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Big Blue View mailbag, 12/21: Bill Belichick, Tiki Barber, NFL Draft, more

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Well, we have hit the last Saturday before Christmas. The mailman is swamped, but he still delivered the Big Blue View mailbag. So, let’s open it up!

Jay B asks: There has been a pet peeve of mine this season and that is the coin toss and Pat Shurmur. I have not gone back to all the games this season but it seems that the Giants have won a good majority of coin flips this year and that Shurmur routinely if not every time has deferred to his defense every time? Maybe you know the exact number.

This has been very annoying me. I read a study a while ago that stated that a team is 67 percent likely to win a game if they score first. The Giants have a terrible defense. Why does Shurmur always defer? And does getting behind early hurt morale and leads you to look away from the run? Teams can start blitzing more and being more aggressive knowing they are up on the Giants. To me these are just the little things that add up to Shurmur being a terrible in-game manager.

Ed says: Jay, this also bugs me but reality is that it is the trend league-wide. The Giants have won the toss nine times this season and deferred every time. The only Giants opponent to win the toss and take the ball was the New York Jets, who scored a touchdown on that opening possession.

Coaches love the possibility of scoring at the end of the first half, then getting the ball back and scoring again. That is potentially 14 points without the opponent getting the ball. Of course, we know that doesn’t always work out.

A study done prior to the 2019 season, showed that in 2018 NFL teams deferred 92 percent of the time when they won the coin toss. It’s not a ‘Shurmur thing.’ It’s an everybody thing. The study also shows that Bill Belichick has deferred 95 percent of the time since the rule was changed in 2008. Coaches around the league have followed his lead.

Does it help teams win? The first study referenced, as well as this one from Sharp Football, show very slight statistical advantages to deferring and taking the second-half kickoff. For NFL coaches who spend hours and hours each week looking for any advantage whatsoever, that’s good enough.

Jason Ewell asks: I was wondering why we don’t hear more noise or talk about Tiki Barber belonging in the Hall of Fame.

He is 15th all-time in yards from scrimmage. Every retired player above him is in the HOF. And the 3 active players are Larry Fitzgerald, Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore—who he blows away in yards per rush. Hall of Fame RBs below him on this list include Eric Dickerson, Jim Brown, Jerome Bettis, Franco Harris, O.J. Simpson & John Riggins.

He has equal to or more yards per rushing attempt than all the following Hall of Famers: O.J. Simpson, Terrell Davis, Eric Dickerson, Walter Payton, Tony Dorsett, Marshall Faulk, Ladainian Tomlinson, Earl Campbell, Thurman Thomas & Franco Harris — plus future HOF Adrian Peterson.

He has over 10K yards rushing, only 27th all time, but more than Hall of Famers Earl Campbell and Terrell Davis.

Ed says: Ah, Jason you had to make me answer a Tiki Barber question. Listen, I certainly see the argument that Barber’s stats are Hall of Fame worthy. They probably are. The case against Barber is, I think, really about the Giants winning the Super Bowl the year after he retired and about his disdain for and public criticism of Tom Coughlin. He burned a lot of bridges and you don’t see the Giants organization, or anyone in the New York media for that matter, really pushing him as a candidate. I won’t, either.

The Giants organization and many in the Giants media, including yours truly, would love to see George Young get in. I don’t think anyone cares if Barber does. I don’t know if that’s fair. It probably isn’t. I think, though, that’s the reality.

Kurt Kampp asks: Evan Engram is a very productive TE when he is on the field, but he is not on the field enough. Would the Giants consider trading him for draft capital, and what might they receive?

Ed says: Kurt, this is tough to answer without knowing for certain who the coach and GM are going to be. Let’s give it a whirl, though.

To me, the first decision the Giants have to make is whether or not to pick up Engram’s fifth-year option. Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Giants have to do that by May 3. If it’s me, I pick up that option without question. That comes with a relatively palatable cost of an estimated $6 million for 2021. Engram is talented, he’s a good teammate and good in the locker room. To me, despite the health issues, picking up the option is an easy decision.

Now, would I trade him? I’ll say this. I would pick up that option BEFORE the 2020 draft. Coming off the foot injury I’m not sure teams are going to be in a hurry to deal for Engram. I’m guessing here, but I also wouldn’t think you could get more than maybe a fourth-round pick. Still, picking up the option prior to the draft might make Engram more attractive. Obviously, a team that acquired him could pick up that option on their own if they wanted but it is still something I would do.

If I’m the GM I’m listening to offers for Engram, but I’m not out there trying to get rid of the guy.

I am going to lump these two draft philosophy questions together.

Bruce Frazer asks: If in fact the Bengals maintain the first pick in the 2020 draft and say, take Chase Young with the first pick or trade the first pick for a bounty of picks how might this influence the Giants thinking? For arguments sake we assume that Dave Gettleman is still the GM but a new head coach and staff now on the clock. This also factors in a loss to the Redskins on Sunday.

