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Big Blue View mailbag, 12/19: Grinch makes an appearance

Let’s check the mail

It’s time for this week’s Big Blue View Mailbag. Before we get to the questions and answers, an admission. Friday was “Grinch’ day at my grandson’s nursery school. I have a stuffed “Grinch” sitting on my computer desk above my laptop. I love the Grinch, and my wife will attest to that fact because I generally am one.

Why should you care? Because I will acknowledge that I felt like the Grinch while answering a couple of these questions. They made me grumpy, and I’m pretty sure you will agree that it shows when you read a couple of the answers below.

Peter Caust asks: Who do you think the Giants would elevate from the current staff to defensive coordinator should Patrick Graham leave to take a head coaching position elsewhere? Or do you think that the replacement would come from outside the organization? In that event I’m guessing we could rule out Gregg Williams.

Ed says: Peter, I think that’s an excellent question. The first name that comes to mind on the current staff is outside linebackers coach Bret Bielema. He has a ton of collegiate head-coaching experience, and from within my guess is he would be the guy. Problem is, Bielema has been connected to the vacant Illinois job. He gets connected to a lot of college jobs when they come open, and where there’s smoke there’s fire. Bielema might be running his own college team next season. [Bielema is now officially gone, having been named head coach at Illinois]

Defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson is, I think, a possibility. He has never been a coordinator, but Patrick Graham has said the defensive game plans always start with how Henderson wants to cover the opposing team’s receivers. Henderson played in the league and has coached since 2007.

A name from outside the current staff that comes to mind is Matt Patricia. Judge was in New England when Patricia was Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator. After his unsuccessful stint as head coach of the Detroit Lions, Patricia is not getting another head-coaching gig any time soon. Going back to being a defensive coordinator would make sense, and doing so by re-uniting with Judge would seem like a fit.

Doug Mollin asks: The Athletic had an interesting story today on how the Giants have been too conservative with DJ this season. In an attempt to minimize his mistakes and make him a “game manager,” they’ve taken away the big play ability we saw in his rookie season.

Compared to how the Bills developed Allen over three seasons, “it would have been better to cut Jones loose this season to find out exactly what the Giants have in the sixth pick of the 2019 draft. If he threw 30 interceptions, it’d be a lot easier to conclude that he’s not the answer and cut bait. But developing a more athletic version of Colt McCoy hasn’t accomplished anything.”

Have the Giants played it too safe with Danny to find out what we have?

Ed says: I am going to disagree strongly with this notion that the Giants have “played it too safe” with Jones this season. I don’t think that’s the case at all.

Here is a baseline number that is probably meaningless, but it’s a starting point for my answer. In nearly three full seasons, Josh Allen has averaged 30.5 passes per game. In nearly two seasons, Daniel Jones has thrown the ball 33.6 times per game. This season, Jones has thrown the ball 31.8 times per game, including the two games in which he was injured and did not finish. That doesn’t seem like a guy who is being shackled.

Now, that doesn’t take into account the types of throws, the air yards, all that stuff. It does tell me the Giants are not handcuffing the kid and not throwing the football or trying to let him make plays.

Have the Giants mostly been a conservative offense? Absolutely. Has the lack, at times, of more downfield shots or more wide open play driven my crazy? Absolutely, at least early in the season. This, though, is the way Joe Judge, Jason Garrett and the Giants think they have to play. I think there are valid reasons for that.

There is no Saquon Barkley. Wayne Gallman, Alfred Morris, Dion Lewis and Devonta Freeman have done their best, and I have enjoyed watching Gallman work this season. None are Barkley. None can make the plays Barkley can make or be the weapon in the passing game that Barkley is. That limits the menu a little.

The offensive line’s struggles. Things have gotten better, though last week vs. Arizona was a step back. You can’t go bombs-away, wide open, throw the ball all over the lot with long-developing deep shots when you can’t keep your quarterback upright. The giants could not do that early in the season. They’ve chosen using the run game and getting the ball out of his hands quickly, and I understand it. As the line play has gotten better I think the playbook has opened up. Before Jones got hurt the Giants had scored 20 points or more in six straight games and exceeded 300 yards in five of them. Now, those aren’t Kansas City Chiefs numbers but they do show progress was being made.

