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BBV mailbag: John Mara, Evan Engram, much more

The mail is here!

Canyon Road Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images

This is the final Saturday before your New York Giants open training camp. So, your long wait is nearly over. To help tide you over until camp officially starts let’s open the Big Blue View mailbag and see what pops out.

PB Dorfman asks: My question is how would you rate John Mara’s management of the Giants as compared to other team owners and CEOs.

My take is that Mara’s management decision have turned this team into an NFL joke. The absolute biggest reason the Giants are in this mess is that Mara allowed Jerry Reese to run this team for way too many seasons. He kept Reese and talent evaluator Marc Ross in charge for 11 draft classes. Reese’s management team whiffed on a slew of draft picks and free agents. When Mara fired TC he said it was the overall team talent that was the major problem yet he fired TC and kept Reese?

A great owner and manager would have fired Reese and his team many year ago. JM seem to favor stability and familiarly over performance. Did he really believe that magically Reese would turn into a good GM after performing as one of the leagues worst for so many years.

Then he hires Gettleman. A NYG retread. DG from day one has developed a credibility problem which is all of his own making. His combination of doublespeak, back peddling, justification, and condescending comments have undermined any faith I have in him or JM for hiring him.

DG got rid of OBJ, Landon Collins and others because of there off field distraction yet now you have Gettleman the butt of most jokes around the NFL. A much bigger distraction that OBJ.

That is my take, what is yours?

Ed says: Nice speech, PB. Your bitterness is obvious and I disagree with a lot of it, but I’m glad you got that off your chest.

Now, I will try to answer your question. And maybe talk you down off that ledge just a little bit.

First of all, don’t give me this “NFL joke” stuff. They are a team that hasn’t done well enough in recent years. Franchises go through peaks and valleys. The Giants are in a valley, but they have four Super Bowl titles and a lot of fan bases around the NFL would trade places with Giants fans in an instant. Don’t forget that. I think too many Giants fans do.

So, let’s talk about Giants’ ownership. You specifically mention John Mara, but let’s remember that the Giants are not wholly owned by the Mara family. It’s a 50-50 split with the Mara and Tisch families in both money and decision-making. So, it’s not always fair to just lay every ownership decision at Mara’s feet.

One of the difficulties of dual ownership is that two very powerful, rich, strong-willed men in John Mara and Steve Tisch have to come to agreements. Or, one simply has to back down and allow the other to have his way on a certain decision. It’s like a marriage — you and your spouse don’t always agree, but you compromise. Or, at least you do in a relationship that works.

The Giants are a largely conservative franchise that craves stability. That is overwhelmingly a good thing, but the dual ownership situation and that desire for stability does sometimes lead to decisions or changes coming too slowly.

I have maintained for years that ownership made a mistake in 2015. Not necessarily by letting Tom Coughlin go. As much as I respected Coughlin, I think he lost much of his credibility when he lost control of Odell Beckham Jr. — or refused to try to control him — during and after the Josh Norman incident.

The mistake was not showing GM Jerry Reese the door at the same time. Mara acknowledged at the time that personnel, not coaching, was the issue. Yet, the coach was removed and the man who chose the players was not. Had the Giants cut the cord then I do believe there is a chance — if the right coach and GM hires had been made — that they could be farther along than they are now.

John Mara’s father, Wellington, was sometimes blinded by his own loyalty to players when he was alive. I think there is an argument that current ownership, with John having learned from his dad, can also be loyal to a fault.

Still, the Giants don’t have meddling, abrasive owners who try to dictate all the decisions. I will take Mara/Tisch over Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder, the Johnson family that owns the Jets, Jim Irsay (Colts), Dean Spanos (Chargers) and a host of other owners.

As for Dave Gettleman, yes his hiring was predictable. And unimaginative. And yes, it’s easy to question many of his decisions. Many have been controversial. Many have gone against the grain of public opinion. He sometimes hasn’t explained himself well, or has tried too hard to explain himself. I think that, to be honest, is Gettleman’s biggest flaw. I have chatted with him and he is a wonderful, friendly guy but his handling of the media can leave something to be desired.

The Giants didn’t hire Gettleman to take public opinion polls to decide what he should do, or to go out and get the permission of the media before he made a decision. They hired him to fix a franchise that was broken. Sometimes that includes making unpopular decisions, as in getting rid of popular players.

Whether he ends up being right or not, these decisions are his to make. All that matters in the end is whether or not the Giants get better, and as a I keep saying it’s going to take a while to find that out.