Michael Poulin asks: I thought that, given the large number of holes in its roster, the Giants should have traded down their 2018 and 2019 first round picks to gain additional draft picks to fill more of those holes. Whether the Giants qualify for the second overall pick, or the fifth pick, in 2020, do you agree that they should trade down? At this point, don’t the Giants need three very good players more than one exceptional player?

Ed says: Bruce and Michael, if the Giants think of Chase Young what he draft community thinks of Chase Young — that he is the premier player in this draft class — I can’t imagine them not taking him if he is on the board when they pick.

Now, if the Cincinnati Bengals take Young and foolishly don’t draft quarterback Joe Burrow — a scenario I can’t see happening — or if the Giants end up picking in a spot where Young is off the board then all bets are off.

Now, in stints with Carolina and New York Gettleman has never traded down in the draft. That doesn’t mean he won’t, it just means he hasn’t. If Young is gone and he gets an offer where he can stay in the top 10 and add a few picks along the way I would be in favor of Gettleman doing that.

The template is what the Indianapolis Colts did in 2018, moving from No. 3 to No. 6 and landing Quenton Nelson. Here were the parameters of that deal with the New York Jets, per Pro Football Reference:

Colts traded 2018 first-round pick (third overall, Sam Darnold) to Jets for 2018 first-round pick (sixth overall, Quenton Nelson), 2018 second-round pick (37th overall, Braden Smith), 2018 second-round pick (49th overall subsequently traded, Dallas Goedert) and 2019 second-round pick (34th overall, Rock Ya-Sin)

If Young is available you take him and don’t think twice. How much better would Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence and Markus Golden if they can re-sign him look with a dominant No. 1 pass rusher on the outside? If he’s not available, moving down for a Colts-like haul is something I would love to see the Giants do.

As for whether the Giants should have traded down in either of the last two years, I think it’s hard to argue with selecting the best player in the draft, which the Giants did when they took Saquon Barkley. Still, there’s a valid argument to be made that the rebuild would have been pushed along faster with a trade down for multiple picks. Last year? Nope. No way. If you think your franchise quarterback of the future is available to you then take him, which is what the Giants did. Don’t screw around and miss out.

Marcus Mewborn asks: Realistically what does the Giants cap situation look like going into the off-season and do you think there are players who will/could be free agents that they could target?

Ed says: Marcus, there is no way to give an exact number. That said, Over The Cap estimates that on an anticipated cap of $200 million the Giants will have roughly $64 million in space. That would put them among the top 10 teams in cap space. That doesn’t count the possibility of moving on from veterans like Rhett Ellison, Kareem Martin, Alec Ogletree, Antoine Bethea and others. Give Dave Gettleman some credit here. It took two years and some pain in 2019, but Gettleman has cleared the cap and put the Giants in a good spot here.

Of course there will be free agents they could target. Honestly, I haven’t studied the potential market much. Besides, we don’t know who the coach will be or what the schemes will be, so while I could look down the list and throw some names at you I would just be throwing darts. During the offseason I will, as always, be naming and profiling players I see as potential targets. As usual, the Giants probably won’t sign the guys I profile.

Jerry Panza asks: My dual question is about how others From team owners all the way down to players perceive the organization now . I believe it isn’t good as my own perception is at the lowest point ever about where the Giants stand now. Do you think this has prevented our ability to draw coaches, whether head or position, scouts and down to some players to come and join the Giants organization.

Ed says: Jerry, it’s a valid question. John Mara admitted when they let Tom Coughlin go that the Giants “have lost some credibility as an organization.” The years since haven’t helped them get any of it back, to be honest.

Still. there are only 32 teams. That means only 32 GM and head-coaching jobs, and only a few are open each year. I don’t think the struggle of the past few years impacts the coaching or GM search. A head coach might be attracted based on who the quarterback is. They might be attracted to who the GM is. A GM might have certain things he wants. Still, there are only a few of these jobs and it’s hard to say no. I think assistant coaches might be attracted to certain head coaches and leery of others. That’s a situation the Giants might face with Pat Shurmur.

The Giants are still a premier franchise, and anyone in sports knows winning in New York is special. Given a chance, I think most folks would want to try.

Jeff Newman asks: I’ve read a couple articles now about the possibility of Bill Belichick coming back to the Giants. It seems far-fetched to me. How realistic is this and what percent chance would you give this actually happening?

Ed says: Jeff, right now I think it’s reaaaaaaalllllly far-fetched. Do I think Belichick would entertain a Giants return in the right circumstance, probably as GM only? Sure. But, he’s still coaching the Patriots. If and when he steps down that’s a different conversation. Right now, it’s just a thing to dream about.