The DeAndre Baker situation is, to say the least, a big mess for both the young man and for the New York Giants.
Let’s not convict him first, but the police report detailing eight counts of armed robbery and firearms charges, and including the information that Baker allegedly directed an accomplice to shoot someone, looks bad for Baker. The 22-year-old could well have flushed his Giants career, his NFL career, and a decade or more of his freedom down the toilet.
There are also important ramifications for the Giants organization. Let’s look at them.
This is bad for Dave Gettleman
Gettleman gave up picks No. 37, 132, and 142 to make Baker the team’s third pick of Round 1, 30th overall, in a 2019 NFL Draft that also saw the Giants get Daniel Jones (No. 6) and Dexter Lawrence (No. 17).
“The last guy we traded up for we feel is the best cover corner in the draft, the kid from Georgia, DeAndre Baker,” Gettleman said at the time. “We feel like we got three guys that are going to impact this franchise for a long time.”
Generally, the saying goes that two out of three ain’t bad. For Gettleman, though, this apparent massive miss is bad. Maybe really bad.
Gettleman narrowly avoided being shown the door along with ex-coach Pat Shurmur after the Giants won only nine games during his first two seasons as general manager.
“Dave Gettleman is our general manager in 2020 and hopefully for many years after that,” co-owner John Mara said back in December when announcing Gettleman would stay and Shurmur would go. “We believe he is the right person to lead us going forward.”
Winning cures a lot of things. You can bet, though, that if the Giants suffer through another miserable season Mara and Steve Tisch won’t forget this.
There were apparent warning signs about Baker before the draft that the Giants either missed or ignored.
Per the New York Post:
It turns out there were indeed warning signs about Baker’s maturity that Gettleman and the Giants missed. Draft analyst Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network reported on several prior to the 2019 scouting combine.
“Sources were telling me he was not taking combine training seriously,” Pauline told The Post. “He was kind of an entitled type of kid, he expected things to come very easy to him, he didn’t look good in drills. And then if you go back, and you look at his 2019 combine, he was a huge disappointment.
“This year when I was at the Senior Bowl practices, the last day of practice, I was talking to some of the Giant people, they didn’t tell me he was a bad guy or anything, they said he’s dumb as dirt. He struggled taking instruction in coaching, he basically likes to do it his own way.” ...
“I would have never taken that guy in the first round. Never,” Pauline said.
Rookie cornerbacks never have it easy in the NFL. Even with that in mind, though, Baker had a rough rookie season on the field. More distressingly, though, both his preparation and his effort were at times questioned. Baker even startlingly admitted in early November, more than halfway through the regular season, that he was still struggling to learn the playbook.
Worse for Gettleman, this was a move he didn’t need to make. There were five cornerbacks chosen in Round 2 after the 37th pick.
Impact on Joe Judge
The rookie coach talks again and again about culture.
On the day Judge was introduced to media as the team’s head coach he said “The only culture we’re going to have in that building, period, is a winning culture. And what that means is everybody comes to work every day, regardless of how they feel, and puts the team first, period.” During a videoconference earlier this week Judge said: “... really what we’re looking to build, is that culture of everyone doing whatever it takes to be successful.”
It’s fairly obvious that allegedly waving a gun around, ordering people to be shot, and stealing money and valuables are not signs of a person being focused on becoming a successful NFL player.
Judge has talked a good game thus far and been impressive in many ways. To have a chance of establishing that culture and having player believe what he says, though, I can’t imagine he and the Giants have any choice but to move on from Baker. And to do that quickly, long before the justice system plays its role.
The other thing about this is that I’m interested to see how Gettleman and Giants’ ownership supports their young head coach.
I’m reminded of the Josh Brown situation a few years ago when the Giants forced Ben McAdoo, in his second year as head coach, to face questions about Brown’s admissions of domestic violence against his wife for weeks while then-GM Jerry Reese and ownership remained silent.
The organization simply cannot let its new coach twist in the wind like that. Let’s hope Judge doesn’t end up being the sole face of the Giants’ response to this mess.
What about on the field?
Baker was being counted on start at cornerback opposite James Bradberry, and to take a step forward in his second season. So, what now?
Sam Beal, who has played only six games in two injury-plagued seasons, is an option to start opposite Bradberry if he can stay healthy. Corey Ballentine, the 2019 sixth-round pick who struggled in the slot, could be moved back outside to compete with Beal.
The Giants drafted cornerbacks Darnay Holmes (Round 4) and Chris Williamson (Round 7). They also have Julian Love, Grant Haley, Dravon Askew-Henry, Montre Hartage, and undrafted free agent Christian Angulo on the roster.
Among free agents, Logan Ryan and Darqueze Dennard are still available. Those players, though, are primarily slot cornerbacks who should not be counted on to play a high volume of snaps on the outside.
At this point, how the cornerback spot opposite Bradberry plays out is anyone’s guess. It is hard, though, to see how Baker suits up for the Giants again.