The “improvement” question keeps being bandied about with the New York Giants. As in, what would it take for the 2019 season to be an improvement over the last two years, which were three-and five-win seasons.
“We need to win some games,” is how co-owner John Mara put it when he met with the media on Tuesday.
“I want to feel like at the end of the season we’re moving in the right direction. I’m not going to say at the end of the season there has to be a minimum number of games that we have to win or we have to make the playoffs. I want to feel when I’m walking off the field after our last game of the season, whenever that is, that this franchise is headed in the right direction.”
Here are some of the takeaways from Mara’s 10-minute session with media on Tuesday.
On Daniel Jones
“So far, so good. He’s everything we thought he would be. He’s been terrific on the practice field and did a good job the other night,” Mara said.
“I think people need to temper their enthusiasm a little bit. It’s one preseason game, one series, but so far so, good.”
Mara said he is confident from his meetings with the rookie from Duke that the young man has thick enough skin to handle New York.
“He can handle it. He can handle being the quarterback of the New York Giants.”
That should make fans happy. Mara’s hopes for how much Jones might play in 2019, though, won’t go over with the “make the transition sooner rather than later” crowd.
“I hope Eli [Manning] has a great year and Daniel never see the field ... at the end of the day it’s going to be a decision by the head coach as to when or if Daniel needs to play this year,” Mara said.
“I’d be very happy (if Jones never played). It means that we’re having a great year and Eli’s having a great year.”
Mara did volunteer that it is “eerie” how similar Jones and Manning are.
Why did Mara OK the drafting of Jones?
“For me if the general manager and the head coach have a conviction I’ve gotta let them do it,” he said. “Dave and Pat, our scouts, Mike Shula, everybody was sold on this kid. That’s what made it easy for me to OK it.”
On Eli Manning
Now that we have ventured into the Manning conversation, here are Mara’s thoughts on the longest-tenured player in franchise history:
“Eli is our starting quarterback. He’ll start the season. He’s obviously been a great representative of our franchise for a lot of years, and will continue to be.
Despite some rough seasons and Manning being 38, the owner still expressed belief in him.
“I think he’s played well when the protection has been there in front of him and he has confidence in the protection,” Mara said. “The second half of last season he played much better.”
Mara admitted that it is now “one year at a time” with Manning and that it will be “emotional” when the time comes to say goodbye to him.
Mara reiterated that any decision to bench Manning will come from head coach Pat Shurmur.
“I’d like to be informed of it before I read it,” he said.
Belief in GM Dave Gettleman
The Giants’ general manager has, obviously, come under a great deal of fire. Part of that is because of the controversial moves he has made, some of which has flown in the face of current analytical thinking. Some has been a result of Gettleman’s sometimes brusque explanations for those moves.
Mara said “not at all” when asked if his confidence in the general manager has wavered.
Mara admires the one thing about Gettleman that seems to bug some in the media, and some fans. That the GM doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.
“I think the best thing for me about Dave is he makes decisions that he feels are in the best interest of the franchise and he doesn’t give a damn what people think about it. The media, the fans. He has the courage of his convictions and you have to have that.
“He set about to try to rebuild this team and change the culture a bit in the locker room. As I said before our last two draft classes were pretty strong. That’s what gives me confidence going forward. I think we’re moving in the right direction. But, again, until we start winning games it’s hard to sell people on that notion, but it’s what I believe.”
Mara was asked how he felt about Gettleman allowing so many talented players to leave.
“There was never any doubt in Dave’s ability or in what his motivation was, or what his skill level was,” Mara said. “You don’t like to see all that talent go out the door, but let’s face it, we had one winning season in ’16 and the other five or six years, nothing, not since we won the last Super Bowl, so we needed some drastic changes. Again, he had the courage of his convictions, he knew they would be unpopular moves, but he went and made them anyway.”
The 2019 team
I guess you could call Mara guardedly optimistic about the 2019 Giants.
“I think we’ve done a pretty good job in the draft the last couple of years. We’ve got some good young talent on both sides of the ball. I think our offensive line is better than it’s been, so I think there is some reason for some optimism,” Mara said.
“Until we start playing some games and winning some games that’s all it is is optimism. I also like the feel of the locker room. So, we’ll see.”
Confidence in Pat Shurmur
Pat Shurmur is entering his second season as Giants’ head coach. Some speculation puts him on the hot seat. Mara didn’t sound like he felt that way.
“I’m not satisfied with winning five games, but again I think he and Dave have us headed in the right direction,” Mara said. “I think the players believe in him. We have a lot of confidence in him.”