Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese are both smart men who earned the respective jobs they have as coach and general manager of the New York Giants. Both know more about football and have more information at their disposal than I ever will. Both also have a flaw that might undo their effort to bring another championship to the Giants — they are both incredibly stubborn.
Both are prideful men who believe strongly that they are right. So strongly, in fact, that it sometimes seems to get in the way of their making the adjustments or changes that — to NFL analysts, media members and even Giants fans — seem necessary.
Let’s start with Reese.
We have to start there. Because we have to start with the offensive line.
Before we fully get into discussing the general manager and his offensive line decisions, I have to say this. The cavalry is not coming. There are no better players on the street than the ones the Giants already have on their roster. No one is trading them a Pro Bowl-caliber offensive tackle. With the season here, it’s not realistic to think the Giants can shuffle the chess pieces — put Ereck Flowers at guard and Justin Pugh at left tackle, for example — and fix the problems. Can’t do that now.
The Giants have to lie in the bed that Reese has made for them. So, now let’s talk about that bed. It’s certainly not well enough made to pass a barracks inspection.
There were two central decisions, perhaps three, the Giants made during the offseason that led to the status quo we now have on the offensive line.
First, rather than sign aging left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who was outstanding in 2016, the Giants signed again wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who wasn’t. Yes, I know Marshall was less expensive than Whitworth.
Second, rather than draft either Ryan Ramczyk or Cam Robinson, both Week 1 starting left tackles, the Giants took tight end Evan Engram. I love Engram and think he will be a terrific player if the Giants use him properly, but it was still a choice that didn’t help the offensive line. Reese is still trying to prove he was right to select Flowers.
Third, rather than sign an obvious upgrade at right guard the Giants brought back John Jerry and signed only D.J. Fluker for depth.
These are the choices the general manager made, and they will have a great deal to do with how this season and the remainder of the career of Eli Manning turn out.
Gary Myers of the Daily News wrote today that Reese’s lack of attention to the offensive line was “football malpractice” and “a fireable offense.” Maybe, but Reese isn’t getting fired. And no one should be surprised by the lack of major moves on the offensive line.
The line has been an issue for six or seven years now, roughly since the Giants won their last Super Bowl. Which roughly corresponds to when the line that Ernie Accorsi, Tom Coughlin, Kevin Gilbride and Pat Flaherty put together got old, injured and ineffective.
In all that time, the general manager still hasn’t fixed it.
He will point to Flowers and Pugh (first-round picks), Weston Richburg (a second-round pick) and Geoff Schwartz (a high-priced free agent who didn’t work out due to injuries) and tell you he has tried.
That’s true. There are, however, two problems. The first has been the Giants’ judgment when it comes to selecting offensive linemen. The second, Reese’s unwillingness to recognize mistakes and move on quickly enough.
The Giants have won two Super Bowls with Manning at quarterback. There’s an argument to be made that just two titles with Manning is an underachievement, and that the overall body of work of the GM is the reason that aren’t more trophies in the case in East Rutherford.
About that judgment.
Reese had conducted 11 drafts. In all that time Pugh is probably the best offensive lineman Reese has drafted, unless you want to argue that it’s Richburg. What is Pugh? I like the guy, he’s a leader, a spokesman and a solid player. Get down to brass tacks, though, and he’s a guy who was judged not good enough to stay at right tackle and who has been a good, but not close to top-tier, guard.
Reese hasn’t drafted a single Pro Bowl or All-Pro offensive lineman in 11 tries.
As for free agents, you can make an argument that Jerry is the most successful of the linemen signed during the Reese era. Of course, I’m not sure that argument doesn’t speak well for Reese.
Maybe the reality is that Reese, and by extension Marc Ross and the Giants’ scouting department, simply don’t do a good job when it comes to identifying quality offensive linemen.
At this point, it’s almost like Reese has thrown up his hands, said “I’ve done enough and it’s either going to work or it’s not,” and moved on.
The offensive line may yet work out. After a rocky start, it did pass protect better as Sunday’s game went along. For what they are worth, here are the Pro Football Focus grades for Sunday.
Giants Week 1 OL Grades:— PFF NY Giants (@PFF_NYGiants) September 11, 2017
Weston Richburg - 78.8
Justin Pugh - 78.1
Bobby Hart - 77.5
John Jerry - 73.4
Ereck Flowers - 53.4
Whatever. Watch the game and you know those grades don’t match what your eyes told you — which was that when it mattered the line wasn’t very good and that too many plays were blown up by poor blocking before they even had a chance.