The wide receivers aren’t great. Jones doesn’t have JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool, or Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, or Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, or Mike Evans and Antonio Brown. I like Darius Slayton, but he’s not a No. 1. Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate are complementary pieces. Evan Engram isn’t Kelce or George Kittle. You do the best you can with what you have, and the Giants need more this offseason at the receiver spot.

Has Josh Allen really gotten better this season? Or, does he just look that much better because he has Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley catching his passes? It’s probably a combination, but the guys you are throwing to matter.

Lack of preseason. I know you don’t want to hear it this deep into the season, but it still had a lot to do with what the Giants looked like — at least early in the season. With a new head coach, new offense and second-year quarterback the lack of on-field time was always going to have an impact on what the Giants could do and how well they could do it.

Now, do the Giants have as much information as they would like about Jones? Probably not. I think it’s important to recognize that the Giants offense was getting better and Jones was in the midst of a stretch of really promising, solid football when he got hurt.

That’s all been interrupted now. I’m sure the Giants would like to have seen if Jones could have continued that solid play, but he got hurt and now he and the Giants are in survival mode. Judge and the Giants can say what they want, but we are probably not going to see a fully healthy version of Jones the rest of the season.

I don’t think the Giants have played it safe with Jones. I think they’ve tried to win football games the way they thought gave them the best opportunity. I think they have a lot of information about Jones, though I’m sure they wish they could have seen what would have happened had he stayed healthy.

I also feel pretty safe in saying I think they know Jones is their 2021 quarterback.

Michael Spezio asks: I wonder if the recent crushing loss to the Cardinals, which happened in part because of 8 sacks that the Giants OL permitted, means that Joe Judge made an error regarding sacking Marc Colombo. Joe says again and again that he only wants people who are going to be good for the team, which I think includes winning games. But against a decent team (let’s face it, the Seahawks are ranked close to last on pass defense), the OL crumpled. It allowed Arizona to set a franchise sack record. I think Colombo’s system of emphasizing unit coherence and communication, together with moderate rotation, could have been given more time to develop. Maybe things would not have gone so badly if Joe hadn’t insisted on micromanaging his expert coaches.

Ed says: Michael, you never really directly asked a question. What you are getting at, though, is whether the switch in offensive line coaches was to blame for last Sunday’s poor pass protection against Arizona.

My answer is I think you are reaching for a reason — or an excuse — that just isn’t there.

Judge began to pay extra attention to the offensive line because, whether it was Marc Colombo’s fault or not, the line played poorly the first few weeks of the season. He found that he didn’t like some of the things that were being taught. He is the boss, he gets to set the agenda on what is taught, what isn’t taught and on how it’s taught. Especially when it involves the future of the player you drafted No. 4 overall.

Patrick Graham talks all the time about how his job is to coach and teach what Judge wants coached and taught and to do the best he can to implement the vision of the head coach. The problem between Colombo and Judge seems to have been that Colombo couldn’t make peace with that.

Fact is, it was never “Colombo’s system.” It was, and is, Judge’s team. It’s his system. It’s his offense. His defense. His special teams. If he wants a rotation along the offensive line and you are the offensive line coach, it’s your job to implement that rotation. If he wants things taught a certain way, that’s how you teach them.

We all have bosses. Sometimes they make us do things we would rather not do, but we do them. Why? if we don’t, the boss fires us. Colombo got himself fired.

Let’s be realistic about those eight sacks. Some of them don’t happen if Jones could have moved in the pocket, or gotten out of the pocket and run like he normally would. Some of them don’t happen if Jones had open receivers to throw the ball to. The two sacks of Colt McCoy happened because Arizona knew the Giants were going to throw and could just rush the passer with no regard for the run. Winning teams pad their sack totals at the end of games every week in the NFL.

None of that happened because Dave DeGuglielmo replaced Colombo. It happened because Arizona had a good plan, and the Giants got way behind with a limited quarterback who couldn’t avoid some of the shots he took.

Besides, if you are going to blame the bad game last Sunday on firing Colombo how do you explain the two games prior to that? Arguably, those were the best games played by the offensive line season. DeGuglielmo was on the sideline for those.

