If you’ve seen my Twitter feed or are a friend of mine on Facebook, you’ll know I’m a die-hard New York Giants fan. I was raised in the New York Metropolitan Area. It goes with the territory. And no, the Jets will never ever hold the title of New York’s football team—ever. So, as you could imagine, things are not good. We have a general manager who doesn't know what the hell he’s doing, trading away Odell Beckham, Jr, a future Hall of Famer, to the Cleveland Browns for safety Jabrill Peppers, a first (No. 17), and third round picks (No. 95). The Browns are definite contenders to win the AFC North, with a quality quarterback in Baker Mayfield having weapons like OBJ, Juice Landry, and Nick Chubb to do damage. Oh, and after Kareem Hunt serves his eight-game suspension, the rooster gets another boost. Still too early to talk Super Bowl, but that’s for another time—and frankly, OBJ being a Brown just drives me insane so we’ll leave it at that. It’s done.
Yet, what the hell happened? I watched the Giants win both Super Bowls in 2008 and 2012. Both of them against the New England Patriots. In both games, Eli Manning out-Brady'd Tom Brady. In SB 42, I saw Brady get thrown to the ground 19 times by the Giants defense, sacked five times—the dagger to the heart being Jay Alford come right up the middle to sack Brady with 25 seconds left in the fourth quarter, where the Patriots trailed by three points. This was after that nice floater Eli delivered to wideout Plaxico Burress, sealing what is arguably the greatest game-winning drive in football. In 2011, the New York Giants met with Patriots again (they had defeated them in the regular season) in Super Bowl 46. Once again, Eli Manning put together another game-winning drive, clinching the game 21-17 for Big Blue. The Giants had won two rings in four years against Brady’s Patriots. And then, the collapse began.
For starters, Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi retired at the end of the 2007 season. This man drafted Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora. He built the championship roster that earned Big Blue its two Super Bowls. And then some dude named Jerry Reese decided to more or less trash it. Okay—maybe that’s not fair. This wasn’t intentional. Jerry Reese was just a bad GM.
As SB Nation recently noted in their Collapse series, the New York Giants faced back-to-back seasons where they were dealing with 20+ unrestricted free agents. After 2011, Big Blue was already over the salary cap. Decisions had to be made and for Mr. Reese, they were all the wrong ones. The 16-minute episode is painful but captures how the Giants went from powerhouse to a team that’s been hollowed out. Bereft of talent that plays a notch or two above an AAF team.
It’s bad. It’s been bad for quite some time. With the exception of the 2016 season, where the GMen went 11-5 only to get wrecked by the Green Bay Packers 38-13 in the Wild Card, the Giants had miserable seasons, which started with the 2013 season. Since that time, the Giants have lost over 50 games. The Cowboys, a team I hate with a passion, has swept us during the past two seasons. The Philadelphia Eagles have gone to work on the Giants as well, dominating the rivalry this decade, and catching up with New York in the overall all-time matchup record. The Eagles are sure to clinch more overall wins this season since the two teams first met in 1933. Ironically, while Manning has fared poorly against the Eagles overall, it’s the opponent where he has performed the best, throwing over 7,200 yards and 51 touchdowns, the most against any opponent he has faced in his career.
But back to the dumpster fire raging in East Rutherford that’s been raging more or less since 2012, Reese once again faced another deluge of Giants hitting free agency, he made cuts, released running back Ahmad Bradshaw, Umenyiora found a new home in Atlanta, and made some other moves that allowed wide receiver Victor Cruz to clinch his five-year $43 million extension. Here is where SB Nation highlights how this was probably a bad move. Yes, Cruz balled in 2011, nabbing 1,536 yards and 9 touchdowns, but health is key. And for Cruz, who I loved, the production was not there. His story alone is like a mini-episode of Collapse. He tore his patella tendon in 2014 against the Eagles, which dashed the rest of the season. In 2015, his recovery was not complete; his calf got all messed up, which then required surgery, ending his season that year. In September of 2016, after two years recovering, he returned to the field, only to be released in 2017.