That line may sabotage what should be an excellent season for the Giants.
That’s the gamble the Giants have taken. If it doesn’t work, the wreckage lands at the general manager’s feet.
McAdoo is hardly blameless.
There is no way to know how much input McAdoo had into those offseason personnel decisions. Maybe he told Reese to go out and get him more weapons and he would just scheme around offensive line issues. We will never know.
But, the utterly inept offense we saw Sunday night? That’s at McAdoo’s feet. And if you believe that the presence of Odell Beckham Jr. would have solved all of the issues we saw vs. the Dallas Cowboys, well, you haven’t been watching what I’ve been watching for the past three years.
Kim Jones of NFL Network tweeted this on Monday:
In '15, Odell Beckham Jr was only true explosive weapon & #NYG offense was better than last year or last night.— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) September 11, 2017
Indictment of many.
Agreed. It’s an indictment of the line. The other supposed play-makers. The quarterback. The general manager. And, the head coach.
The Giants have now gone seven straight games without scoring at least 20 points. Per Pat Leonard of the Daily News, they dropped from 420 points scored in 2015 to an abominable 310 last year.
What is scary is that after eight months of planning, after adding Marshall, Engram, Rhett Ellison and turning over the keys to the running game to Paul Perkins the result was the totally unacceptable performance we saw Sunday.
Forget Beckham for a minute. The offense wasn’t very good with him last year, anyway.
The Giants had eight months to figure out how to attack the Cover 2 defense they said was at the root of their issues last season. They added lots of pieces aimed at allowing them to vary their offense and dictate to defenses rather than react to what was being done to them.
Yet, the Giants averaged a miniscule 5.2 yards per passing attempt vs. Dallas. McAdoo was left talking about how Dallas played soft once they got the lead and didn’t allow the Giants to get the ball down field. Manning, in a refrain we heard too often last year, talked about how the Cowboys did some things the Giants didn’t expect and consequently the Giants weren’t able to get into things they wanted.
What? None of that is a good look for the coach. McAdoo has insisted on keeping control of the offense since ascending to the big chair, and it hasn’t worked yet.
There was precisely one throw in the entire game, a 22-yard completion to Roger Lewis Jr., that attacked the soft spot between the corner and safety in a Cover 2.
I was chatting with our own Chris Pflum about this earlier Tuesday, and his thought echoed mine. Here is what he said:
“They need to act like they added weapons this off-season. I get wanting to get the offense into a rhythm, but make the defense defend the whole field. They don't need OBJ for that.”
Wasn’t that the idea of adding Marshall and Engram?
Where was Marshall Sunday? The Giants never really made a concerted effort to get him the ball? Engram caught four passes, but none of real impact. The 31-yarder he caught was a broken play, not a designed one. Where were the seam routes to Engram? Where was something vertical? That’s what they drafted him for, not to be stuck playing inline where they used him almost exclusively. And where he doesn’t belong.
It gets tiresome to watch the Giants, with a quarterback who has made some of the biggest plays the NFL has seen, dink and dunk and refuse to try to attack opposing defenses.
Beyond that, why do the Giants stubbornly refuse to fully embrace Orleans Darkwa? He was their best back in the preseason, and their best on Sunday. Yet, he got three carries. Probably because McAdoo announced in the spring that Perkins was his guy and he’s going to keep hammering at that until he proves he’s right.
That stubbornness, when the Giants used 11 personnel more than 90 percent of the time, was part of the problem last year. To me, there sometimes seems to be an in-game unwillingness to deviate from the original plan.
McAdoo sometimes seems to live in a “this was my plan and it’s the best plan no matter what the results, so we’re sticking to it” kind of bubble.
I always look at the New England Patriots. They are never married to one philosophy, one way of playing, one group of players. What Bill Belichick does better than anyone else is adjust. To his personnel. To the opponent. To the situation. There is no “this is how we do it.” There is only, let’s do whatever it is going to take to win.
It’s something I believe McAdoo could, and should, learn from.
Make some changes. Use Darkwa more. Get Engram out wide and down the field. Make Marshall the first read more often. Try throwing something longer than 5 yards to Sterling Shepard. Give Brett Jones or D.J. Fluker a shot at right guard. Stop calling the plays and give Mike Sullivan a shot at being a real offensive coordinator.
For both McAdoo and Reese, being stubborn will not get the Giants where they hope to go.