The past decade should have been much more enjoyable for the New York Giants. With perhaps the best coach-quarterback combo in franchise history the Giants began the decade with three winning seasons and a Super Bowl title.
Things fell apart after that, though, and the Giants have as of yet been unable to recover. What follows is a fairly high level look back at the past decade. We look at records, draft picks, major decisions made and try to understand what happened.
I’m not drawing a “this is where everything went wrong” conclusion, though some of my beliefs will obviously seep into the overview. I’m trying to lay out what happened and let you draw your own conclusions.
(10-6, second in NFC East, missed playoffs)
The Giants were one of two NFC teams (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers being the other) to miss the playoffs despite winning 10 games. Ostensibly, you can argue that the Giants missed the playoffs because they didn’t win the right 10 games, having lost in Week 16 to the 10-6 Green Bay Packers, who got in and won the Super Bowl.
Really, though, they missed the playoffs because they blew a 21-point lead to the Philadelphia Eagles in the final 7:28, punctuated by that punt return you don’t want me to mention.
In terms of impact on the rest of the decade, the Giants got two really good defensive linemen (Jason Pierre-Paul and Linval Joseph) at the top, but nothing else. Victor Cruz spent that season on IR.
(9-7, won NFC East, Super Bowl champs)
Super Bowl champs!
I’m just going to let that sit there. I’m also not going to turn this into a long dissertation on that Super Bowl run, which turned out to be the last real glory of the decade for the franchise.
The title was an unexpected, cherished, memorable run from 7-7 to champions. A title won by a team that wasn’t nearly the league’s most talented.
Still, we’re really here to discuss how and why things went wrong for the Giants over the past decade. When I look back on it, I believe the seeds of the Giants’ future destruction had already been sown while they were parading the Lombardi Trophy down the Canyon of Heroes.
This was a second straight draft in which the Giants ended up with a disappointing haul. First-round pick Prince Amukamara (19th) really ended up as the only good player. Even Amukamara, though, wasn’t really good enough. Rather than pay him a big-money second contract, the Giants opted for Janoris Jenkins in free agency. We know how that ended up.
With Shaun O’Hara already retired, Kareem McKenzie playing his final season at age 32 and David Diehl hanging on at age 31 the Giants ignored the offensive line for a second straight draft. Inability or unwillingness to reinforce what had once been perhaps the game’s best line, with a pocket quarterback who needed protection and a functional running game, are really where the downfall began.
(9-7, second in NFC East, missed playoffs)
For the second time in three years the Giants ended up with a winning record but didn’t qualify for the playoffs. A year prior they won the Super Bowl at 9-7. This time that same 9-7 mark didn’t even get them into the post-season tournament.
The draft delivered the exciting David Wilson, but he never seemed to fit with Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride and a neck injury ended his career after two seasons. The rest of the draft haul — Rueben Randle, Jayron Hosley, Adrien Robinson, Brandon Mosley — never amounted to anything. This black hole of a draft class contributed to the Giants’ shortcomings for several seasons.
The 2012 season was the last full year for Chris Snee. At age 32, David Diehl was also in decline.
(7-9, third in NFC East)
The roof caved in. Snee was gone. Diehl was a shell of himself. Will Beatty signed a big contract and had a horrible season. The Giants went through a half-dozen starting running backs. Eli Manning threw a career-worst 27 interceptions.
The Giants began the season 0-6. They rallied over the final 10 games, a masterful coaching job by Coughlin, but it was really an awful year. The defense played well enough, but with no offensive line and with a Conga line at running back the offense had no chance.
The draft brought Justin Pugh, Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore. None of those players really lived up to their draft expectations. In reality, it was a third straight draft class that just didn’t bring the Giants enough useful talent.
(6-10, third in NFC East)
Odell Beckham Jr. had a record-setting rookie season, but it ended up not mattering a whole lot. The Giants lost seven straight games in the middle of the season and went 6-10.
The draft also brought promising center Weston Richburg in Round 2 and linebacker Devon Kennard, who had a good rookie season, in Round 5.
