“What the heck is going on around here?”
That is the “clean” version of what many New York Giants fans were wondering after Sunday’s decision by the team to release backup quarterback Davis Webb. In general, it was also the reaction to decisions by GM Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur to move on from a number of popular players fans had become accustomed to seeing in Giants uniforms.
Welcome to regime change in the NFL.
This is what happens when a team goes 3-13 and stunningly fires both its head coach and general manager before that regrettable season concludes. This is what happens when you have a team that has played in, and got blown out of, one playoff game in six seasons.
New decision-makers are brought in. They are brought in to make changes, to get better results. They aren’t going to fail, or be saddled with, the decisions made by the previous regime. The previous regime already failed, and had their key cards revoked, because of those decisions. New bosses are going to succeed — or fail — with their own decisions. With players and schemes of their own choosing.
That is how this works.
Let’s talk about Davis Webb.
The decision to part with Webb was surprising. At least in the moment. And if you got suckered into all the hype about how hard he works, how much he had improved his mechanics, how great a guy he is, how good he looked all spring and summer throwing the ball in shorts and t-shirts against defenders not going full speed the majority of the time. I know that, at least to an extent, I did. As did many of my media brethren.
If you are going to excoriate Gettleman and Shurmur for moving on from Webb, the question is what exactly are you excoriating them for?
When you step back and think about it, from the moment Jerry Reese was fired as GM the deck was always stacked heavily against Webb. New regimes want to choose their own quarterbacks. Webb worked hard and it was apparent that he had gotten better since his rookie year.
What did he really prove in the preseason, though? Mostly that he is a wildly inconsistent young quarterback with a big arm who will occasionally make an incredibly pretty throw, and also occasionally air-mail ones that look simple. He had a good game, an awful game, and a middling game in three appearances. He completed 28-of-53 passes (52.8 percent). He didn’t exactly light it up.
He remains a young quarterback who has proven nothing in the NFL. On Saturday, 34 quarterbacks were cut by NFL teams. The fact that the Giants couldn’t get anything for Webb tells you that the rest of the league sees the second-year quarterback as nothing special, just another guy to lump in with all of those other quarterbacks who are now looking for new teams.
There are many who have asked why the Giants kept journeyman Alex Tanney instead of Webb. That’s the wrong question.
This wasn’t about Webb vs. Tanney. This was about Webb vs. Kyle Lauletta — the young backup and possible heir to Eli Manning drafted by the previous regime vs. the young backup and possible heir to Manning drafted by the current regime. The regime with the only vote that counts.
From the second he was drafted, Lauletta was making the 2018 53-man roster.
He is a vastly different quarterback than Webb. He doesn’t have Webb’s big arm, but Shurmur said several times — including after the final preseason game — that he has enough arm. Where Webb is excitable and emotional, Lauletta portrays a sense of calm the Giants like. He can improvise and make plays with his feet. Shurmur said simply that he finds a way.
Anyway, I’m not trying to case build for Lauletta or against Webb.
Reality is, Shurmur is well-known for his work with quarterbacks. He has had success with all types of quarterbacks. First-round picks. Undrafted free agents. Mobil ones. Pocket passers.
Shurmur has said in the past that arm strength is not the most important thing about playing quarterback. In the end, he valued the things Lauletta does well more than what Webb does well and saw Lauletta as more of a fit for what he wants. Tanney? While he has only played in one regular-season game, he has been in the league since 2012. Shurmur seems to value that experience, experience that could help both Manning and Lauletta.
There is also this. Removing Webb from the equation is yet another reminder that the Giants are all-in for the next couple of years with Manning. Lauletta might develop into a starter down the line, but if Manning and the Giants struggle this year, no one in the stands or in the media is going to be calling for the immediate insertion of Tanney or Lauletta into the starting lineup. Webb? You know there would have been calls for that.
That was a potential distraction the Giants didn’t want. Or need. Especially since they made it obvious they didn’t think Webb was the answer.
Now, let’s talk about the rest of the roster.
Jerell Adams. Andrew Adams. Darian Thompson. Roger Lewis Jr. Mark Herzlich. John Jerry. All cut over the weekend. Brett Jones, who many thought should have been the starting center, traded last week.
I know that while you may applaud some of those moves you don’t understand others. I don’t understand them all. It goes back to this, though — Gettleman and Shurmur run this team now, not Reese, McAdoo or Tom Coughlin.
They run different schemes on offense and defense than the Giants ran in the past. Those schemes require different skill sets. Besides, no two people see talent evaluation the same way. Plus, Gettleman and Shurmur were brought in to fix the mistakes of the past. To try, in part, to rescue the remaining time Manning has left.
Can’t do that without change.
What we saw this weekend just continued what has been going on for months. Trading away Jason Pierre-Paul. Letting Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, good players but the leaders of a bad offensive line, go in free agency. Not re-signing Orleans Darkwa. Or D.J. Fluker. Finally doing what Reese should have done at least a year earlier — move Ereck Flowers to right tackle.
Will what Gettleman and Shurmur are doing work? I don’t know. You don’t know. Gettleman and Shurmur don’t know. We begin to find out Sunday vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars. What I do know is something I wrote for the SB Nation flagship as part of the 2018 NFL season preview package.
The Giants’ new decision-makers are doing this their way. We won’t understand every decision they make. Not every decision they make will be correct, or will work out the way they hope it will.
Doing it their way, though, is exactly what they are supposed to do.