It certainly has been an amazingly busy offseason for the New York Giants. With the 2014 NFL Draft, the major free-agent moves and an overhaul of the offensive coaching staff complete, is seems like a good time to assess what we liked and what we did not like about the Giants' offseason.
As we have done occasionally throughout the offseason, we turn to a round-table discussion to get thoughts from of the Big Blue View staffers. Our Big Blue View Round Table question this time around asked each writer for his best and worst move of the Giants' offseason.
Bar none my favorite move that the Giants made this offseason isn’t any player acquisition, and there sure have been a lot, but rather the hiring of Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator. With the fireworks that transcended upon East Rutherford in the form of a frantic, hectic and action-packed free agency, McAdoo has gone a little under the radar, but from the little we’ve learned about the offense is exciting. For years and years, the New York Giants have been as vanilla as one get get on the offensive side of the ball and it appears as if that’s going to change drastically this year. No-huddle, quick release and other additions are exactly what Eli Manning needs to reboot a career that was once thought to be on the fast track to Canton.
My least favorite move this offseason is the one that was not made and that's the resigning of Justin Tuck. Initially when Tuck was let go, I assumed it was for money reasons. The Raiders, as has been the case on countless other occasions, overpaid for the captain's services and as a result he took a red-eye to the opposite coast. But that wasn't the case with Tuck, he did everything except play for free, and Reese and Co. let him walk. I understand, Tuck is not the same player he was three, four, or five years ago and his best days are behind him, but there is $3 million of unused salary cap sitting in Reese's pocket. Who exactly is that going to go to? What about the $5 million free'd up June 1 when the David Baas cut becomes official? Where is that going to go?
Justin Tuck was a leader on the team, a damn good player against the run and the definition of what New York Giants' football is. So why let him walk when it didn't have to do with the money? It wasn't like Tuck was sitting there asking for a four-year contract at $6 million a year, a two-year deal would have cut it. Antrel Rolle did an admiral job as captain last year, and Jon Beason seems set to take some leadership responsibilities as well, but is there such a thing as too many captains? That certainly wasn't the case during the draft.
Hiring Ben McAdoo as the offensive coordinator. Easily the best move of the offseason simply because it will be the most impactful. It was time for a change. Eli Manning's biggest strength early into the peak of his career was his deep ball accuracy. He clearly no longer has that. Gilbride's "Run 'n Shoot" concepts had Eli taking 5- and 7-step drops, reading the defense on option routes, and chucking it deep. Suffice to say with the OL parting like the Red Sea, the WRs reading defenses worse than 5th graders, and Manning having the accuracy of shooting long distance with a sawed off shotgun, our offense was beyond dreadful. So McAdoo has promised a quicker no-huddle approach, shorter, more decisive drop backs (with the occasional bomb), more outlet receivers, and fewer option routes. If he holds true to his promises, this offense will be a force to be reckoned with.
This one is a bit more difficult. I really liked a lot of what the Giants did this offseason, but if I had to pick one: giving Jon Beason a three-year, $19 million contract with $7 million guaranteed. Don't get me wrong, I love the player. I just don't love the contract. It's clear the Giants valued leadership above all else this offseason and they paid premium value for it here. That's the only way I can see the justification of giving top 15 inside linebacker money to a 2 down linebacker that's poor in coverage that has a chronic history of knee problems.
It was clear the Giants were devoid of motivators before Beason came aboard, he certainly replaced Tuck in that regard and he added support to Antrel Rolle's vocality. You saw a tremendous rise in the level of play and attitude of the defense once he came here and it sure as heck wasn't his own play. True leaders elevate those around them and he did that. Did we really have to pay that much though? I just wonder. He had suitors but I doubt they'd be offering him what we got him for. Let's hope he stays healthy.
My favorite move was hiring Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator. It's seemed for years that the Giants' offense desperately needed a through makeover, and with Kevin Gilbride now out of the picture, McAdoo can bring fresh ideas from his time in Green Bay. He'll also have plenty of new talent to utilize as he sees fit, particularly among the top for our so draft picks, who all seem capable of contributing early.
My least favorite move was letting Justin Tuck leave in free agency for the Oakland Raiders. There's undoubtedly some sentimentality factoring in here, as Tuck was obviously one of the most popular Giants from the time he joined the team as a third-round draft pick in 2015. Perhaps Oakland's offer -- reportedly close to double New York's -- was just too high to compete with, but Tuck was healthy for the first time in a while last season and his production showed. His 11 sacks were his most since 2010, as were his 63 total tackles. Pro Football Focus' season-ending numbers considered Tuck a top-10 4-3 defensive end, both as a pass rusher and run-stopper. His replacement in Robert Ayers seems capable of filling the void and second-year end Damontre Moore could blossom as a pass-rusher with more reps, but it's hard to shake the odd feeling of no longer having Tuck to lead the defense.
