When the New York Giants hired Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur as general manager and head coach, respectively, it was with the understanding that they would rebuild the team and return New York to “Giants’ Football”.
Unfortunately, Bill Barnwell of ESPN ranks the two biggest moves regarding the reconstruction of the Giants’ offensive line as two biggest blunders of the 2018 off-season.
The first, and most obvious is the signing of Nate Solder.
New York Giants making Nate Solder the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history
The Giants made Solder the NFL’s highest-paid offensive lineman with a four-year, $62 million contract. They used the second overall pick for running back Saquon Barkley in another move designed to help get more from Eli Manning. Those moves haven’t worked so far, and the Giants are no closer to figuring out their long-term future behind center.
It would be fashionable to bash the Giants for selecting Barkley second overall, instead of selecting Manning’s replacement. We could pontificate on the value of a quarterback in relation to the value of a running back, and we would be correct, but the problem is, we don’t know if any of the highly drafted 2018 rookie quarterbacks will be good players.
Sam Darnold, the quarterback the Jets selected third overall, threw six passes to Miami defenders Sunday. The Dolphins intercepted four of them, and by the time the game ended, the Jets were reduced to receiver screens and other conservative calls. Darnold could become the next Peyton Manning or the next Mark Sanchez. No one knows.
Only three qualifying quarterbacks have lower QBRs than Manning this season. They are rookie first-round picks Josh Rosen, Darnold and Josh Allen. First overall pick Baker Mayfield is one spot above Manning. They could all become busts or excellent players. Who knows?
We do know Manning has struggled behind a poor offensive line in recent seasons. We do know evaluators consulted back in March generally thought Solder was coming off a down season with New England in 2017. They did not see the 30-year-old winner of two Super Bowls as an elite left tackle, but they acknowledged beggars could not be choosers, either. Solder was one of the most proven linemen on the market in free agency, leading the line-starved Giants to treat him as though he could reverse their fortunes up front.
The second is more of the opposite side of an equation. He lists the Seattle Seahawks hiring former Giants’ OL coach Mike Solari, and signing former Giants’ right guard D.J. Fluker as one of the best moves this past offseason.
Seattle Seahawks fixing their offensive line by adding Mike Solari and D.J. Fluker
Seattle pivoted away from Tom Cable’s zone blocking scheme by hiring Solari to coach the line and the 350-pound Fluker to infuse it with muscle and personality. The fit appears perfect, as there now seems to be alignment between head coach, offensive coordinator, line coach and personnel. The Seahawks have rediscovered their offensive identity.
Having healthy running backs is another big part of this equation, but the pass protection has likewise improved. With Solari changing the scheme and Fluker taking over at right guard, Seattle is also in the process of salvaging 2016 first-round right tackle Germain Ifedi, a huge bonus.
If adding Solari and Fluker was one of the best moves, then the inverse — letting them both leave — has to be one of the worst moves of this past offseason.
Virtually everyone expected Fluker to be re-signed by the Hog Molly mad Gettleman. After all, when circumstances finally forced Fluker on to the field, not only did John Jerry’s problems with stunts disappear, but the Giants could actually run the ball. In fact, the combination of Fluker and Brett Jones helped the Giants mount one of the league’s most efficient and effective running games in the NFL when the two were on the field together. This despite Ben McAdoo having no commitment to actually running the ball, no threats at the wide receiver position.
Compounding the mistake, Gettleman signed the since-benched Patrick Omameh to a 3-year, $15 million contract, while Fluker settled for a 1-year, $1.5 million deal in Seattle.
Then there is the Solder signing. This was supposed to be one of the best moves of the offseason, finally replacing Ereck Flowers with a top-flight left tackle for Eli Manning. Of course, the Giants’ had to pay through the nose to get him, but — it was argued — it would be worth it.
It hasn’t been.
The Giants’ $62-million dollar man has been a marginal-at-best upgrade over Flowers. The Giants’ offensive line has already tied the 2017 line in sacks allowed, and by even the most charitable count, Solder has already tied Flowers’ worst seasons in sacks given up. He doesn’t commit as many penalties as Flowers, nor does he have as many spectacular failures, but far too often he looks helpless against speed, too easily bullied by power, and occasionally strangely lost on the field.
But thanks to his contract, Solder will be a Giant until (at least) 2020, so hopefully he can become something like the player the Giants thought they were getting.
The Giants will almost certainly give Gettleman another shot at building a functional offensive line in 2019. But this time he has his own mistakes to fix, and regardless of what happens at the QB position, the Giants can’t afford any more blunders.