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Big Blue View mailbag: Christmas Day edition

The mail’s here!

Merry Christmas, New York Giants fans! If you’re here, that means you are squeezing some Giants discussion into your day. Let’s open the mail and help in that endeavor.

Jeff Newman asks: Ed, everything about the way DJ’s neck injury was handled is odd. The contradicting reports of when it was sustained, not saying what the actual injury is, varying reports of how long he’ll be out, the second opinions, etc. Is it possible the Giants are holding DJ out to preserve his health so that they can trade him either in hopes of getting a Sam Darnold type deal or perhaps a blockbuster deal for Watson/Wilson/Rodgers? I know it’s unlikely, but here’s my reasoning: Gettleman won’t be back next year to protect his draft choice, and Judge probably feels relatively safe since it sounds like Mara wants him back next year. Judge wasn’t there when DJ was drafted, and going by the ultra conservative game plans and play calling, and all those 4th downs not gone for, maybe Judge doesn’t believe in DJ. I know he said otherwise, but actions speak louder than words. Plus, drafting a rookie quarterback would give Judge an excuse for not winning next year and Watson/Wilson/Rodgers would surely help win more games. Either way, that’s job security for Judge.

Ed says: Jeff, I’m not into conspiracy theories. To me, this is all falling on deaf ears. I’m not buying anything other than the idea that the Giants are doing what they believe is in the best interests of the player long-term. Go read what Mathias Kiwanuka said about the way the Giants handled his neck injury. Hall of Fame trainer Ronnie Barnes was in charge then, and he’s in charge now.

As for Joe Judge, he might want to do things the right way and he might be into “quick fixes,” but he doesn’t get forever to get this right. Whatever the circumstances, yet another double-digit loss season in 2022 almost certainly gets Judge canned. There is no way he is going to be in favor of entering such a make-or-break season with a rookie quarterback, especially since there really isn’t a “must-have” quarterback in this draft class.

Marcus Mewborn asks: Assuming Judge’s job is safe after this year, what options for OC do you think the Giants should look at for next year? If it’s not Kitchens which more than likely won’t be, would that mean changes to the positional coaches as well?

Ed says: Marcus, I think that question is impossible to answer right now. I’m sure you will hear lots of fans speculate about Joe Brady. I would be cautious about that, though. Brady’s time in Carolina did not go well, and he got the Jason Garrett treatment. Brady had never run an offense on his own before being hired by Carolina, and it didn’t work out. Maybe he isn’t the wunderkind Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase made him look like at LSU.

Aside from that, there is no way to know who will be available. Head coaches who get let go will largely determine the market, although Joe Judge might have some position coaches around the league he might be interested in. I don’t know who those would be yet.

As for Freddie Kitchens, don’t be so fast to dismiss the possibility that Kitchens will get the full-time gig next season.

I know things have been awful, but it has always been assumed Kitchens is the guy Judge really wanted running the offense in the first place. If he wants to go to bat for giving him a full shot next season, there are all sorts of built-in justifications (excuses if you wan tto use that word) for doing so.

The injury to Daniel Jones, who Kitchens only had available for one game as play caller. Injuries to Kadarius Toney, who has yet to play with Kitchens in charge of the offense, and now Sterling Shepard. The offensive line issues. The fact that Kitchens in operating out of Garrett’s playbook rather than his own.

If the Giants can double down on Judge, why can’t Judge double down on Kitchens? I’m not endorsing the idea of Kitchens as offensive coordinator, but I think you would be silly to think there isn’t a good chance it could happen.

Gino Phillips asks: In seeing how Zeitler has given up no sacks or pressures with the Ravens this year, and that he seemed somewhat pedestrian with the Giants last year, what do you attribute that to? Players on either side of him, coaching, injuries, QB?

I understand the cap reasons that he and Tomlinson are no longer Giants, but I was surprised by the comparison of his performance this year and last.

Ed says: Gino, I really don’t know. The only thing I know for sure is that Zeitler regressed for the second consecutive year in 2021. He looked like a veteran player, while still good, was on the down swing of his career. I couldn’t, and still don’t, blame the Giants for moving on.

Zeitler has been resurgent, no doubt, just like Jason Pierre-Paul was resurgent after the Giants traded him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In my view, those are two examples of the Giants making the correct decisions and still ending up with bad results.

Robert Forgione asks: Hi Ed, with the college bowl games in full swing, and Dave Gettleman with one foot out the door, who do the scouts report to? Where does all the information from the 2021 season go? I really believe the scouting department is as much to blame for not being able to identify players who can get better or change positions, as the GM. Thoughts?

Ed says: Robert, Gettleman remains the boss. Until, of course, he isn’t. College scouts have a job to do, and they know what that is. They answer directly to director of college scouting Chris Pettit. Any of the work they do for the Giants remains with the Giants, in terms of reports, etc.

I don’t know which scouts do a good and which don’t, to be honest. There are no stats available to us that show “hit rates” or “success rates” for scouts in backing certain players or not backing others. If there is a new GM, though, I think you can be reasonably certain that there will be other front office and scouting department changes. That happened when Dave Gettleman took over from Jerry Reese, and will happen again after Gettleman is gone.