After a trio of sub-par drafts the Giants were aggressive in free agency with double-digit signings. That did not work out.
Injuries crushed the Giants, most notably what happened to Victor Cruz in Philly. Cru, Prince Amukamara, Robert Ayers, Jon Beason, James Brewer, Michael Cox, Marcus Harris, Jerrel Jernigan, Mathias Kiwanuka, Trumaine McBride, Geoff Schwartz, Cooper Taylor, Walter Thurmond and Jacquian Williams ended up on IR.
(6-10, third in NFC East)
A second straight 6-10 season that convinced ownership to move on from Coughlin and replace him with Ben McAdoo.
Reese did make an excellent, aggressive move up in Round 2 to get Landon Collins. The drafting of Ereck Flowers ninth overall was a disaster, and the Giants once again got nothing else from this draft class. Yet another in a string of poor drafts that left the Giants without enough talent.
The Giants were again aggressive in free agency, but Shane Vereen, Dwayne Harris, Jonathan Casillas, J.T. Thomas and Marshall Newhouse weren’t difference makers.
(11-5, second in NFC East, lost in wild-card round)
A temporary reprieve in McAdoo’s
first season. The defense carried the day by finishing second in the league in points allowed. Collins, Jason Pierre-Paul and high-priced free agents Damon Harrison, Jenkins and Olivier Vernon led the way. The offense was mostly awful, but Manning and Beckham made just enough plays to help win a few games.
This was ‘Boat Trip’ season as Beckham and several receivers went on that memorable trip before the Giants were blown out by the Packers in a Wild Card game.
Round 1 of the draft proved disastrous for the Giants. They watched the Bears and Titans trade up for Leonard Floyd and Jack Conklin, the players they had targeted, and ended up with Eli Apple.
The Giants did get Sterling Shepard in Round 2. I will just put this here, though. Michael Thomas went to the New Orleans Saints a few pick after Shepard.
Again, not a whole lot else came from this draft class.
(3-13, last in NFC East)
A disastrous season that saw McAdoo and Reese fired before it ended. Several players were suspended as the locker room disintegrated into a players vs. McAdoo culture. The head coach embarrassed Manning with the Geno Smith decision.
The draft did bring Evan Engram and Dalvin Tomlinson. The Giants, though, again passed on making a real move to help the offensive line. Engram was chosen instead of offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall, tight end Rhett Ellison and guard D.J. Fluker were signed instead of tackle Andrew Whitworth.
(5-11, last in NFC East)
GM: Dave Gettleman HC: Pat Shurmur
Gettleman and Shurmur took the reigns from Reese and McAdoo, and a number of critical decisions were made both before and during the season. The Giants stuck with Eli Manning and drafted Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick. They signed Odell Beckham Jr to a lavish five-year contract. They overhauled the rest of the roster, eventually trading away as many big-name, highly-paid players as they could find takers for.
With all that change, the year began disastrously as they opened 1-7. They went 4-4 over the second half of the season to finish 5-11.
Gettleman was panned for free agent decisions like signing Jonathan Stewart and Patrick Omameh, but did appear to have a successful draft.
One massive decision was, of course, parting ways with Beckham. A seemingly odd move just a year after signing him, but one the franchise had come to view as necessary. Beckham and Olivier Vernon went to the Cleveland Browns for Jabrill Peppers, Kevin Zeitler, a first-round pick (17th, Dexter Lawrence) and a 2019 third-round pick (95th, Oshane Ximines).
The other massive decision was to make Duke quarterback Daniel Jones the future of the franchise by taking him with the No. 6 overall pick.
The view here is that both of those moves have been positive ones for the Giants.
The draft also brought mid-round talents like Julian Love, Ryan Connelly and Darius Slayton.
The defense, with Gettleman having spent two offseasons giving defensive coordinator James Bettcher many of the pieces he wanted, has not shown the hoped for improvement.
As the Giants head to the end of another playoff-less season, there are huge questions about who will stay and who will go.
We find out in just a few days.