Exactly what the title says this post is going to be about. Let's get at it. There's a couple different responsibilities that the GM has.
SCHEMES AND HOW WELL PREPARED THE PLAYERS ARE
Wait a second, no....don't think he's responsible for that. That's coaching. He's responsible for bringing in talent to compete. Moving on.
A big focal point for Reese opponents is Reese's track record for drafting. That includes philosophy and talent recognition. Let's talk about Reese's draft philosophy first.
The main argument against Reese is that he uses a BPA strategy, and gears towards a select few positions (DL), while completely ignoring others (OL, LB) and not drafting for need.
That notion is false. The whole point of BPA is to accumulate the most talent on your roster. The draft is ALL about potential. You do not go into a draft expecting immediate impact. If you do, then chances are, you are drafting in the top 10. And if you are drafting in the top 10, obviously something has been missing from your philosophy anyway. That's the reason why Atlanta gave up everything to move up to the top 10. That's why you see Cam Newton and A.J. Green and Julio Jones having a big impact, but not too many others.
This thought process, that most of your draft picks will not have an impact on your first year is a big indictment on drafting for "need." You only draft for need if you are in the top 10, because every single year, a team's needs change. Players step up, other players get hurt. Some develop....some don't. We'll get to this in more detail later.
If Jerry Reese had gone pure need, he would have taken Stefen Wisniewski, C or Kyle Rudolph, TE (LT was NOT a need because we had Will Beatty set to become the starter). What Reese DOES do is go BPA for the first three or four rounds, and does address "need" in the later rounds by taking raw, developmental prospects that could blossom into starters if coached up properly over those that are more "NFL ready" but have limited upside. I've shown that philosophy in this post.
To back this assertion up, lets look at one particular criticism of Jerry Reese at this year's draft. Reese was lambasted for not selecting an OL in the first 3 rounds. Jerrel Jernigan, in particular, has been a sore spot for people. Some look at it as a wasted pick, as well as Marvin Austin. They say we should have taken an OL after that. Funnily enough, though, nobody ever gives me a name of an OL that the Giants could use that was drafted. So lets do it:
23) Danny Watkins - mostly played as a backup before getting starting role, has given up pressure. Old.
25) James Carpenter - one of the worst RT in the league.
28) Gabe Carimi - beaten like a rent mule before getting injured.
32) Derek Sherrod - couldn't crack starting lineup on poor GB OL
14) Orlando Franklin - unimpressive, made rookie mistakes, but some upside
16) Stefen Wisniewski - has been playing well for the Raiders at C or G
17) Benjamin Ijalana - had to move to G, been unimpressive and injured
23) Rodney Hudson - Too skinny, backup.
31) Marcus Gilbert - Forced into starting role because of injury, has been Diehl-esque.
11) John Moffitt - Large contributor to statistically the league's worst OL. Has been atrocious.
12) Will Rackley - Demoted from Jacksonville's lineup after starting. Demoted, and was worst G in NFL in spot duty.
21) Jah Reid - Can't crack starting lineup
28) Joseph Barksdale- Impressive in spot duty, but still isn't starting caliber
5) Clint Boling - Buried under depth chart for suckage when had chance to start
There you go. Quite literally, the only player that's been heads-and-shoulders better than James Brewer that we've had a chance to draft (yes, even considering he hasn't gotten any playing time) has been Stefen Wisniewski. We still would have had to give up Prince Amukamara for it. Wisniewski would also NOT crack our starting lineup as it stands right now. Only Tyron Smith would, but hey, whaddya know....he's a top 10 pick.
This stands true for linebackers as well, another point of emphasis. Not going to spend too much time here, but I'd like to pose a question. In the last 5 years, can anybody off the top of their heads, find a rookie linebacker that was really and truly effective? I can only think of two. Patrick Willis and Von Miller. Willis was the 11th pick and a once-in-a-generation freak. Von Miller was the 2nd overall pick. Miller is great pass rusher, but he has been exposed in coverage as much, if not more, than Jacquian Williams. Three big names that were linked to the Giants in the past couple years have been Rolando McClain, Sean Weatherspoon, and Mason Foster. McClain has been in trouble with the law, and is simply average. Weatherspoon is definitely a good player, but was on and off injured and a non-factor in his rookie year. Mason Foster has thus far been worse than any rookie LB the Giants have played.
Now lets take a look at some of the players that Reese has drafted. Already wrote about Reese's draft picks here. But that's a bit of a cop out. Reese's criticisms in talent evaluation for the draft have come in three different bubbles, his 1st round picks, his 2nd and 3rd round picks, and his late round picks.
Earlier this week, some people told me Prince Amukamara would be a bust because the Giants have a poor track record of 1st round picks in recent years. Here are the Giants' most recent 1st round picks.
