Despite a rash of injuries and misfortune going all the way back to mini-camp, and plenty of questions about some of the personnel decisions the team has made, the New York Giants are playing well, and at 8-4 find themselves right in the thick of the crowded NFC playoff picture. It's time to send 'Kudos' to general manager Jerry Reese for a job well done.
Just think of where the injury-riddled Giants would be without some of the decisions made by Reese and coach Tom Coughlin -- many of which were robustly criticized here at BBV. Reese's ability to pull useful talent off the scrap heap, which helped the Giants win a Super Bowl in 2007, has been a big factor for the Giants again this season. As has his faith in the young players he has drafted the past few years, which is sometimes seen as nothing more than a stubborn lack of ability to admit his mistakes.
Let's examine Reese's imprint on this team.
What Reese Didn't Do
He did not panic when the Giants finished a disappointing 8-8 after the 2009 season. Even with an unhappy owner talking about how it felt like a 2-14 season, Reese resisted any urge to overreact. Yes, the Giants fired their defensive coordinator, but they did not blow up their foundation. Reese stayed true to his belief that the team, and its coaching staff, was largely a solid one that just needed to shore up weaknesses -- like the safety position.
- He did not trade Osi Umenyiora when many were calling for it, and Osi was whining about playing time. Osi now has nine sacks and is playing the best football of his career since at least 2007, and maybe even 2005.
- He did not deal away Brandon Jacobs simply to save money when it looked like Jacobs' best years might be in the past. Jacobs, after losing his job to Ahmad Bradshaw, is back in the No. 1 role and running as well as he ever has.
- He did not jettison highly-paid players like Chris Canty or Rocky Bernard after they had rough first years with the Giants. He believed that, when healthy, they would be quality players for his team. Especially in the case of Canty, he has been correct.
- He did not mortgage the draft to get a middle linebacker, although everyone thought Rolando McClain was the obvious answer to the Giants' middle linebacker prayers. Jonathan Goff has been just fine there, thank you.
Now, let's look at some of the things Reese did do.
Offseason Free Agency
Reese, of course, made the big strike when he acquired Antrel Rolle from the Arizona Cardinals to help plug the safety void the Giants had in 2009. He took heat for the size of the contract he gave Rolle, but it was what Reese had to do. In typical Reese fashion, he also made what seemed like smaller, under-the-radar moves for safety Deon Grant and linebacker Keith Bulluck. Grant, especially, has been incredibly important to the resurgent Giants' defense and to their kickoff coverage unit.
There was a lot of call for the Giants to trade up to grab McClain, which of course Reese chose characteristically not to do. Then there was a collective groan when JR chose defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, a raw project from South Florida who played a position where the Giants didn't seem to have a need. With Mathias Kiwanuka gone for the year, we are now beginning to see that Reese may well have been right to gamble on JPP's enormous potential. The rest of his draft is still a question mark due to injuries, misfortune and lack of playing time, but the JPP pick looks like it might end up being a home run. And, once again, it shows the silliness of the drafting by position instead of drafting the best player available argument. You never know what your needs are going to be.
Patience Is A Virtue
Reese, of course, came through the ranks as a scout. Fans, and sometimes even those around the team, wonder if he is too stubborn sometimes to admit when he has made a mistake. Reese's patience, and his belief in his evaluations, has been rewarded in several instances this season.
- He believed that Goff, who we talked about earlier, had the ability to be a capable middle linebacker even though he really had not shown it in two prior seasons. He has been right.
- He believed in Travis Beckum, though for most of the past two seasons we have all wondered what role Beckum could play. With all the wide receiver injuries the past couple of weeks Beckum is playing a ton, and playing well. Even with limited receptions he is finding a role. Twice on Sunday Beckum sealed the edge with excellent run blocks, something no one thought he could do.
- Adam Koets, who hadn't played in more than three years since Reese drafted him, also fits into this category. He filled in capably at center before going down with a season-ending injury.
- Reese, and Coughlin, also displayed patience that has paid off during the season in terms of their roster. We have talked about this before, but where would the Giants be right now if they had not had the patience and foresight to hold roster spots for Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe throughout the first half of the season. Neither of those guys is All-Pro caliber, but where else would you find plug 'n play lineman of that caliber this late in the season?
During the '07 Super Bowl season, Reese picked up Madison Hedgecock and Domenik Hixon off the scrap heap, and both guys helped the Giants immensely. Similarly, Reese has been pulling roster rabbits out of his hat all season long.
First, it was Shawn Andrews. He's down now, and his Giants' career might be in jeopardy, but there is no doubt he was a huge help to the Giants during the brief time they had to play him. Will Blackmon came off the junk pile and helped the return game before being hurt.. Guys like Brian Jackson and Michael Coe have stepped in right off the street and helped on special teams. Derek Hagan has been tremendous. Michael Clayton and Devin Thomas have found ways to help, particularly on special teams. Nobody is better at plugging in-season roster leaks than Reese.
Little Bit Of Luck
No, we are not talking Take 5 here. We are talking about a couple of roster mistakes the Giants made at the beginning of the season that they have been fortunate enough to correct. No way the Giants should have cut Hagan at the beginning of the season in favor of Duke Calhoun. They were extremely fortunate to get him back midway through the year. Same with Bear Pascoe. What the Giants were thinking when they cut him and tried to pass him to the practice squad I will never know. Luckily, no one else knew what the Giants were giving up, and they got him back.
No way of knowing at this point if the Giants will make the playoffs. What I do know is that without the outstanding work done by Reese since the end of last season they would have no chance. It is a reminder that JR does, indeed, know more about building a roster than we do.
In Reese We Trust.