New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese has spent much of the offseason playing defense against criticism of personnel decisions in recent years that have had much to do with the Giants missing the playoffs in each of the past four seasons. That continued this week when New York Post reporter Paul Schwartz caught up with Reese while the GM was scouting prospects at the Senior Bowl.
Reese defended his selections, maintained that decisions have always been a collaborative effort, and pointed out that some of the team's risky picks -- like Mario Manningham -- have paid off. The piece reads as though Reese feels unjustly targeted for the team's failings in recent years. I wasn't sitting in the Ladd-Peebles Stadium bleachers, though, so that's beside the point. Let's talk about two picks Reese highlighted in his chat with Schwartz.
Reese focused on two choices that did not work out -- the 2011 second-round selection of defensive tackle Marvin Austin and the 2012 first-round selection of running back David Wilson. Let's look at what he said about each pick and offer some thoughts.
The Giants took Austin with the 52nd overall pick in 2012 despite the fact that he had been suspended for his senior season at North Carolina and was considered a character risk. It obviously didn't work out as Austin played in only eight games and was let go after two years. He bounced around the league with the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos and did not play in 2015. Here is what Reese told Schwartz in reference to Austin:
"One of the favorite guys people like to throw at us is Marvin Austin, a guy everybody says we spent a high pick on and we missed on him,'' Reese said. "There's plenty of Marvin Austins around the National Football League. I can give you an example of how we talked about him. Marvin Austin, we're kind of like, ‘This guy's going to be a hit or this guy's going to be a miss.' We missed on him. We said, ‘It's probably not going to be anything in between.' Take Mario Manningham, we said, ‘This guy is going to be a hit or a miss. Nothing in between.' We hit on him.''
Honestly, the sting of the Giants missing on Austin and the ripple effect that has had over the years is not lessened by Reese's words. I am, however, gratified to see that Reese and the organization understood the gamble they were taking in selecting Austin. They swung for a home run. They knew they might go down in flames. They went down in flames.
Every draft pick is a risk. There are no guarantees. Personnel is a risk assessment/cost assessment business. In the short term, missing on Austin didn't matter. The Giants won the Super Bowl the year they selected him. In the long term, they have been chasing a solution at defensive tackle and have seemingly always been at least a player short ever since Austin busted.
Reese also was defensive about the Wilson pick:
"How can you call a guy a bust when he breaks his neck?'' Reese asked. "If that sells papers or whatever you guys do, but for you guys to say things like that, it's not fair. His name gets thrown right into the pot when you guys are trying to say how bulls-t the Giants' personnel is.''
Reese is absolutely right in one sense but completely wrong in another. Of course, no one can criticize the pick because Wilson suffered a career-ending injury. That's pure misfortune and no scout is going to be able to predict that. Similarly, no one can criticize the 2010 selection of Chad Jones. Some things that happen are unfortunate.
The criticism of the Wilson pick here has never been about his injury. It has always been about the fact that Wilson wasn't, at least in my view, the right pick from the very beginning. He wasn't the typical in-between the tackles Tom Coughlin-Kevin Gilbride back, a guy who could carry a heavy load, get tough yards and pass protect for Eli Manning. I always thought Wilson was an overreaction when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Doug Martin one pick prior to the Giants turn came. Similarly, the criticism of the 2009 second-round selection of Clint Sintim has never been about his career-ending knee injury. It's been about the fact that Sintim played mostly in a 3-4 while in college and the Giants tried to turn into a 4-3 outside linebacker -- they tried to fit a square peg into a round hole.
I have no doubt that Reese and his personnel team work incredibly hard at what they do, and that Reese would like nothing more than to get the Giants to a point where they are consistently in the championship discussion. There was a time early in his tenure as GM when everything he did seemed to turn out the right way. Not so much lately. Giants' ownership has maintained the belief that Reese can fix the personnel shortcomings that have handcuffed the team in recent years.
All Giants' fans can do is hope the organization is right.