My recent conversation with former NFL general manager Charlie Casserly got me thinking about some of the mistakes made by the New York Giants in recent years, why they made them and how they are still paying for them or trying to correct them.
Thus, this week's 'Five Things I Think I Think' is a look at five mistakes made in recent seasons that have helped lead the Giants to a place where they are suffering back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in a decade. These are not in any sort of order of priority.
Drafting David Wilson In Round 1
Wilson's NFL story is a sad one because it ended before it ever really got a chance to begin due to his 2013 neck injury. He isn't on this list because of that, though. He is on this list because drafting him in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft was never the right thing to do in the first place.
I still believe the Wilson selection was a panic move by Reese after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took running back Doug Martin, the all-around back I believe Reese wanted, one pick earlier. First of all, drafting running backs in the first round is a mistake more often than it isn't. Second of all, Wilson didn't fit the power running style Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride, and now Ben McAdoo, seem to prefer. Third, Wilson never seemed cut out to be an every down NFL back.
There was probably a role for Wilson on this team as a pass receiver and a guy who could get out in space and make some plays. Trying to make him a lead running back, though, was doomed to fail from the beginning. The Giants did not make the wrong choice by moving on from Ahmad Bradshaw. They simply chose the wrong guy to do it with, and had to dip into free agency and the draft last off-season to try to fix that.
Ignoring The Offensive Line For Too Long
You know the story. At one time, David Diehl, Rich Suebert, Shaun O'Hara, Chris Snee and Kareem McKenzie made up one of the best offensive lines in the game. While that group got old and broke down the did not aggressively move to replenish it, instead choosing to Band-Aid it by moving Diehl around, signing journeymen and hoping late-round draft picks would develop.
Yes, the Giants are trying to remedy that. They used a 2013 first-round pick on Justin Pugh, a 2014 second-round pick on Weston Richburg and signed quality guard Geoff Schwartz as a free agent. From 2007-2012, however, Will Beatty (Round 2, 2009) is the only offensive lineman taken in the first three rounds of the draft.
That's not good enough. They allowed a strength to become a weakness, and they are still paying for that.
The Refusal To Draft Real Linebackers
Yes, it looks like the Giants have finally struck gold at the linebacker position with Devon Kennard. Kennard, though, was a fifth-round pick falls into the Reese philosophy of not emphasizing the position, rather throwing late-round picks at it and hoping something happens, or signing veteran free agents and trying to get by.
Watch Kennard play and you see how much of a difference a linebacker who can rush the passer, who can get off blocks and make plays and who actually knows where he belongs can make. The Giants have been missing it for too long.
The Entire 2012 Draft Class
The only truly useful player the Giants got from that class is second-round pick Rueben Randle, and he is little more than a complementary third or fourth wide receiver. Wilson is out of the league. The Giants have given up on third-round pick Jayron Hosley. Argue about whose fault it is all you want, but fourth-round picks Adrien Robinson and Brandon Mosley have never pushed their way into full-time roles, or even truly important reserve ones. Sixth-round pick Matt McCants is long gone. Seventh-round pick Markus Kuhn is still a Giant, but he is thoroughly replaceable.
You can't have any depth when you basically waste an entire draft class.
Questionable Handling of Veterans, Free Agents
The Giants made a mistake a year ago, hitching their wagon to veterans like Aaron Ross, Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas, Diehl and several others. The re-stocking and effort to build a young core with a future should have started before the 2013 season. The Giants would be much farther along right now had they not tried to squeeze another year out of veterans who had nothing left to give.
You can say the same thing this year about Chris Snee and Mathias Kiwanuka. Neither of those players should have been counted on in 2014. Justin Tuck would have taken less money than he got from the Oakland Raiders to stay with the Giants. No doubt he's a better player than Kiwanuka.
Draft mistakes lead to over-reliance on free agency, which leads to more mistakes. And awful contracts, like three years and $17 million for Jon Beason and two years and $6 million for J.D. Walton.
The Giants did make several good moves in free agency last off-season, but they remain buried under an avalanche of bad choices made over the past few seasons.
I do believe the Giants have recognized many of these mistakes. Fixing them, however, takes time.