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‘Valentine’s Views:’ Thoughts on Joe Judge, the 49ers, more

Hopefully, the Giants stick to their word and show patience

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New York Giants Introduce New Head Coach Joe Judge Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Here are a few thoughts on sa variety of New York Giants-related topics for your Sundyay reading pleasure.

Joe Judge and patience from ownership

One of the things that probably hasn’t received enough attention since the Giants hired Joe Judge as head coach is co-owner John Mara’s statement that the Giants will attempt to be more patients with their 38-year-old first-time head coach than they were with Ben McAoo or Pat Shurmur.

Here is part of what Mara said on the day they introduced Judge.

“I think that this guy is unique, and we’re going to have to prove it. We’re going to have to win their trust back by winning games,” Mara said. “It’s up to us to show a little more patience with this coach than perhaps we have over the last few years because he is a first-time head coach. But I think he has everything that you need to be successful.”

McAdoo lost his job because he lost the respect of the players and, ultimately, the owners. Shurmur was shown the door because it was apparent after two years that he didn’t have a real vision for how to get the Giants back to respectability, and simply wasn’t a guy who could really inspire or push players.

Judge almost certainly will get a longer leash.

“There are always risks when you hire a coach who’s never been a head coach before. But I think as you could see in there, I’m just excited about what he brings to the table here,” Mara said. “When you train under Nick Saban and then you end up on Bill Belichick’s staff, that’s something you take notice of. He’s obviously had great training, a great background. He’s used to winning, he knows what winning looks like, and we’re excited to have him here.”

When Matt Williamson appeared with me recently on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast, he wondered how Judge would handle the New York/New Jersey media.

One thing we know is that with training from Saban. and Belichick, Judge is not going to be the most effusive or entertaining speaker. We have already seen that.

I would hope that Mara learned from his experience with McAdoo in the 2016 Josh Brown situation and with all the controversy the team dealt with in 2017 that leaving a young first-time head coach to answer questions about sensitive issues day after day is. recipe for disaster. Getting out in front of issues as an owner and perhaps making GM Dave Gettleman available more often are things I would like to see — things that would help a young head coach.

The Giants have to get off the head-coaching merry-go-round. Let’s hope the last few years have them that they need to do more to support the head coach/

49ers comparisons

I keep reading and hearing comparisons between the Giants and San Francisco 49ers, with some fans thinking that since the 49ers went from 4-12 in 2018 to the Super Bowl a year later that the Giants should be able to engineer a similar quick turnaround.

It’s true that the Giants went 4-12 in 2019. In my view, though, the similarities really stop there.

The 2019 season was the third together for 49ers GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan. The 2020 Giants do have GM Dave Gettleman entering his third season, but they got the head coach wrong two years ago and are now starting over with Judge.

The 49ers were poised, maybe not to make a leap to the Super Bowl in 2018 but to show marked improvement from 2017’s 6-10 record but lost quarterback Jimmy Garappolo three games into the season. It’s still to be determined how much of a tear down the 2020 Giants will go through, and perhaps the goal with a first-year head coach should be to field a competitive group ends up somewhere around .500.

Maybe the Giants are closer than I think. After all, I do believe that coaching was responsible for some of the 12 games they lost a season ago.

I believe, though, that expecting what San Francisco did last season is setting your sights too high.

While we’re on the subject of the 49ers, I just want to take a minute to point out that while they just represented the NFC in the Super Bowl and Lynch is being lauded for his brilliance, there have been plenty of mistakes in Lynch’s three seasons.

Check out his first four picks in 2017: Solomon Thomas (No. 3 overall), Rueben Foster, Akhello Witherspoon and C.J. Beathard. Of course, Lynch did get George Kittle in Round 5. Dante Pettis, second-round pick in 2018, caught 11 passes last season. So, he’s not lighting the world on fire.

Not every personnel move works out. Everyone is going to whiff on occasion.

Cap stuff

If you read Big Blue View regularly, you know that I am in favor of the Giants making a big run at free agent right tackle Jack Conklin. While there are several first-round worthy offensive tackles in the draft class, it is my belief that a Conklin signing would both help the Giants’ offensive line and set them up so that they could use their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to bolster another position.

Some work from Kevin Cole of Pro Football Focus might, though, be reason to think twice before spending big free agent dollars on offensive linemen.

Using a combination of Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and contract value, Cole concludes that spending huge money on offensive tackles in free agency is not a recipe for success. His research recommends re-signing your own players or using the draft to seek upgrades. He writes:

... teams that spend the most in free agency at the position having dramatically worse positional WAR, while those with more high-value spending in the draft showing a positive WAR trend. The trend lines point strongly to tackle as a position that teams need to address in the draft and not be left to fight for lesser players in free agency.

The steep decline in WAR by unit caused by free agent spending at tackle gives me pause. It does not, however, persuade me that signing Conklin to an expensive free agent contract would be a mistake for the Giants.

In my view, it’s about signing the right player or players regardless of position. Recent Giants history, I think, is a great example.

The Giants passed on bidding for left tackle Andrew Whitworth in free agency before the 2017 season. He signed with the Los Angeles Rams for three years and $33.75 million with $15 million guaranteed. Per PFF, he has posted WAR scores of 0.18, 0.3 and 0.11 the past three seasons.

Because they didn’t go aggressively after Whitworth in 2017, the Giants under new GM Dave Gettleman had no choice but to go after Nate Solder in 2018. They ended up signing Solder, a far inferior player, to a far more expensive four-year, $62 million deal with $34.8 million guaranteed. The Giants’ new regime overspent in an effort to fix a mistake by the old regime.

I continue to believe that the 2020 Giants would benefit from a Conklin signing, even though we know the price will be exorbitant. Signing him, I believe, is a good idea despite Cole’s compelling research.

One liners

  • I’m hardly the first one to say it, but the Houston Astros certainly didn’t come offasd remorseful during their recent “apology” press conference.
  • Speaking of apologies, is anyone else already tired of Antonio Brown and his apology tour? Again, I don’t think he means any of it. I think he’s just saying what his advisors tell him he need to say to have any shot at resuming his NFL career.
  • I did not watch any of the XFL opening weekend. I did watch a little bit on Saturday, though, and it was fairly entertaining. A lot of bad quarterback play, but interesting. I wonder how many of the new XFL rules will find a way into the NFL.