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New York Giants’ Window Has Closed, Wholesale Change is Long Overdue

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The New York Giants are simply withering on the vine.

There is hope for Big Blue, thanks to stud sophomore wide receiver (and Madden cover athlete) Odell Beckham Jr, and that hope has turned into a fair amount of buzz this offseason. Pair a full season of Beckham Jr. with a healthy Victor Cruz and a better-protected Eli Manning, and the results should be spectacular, right?

Well, maybe.

The question is not whether or not the Giants can be successful in the short-term or in a vacuum.

In 2014, Eli Manning and the Giants’ offense was 10th overall in the league, and their passing came in at 7th. The win-loss record was disappointing at 6-10, but they were able to move the ball and score. Their point differential of -20 put them squarely in the middle of the pack, so it’s easy to believe that a few extra points scored here or a few extra stops there could put this team right into the playoff hunt in 2015.

No.

The facet of the Giants’ potential that we’re assessing today is not where they can rank in statistical groupings or whether or not Beckham Jr. is a ridiculous stud who can carry the offense with his amazing athleticism (this is true). Instead, we’re looking at long-term potential, and whether or not this is a team with brighter days or a rebuild ahead.

I lean heavily toward the latter being in their future.

Let’s start with head coach Tom Coughlin, who is 68 (the NFL’s oldest head coach) and coming off of back-to-back losing seasons. Yet, as he told MMQB’s Greg Bedard, he’s not considering retirement.

He should.

I’m not in the Giants’ locker room—then again, neither are Giants fans who defend Coughlin—so it’s impossible to say exactly how much he’s “lost” the team. Publicly, he’s one of the more well-respected coaches by his players, and it’s impossible to get even his youngest players to say anything disrespectful about one of the NFL’s most revered coaches, even if he has no idea how to talk to them.

Privately, there’s a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to Coughlin from his charges. He’s a little aloof to newer players and struggles to connect to young twenty-somethings both in pre-draft meetings and when they’ve arrived onto his team. There also isn’t a lot of buy in, at least right now, when a guy has been running things the same way (generally speaking) longer than most of his players have been alive.

That goes to a major criticism of Coughlin that I can speak with a little more authority on—his stodgy adherence to what hasn’t worked. While I credit Coughlin for agreeing to work with young offensive genius Ben McAdoo, I can see the seams tearing when it comes to how McAdoo’s scheme joins with Coughlin’s way of game management, preparation and roster building.

The Giants should be one of the high-flyingest teams in all of football, but Coughlin’s risk-adverse and old-school methods seem to consistently pump the breaks on McAdoo’s offense, as Coughlin has always been more comfortable leaning on a “three yards and a cloud of dust” running game, joined with a down-the-field passing attack. His consistent recycling of old coaches like Kevin Gilbride and Mike Sullivan on McAdo’s staff showcases this well.

Fundamentally speaking, this is a completely different Giants’ team than the one that won a couple of Super Bowls, but it doesn’t seem as Coughlin has any idea.

The reason that the team is so different than even just a few years ago is because general manager Jerry Reese has failed, spectacularly, as a general manager in the past few years. No, really, one of the worst…just terrible. While that isn’t overstating the case (at all) it’s important to stress how terrible the Giants’ roster building as been, because Reese has such a sterling reputation which is almost completely unearned.

Last season, Dan Graziano of ESPN made much the same case:

Look at Reese’s first five drafts—2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. He selected a total of 39 players and only eight are on the current roster. One of those eight, Manningham, left for two years and came back. Four of the eight came from the 2011 draft, so only four of the 31 players he took in his first four drafts are on the team at the moment, and only three have been on it all along

Of all the players Reese has drafted for the Giants, exactly three—Ahmad BradshawWill Beatty and Zak DeOssie—signed second long-term contracts with the team after their rookie deals. Reese’s first three first-rounders—Aaron RossKenny Phillips and Hakeem Nicks—all signed elsewhere when they hit free agency. Linval Joseph, the second-round pick in 2010, also was not re-signed. These were fine picks who produced for the Giants, but you can’t say you’re building through the draft when you’re not retaining those types of guys.

Even in a league where the average player’s career lasts less than four years, consistent failure to retain your top picks beyond that time frame is evidence that you’re doing something wrong.

Consistently, the Giants are swinging and missing all over the draft board. Yes, the Giants won a few Super Bowls with Reese at the helm, but that was earlier in his tenure with primarily players he wasn’t necessarily the deciding factor on when they came on board. Graziano also pays lip-service to Reese’s find of Victor Cruz, which…sure, but one undrafted free agent doesn’t make up for seven years of average-at-best drafts.

A look at the Giants’ draft history is a horror story worthy of Hitchcock for Giants fans, yet so many still respect the guy who’s been pulling the strings.

This is the real reason the Giants window has closed and won’t reopen for some time…even if they manage to get to .500 or even to the playoffs in the next season or two. Until this team moves on from their stubborn reliance of what simply hasn’t worked, they can’t take the next step.

 


About Michael Schottey

Michael Schottey

Michael Schottey has been covering football in various capacities for a decade and his work can be found in numerous outlets around the globe, primarily Bleacher Report where he is and NFL National Lead Writer. Schottey has appeared regularly on CNN, Headline News, Al Jazeera America, Sirius/XM and countless other national and local radio spots.