Not really sure how the Giants haven't been successful. They've hit on 5 of their past 6, which is unbelievable. People will criticize Reese for Aaron Ross, but I'm not sure they realize that you simply cannot hit on every single pick, year after year, regardless of round. We automatically assume that being a 1st rounder automatically makes you a good starter in the league. They say you can judge a draft class in 3 years. That means the latest draft we can start analyzing is the 2008 draft. To prove my point on just how difficult it is to hit on a draft pick, take a peek at the 1st round of the 2008 draft
I see Jake Long, Chris Long, Matt Ryan, Darren McFadden, Jerod Mayo, Ryan Clady, Jonathon Stewart, Joe Flacco, Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Johnson, Dustin Keller, and Kenny Phillips as good starters. That is 12 hits out of 32 on the "easiest" round for finding talent.
2007 was even worse, with only about 10 or 11 hits out of 32.
Aaron Ross' career has quite literally been "hamstrung" and has shown potential, but never realized it fully, probably because he couldn't consistently get snaps. Jerry Reese should not be blamed AT ALL for his 1st round selections, he has been nothing short of incredible.
2nd and 3rd Rounds
This is probably where Reese gets the bulk of his criticism. So without further ado, here are his picks:
Given the very low hit rate of the first round, the 2nd round is even worse. In the 2008 draft, I counted 9 decent starters, with only Brandon Flowers, Terrell Thomas, Jordy Nelson, Matt Forte, Ray Rice and Desean Jackson as being good players. So lets look at each of JR's draft picks:
Terrell Thomas - a year ago, had 101 tackles and 5 INTs. A clear starter for most teams.
Steve Smith - before he got injured, was a pro-bowler and a premier slot threat.
Will Beatty (hey look! he addressed the OL in the draft!) - finally showed his potential by starting this year and allowing only 3 sacks. He was NOT the problem on the OL.
Linval Joseph - Only his 2nd year, and is starting to become a force. Replaced Barry Cofield decently. Can't knock JR for this pick.
Clint Sintim (hey look! he addressed the LB early in the draft!) - Oh yeah, the poster boy for the Reese critics. Much had been made of him being the "square peg in the round hole" because he'd be more suited in the 3-4. Thing is, we don't know that. He didn't have much of a chance to contribute in his 1st year because he was a rookie. That was not JR's fault. His 2nd season was cut short abruptly by an ACL tear. He was rising in the preseason this year, taking over the primary backup spot from Kiwanuka, and taking some first team snaps as well. He destroyed his ACL again, and is probably done. Cannot blame Jerry Reese for that.
The third round is a bit more tricky. One could definitely say that Alford did not live up to the billing, but was a key contributor in the Superbowl year and as part of the DT rotation until he got injured. Say what you like about Mario Manningham, he had 944 yards and 9 TDs last year, numbers usually reserved for WR1s. Despite all we make fun of him for it, he had the highest catch percentage of our WRs last year as well. He has been less effective this year, but that can be attributed to Cruz's emergence as well as nagging knee and concussion injuries. He has undeniably been a hit.
As for Ramses Barden, the story here is injury and coaching. He has been injured throughout his career. When he finally got healthy this year, he hasn't been used in pertinent goal line situations. I'll attest that to Kevin Gilbride and Tom Coughlin, not Reese, though I will admit he has not lived up to his billing just yet. Beckum is a similar story. He has been underutilized, whether that is due to scheme or talent, I'm not sure. Either way, I'm close to admitting his bust status. Chad Jones, unless you are completely delusional, can't blame on Jerry Reese.
Therefore, out of 10 picks, I'd say Sintim, Barden and Beckum haven't panned out thus far, with Beckum the only "clear" fault of Jerry Reese in my opinion. So he has had a 70% success rate thus far. I dare anybody to go out there and find a better success rate...you won't. I've said this a billion times, and I'll say it again: you can't judge Jerry Reese in absolute terms, have to look at the success rates of other teams and compare.
4th round and beyond:
Zak DeOssie, Brian Kehl, Andre Brown, Phillip Dillard, Kevin Boss, Jonathon Goff, Rhett Bomar, Mitch Petrus, Adam Koets, Andre Woodson, Robert Henderson, DeAndre Wright, Adrian Tracy, Ahmad Bradshaw, Stoney Woodson, and Matt Dodge.
With these rounds, you look for depth, special teams, and developmental prospects. After the 3rd round, the sticking rate for players drops precipitously. Jerry Reese found DeOssie, Kevin Boss, Jonathon Goff, and Ahmad Bradshaw. Mitch Petrus looks very promising as well. I'd count that as 5 hits out of 16. That is not including Adam Koets who was invaluable last year in emergency duty.
That may not seem impressive, but its still in the upper echelon of the league. Considering 4 out of the 16 are starters in the league, and that boosts Jerry Reese's reputation even further.
As far as most Giants fans should be concerned, talent evaluation should be considered a massive strength, and a competitive advantage the team holds over most of the league, not a criticism.
Despite all of this, I know Reese detractors have a few more problems with him. One criticism I've seen pop up from time to time is the injury situation.
Shouldn't Reese be blamed for drafting injury prone players?
That's a fair question if it were true. Da'Rel Scott and Mark Herzlich are the only two rookies that Reese has brought in with significant health concerns and Scott was a 7th rounder, Herzlich was a UDFA. Sintim never missed a game in college. Aaron Ross never had injury concerns. Ditto Steve Smith. Chad Jones was in a car crash. The Giants are usually very cognizant of drafting healthy players. So there goes that argument!
