The New York Giants are broken. But, are they Humpty-Dumpty? Can they be put back together again. Probably not this year, and probably not by the current decision-making regime. But, yes they can be put back together if the right moves are made. Here is my five-point plan for fixing the Giants.
Replace Ben McAdoo
The work of re-constructing the Giants has to begin here, with a new head coach. Is there, at this point, really any other plausible alternative?
McAdoo is still a young coach. Almost all of his NFL experience came working in one system, under Mike McCarthy with the Green Bay Packers. By the way, how good does that Green Bay system look without Aaron Rodgers to mask all of the Packers’ shortcoming?
McAdoo had only two years as an offensive coordinator and now only 25 games as a head coach. You want to believe that he will learn and grow — shoot, I identified that as a key to his future success long ago.
Problem is, McAdoo isn’t showing real signs of doing that. If you think McAdoo surrendering play-calling duties to Mike Sullivan was his decision, you’re fooling yourself. No way that happens without a “nudge” from ownership.
McAdoo has plenty of flaws. For me, the biggest one is that I don’t think he truly feels that anything he has, or hasn’t done, has contributed to the mess the Giants are. He says it’s his responsibility to fix or that it falls on his shoulders. He hasn’t, though, admitted to being part of the problem. Which he is. To learn from mistakes you have to first be willing to admit you made them. I haven’t seen signs of that.
The Giants are a disaster. McAdoo preaches being “sound, smart and tough. Committed to discipline and poise.” The Giants are none of those things. What they are is the most expensive chandelier in your house lying shattered on the floor. There is an obvious disconnect between coaches and players, which is showing up both on the field and in the team’s recent disciplinary issues. Tony Dungy says the Giants are “dysfunctional.” It was obvious from Sunday’s “effort” that change has to be made.
I have no idea who the next head coach should be. There will be those who beat the drum for big names like Nick Saban, Bill Cowher, Jim Harbaugh and Jon Gruden. Personally, I don’t think any of those guys would want the job — nor do I think any of them should get it. Going for the guy with the big name, who will want the big bucks and full authority, isn’t the answer.
If it were up to me, I wouldn’t be looking for the latest and greatest hotshot coordinator to come in and “fix” the offense or defense.
I want the Giants to find a head coach. A guy who isn’t coming in dead set on running the offense or defense himself. I want a guy who will coach the entire football team, something it seems to have taken McAdoo far too long to realize he needed to do. Whether he’s a first-time head coach or a guy who has been in the lead chair before I would like to see the Giants hire someone who has worked in a number of places and been exposed to a numbers of systems and head coaches.
This list is a good place to start, but hardly all-inclusive.
Clean out the assistant coaches, too. If you bring in a new head coach I think you have to let him hire his own staff. I respect Steve Spagnuolo and Mike Sullivan, but you can’t make a new coach keep assistants. If he chooses to, fine, but who coaches for him needs to be his call. Besides, from the current work the Giants are doing on the field, I’m not sure how many position coaches are getting through to their players, anyway. Especially on defense.
Replace Jerry Reese
It’s time. If the Giants truly want change, and truly want to get out of the malaise they have been in since unexpectedly winning the 2011 Super Bowl, they have to break tradition and bring in a new general manager.
The Giants are in the midst of what might be the worst 16-game season in franchise history. They are heading toward a fifth playoff-less season in six years, their worst since making the playoffs only once from 1994-99.
The coaching staff has been entirely remade since 2011. Reese is all that’s left, the top decision-maker other than ownership. The rosters are his responsibility, and they haven’t been good enough. There have been good to great players like Odell Beckham Jr., Evan Engram and Justin Pugh drafted, but not enough. Long-running problems like the offensive line and linebacker remain either ignored or unsolved.
The Giants let go of a big chunk of their past when they moved on from Tom Coughlin. It’s time for them to complete the clean sweep of decision-makers they should have made at the time.
The Giants should look at the guys who work for Reese, too. In particular, Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross. He is the guy making the final recommendations to Reese on players. So, if the rosters aren’t good enough that is an indictment of Ross’s work.
Ross, incidentally, should not be the next general manager. He has interviewed for at least 10 GM openings since 2010, and still hasn’t gotten one of those jobs. Why? Maybe because the Giants’ talent evaluation hasn’t been good enough and those organizations didn’t want him picking their players.
Who should be the next GM? Again, I don’t know. A list put together by Dan Hatman at Inside The Pylon before the last NFL hiring cycle is a good place to start. Some of those guys have gotten jobs since Hatman put together the list, but many are available.
Find the next franchise QB
I wrote about this on Monday. I still believe Eli Manning is a good NFL quarterback, and he could be the Giants’ best option at the position through the 2018 season. I don’t believe Manning should be “benched.” I do believe the Giants would be doing themselves a disservice if they don’t get Davis Webb some meaningful snaps before the end of the season.
Manning is 36, and the hour-glass is running out on his time. The Giants will almost certainly have a top-five pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and they will likely never be in a better position to determine who the likely successor to Manning will be. Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen (or whoever your favorite college QB is) might be available, and the Giants absolutely need to enter 2018 with a Manning succession plan clearly in place.
I’m not saying the Giants have to take a quarterback with their first pick. They need, however, to have enough information about Webb to make a fully-informed decision when the time comes.
Clean out the roster
No matter who the head coach, GM or quarterback is, the roster is sure to undergo an overhaul. First and foremost, this likely means parting ways with a number of veteran players.
That, for me, starts with three players who have contracts next season. Those are Brandon Marshall, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Dwayne Harris.
The Giants have 18 players who can be unrestricted free agents. The biggest decision they have to make is whether they can, or should, re-sign both Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg. My vote? Sign Pugh, let Richburg go and sign Brett Jones to play center. He’ll come cheaper, and is a quality player.
If it’s me, I’m letting pending free agents like Shane Vereen, Jonathan Casillas, Keenan Robinson and Nat Berhe go. My priorities are Pugh and Devon Kennard, with Ross Cockrell, D.J. Fluker and Orleans Darkwa also deserving of new deals.
That’s hardly a comprehensive plan, but it’s a start. The Giants are probably also going to have to approach one or more of their highly-paid defensive players about a contract re-structure to save some salary cap room. That discussion, though, is for another time.
Build from the inside out
I have already said the Giants, whether they draft one or not, need to figure out who they believe will be their quarterback of the future. After that, the Giants have got to address core problems on their roster that are at the root of many of their struggles.
They have to address the offensive line and linebacker.
Believe it or not, the offensive line is not atrocious. It is, in fact, probably a stud left tackle away from being really good. So, go get that guy. Despite Reese’s protestations to the contrary, we know Flowers isn’t the guy the Giants need at that spot.
The also have to rebuild the linebacking group. Lack of play-making there has long been an issue, and the Giants have to make some significant moves there. Maybe Kennard and B.J. Goodson are part of that future, though I’m not absolutely tied to either player at this point.
I’m not getting into a salary cap breakdown or a “the Giants should absolutely draft this guy” debate right now. That’s all for another time. What I have laid out here, though, is the blueprint for what I believe needs to be done to get the Giants back on the right path.