On Saturday I ran the text of an e-mail that was highly critical of New York Giants' general manager Jerry Reese. I did not do so because I agree with everything in that e-mail -- I don't. I did so because I thought the e-mail was interesting, and because if we are going to honestly examine the wreckage of the 2013 season thus far part of that examination has to be the work of the general manager, the guy ultimately responsible for building the roster.
Reese is highly-respected and one of the best in the business. He deserves that as he has helped the Giants win two Super Bowls. For years, the moniker as Big Blue View has been "In Reese We Trust."
Recall that the last time Reese faced heavy scrutiny from fans and the media was prior to 2011 when the team lost Steve Smith and Kevin Boss via free agency along with cutting Rich Seubert and Shaun O'Hara seemingly without a real plan for replacing them. That worked out OK, as the Giants won a Super Bowl.
With the Giants in their current 0-6 mess, though, Reese's work in putting this team together needs to be examined. He did, after all, put everyone on notice. Since these are the players he chose he also needs to be held accountable.
Getting into a mess like this does not happen overnight. It takes an accumulation of decisions and circumstances over a period of years. With that in mind, let's look at all of Reese's drafts right through 2012 and see how they impact the current roster.
Grantland's Bill Barnwell, one of the planets best football writers, did this recently in an excellent analytical post. What you read below will include Barnwell's charts and lean heavily on his work, with my own opinion added to the mix.
|2007 Draft Class|
|Aaron Ross||CB||1||20||Left Giants and returned; on injured reserve|
|Steve Smith||WR||2||51||Out of football|
|Jay Alford||DT||3||81||Out of football|
|Zak DeOssie||LS||4||116||On Giants roster|
|Kevin Boss||TE||5||153||Out of football|
|Adam Koets||OL||6||190||Out of football|
|Michael Johnson||DB||7||224||Out of football|
|Ahmad Bradshaw||RB||7||250||With Indianapolis Colts; on injured reserve|
Barnwell says: "After the first Super Bowl, this looked like it could possibly be one of the best drafts in league history, producing six starters on a Super Bowl–caliber team. Instead, Bradshaw has been the only above-average player from the group with any sort of professional longevity, and even he went on injured reserve with a neck injury this week."
Valentine's View: Barnwell is right here. This draft helped the Giants win a Super Bowl, but Bradshaw is the only one who has been a long-term impact player in the NFL. Here are some of the players Reese passed on when he selected Ross, who has two Super Bowl rings but has been an adequate at best player. I guess we will call this the 'coulda/woulda/shoulda' section.
- CB Brandon Meriweather (24th, New England Patriots, 2 Pro Bowls)
- LB Jon Beason (25th, Carolina Panthers, 3 Pro Bowls)
- OT Joe Staley (28th, San Francisco 49ers, 2 Pro Bowls, 7-year starters)
- OG Ben Grubbs (29th, Baltimore Ravens, 1 Pro Bowl, 7-year starter)
|2008 Draft Class
|Kenny Phillips||S||1||31||Out of football|
|Terrell Thomas||CB||2||63||On Giants roster|
|Mario Manningham||WR||3||95||With San Francisco 49ers; on PUP list|
|Bryan Kehl||LB||4||123||With Washington Redskins|
|Jonathan Goff||LB||5||165||Out of football|
|Andre Woodson||QB||6||198||Never played in NFL|
|Robert Henderson||DE||6||199||Never played in NFL|
Barnwell says: "This might, honestly, be the most-injured set of knees for one draft class in NFL history. ... The only player from this draft who suited up for an NFL down and didn't suffer a notable knee injury is Kehl, who has bounced around as a backup linebacker and special teams player."
Valentine's View: How much different might the current Giants look if Phillips and Thomas had become the players it looked like they would become early in their careers? It's hard to fault Reese for drafting either of them, and he took a successful gamble on Manningham. The rest of this draft turned out to offer nothing, however, although Goff did start for a short period of time.
