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Off day ‘things I think’ about the New York Giants

Thoughts on Joe Judgre, Jason Garrett, Daniel Jones, much more

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys
Joe Judge talks with Jason Garrett.
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The New York Giants are off on Tuesday. I have had a little time to reflect on Sunday’s victory over the Carolina Panthers, and on the season to date. That makes it a good time for a ‘things I think’ brain dump. So, here we go.

Daniel Jones

Giants fans, national NFL media, pretty much everyone who cares about the NFL has gone gaga over Daniel Jones’ leaping, tumbling one-handed catch on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Even his teammates:

Yep. Toney went there.

The hullabaloo is justified. It was a spectacular play. It’s a lot of fun to watch, write about, tweet about, podcast about, create memes. All that stuff. It isn’t, though, what playing the quarterback position is really all about.

When I think about the game, though, I can’t get over how well Jones played the quarterback position. The Giant offense was crippled by injuries. Yet, Jones did not put a single ball in danger all afternoon.

Look at the poise and brilliance of the first throw on the 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that gave the Giants a 12-3 lead. Look at how his athleticism, poise, and touch gave Devontae Booker an opportunity to convert a third-and-13 one play before Jones’ spectacular catch. By the way, I wanted to scream at Booker when he started running sideways a single yard before getting the first down.

There was also a perfectly thrown slant to Dante Pettis that allowed him to go for 27 yards.

That’s quarterback play. In the long run, the ability to do that stuff is more important than his Beckham-esque catch.

Thinking long-term at the trade deadline

The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, Nov. 2, just a week away from the publication of this post. We think in terms of teams being “buyers” or “sellers.” Judge was asked if he wanted to see the Giants take a short-term “improve the team now” approach, or a long-term approach.

I think his answer reveals a lot about Judge, and perhaps about the Giants’ future.

“I always think long-term. Sometimes, long-term can come in a move you can make immediately at this point, but I’m always thinking long-term. I’ve said this from the beginning, I’m not about taking shortcuts into anything. I’ve made it very clear in terms of my vision of the team and where I want to build it. It’s being built for long-term success,” Judge said. “I have a lot of faith in the people we have in this program right now, but ultimately my vision always goes long-term. I’m always looking at – just for everyone listening, I’m always looking at not only what our depth chart is now, but what does it look like at the end of this year, beginning of next year, what does it look like two years from now?

“Whether you’re going through free agency, trades, draft, whatever it may be, to me, you’re always looking down the road in terms of not where you are immediately, but where do you have to get to. That’s my perspective on that.”

The Giants made long-term moves with their trades down in 2021 NFL Draft, collecting picks that put them in a great spot in what should be a deep 2022 draft while also allowing them to land Kadarius Toney and Azeez Ojulari.

The thing I talked about in a recent trade deadline preview was honestly assessing the roster. There are a number players who could become free agents this offseason. My preference would be that the Giants identify players they want to go forward with, and don’t want to go forward with, and see if they can obtain future assets for any players they feel are not part of the long-term plan. I think that corresponds with how Judge sees things.

“It’s definitely the time of year everyone starts making a lot of phone calls. There’s been potential and opportunities for trades going in, coming out, however it’s been the entire time since the season has been going, so sometimes people manufacture too much at the trade deadline,” Judge said. “I know a lot of teams kind of rush to make final moves. We’ll obviously talk about a number of phone calls that we’ll be getting throughout the week, but I wouldn’t say we’re absolutely anticipating doing anything. Would say those conversations will run from now through the remainder of the week.”

Judge can think long-term

I don’t think Judge’s job is currently in jeopardy. Not close. That has to be the takeaway from what Giants’ co-owner John Mara told the New York Post after Sunday’s game:

Asked if his belief in Judge is still as strong as it was the day he hired him, Mara told The Post, “It is. Obviously, we’ve struggled this year, but he has not lost the locker room, and I’ve seen that happen over the years. I think the players still believe in him. We’ve just got to get our guys healthy again”

Mara cited Judge’s leadership, the way he’s “commanded the team,” and the way he “sees the big picture.”

