Jerry Reese doesn’t speak to the media often. One of those rare occasions when the New York Giants general manager will be available comes Tuesday afternoon, and with this season already having gone horribly off the rails for the 1-6 Giants Reese is likely to be on the defensive when he steps to the podium.
The GM has a lot to answer for.
Like, his own culpability in a season that had Super Bowl aspirations but is over before Halloween. And, in truth, has been over for a few weeks now.
Reese can’t be held responsible for the injury that sidelined Odell Beckham Jr. at the beginning of the season and limited his effectiveness when he came back. Or, the season-ending ones to Beckham and Brandon Marshall. Or, the injuries to Sterling Shepard and several others.
He can’t be held accountable for the inability of Ben McAdoo and his coaches to get the most out of the roster he put together.
He can be held accountable for the decision to stick with the status quo on the offensive line, simply banking on the idea that Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart would get better. Reese not only chose not to upgrade the tackle positions, but to leave the Giants without a Plan B if one either failed or was injured.
Like his decision to sign Marshall, a controversial faded veteran with a history of locker room issues. The four teams he worked for previously were happy to show Marshall the door.
Like his decision not to add any significant pieces to the defense, instead banking on guys who were a year older to perform the same way they did a season ago. That has been damaging, especially in the front seven. Particularly at linebacker, where the Giants have once again been completely inept when it comes to covering opposing tight ends. Only two teams in the league have given up more passing yards to tight ends than the Giants.
Reese has more to answer for, though, than 2017.
The GM did make some solid moves at the top of the draft. First-round pick Evan Engram is turning out to be an outstanding player. Second-round pick Dalvin Tomlinson is a fine replacement for Johnathan Hankins.
You can argue that McAdoo deserves more of the blame for this season’s debacle than Reese. I would agree. Yes, Reese made some personnel mistakes. Yes, those mistakes are proving costly.
This team should be better than 1-6, though. The collection of talent Reese provided should not add up to a team that is currently one of the three worst in the league. This should be a team with three or four wins right now that has a chance in a wildly mediocre NFC, not a team already playing out the string.
Even when all of the offensive players the Giants collected were healthy, the Giants still couldn’t figure out how to score a respectable amount of points. In my view, that is on McAdoo for not properly using the personnel he does — or did — have. It took six games for Steve Spagnuolo to get the defense to play up to form, by which time is was already too late.
I’m certain this will fire up the “Ed hates Reese” chatter, but the GM has to answer for something much broader than the 2017 season.
The Giants won the Super Bowl in 2011. Since then they are 40-47 with one blowout playoff loss. They are headed for their fifth playoff-less season in six years, and their fourth losing one in the last five.
The constant has been Reese, and the scouting department that reports to him. When the losing began, the Giants forced Tom Coughlin to replace coordinators Kevin Gilbride and Perry Fewell. Then they forced Coughlin to go find a different job.
The Giants chose Reese — and McAdoo. John Mara said of Reese at the time that it was “on him” to fix the broken Giants. All was well a year ago when the Giants spent gobs of Mara’s money on a free-agent defensive frenzy that covered for McAdoo’s awful offense and got the Giants to the playoffs.
This year, though, the Giants are careening toward the worst 16-game season in franchise history and what looks increasingly like a top five pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
What Reese really has to answer is this:
Is he the right man to fix this mess, to correctly identify the weaknesses that need to be addressed, to make the right draft picks, to sign the right free agents? The body of work tells us that there has been more bad than good in his work since that 2011 Super Bowl.
Reese has had his hits — Beckham, Engram, the 2016 free-agent group. There have, however, been far too many misses. And — in my view — at times too much stubborn insistence on trying to prove he was right rather than recognizing mistakes and making a timely effort to correct them.
The Giants have never fired a general manager. They have had an orderly succession from George Young to Ernie Accorsi to Reese. Many would like to see the Giants break with that tradition.
Should they? Will they? I don’t know. I just know that the last six years haven’t been good enough, and in the end that lands at the feet of the person picking the players.