Super Bowl XLIX will be held Sunday in Glendale, AZ., and the New York Giants won't be in it. How far are the Giants from being a serious contender for Super Bowl XIX a year from now? Not nearly as far as you might think, if you are buying the results of a team-by-team study by Pro Football Focus of the 30 NFL teams not participating in Sunday's Super Bowl.
PFF says the Giants are only six above-average players short of being a Super bowl contender, eighth on PFF's list of teams who could contend in 2015. Unfortunately for the Giants, the Dallas Cowboys top the list and the Philadelphia Eagles are No. 5. The study appeared on ESPN Insider, written in conjunction with a variety of ESPN staffers.
How did Pro Football Focus make this determination? Here is the methodology:
What makes a Super Bowl contender? When Pro Football Focus analyzed the 28 teams that played in the conference championship games for the 2007 to 2013 seasons, it found that, on average, 40 percent of those rosters were composed of good/elite players (you had to play 250-plus snaps to qualify). Using that methodology, PFF determined how many above-average players stood between your team and contending for this year's Super Bowl.
Let's look deeper at what PFF did here, and see what we agree or disagree with.
PFF breaks the roster down into four categories, elite, good, average, bad. PFF's study finds that at least 40 percent of players who played 250 snaps or more have to be 'elite' or 'good' for a team to be a Super Bowl contender. Based purely on 2014 performances, PFF finds eight Giants (24 percent) to be in those categories. To get to 40 percent, the Giants would have needed 14 of the 33 to be 'elite' or 'good.'
Here is the breakdown:
- Elite -- Odell Beckham
- Good -- Johnathan Hankins, Robert Ayers, Jason Pierre-Paul, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Will Beatty Rueben Randle, Daniel Fells
- Average -- Prince Amukamara, Devon Kennard, Eli Manning, Cullen Jenkins, Stevie Brown, Mark Herzlich, Justin Pugh, Damontre Moore, Zack Bowman, Victor Cruz, Jacquian Williams, Rashad Jennings, Chykie Brown, Quintin Demps, Weston Richburg, Preston Parker, Jameel McClain
- Bad -- Larry Donnell, John Jerry, Andre Williams, Mike Patterson, J.D. Walton, Markus Kuhn, Mathias Kiwanuka, Antrel Rolle
Let's work off the belief that Pierre-Paul will be a Giant next season. If that is the case, when you look at the eight 'elite' or good' players on the list you have to think the only one you could expect to fall from that group would be Fells, the tight end who played well after being out of the league in 2013.
There are a number of players who are candidates to jump from 'average' to at least 'good.' Among them would be Amukamara, Kennard, Manning, Pugh, Moore, Cruz, Jennings and Richburg.
In terms of the guys rated 'bad,' you have to believe many of them won't be Giants next season. The Giants will look for improvement from Donnell and Williams. Rolle will be an interesting decision, as his 2014 production didn't match his paycheck.
Add players who spent most of the year on injured reserve like offensive guard Geoff Schwartz, cornerback Walter Thurmond (a free agent) and middle linebacker Jon Beason, and there are plenty of candidates to land in the 'good' category.
Studying the roster in this way it would appear that the Giants could be in better shape than you might generally expect a team coming off back-to-back losing seasons to be. Good health (for a change), and the addition of a handful of useful players via free agency and the draft could put the Giants in a contending position.
There are several other interesting facts in this study. Let's touch on some of them, with a touch of commentary.
Best Value (Robert Ayers) -- No argument here that Ayers was worth the $1.8 million. the Giants paid him. And yes, he needs to see more snaps in 2015.
Worst Value (Antrel Rolle) -- Rolle is absolutely shredded here by ESPN's Kevin Seifert:
Despite a $7.3 million salary in 2014, Rolle was, by PFF's reckoning, one of the NFL's worst safeties. PFF debited him with more than two dozen missed tackles, and his three interceptions were half what he managed in 2013. The Giants might have hung on to Rolle, 32, a season too long. He provides excellent leadership, but he didn't have the skill or production to match his lofty salary, which was $2.6 million more than what Seattle paid stud safety Kam Chancellor.
Valentine's View -- Zero argument here. Rolle ranked 81st out of 87 safeties graded by Pro Football Focus, and didn't come close to earning his money in 2014. If Rolle comes back in 2015 it has to be on a short-term, cap-friendly deal at the Giants' price tag, not his. I have written this before, but I will reiterate that I would be perfectly fine with a decision by the Giants to move on from Rolle.
About Eli Manning -- Seifert opines that "it's fair to wonder whether the best of his career is behind him" and that the Giants "might be best advised" to let him play out the final year of his contract and not offer him a contract extension this offseason.
Valentine's View -- Disagree. Manning is a lot closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and you have to believe that the Giants' window to win with him is closing. It is, however, still open. With only ugly five-interception exception, Manning played well in 2014. My guess is that the likely scenario would be that Manning gets an extension for a couple more years, maybe through 2017. That seems like the best course of action, at least from this vantage point.
Positional Needs -- Defensive line, safety, offensive line.
Valentine's View -- No argument. Put them in whatever priority you want, all three of those positions have to be addressed via free agency or the draft. You could also add linebacker and a pass-catching change-of-pace running back to the wish list.