In the 'coulda/woulda/shoulda' department, here are a few late-round guys from this draft who have been successful.
- OT Carl Nicks (5th round, 164th, New Orleans Saints, 2 Pro Bowls). Nicks went one pick before Goff.
- WR Pierre Garcon (6th round, 205th, Indianapolis Colts, 261 career receptions). Garcon went after the Giants drafted Woodson and Henderson, who never played. There are, in fact, 24 players taken after Woodson and Henderson who are still on NFL rosters.
In all, it's hard to fault the top half of this draft by Reese. There was no way to know Phillips and Thomas would suffer career-altering knee injuries. The bottom half of this draft? No help.
|2009 Draft Class|
|Hakeem Nicks||WR||1||29||On Giants roster|
|Clint Sintim||LB||2||45||Out of football|
|William Beatty||T||2||60||On Giants roster|
|Ramses Barden||WR||3||85||Out of football|
|Travis Beckum||TE||3||100||Out of football|
|Andre Brown||RB||4||129||On Giants roster; short-term injured reserve|
|Rhett Bomar||QB||5||151||Never played in NFL|
|DeAndre Wright||DB||6||200||Never played in NFL|
|Stoney Woodson||DB||7||238||Never played in NFL|
Barnwell says: "This draft yielded two long-term starters for the Giants who were effective at points, but they've both struggled to live up to expectations because of injuries. Nicks is a monster talent and a legitimate top wide receiver when healthy, but he has never played a full season as a pro. While Nicks has only missed nine games across his five years in the league, he has spent long stretches of time at far less than 100 percent. Beatty was drafted as the long-term replacement for David Diehl at left tackle, but he didn't win the job for himself until 2012, his only healthy season as a full-time starter. He missed significant time during his apprenticeship with a detached retina and a broken foot, but he showed enough during 2012 to earn a five-year, $37.5 million deal from Reese this offseason. The deal reminded me of Doug Free's contract — also earned after one year — and he has looked brutal at times as the starting left tackle this year. To have three other second- and third-round picks basically leave the league having made little impact is extremely disappointing."
Valentine's View: Look back on this draft and it is -- easily -- Reese's worst as Giants' GM. Nicks is a star, but a player who is too often not physically healthy enough to show it. Beatty played well last season and earned himself money as an elite left tackle, a 5-year, $37.5-million deal. Only, he has shown this year that he most likely isn't elite. He's probably an average, adequate left tackle who is now massively overpaid.
Everybody else is this class? Please! With apologies to Andre Brown the entire rest of the class is regrettable, forgettable and still hurting the Giants. The real killer is that the Giants had five picks in the first three rounds here -- a chance to bring in several impact players -- and clearly missed on three of the five.
Sintim was a square peg in a round hole even before his knee injuries, a 3-4 outside linebacker trying unsuccessfully to play in a 4-3. Barden and Beckum? Neither made an impact. Beckum was another square peg in a round hole, an H-Back type with a head coach who wants to use tight ends in traditional fashion. Reese likes to say he expects his second- and third-round picks to play. Unfortunately, here he handed Tom Coughlin two players who couldn't. Bomar, Wright and Woodson never played an NFL down.
Now for a little 'coulda/woulda/shoulda.'
- WR Mike Wallace (2nd round, 84th, Pittsburgh Steelers, 151 career catches). Wallace went one pick BEFORE Barden. Incidentally, 11 of the 15 players drafted AFTER Barden in the third round are still in the NFL. One of those who is not is Beckum.
- DT Henry Melton (4th round, 105th, Chicago Bears, 1 Pro Bowl). Taken five picks after Beckum.
- WR Brian Hartline (4th round, 108th, Miami Dolphins, 208 career catches). This one hurts. The Giants used two third-round picks on receivers, and here is one far superior to either who went in the next round.
- WR Austin Collie (4th round, 127th, Indianapolis Colts, 173 career catches). See what I said about Hartline.