Spencer Gross asks: After reading the report about Abrams being a contender for the GM position I couldn’t or didn’t want to believe it. As you said, it would be appalling to stay the course. If he’s been assistant GM for 20 years how has he escaped blame for this debacle the Giants are in now? While yes he was around for Super Bowls but what about being around for the dumpster fire that was GM Reese? I understand he wasn’t the head man but in my unprofessional opinion the Jerry Reese failed drafts is what doomed the organization. Good teams build through the draft and Reese was terrible at that but how did the people helping him escape getting the ax? I was also curious to see the Giants add Sam Beal back to the roster. I understand being short on guys back there but after his “feelings are mutual NY” tweet after his release and the fact no one has picked him up in a league ravaged by Covid and injuries, obviously no one else thinks he’s good either.

Ed says: Spencer, I did not say it would be appalling if the Giants named Kevin Abrams GM. I said many in the fan base, apparently including yourself, would find the decision appalling.

How has Abrams escaped blame? Well, he hasn’t been responsible for a single personnel decision the entire time so I’m not sure how you blame him for any of it. It is my understanding that it has only been the last few seasons that the Giants have even added personnel evaluation to his responsibilities. If I had to guess, that has mostly been so that ownership could see whether or not Abrams has the scouting chops to eventually be the GM. He’s just another voice in the room, and his reports just give everyone else in the organization an idea of what his talents are when it comes to player evaluation.

Abrams’ primary responsibility has been the salary cap. I know some want to say, well, he must stink at that since the Giants’ cap situation is a mess. Again, though, Abrams is not the guy who decided to sign Kenny Golladay for $72 million, Adoree’ Jackson for $39 million or Nate Solder for $62 million.

The GM makes those decisions, and the GM likely with involvement of ownership on the big expenses, sets the financial parameters. In other words, he isn’t the one who decided to offer Golladay four years and $72 million or Solder four years and $62 million.

As for Sam Beal, I didn’t see anything drastically wrong with his tweet. As for his tweet, he needed a job and the Giants needed somebody who actually knew their playbook in the event he actually had to play. That’s all.

Jason Zawitkowski asks: Was curious if you our any one you knew has looked into how many non contact injuries have occurred at MetLife Stadium on the current playing surface. There seems to have been a lot over the last two seasons that I can remember. If you have looked into it, how does it compare to non contact injuries at other stadiums with natural grass? Has anyone ever asked the owners or the Giants organization about replacing the playing surface?

Ed says: Jason, I have not looked specifically at MetLife Stadium. The playing surface was replaced before the 2020 season. There were complaints last season from the San Francisco 49ers that the NFL investigated. The league found that the “field meets all applicable standards and protocols for NFL field surfaces.”

Now, does that mean turf is a better surface to play on than natural grass? Absolutely not. It is, though, a league-wide problem — not just a MetLife Stadium problem.

Here is something from NFLPA President J.C. Tretter:

First, a bit of physics: Professional football players put extremely high levels of force and rotation onto the playing surface. Grass will eventually give, which often releases the cleat prior to reaching an injurious load. On synthetic surfaces, there is less give, meaning our feet, ankles and knees absorb the force, which makes injury more likely to follow.

The data supports the anecdotes you’ll hear from me and other players: artificial turf is significantly harder on the body than grass. Based on NFL injury data collected from 2012 to 2018, not only was the contact injury rate for lower extremities higher during practices and games held on artificial turf, NFL players consistently experienced a much higher rate of non-contact lower extremity injuries on turf compared to natural surfaces. Specifically, players have a 28% higher rate of non-contact lower extremity injuries when playing on artificial turf. Of those non-contact injuries, players have a 32% higher rate of non-contact knee injuries on turf and a staggering 69% higher rate of non-contact foot/ankle injuries on turf compared to grass.

There is no denying that more non-contact leg injuries occur on turf than on grass. It is easier to get your foot caught, and there isn’t as much give. It is also true that the Giants have an extraordinary number of players on IR this season. I have not, though, seen any concrete evidence that the surface at MetLife is any more dangerous than any other turf field.

Clayton Harding asks: My question is about the O-line. More specifically, prioritizing the needs there. I see a lot of people, here and other places, saying that we should take Tyler Linderbaum with the 2nd of our two early picks. I strongly disagree. I think he could be great on a team with two stout Guards who can keep him clean so he can release to the 2nd-level, pull on sweeps, etc. But we have terrible Guards (and RTs) at the moment, so a 289-lb Center seems like a luxury we can’t afford.

Put another way, if he turns out to be great on some other team, I can live with that. But if he is consistently getting pushed back into our QBs face, can’t open holes in short yardage/Red Zone situations, and his only real upside for us is his quickness and downfield blocking, I will consider that a wasted 1st Rd pick. We don’t GET to the 2nd-level! Our RBs frequently have to dodge would-be tacklers as soon as they get the handoff.