There's a lot of ways I could go with this; DRC & Thurmond, Geoff Schwartz, The Draft class... But I'd be something of a hypocrite if I didn't go with the hiring of Ben McAdoo. By the end of the season I was highly critical of Kevin Gilbride to say the least. I'm certainly not a blind hater in that regard, and by no means do I lay all the blame at his feet (and we really, REALLY don't need to go over all the various causes for the offensive implosion last year). However, the offensive shakeup that came along with the hiring of McAdoo was sorely needed.
From a practical standpoint, the shakeup has energized the offense and staff. Getting Eli Manning recommitted, relearning his fundamentals, and learning an offense from new and different point of view can only help. A new scheme with new faces and new psychology will force the rest of the division to adapt to something new and throw away their old film for the first time in almost a decade.
As well, we've heard a few times that the new offense, whatever it winds up looking like, is going to be built around the strengths of the players. While Gilbride called some very good offenses in the past, but the nature of his offense got in it's own way. How much sooner could Steve Smith and Mario Manningham have contributed if the routes were defined and they didn't need years to learn how to see the defense with the same eyes as Eli? How much more dynamic would it have been if places could have been built in for players who didn't fit pre-existing, pre-defined roles like Travis Beckum or Ramses Barden? Or if an up-temp, no-huddle offense could be used outside of the last two minutes of a half (something Eli Manning has always excelled at)?
So all of that, plus the changes at QB, WR, TE, and RB coaches should have a huge (and I think positive) effect on a stagnant, broken offense.
This is pretty easy: Losing Linval Joseph.
The Giants fielded a horrible defense in 2012, and a big part of that was a breakdown in the defensive tackle rotation. The Giants responded with a massive upgrade in the posterior size of the defensive front. The linebackers stopped being a liability and the defense shut down some of the best running games in the NFL. In fact, despite being put in some horrific positions by the offense and special teams, and some pathetic pass rushing numbers, the Giants' defense finished 8th in total defense and (if my maths are right) top 5 in scoring defense.
I do think that Johnathan Hankins will ultimately be a better defensive tackle than Joseph, But, losing a young, talented player who can help keep your rotation fresh and help to continue to dominate the line of scrimmage hurts the defense. They should survive it, but I don't think it would take long before a defensive tackle rotation of Hankins, Joseph, Jay Bromley, and Kelcy Quarles would be the envy of most teams in the league.
I will join the chorus and say the hiring of Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator, along with the revamping of the offensive coaching staff. Anyone who has read Big Blue View for a while knows that I was always a defender of the retired Kevin Gilbride. I will still maintain that no offensive coordinator could have succeeded last season with a putrid offensive line, no running backs who were weapons in the passing game, no reliable tight end and -- for most of the season -- one trust-worthy wide receiver. Still, it was time for the Giants to do something different.
No matter whether you liked or hated the Gilbride offense, the Giants had a great deal of success with it over the years. Coming off the worst season of his career it was, however, time for Eli Manning to hear a new voice, be be challenged by a coordinator not beholden to his two Super Bowl rings, to be taken out of his comfort zone and have to learn something new, perhaps in the process re-discovering some of the fundamentals that seemed to slip away from him in 2013. The hiring of McAdoo could be the perfect elixir for what ails Manning as this critical juncture of his career.
Once again I am going to go with the flow here. For me, the riskiest move of the offseason has allowing both Justin Tuck and Linval Joseph to leave via free agency. Both moves are understandable from a business perspective, and predictable in the case of Joseph. Over the past decade the Giants have established the precedent (see Cornelius Griffin and Barry Cofield) that they don't pay big money to their own defensive tackles. Still, allowing the two best defensive linemen they had in 2013 to go elsewhere is undeniably a roll of the dice.
Johnathan Hankins was drafted as the replacement for Joseph, as Joseph was drafted as the replacement for Cofield. Now, can he live up to that? Damontre Moore was drafted a year ago in the hope he would become the franchise's next great pass-rushing defensive end. He barely saw the field in 2013 and needs to show development in 2014. Robert Ayers was signed to take Tuck's pot. His career arc shows he has the skill set, but in five seasons he has only started 27 games.
Offer your best and worst moves in the comments. Also, it is Memorial Day. Please remember to honor our veterans today.