Another very large criticism of Jerry Reese is the lack of ability to form "a complete team". This question is a great segue into this next section....
Free agency and capology are the final part of a GM's responsibilities. Jerry Reese has made it more than clear that he fills the team's "needs" for immediate impact through free agency. He uses the draft to reload and add talent, and completes the team in free agency. Only makes sense: Veterans know what they are doing. Rookies do not.
ONE DISCLAIMER THAT EVERYBODY SEEMS TO FORGET: YOU ALWAYS OVERPAY IN FREE AGENCY. ALWAYS. ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE COMPETING WITH ANOTHER TEAM.
So lets take a look at his free agent moves and his reasoning behind them:
In 2008, Fred Robbins unfortunately had to leave us. Knowing the strength of the defense was the line, he went to bolster the unit with Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard, addressing the main need. Canty was a very good player for Dallas. As a 3-4 DE, light on the stats side, but he helped Demarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff immensely. He had 5 PDs, 37 tkls, and 3.0 sacks. Bernard was a consistent pass rusher, garnering 55 tackles and 4.0 sacks as well.
Little did we know that over the season, Canty played with a torn hamstring and Bernard played with torn triceps. Once they became fully healed, they have been able to garner consistent pressure on the QB as seen this year.
In 2009, we had to last through the era of C.C. Brown and Aaron Rouse. We knew we were getting Kenny Phillips back, but the other starter would have been Michael Johnson. Most definitely the biggest need.
We went out and grabbed Antrel Rolle, who, at that point, was the best safety on the market. In 2008, he was ranked 15th of all defensive backs, according to FootballOutsiders. Arizona could not afford him, so we, knowing we had the talent to reload after a recent superbowl run. In 2009, Antrel had 4 INTs and was a much better safety than anybody else we had. Still might have been if he had a consistent scheme to work with and actually played safety instead of nickel corner or linebacker like he has.
In 2010, it was quite obvious that our biggest need was left tackle and center. After Kiwanuka and Sintim were injured, we needed an SLB. We addressed our left tackle situation with Will Beatty, whom we had been grooming for the past couple years. Guess what? He turned out OK. At C, we signed the best FA center in the market, David Baas. Jury is out on him because he's had neck issues. Hasn't been great in run blocking, but he has been good in pass protection. At SLB, we were able to sign Keith Bullock, who was serviceable. Not a long term answer, but Reese was able to find something. Finally, we also had a need for a punter. We know what happened. We know what Reese did. And we know how well his replacement has done.
Quite possibly, the only real question I've had with Reese is why he didn't bring in Stephen Tulloch at LB. I suppose he had faith in Jonathon Goff, which is justified. Also, it seemed as if Tulloch wanted to be reunited with Jim Schwartz, anyway. In any case:
If anything, this lends even more credence to the BPA philosophy in the draft. We can see how each year, our needs evolve. They aren't the same. Linebacker seems like a need now, but that's because Goff went down, and Boley has been injured. Suppose we HAD drafted Sean Weatherspoon, a good player, no doubt. What happens if we see JPP tearing it up for another team, like, Tennessee, and Osi and Tuck go down like they have this season? We'd be calling for Reese's job (not like we haven't been already...). With all the injuries to our CBs, can we really blame JR for taking Prince? At the time, CB wasn't a need at all. It is only through Jerry Reese's ability to create a complete team that we even have CBs to put out on the field right now anyway.
Let's also not forget about the other signings that Reese has made this year. We had plenty of free agents to sign from our own squad. Nobody talks about the fact that Reese had to deal with two different health issues - Steve Smith and Mathias Kiwanuka. He stuck to his guns and signed one, but not the other. He was ridiculed for his decision not to sign Steve Smith. He was villified. But at the end of the day, he was right. Kiwi has been awesome for us. Smith has been a failure.
Three other signings by Reese stands out.
1) The man with the big derriere: Kevin Boothe. A seemingly under-the-radar signing of one scrub amongst all the others. He's been arguably our most effective OL this year outside of Will Beatty. He's played both guard positions as well as center. He's been solid at all aspects. Win one for Reese, for keeping this gem.
2) Dave Tollefson. We could have easily let him go. We had JPP, Tuck, and Osi. We now see how important Tolly has been to the team. Great in spot duty, and has 4.0 sacks on the season.
3) Victor Cruz/Mark Herzlich/Henry Hynoski. All UDFAs (Cruz last year, the other two this year) that have come up big for the team. Cruz, especially. It is Reese's job to find and sign these guys, and while I doubt he knew what he was getting in Cruz, credit where credit is due.
Point is, Reese collects talent through the draft and addresses needs through free agency. He does not coach. He is not responsible for player injuries. He does not motivate the team. He does not execute the plays. Do we have a talented team? Yes. Even with the injuries that we have had, we hold our destiny in our hands. There have been two other teams with the injury situation we have this year: Jacksonville and St. Louis. Look at their records versus ours. The difference is the talent; acquired by none other than Jerry Reese.
There are a lot of places where we can place our blame for this season: Jerry Reese is hardly one of them.