- OG Matt Slauson (6th round, 193rd, New York Jets). A four-year starter.
|2010 Draft Class|
|Jason Pierre-Paul||DE||1||15||On Giants roster|
|Linval Joseph||DT||2||46||On Giants roster|
|Chad Jones||S||3||76||Out of football|
|Phillip Dillard||LB||4||115||Out of football|
|Mitch Petrus||OL||5||147||Out of football|
|Adrian Tracy||DL||6||184||Out of football|
|Matt Dodge||P||7||221||Out of football|
Barnwell says: "Reese found a genuine star in the first round with JPP, who broke out with an All-Pro campaign in his second season, picking up 16.5 sacks as the best player on the (admittedly overrated) defense en route to the Super Bowl. While his sack totals dropped off to a mere 6.5 takedowns last year, the difference in his level of play wasn't as severe as those two figures might indicate. After undergoing back surgery during the offseason, Pierre-Paul has been invisible on the field for most of the 2013 season; Week 5 was the first time he really had an impact on the game. Joseph is a very talented interior lineman ... Amazingly, the rest of this draft is already out of football."
Valentine's View: There is really little to add to what Barnwell wrote here. I still believe Pierre-Paul will return to Pro Bowl level at some point. As for the picks beyond JPP and Joseph I have always maintained that you can't call anyone taken in Rounds 4-7 a bust, and that's true. It is stunning, however, that the Giants got no real help from the rest of the class and that all five players chosen are out of the league. There are more than 125 players taken after Chad Jones who are still in the league. That is not meant to criticize the selection of Jones, whose career-ending accident was nothing other than unfortunate, just to give some frame of reference to how bad it is that none of the last five players taken by the Giants remains in the league.
Here is a little 'coulda/woulda/shoulda':
- TE Jimmy Graham (3rd round, 95th, New Orleans Saints, 1 Pro Bowl, 252 career catches).
- DB Alterraun Verner (4th round, 105th, Tennessee Titans). Pro Football Focus ranks him as the best cornerback in the league right now. Quarterbacks have a 12.5 passer rating targeting him.
- DT Geno Atkins (4th round, 120th, Cincinnati Bengals, 2 Pro Bowls).
- DB Kam Chancellor (5th round, 133rd, Seattle Seahawks, 1 Pro Bowl)
- P Zoltan Mesko (5th round, 150th, New England Patriots).
- RB Jonathan Dwyer (6th round, 188th, Pittsburgh Steelers)
- KR Trindon Holliday (6th round, 197th, Houston Texans)
|2011 Draft Class|
|Prince Amukamara||CB||1||19||On Giants roster|
|Marvin Austin||DL||2||52||With Miami Dolphins|
|Jerrel Jernigan||WR||3||83||On Giants roster|
|James Brewer||OL||4||117||On Giants roster|
|Greg Jones||LB||6||185||Out of football|
|Tyler Sash||S||6||198||Out of football|
|Jacquian Williams||LB||6||202||On Giants roster|
|Da'Rel Scott||RB||7||221||On Giants roster|
Barnwell says: "... consider how this draft looks right now. Amukamara missed most of his rookie season with a fractured foot (the same metatarsal injury that Beatty suffered the previous year, actually), but came back to play some down the stretch and is currently the only cornerback on the team who doesn't inspire fits of terror in Giants fans. Austin missed his first season with a torn pectoral muscle, made it into seven games his sophomore year, and was then cut after two seasons. Jernigan is a pure speed play with just six catches through his first two-plus seasons with the team. Brewer's first notable playing time came as an injury fill-in this year."
Valentine's View: The middle of this draft has thus far turned out to be soft. From the Austin pick right through the Sash selection the Giants have gotten very little, with Austin and Sash already gone. There still might be hope for Brewer and Jernigan, but right now the Giants simply haven't gotten enough from this class.