He also can’t play any other position at 289 pounds. Give me someone with positional flexibility, weighing 325 pounds or more, who can win at the LOS in one-on-one battles. Someone like: Neal, Green, Ekwonu, or Kinnard—all of whom can play at least two positions—Green can play all 5. Maybe even Cross, Penning or Rhyan—especially if we grabbed Neal at No. 5, since that would allow Neal to kick inside to Guard, where I think he will dominate.

I know it’s early in the “scouting season” and maybe you aren’t looking at specific players as potential draft picks yet, but my question for you is, do you agree with me that Center—especially an undersized center—is less of an urgent need than both guards and RT are?

Ed says: Clayton, you can make arguments for help everywhere on the offensive line except left tackle, where I think Andrew Thomas is a franchise player. As for the other four positions, I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer when you start arguing one single position being more important than the other.

I think this is why it is imperative that the Giants know one way or another whether they are comfortable with Matt Peart potentially being the right tackle next year.

The consensus top offensive lineman is Evan Neal. If he somehow falls to the Giants you have to take him — whether he lands at right tackle or at guard.

Linderbaum? Listen, I get the “one position” argument and the history that centers don’t often get selected in the top 10. I know that I love what I’ve seen from Linderbaum, and right now he’s in my top three offensive linemen with Neal and Ikem Ikwonu of N.C. State (again, that’s really early and I have not looked at everyone). I know that Todd McShay called Linderbaum a potential All-Pro/Hall of Fame type player. I know the interior (guard-center) has been a bigger problem than tackle for the Giants, that Billy Price probably isn’t the long-term answer and that you can’t count on Nick Gates returning next season.

If the Giants take Linderbaum in the top 10 because they believe he can anchor their line for the next decade, I’m not going to argue.

Acust asks: One of the possible reasons for keeping Joe Judge, aside from financial, is that J Mara wants consistency and doesn’t want to expose D Jones to a new system. Yet we all think that there should/will be a new offensive coordinator and play book.

If there is a new OC then isn’t this almost as disruptive as firing Judge and cleaning house? What’s the difference, and why would we want to be consistent when we rank last in the league in just about every category?

Ed says: I really don’t think so. I supported the idea of keeping Jason Garrett this season. With all of the COVID-19 related disruption to practice schedules in 2020 I thought the continuity and the close relationship Daniel Jones and Garrett had developed would benefit Jones and the Giants.

It didn’t work.

No, a new offensive coordinator is not as disruptive as a new head coach. The Giants’ offense is broken. It was broken before Jones was lost for the season. There is going to be a new offensive coordinator, whether the Giants turn inward to Freddie Kitchens or bring in someone from the outside.

They need better personnel on the offensive line, certainly. They also need a fresh approach. They need someone who can design pass routes that will help receivers get open. They need someone who embraces the use of pre-snap motion, and who can maximize the talents of players like Saquon Barkley, Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay. They need someone who can design an effective running game.

Maybe Kitchens is that guy, given a chance to install his own playbook from scratch. Maybe he is part of the philosophical problem. The Giants need to be honest in their evaluation when they decide who will run their offense in 2022.

Eric Chavis asks: With the possibility of Gettleman being relieved of his duties by the end of this year, do you see any world where Tom Coughlin comes back to the Giants in a leadership role?

Ed says: No. First of all, Eric, did you pay any attention to how Coughlin’s tenure as vice president of football operations in Jacksonville went? Yes, he got the Jaguars to an AFC Championship Game in 2017. His time there ended just two years after that when he was fired by the Jaguars. By then, the franchise had fallen apart. Coughlin made mistakes at quarterback and drafted a running back (Leonard Fournette) No. 4 overall. Beyond that, he was mired in controversy over CBA violations regarding treatment of players with the NFLPA taking the extraordinary step of telling free agents not to sign in Jacksonville. He was also apparently at odds with his coaching staff. ESPN had the full details of that if you want to review them.

There is also Coughlin’s current personal situation. Coughlin has detailed his wife Judy’s battle with a progressive brain disorder that has left her without the ability to care for herself. He has become her primary caregiver, and that rightly is where the focus of his life is now. Even if he wanted to, I don’t think Coughlin is in a position to devote his time and energy to running a football team. He currently has something more important, and more personal, to handle.

Paul Fuller asks: I keep reading that it’s so hard to evaluate Jones because of poor offensive line, bad play calling, lack of weapons, injuries, etc. But isn’t the job of new GM (fingers crossed) to be a good talent evaluator? I would think there is enough tape for a GM to factor in the variables and decide whether Jones is the right guy or not. If I was interviewing a GM candidate and he/she didn’t have a strong opinion on the matter, I would move on to the next candidate. What do you think?

Ed says: Paul, it is difficult to perfectly evaluate Jones. I think, though, that anyone who studies the game for a living has a pretty well-formed opinion by now. He’s probably an OKJ quarterback you can win with if the situation around him is right, be not a true game-changer. Jones will certainly be a major topic of discussion for whoever the new GM is, and you can be sure each one will have a strong opinion. I think the decision that Joe Judge will be the coach and Daniel Jones the quarterback next season has already been made, and that whoever gets the GM job is going to have to be OK with that.