William Bowman asks: Why would the coaching staff let Daniel Jones play as a statue and suffer eight sacks? Why do you want to do to Daniel Jones what the Raiders did to David Carr?

Doesn’t say much about the quality of the coaches does it?

Ed says: William, you sent this question on Monday and I know you were venting after a difficult loss. I get it, but I think you need to calm down. A quick correction before I start — David Carr played for the Texans, but I know what you were driving at.

Judge said he thought Jones could protect himself in the pocket. He thought he could move well enough that, while he wouldn’t be running unless he absolutely had to, he gave the Giants the best chance to win.

After seeing what we saw, I think Judge was wrong. I think he either underestimated the impact of Jones’ lack of mobility. I think he made a mistake sending Jones out there, and I wrote as much earlier in the week. At the least I think he should have pulled Jones at halftime.

In my view, Judge made a mistake. He is a first-time head coach. He is a human being. He’s not going to be perfect. He did what he thought gave the Giants the best chance to win a football game, and it didn’t work out. It doesn’t make him a horrible coach.

I think all-in-all Judge has done a terrific job this season under incredibly difficult circumstances, and I think he might be the Giants’ coach for years to come. One mistake doesn’t change that.

Jeff Newman asks: I don’t know that fans have really bought into Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator. He’s taken a lot of the blame for the lack of offense this year, at least among fans. If Freddie Kitchens calls great games the next week or two while Garrett is out, could we have an offensive coordinator controversy in New York?

Ed says: Jeff, of course we could. Listen, the truth is is makes zero difference whether or not fans have bought in to Garrett as offensive coordinator. I don’t think Garrett’s been perfect, but if you look at the Saquon Barkley-less offense before Jones was injured things were on an upward trajectory. Overall, I thought that as Garrett has learned more about his personnel he has been doing a good job playing to the strengths of the players he has.

What really matters is how Judge feels about Garrett’s work. If Garrett doesn’t end up as a head coach somewhere, does Judge want to go forward with Garrett running the offense? I don’t know the answer to that. I would suspect the Giants don’t want to put Daniel Jones in a new offense for the third straight year unless they feel they have no other choice.

As for Kitchens, I have always felt he was next in line to be offensive coordinator should Garrett move on, or the Giants move on from Garrett. Kitchens and Judge have a long relationship going back to when they were young assistant coaches at Mississippi State in 2005. They have deep respect for each other. Kitchens has been an offensive coordinator before.

I would not be the least bit surprised if Kitchens takes over the offense whenever, and however, Garrett moves on.

Billy Pilgrim asks: Shouldn’t we (football operations, fans, media) be thinking of who’s going to play QB next year? With solid coaching and a good defense all we need is a smart game manager to be a playoff team. This is the exact opposite of Jones. With a 25 game history that is trending in a downward spiral, wouldn’t keeping Jones at QB be akin to bringing Eli back in 2018 and 2019? Why is it, when approached with this subject, we only hear “Jones is our QB”. Isn’t that a very narrow way of thinking? Look what Arizona and Tennessee did with Rosen and Mariota as examples. Shouldn’t we be talking about alternatives (Garapolo, Stafford, Smith, Darnold, Ryan, Taylor). I would take Minshew over Jones. Isn’t “anything” better than a turnover machine at QB when you have a good defensive team?

Ed says: Billy, you can think about it all you want. So can anyone else, if that’s how you want to spend your time. I’m sure that the people who’s opinions matter — Joe Judge, Dave Gettleman if he remains as GM, John Mara — will discuss it once the season is over. I will be very, very surprised if they come to any other conclusion than going forward with Jones as the quarterback.

From everything I can tell, the organization loves Jones. They love his personality, his demeanor, his toughness, his skill set.

I am going to strongly disagree with the idea that his play was “trending in a downward spiral.”

Before Jones got hurt the Giants were in a six-game stretch that was their best offensive football of the season. Jones had played three straight games without a turnover, and had his two best completion percentages of the season in the games immediately preceding his hamstring injury. That’s not a downward spiral.

Now, I know he wasn’t good against Arizona. I know he fumbled a couple of times. Give the kid a break, though. He wasn’t healthy and, in my view, should not have been out there. I’m not drawing any conclusions about him from that game.