Mara and Steve Tisch watched Ben McAdoo implode and not last through his second season. They watched Pat Shurmur prove in two seasons that he’s not an NFL head coach. They said when they hired Judge that they couldn’t keep starting over every two years, that they needed to have more patience with the young, first-time head coach they had just hired.

I fully expect them to give Judge that time.

So, yes, Judge can take the long view. That’s a good thing.

Jason Garrett deserves some credit

I said Monday on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast that much-maligned offensive coordinator Jason Garrett deserved props for his work Sunday against the Panthers. Facing a good defense and fielding a cast or largely second- and third-team players surrounding Daniel Jones, Garrett managed to create and execute a plan that allowed the Giants to function efficiently.

The Giants used RPOs, play-action passes, moved the pocket right and left, used Jones creatively in the run and pass game, got Devontae Booker into space on a couple of runs and used tight end Kyle Rudolph in the red zone.

“I thought Jason and his staff did a really good job early in the week of identifying how we want to play this game, what does that team do well, how do we have to go ahead and play to our strengths and not let them use their strengths to expose something of ours,” Judge said. “We did some things that we knew would not show up in a lot of games that we had. That was a focus of ours throughout the game planning.”

Giants’ fans who want Garrett gone don’t want to hear it, but the offensive coordinator has done pretty good job overall this season. The Giants still are not consistently scoring enough points (19.9 per game, 25th in the NFL), but they are 19th in yards after being 31st a season ago. Until the Giants are mostly healthy and Jones gets a chance to work with Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard and the rest of the team’s playmakers for an extended period of time they can’t be expected to light up the scoreboard.

I have my issues at times with Garrett’s play-calling. Still, I think complaining about play calls is a favorite pastime of everyone who watches NFL games. We all think we know better than the guy calling the play. A good play call is any play that works. A bad play call is any play that doesn’t. In the heat of the moment, with only seconds to make a decision, sometimes guys get it right and sometimes they don’t.

All of that is preamble to this: Until and unless he gets another head-coaching opportunity, I don’t think Garrett is going anywhere for a while. He has a tremendous relationship with Jones, and Jones continuing his upward arc as an NFL quarterback remains the most important piece of the Giants’ puzzle. Garrett’s work, overall, is helping him.

I don’t think the Giants want to disturb Jones’ continued development if they don’t have to. I think the only thing that changes that is if the Giants ever get healthy on offense and still fail to produce a good product.

Crying over spilt milk

You can’t change the past. Still, how different would the narrative about the Giants be if they were 4-3 right instead of 2-5? If they had won games against the Washington Football Team and Atlanta Falcons? The Giants were, in my view, the better team in those games. They lost because of their own failure to execute simple things, and because of some questionable coaching decisions.

That 4-3 record, incidentally, would currently have the Giants in the seventh playoff spot. Think about that for a second. A couple of plays that should have been made by the Giants in both of those games and the story unfolding for them right now would be a vastly different one.

That simply points out how slim the margin is between success and failure is in the NFL.

Noteworthy personnel changes

An NFL team cannot overhaul its roster on the fly during the season. It can adjust how it uses the personnel at its disposal. I thought the Giants made some subtle, but welcome adjustments in personnel vs. Carolina.

  • Edge defender Quincy Roche played a season-high 23 snaps, the first time he has seen more playing time than Oshane Ximines (17 snaps). Ximines, a 2019 third-round pick, has been invisible this season. He has just three pressures and hasn’t recorded a sack since Week 14 of his rookie year. It is about time Roche got an opportunity to see if he can make more plays.
  • Matt Skura played every snap at left guard vs. Carolina. Skura isn’t great, but overall he has been the best left guard the Giants have fielded this season. With Matt Peart at left tackle, I thought having the same player next to him throughout the game was a good decision.
  • Elijhaa Penny played a season-high 22 snaps. He had 9 carries, the most he has had since joining the Giants in 2018. He did only gain 24 yards, but that isn’ really the point. Penny has converted first downs on five of six third-down rushing attempts this season. He can get tough yards. He can protect the football. He can help both the run pass games as a blocker. I have always thought Penny was under-utilized by the Giants. I hope the trend of getting him on the field more continues.