manning is a 37-year-old QB with accuracy issues who has been inconsistent at best over his last four seasons. Gun-shy or shellshocked, whatever the excuse may be, he is nearing the end of the road.

The QB carries most of the criticism and praise. While stat watchers will point to Manning’s surprisingly good numbers — 2,377 yards, eight touchdowns, six interceptions and a gaudy 68.3 completion percentage — there’s a lot more to his campaign than the box score.

Manning has been victim to an inconsistent-to-bad offensive line — that much is irrefutable. But his inconsistencies that have been apparent for years now have reared their head once again in 2018. Just look at recent weeks: He threw a bad red-zone interception vs. Washington and threw another killer INT in the third quarter. A week before that, he missed a wide-open Odell Beckham Jr. (twice) and Bennie Fowler streaking across the end zone vs. the Falcons.

Manning doesn’t see the field as he once did. That’s aside from the fact that Manning, once at least elusive when inside the pocket, isn’t as mobile as he once was.

Giants land QB with No. 2 overall pick

Giants fans can point to the two Super Bowls and memories for however long they want, but here’s the truth: Outside of those two Super Bowl runs, Manning doesn’t have a single playoff win, and he has amassed a 21-34 record over the last four seasons, winning just four games between this year and last. Leave the memories alone.

Some of the blame falls on coach Pat Shurmur and his apparent struggle to scheme open certain receivers. Between Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley, one should be open on almost every play. But when they do get open, the QB still has to pull the trigger. That falls on Manning.

In this installment of Read Shurmur’s Lips: “What? Throw it to Odell.” That was the design. Nice job by Falcons’ Sharrod Neasman of getting close enough to Beckham to make Eli hold the ball.

The draft mistake

Expectation: Barkley is going to add versatility and another dimension to the Giants’ offense.

Reality: That’s all pretty true, but …

The RB is on pace for a 1,000-yard season in both rushing and receiving. That’s good! But here’s the thing: Barkley can be both a great player and the wrong pick.

In a QB-rich 2018 draft, it was a mistake for the Giants not to take a quarterback. Period. Full stop. The Giants were not a running back away from contending. That much is apparent.

The Barkley vs. Sam Darnold debate is #GoodTwitterContent, and the narrative of New York sports talk show calls would change should the Giants draft a QB early in 2019. But there’s no guarantee the Giants will get their guy next year, and if they do draft a QB, there’s no guarantee he will be the answer.

Just ask the Broncos what searching for a franchise quarterback is like.

… Or the Vikings, who looked and looked before signing Kirk Cousins to a mega-contract before this season.

… Or the Browns, who landed Baker Mayfield after drafting first-round blunders Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel, among countless others. (They also had to suck for a long time to get to that point.)

… Or the crosstown-rival Jets, who swung and missed on QBs in their history more than Yankees stars Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge did this season.

Of course, there are no guarantees any of the QBs drafted in 2018 will turn out to be the real deal, either, but having a plan is better than not having a plan. Drafting Darnold or any of the remaining QBs in the first round might not have solved anything for the Giants in 2018, but the organization at least would have had the heir apparent to the Manning throne in East Rutherford.

Giants general manager Dave Gettleman taking Barkley with the second overall pick in 2018 was not a surprise; he drafted Christian McCaffrey with the No. 8 pick in 2017 while with the Panthers (just before Gettleman was canned by Carolina). But given they early success of some of the RBs who went later in the draft — Kerryon Johnson (second round), Nick Chubb (second round), Phillip Lindsay (undrafted) — maybe the Giants could have spent that first-round pick elsewhere.

What makes less sense: How could a GM convince himself that none of the five quarterbacks who went in the first round were not good enough to be the face of the franchise? Why bother taking a chance on a fourth-round QB out of D-II Richmond? It’s almost impossible to find successful QBs outside of the fourth round, Book of Brady be damned.

Why spend the fourth-round pick on a backup QB when Davis Webb was already on the roster? And by the way, Kyle Lauletta, the player New York picked, is third on the QB depth chart, behind Alex Tanney.

And what makes even less sense: Barkley is making more than $30 million guaranteed on his four-year rookie deal, which places him among the top five highest-paid NFL running backs in terms of guarantees. Should Barkley continue to produce at a high level, he could command $50 million or even $60 million guaranteed on his next contract.

The Giants are years away from having to worry about that, but even for a player in the prime of his career, that would be a hefty number to pay somebody at the game’s most replaceable position. Nobody wants to deal with a Le’Veon Bell situation.

The roster decisions

Expectation: Nate Solder, Patrick Omameh and others will anchor a rebuilt offensive line, and Alec Ogletree will shore up the linebacking corps.

Reality: There is a lot of work to be done. Like, a lot.

On paper, the Giants’ skill-position players are among the best in football. Everything else on the roster concerning.

Solder, a big-time free agency signing, has not worked out. The left tackle gets a fair amount of the blame because he’s the highest-paid player along a “rebuilt” offensive line that also has featured Omameh, the guard who has been an unmitigated disaster in his own right. Right tackle Ereck Flowers, a first-round selection of Jerry Reese’s regime, was cut.

You can believe the loss of center Jon Halapio is the biggest reason for the failure of this offensive line in 2018 — that’s fine. By the way, totally unrelated, are you interested in buying a bridge in Brooklyn?

Against the spread | Straight up

Likewise, the Ogletree signing has not made a major impact, as he ranks 32nd in the NFL in tackles among linebackers. RB Jonathan Stewart was a confusing and largely inconsequential signing, as Gettleman likely wanted to add more Carolina flavor to New York.

It was wise for the Giants to realize where they were with a 1-7 record and move Damon Harrison and Eli Apple to amass draft picks before the trade deadline. But why stop there? Janoris Jenkins, Landon Collins and Olivier Vernon could have been sent away for more. If we really want to get weird, then Shepard and even Beckham should have been on the block, too. It’s been a year of half-measures for the Giants.

A side note: If they knew a full rebuild was a possibility, why would Gettleman and the rest of the Giants’ front office ever pay Beckham the money they did? Now the Giants are stuck with him for at least another few seasons, and he’s a player who has faced multiple injuries and can’t avoid the headlines.

Which brings us to …

The drama

Expectation: Beckham got paid, so he’ll be happy, and everything will be good in Giants land as they march on to a playoff berth.


Drama among New York sports teams is easier to make than a New York slice, but it’s not nearly as palatable.

It’s unlike the Giants organization to have tomato sauce on its face, but this year has been an exception to the rule. The Giants have turned into the circus the Jets have been accused of being for so many years, and that’s putting it lightly.

Beckham apparently has an aversion of wanting to play in New York, which is funny considering he never had to sign a contract extension with Giants in the first place. His incendiary remarks to ESPN’s Josina Anderson last month were swept under the rug quickly, but Beckham isn’t one to shy away from more controversy. Prior to the Redskins game, he once again would not reaffirm New York is where he wants to be. And this came after team owner John Mara basically told Beckham to keep his mouth shut and play football.

DIAMOND: Giants fed the OBJ monster

It doesn’t end there. Shurmur has been caught visibly upset with Manning’s on-field decisions. Lauletta was recently arrested. A report claims the locker room is split over the QB play. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria.

In the grand scheme of things, drama is something typically perpetuated (and sometimes manufactured) by the ever-thirsty NYC media contingent. But the media has not had to reach when it comes to Giants’ drama this year. And it’s not going to end anytime soon.

Source: Read Full Article