Jacksonville Jaguars v New York Giants
John Mara
Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

Gary Hamalainen asks: How will our OL do in the run game this season? I have read, more than once, about how our OL starters are mostly, if not all, better at pass protection than run blocking. Can you shed any light on the reasons for this being the case? Does it put specific limitations on the effectiveness of our run game in general. It doesn’t matter to me who the RB is because I think that when a team has its running game going it comes down to confidence in the OL. Not only confidence in themselves as a unit but the confidence of whoever is calling the plays as well as the confidence of the RBs.

Ed says: Gary, that impression comes from the idea that both Nate Solder and Kevin Zeitler have been better pass blockers than run blockers throughout their careers, and by the fact that Jon Halapio showed the same proclivity when Matt Williamson studied him on film. Will Hernandez was also better pass blocking than run blocking as a rookie.

That does not mean these guys are bad run blockers. They aren’t. They have just shown to do their best work in pass blocking, which should be considered a good thing.

The Giants should be better in run blocking. Hernandez is in his second year. Halapio and Zeitler are upgrades, and Remmers should also be an upgrade. I wouldn’t obsess about this too much.

Brett Gallitto asks: Is there any talk about moving [Evan] Engram to WR? He is clearly not a blocking tight end, but the Giants want to be a run first football team. By moving Engram to WR, it should not only make the run blocking better, but also give the Giants a WR with great size.

Ed says: Brett, the fan base talks about this all the time. I get it. At 240 pounds, he is not a good blocker. He’s willing, but not good. Using him inline a high percentage of the time is not the way to get the most out of him, or to really help the running game.

I do believe that the more the Giants can get Engram split off the line of scrimmage — in the slot, out wide, in the backfield — the better. He’s more Jordan Reed (Washington Redskins) than he is a traditional tight end.

Let’s remember, though, Engram’s great advantage as a receiving tight end is that when he is healthy he is an impossible matchup for a linebacker or a strong safety. The Giants lose that mismatch by making him a full-time wide receiver, where he would be lined up against faster, more athletic cornerbacks.

Engram has missed six games over his first two seasons, yet Patricia Traina recently pointed out something startling:

... only four tight ends over the last decade (George Kittle, 49ers; Rob Gronkowski, Patriots; Jimmy Graham, Saints; and Aaron Hernandez, Patriots) recorded more receiving yards in their first two NFL seasons than Engram’s 1,299 yards.

It is incumbent upon Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula to continue to find ways for Engram to create mismatches. While I think Engram has the speed and route-running ability to be a wide receiver, using him that way full time might not be the best way to create advantages for the Giants’ offense.

Bruce Frazer asks: Given the QB situation on both the Giants and Redskins, with Eli most certainly playing unless he becomes injured and Keenum being signed by the Skins to fill in for Alex Smith, which of the two rookie QBs, Jones or Haskins do you speculate will be the first one to start a game? Which team bites the bullet first and looks to the future?

Ed says: Bruce, that’s an easy one. The Giants can call it what they want, competition, not a competition, whatever. Some folks don’t want to hear it, but I see zero chance Daniel Jones is the Week 1 starter unless Eli Manning is injured. On the contrary, the Redskins really don’t seem to have a plan and there seems to be a pretty good chance Dwayne Haskins opens the season as Washington’s starter. So, Haskins.

NFL: New York Giants-Rookie Minicamp
Daniel Jones
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Newman asks: Do you think there’s a chance Dave Gettleman fell in love with Daniel Jones a year earlier then we thought? Is it possible that he was hoping to draft Daniel Jones this year as early as last year? If so, then passing on a quarterback in last year’s draft and selecting Saquon Barkley makes perfect sense. I know you can never guarantee that you’ll get the guy you want a year later, but with trading up you have a shot to make things happen your way. Could this be the master plan Gettleman was hoping would play out?

Ed says: Jeff, this is conspiracy theory stuff and I’m not buying. The Giants took Barkley because Gettleman fell in love with him and thought he was the best player in the draft. After he won Rookie of the Year honors it is hard to argue that he was wrong about that.

It is perhaps possible that Gettleman knew that he would have to select a quarterback early in either the 2019 or 2020 drafts, but I can’t believe he would have already been targeting Jones when he selected Barkley. As you said, you can’t guarantee being in position to draft a player a year in advance.

Gettleman has said he wasn’t absolutely convinced on Jones until he saw him live at the Senior Bowl. I believe him.

Don Irion asks: What position group has the least depth? The most depth? I think OLB/Edge has the least and wide receivers the most. Your thoughts?

Ed says: Don, I think you are pretty much on target. There are a lot of capable wide receivers on the 90-man roster, and if they are all healthy a couple of them will wind up on the rosters of other NFL teams.

I’m concerned about the depth pretty much all across the defense, and on the offensive line.

While the Giants have completely turned over the roster during the past two offseasons, there is still plenty of work to be done.