Here is some 'coulda/woulda/shoulda' from this class:
- OL Rodney Hudson (2nd round, 55th, Kansas City Chiefs).
- WR Torrey Smith (2nd round, 58th, Baltimore Ravens).
- WR Randall Cobb (2nd round, 64th, Green Bay Packers).
- RB DeMarco Murray (3rd round, 71st, Dallas Cowboys)
All of those players were selected after Austin.
- LB Mason Foster (3rd round, 84th, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, three-year starter). Taken one pick after Jernigan.
|2012 Draft Class|
|David Wilson||RB||1||32||On Giants roster|
|Rueben Randle||WR||2||63||On Giants roster|
|Jayron Hosley||CB||3||94||On Giants roster|
|Adrien Robinson||TE||4||127||On Giants roster|
|Brandon Mosley||OL||4||131||On Giants roster|
|Matt McCants||OL||6||201||With Oakland Raiders|
|Markus Kuhn||DL||7||239||On Giants roster; physically unable to perform|
Barnwell says: "It's too early to talk about these guys, but let me just point this out: Wilson, Hosley, and Robinson are all listed as "Out" on the injury report for tonight's game with the Bears. They're already struggling with injuries. Kuhn, who the Giants drafted at age 26, tore his ACL last year and hasn't been back on the field yet." [NOTE: This was written prior to Thursday's game]
Valentine's View: As Barnwell says, it is too early to pass judgment here. The same goes for the 2013 class, although on the injury theme it's worth pointing out that Damontre Moore and Cooper Taylor have both had trouble staying on the field due to injuries.
Here is part of Barnwell's conclusion:
It seems pretty clear that something is rotten here. No team should have this many players taken in the top half of drafts either out of the league or playing at far less than their level of ability because of injuries. It's just difficult to parse out what that problem is, exactly. Is it that Reese is somehow identifying and selecting players who are particularly prone to injuries? Is Coughlin overworking his players in a way that's more likely to put young players on the shelf? Can it be just randomness, that a sample size of about 30 players who might have had meaningful careers with the team just happens to have more injuries than anybody would have expected? I honestly don't know the answer.
And because of that, I'm not really sure what to suggest the Giants should do. ... It's clear the Giants need to reevaluate things in light of this rash of injuries, because there is a missing half-decade of players that is holding them down at the bottom of the NFC East right now.
Valentine's View: Really hard to argue with Barnwell here in terms of the injuries. Why so many is simply impossible to explain, and I don't think the injuries can be blamed on Reese or Coughlin. They simply happen. I also know that it's slightly unfair for me to have cherry-picked certain players the Giants did not select in each draft. I did it simply to point out players who have been successful, often in positions the Giants have either struggled to fill or mostly ignored.
Reese is a quality general manager who came through the scouting ranks. He made his reputation as a GM early on with a draft that helped the Giants win a Super Bowl. He has said in the past that you don't have to hit a home run with every draft pick, but you at least want singles and doubles. Whether it's injuries, bad judgment, or some combination of both, from 2009 to at least 2011 and maybe including 2012, there are way too many strikeouts on Reese's record. It is 2013 and you would hope that the guts of your team would come from those 2009-2012 drafts. Unfortunately, rather than meat and potatoes Reese collected a whole lot of Swiss cheese during that stretch. That is part of why the Giants are in their current plight.
[NOTE: At a later date we will look at some of the free-agent choices made in recent years.]
More from Big Blue View:
- New York Giants' news, 10/12: Time to think about solutions
- Why are the Giants 0-6? Tom Coughlin knows exactly why
- David Wilson Injury Update: Running back awaits second opinion
- Eli Manning Interception Watch: Examining Thursday's picks
- Giants at Bears 2013 Week 6: PFF grades, snap counts
- Da'Rel Scott Injury: RB suffers hamstring injury
- Reaction: New York Giants let first win slip away
- PHOTO GALLERY: 0-6 In Manning Faces