With Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese out and Dave Gettleman in, where do the Giants go from here in order to get back to playoff contention next season? Well, lucky for John Mara, I’m going to tell him exactly how to do that, so I hope he’s reading this. Let’s get started:
Hire a legitimate coaching candidate, not another McAdoo
Gettleman’s plans to “win” and “kick ass” are already in full swing after the termination of long-time Vice President of Player Evaluations Marc Ross. It’s great to see him backing up his words, but now he needs to find a legitimate head coach to help him transform this team back to its glory.
As expected, the Giants have been very active the past couple of days setting up interviews with possible candidates around the league. The list is headlined by guys like Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, and Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, among others. Out of the bunch, I would narrow my choices down to three: McDaniels, Patricia, and Wilks.
McDaniels has grown a lot from his failed stint with the Denver Broncos, and he has rebounded quite nicely with his dynamic Patriots offense since 2012. Patricia is another intriguing option, putting together quality defenses even with limited star power. Both have the added advantage of learning from the best coach in the game, Bill Belichick, and that also gives the Giants an advantage given Belichick’s relationship with the Giants. Wilks is a strong candidate as well because of Gettleman’s familiarity with him and his ability to return an underachieving Panthers defense back to elite-level status in his first year as defensive coordinator.
Cut Eli Apple, figure out costly cap situations
Eli Apple has gone from a promising young corner to a player who causing more disruptions in the locker room than on the field. Yes, he has had an unimaginably rough year personally, with his outspoken mother undergoing brain surgery and his only father figure leaving the family, but his attitude is poisoning the team chemistry that got this them to the postseason in 2016. Mara has expressed his desire to help Apple rather than letting him go, and while that’s a good approach to take, you can’t risk him hurting the team any further. Also, this position is still strong with Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, along with the productive play of Ross Cockrell. This should make Mara and the Giants feel comfortable parting ways with Apple.
In regards to other players being cut, I don’t understand some of you Giants fans. I have seen fans calling for the Giants to get rid of guys like Jenkins, DRC, defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon, and even defensive tackle Damon Harrison. All I have to say is, are you nuts? None of these guys, except for maybe DRC, should go. They’ve all been great players and contributors for this team, and they’re right in the middle of their primes. Plus, cutting them would screw the Giants financially. And while DRC makes sense regarding his age and salary, he is still a quality corner and a fantastic leader, so if I were Gettleman I would do whatever I can to hang onto him for at least the duration of his contract. Losing him would hurt a lot, especially with all the drama that’s been taking place lately.
With that being said, there are some guys who could and probably will be shown the door one way or another, including Eli Manning. Like general managers across all sports do every year, Gettleman will have to assess his roster and make moves necessary, one of the more difficult parts about the job.
Keep Eli, but let him know that change is near
I really feel for my guy Eli Manning. The whole benching situation was handled like complete garbage by Reese and McAdoo, and it gets me angry whenever I think about it so let’s move on. Even though it was handled the wrong way, the harsh truth is that we are very close to the end of Manning’s career with Big Blue.
Gettleman has expressed his desire to keep Manning while Manning has expressed his desire to stay, but Gettleman has also made it clear that emotions won’t play a role in any of his decisions and that all he cares about is what’s best for the team. This is why Gettleman must sit down with Eli, which he will do, and let him know that while he would love for him to remain the starting quarterback in 2018, his successor is knocking on the door. Now, whether that’s Davis Webb, a free agent signing, or a draft pick nobody knows. But what we do know, including Manning himself, is that his time is quickly running out, and he has to accept that reality or Gettleman will move on from him, as difficult as that may be.
FIX THE OFFENSIVE LINE ALREADY
I mean come on. This has gone on long enough. The Giants offensive line, to put it gently, has sucked. Tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart can’t block rocks and are cancers in the locker room, plus our two best linemen, left guard Justin Pugh and center Weston Richburg, have had trouble staying healthy and are about to become free agents. Filled with inconsistent veterans and underachieving youngsters, former general manager Jerry Reese ignored this critical unit far too often, which is ultimately is one of the main reasons he was shown the door.
Gettleman was the perfect hire in this regard. Known for building teams through the offensive and defensive lines, Gettleman has immediately begun fixing this unit by waiving Hart and benching Flowers. Gettleman built a very good offensive line in Carolina and helped form the Giants Super Bowl-winning units. This has to be the primary focus of free agency for Gettleman, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will address this weakness once and for all. By next season Giants fans should expect a much improved squad for the first time in a long time.
Explore options with No. 2 pick
One of the few positives of the Giants abysmal season is that they have the second overall pick in April’s draft. The last time they picked this high was 1981, when they drafted a man by the name of Lawrence Taylor. He turned out pretty solid.
The Giants got even better news Wednesday night when UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen and USC quarterback Sam Darnold, widely recognized as the draft’s top two signal-callers, both declared for the draft within minutes of each other. This is a win-win for the Giants, giving them so many different options when draft night arrives. They control their own destiny now. They could take whichever one the Browns pass up, or have their pick between either one if the Browns go a different route, giving them their quarterback of the future. Both are extremely talented and will probably be great pros, but I would take Darnold over Rosen if I had the choice. Rosen is a brilliant passer, but durability and character concerns would probably steer the Giants away from him. Darnold has had turnover issues, but he has rare next-level skills and will hopefully be able to learn from Manning for at least one year.
If Gettleman isn’t set on either one, he can take another revolutionary offensive talent in Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, widely considered the best player in the entire draft. I know a lot of Giants fans want to see them select a quarterback, but I would absolutely love to see Barkley and Odell Beckham, Jr. in the same offense. That would be way too much for opposing defenses to handle, especially with an improved offensive line.
The Giants can also take advantage of other teams and try to trade down to acquire more picks, which might end up making the most sense. If they aren’t in love with any of the guys at No. 2, why not get a wave of picks from a quarterback-needy team? Gettleman, unlike Reese, has moved around the draft boards multiple times and isn’t afraid to do so.
So, with all that being said, Gettleman is in a position that every general manager dreams of being. You’re with one of the NFL’s royalty franchises, with a good amount of talent already in place and two owners who believe in patience, in the biggest media market in the world, a team in which many of the top coaching candidates have at the top of their wish list, and you have a top 2 draft pick. However, this job also comes with an abnormal amount of pressure and criticism if you slip up, so time will only tell how Gettleman will handle all of this. It’s going to be a fun offseason, Giants fans, so get your popcorn ready and enjoy the show.