The rest of the episode is tough medicine for any Giants fan to take, but it must be taken. No spoonful of sugar here, folks. The Giants went 6-10 in back-to-back seasons for 2014 and 2015. Also around this time, offensive linemen David Diehl and Chris Snee decided to retire citing ongoing injuries. The offensive line has been an issue ever since. Reese tried to fix that by drafting left tackle Ereck Flowers from Miami, who ended up being a complete and total disaster. Coach Tom Coughlin was shown the door after the 2015 season. Yes, Odell Beckham was picked in 2014, but he’s been seen as more of a Band-Aid for the increasingly declining Giants team. The man has produced more than any other wide receiver at this stage in his career. As FS1’s Nick Wright notes, just look at his first 47 games. But one man doesn’t make a team, and the Giants’ issues go far beyond one man. Side note: ODJ’s off-the-field antics were way overblown, just look no further than what Le’veon Bell and Antonio Brown did in Pittsburgh.
But back to the decline, you’ll hear some familiar names leaving the franchise in its slow bleed: Hakeem Nicks, Corey Webster, Mario Manningham, Justin Tuck, Antrel Rolle, and Mathias Kiwanuka. After the 2015 season, Tom Coughlin was forced out. Ben McAdoo took over and was by all accounts a pretty terrible coach that the locker room never really got behind. He was fired along with Jerry Reese before the end of the disastrous 2017 season, where the Giants finished 3-13. The 2018 season wasn’t much better. With head coach Pat Shurmur and new GM David Gettleman, the Giants finished 5-11, but they scored the most points in the NFC East, despite remaining in the division’s basement. There were at least several games where the Giants could’ve won, losing by seven points or less. The defense just couldn’t hold on, but that's still not an excuse.
OBJ is gone, so is defensive tackle Olivier Vernon and safety Landon Collins. After years of bad draft picks, they finally made one: running back Saquon Barkley, who is also a hall of fame caliber player, clinching offensive rookie of the year and racking up 1,307 rushing yards and 721 receiving yards. He can be deadly if we have an offensive line, but that is still under construction. We did get a hog mollie with the OV trade to the Browns, nabbing Kevin Zeitler, but Barkley could be a tragic story: a phenomenal player who wasted his prime on a franchise who just can't figure out how to win.
Still, there is not a single first-round pick made under the Reese regime that remains on the roster. As such, the talent is just not there. It’s marked with veterans and rookies. There’s no depth. On top of that, the Giants front office seems to think the team can rebuild, but also make it to the postseason…and still, hold onto Eli Manning. I used to think Eli had a couple of years left. The 2018 season proved otherwise. Eli can’t make the throws that could make OBJ a deadly piece of hardware. He’s shell-shocked after years of having no offensive line. A ficus plant was faster than him in his prime. Do you think that’s changed? The Giants are rebuilding around a 38-year-old quarterback. That’s not rebuilding. That’s another losing season. And the talk about his end of the year stats that Gettleman and company peddle pervasively seem to gloss over that checkdowns and last-minute bursts of prettiness in garbage time aren’t the makings of a quarterback who can still make the throws.
Eli should’ve taken less money. He’s not worth the $23.3 million that’s owed to him in the final year of his contract with the Giants. That being said, he’s the best quarterback the franchise ever had. He’s a two-time Super Bowl champion and MVP. He's a Brady killer. He deserves a hero’s sendoff. It’s tragic he’s ending his career like this. And this GM, who’s trading away what talent we have…do I trust him with the upcoming draft? No. Rumor has it that he’s hell-bent on beefing up the defense. That’s fine. We need linebackers, pass rushers, and safety, and a corner. We have holes everywhere, but the quarterback situation needs to be addressed. In retrospect, this should’ve been addressed years ago.
Alas, it wasn’t. So, here we are, the laughingstock of the NFL. And if we do not draft a QB this draft and extend Manning for one more year, which apparently is a possibility—then this franchise will remain in the bunker. Still, I’ll be there at MetLife, in good times and bad. Even when we go 0-16 in 2019 (yeah, I think it’s going to be that bad), but that’s what being a die-hard fan is about. I hope I’m wrong about 2019, but I’m fairly confident that the team, as of now, isn’t capable of winning more than three games. It’s going to be brutal, but we’ll endure this. It just may take a head coaching change and booting Gettleman from the front office, but we’ll get there.