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Big Blue View mailbag: Tom Coughlin, Leonard Williams, Jason Garrett, more

The mail’s here!

We have reached Super Bowl LV Weekend. Your New York Giants, though, have been knee-deep in their offseason for more than a month now. Let’s open the Big Blue View Mailbag and get to some offseason Giants questions.

Tom Pietrzak asks: Like many Giants fans, I was very pleased with the leadership qualities of first year HC Joe Judge. He preached a team-first mentality AND backed it up by disciplining players who didn’t follow the rules (see Golden Tate benching which, in my opinion, was one of the highlights of the year). The cohesiveness of this year’s team is something that has been lacking in the locker room for quite some time, and I’m wondering if you could offer some thoughts on when things began to go south. I think it’s easy (and correct) to point to the McAdoo years; he was far too lenient and didn’t know how to manage the big egos of several of his star players. But even before that, it seems the wheels started to come off the wagon in Coughlin’s final year. I know it’s unpopular to criticize TC on a forum like this, but I can’t help but think of the home game against Carolina in 2015 when OBJ and Josh Norman repeatedly came to blows. Do you think Coughlin’s willingness to tolerate that sort of behavior in order to get wins (which he was desperate for at the time) was the beginning of the demise?

Ed says: Tom, this is an interesting question. I know I have talked about it on various podcasts, but I’m not sure I have actually written about. I don’t think Coughlin’s turning a blind eye to what was going on with Beckham and Norman was the beginning of the end. I have a ton of respect for Coughlin, but there’s zero chance I buy his whole schtick about not really knowing those penalties were on Beckham or not really seeing what was happening. He didn’t want to see. When I think back on it that whole sequence of events isn’t what started Coughlin’s ending with the Giants, it’s what told me that ending was at hand.

Coughlin built his career and won championships based on discipline, based on team-first, based on demanding that they carry themselves a certain way and represent the organization a certain way. No individual was more important than the collective, and he always believed he could reach and help players. Beckham proved to be beyond Coughlin’s grasp, and as much as I hate to admit it I think Coughlin was part of the reason.

By the time Beckham came along and his antics started to ramp up, Coughlin had been worn down by years of disagreeing with Jerry Reese about the construction of the roster and by too much losing. I think he was just desperate to win and knowing what he had in Beckham and didn’t have in the rest of the roster perhaps didn’t deal with Beckham the way he might have earlier in his career. Instead, he just hoped the talent would win out. It didn’t.

Glen B asks: Hey Ed, thanks for doing such a great job. Question for the mailbag, etc., that I just can’t get my head around. Why are proven, NFL players who are starters and effective worth only mostly Day 2 or 3 draft round picks when so many of those picks never pan out? Case in point, you wrote that Leonard Williams would only be worth a third and fifth round pick if traded. Many third round picks end up as busts, and worst still the vast majority of fifth round picks never become starters. Yet, Williams is a proven and some may even say a real star in his position. Just makes no sense to me why someone would not give up a first round pick for such a player because he is exactly what the first round pick should be? And he’s proven, while even first round picks can be busts so you eliminate that uncertainty by trading for him. Please explain.

Ed says: Glen, let me start by saying the third- and fifth-round pick price tag didn’t come out of thin air. I asked around a little bit, and that’s pretty much the range I was given.

NFL trades aren’t always “equal value” deals. Meaning, the name on the back of the jersey doesn’t always command the price tag you think it might. These deals are complicated by the age of the player being traded, the number of years he has been in the league, the size of his contract, the number of years the acquiring team might expect to have him playing at a high level and a host of factors. Even the position he plays.

Williams, for example, has already been in the league for six years. He’s probably going to cost $20 million annually. He’s got one year of double-digit sack production. He’s a defensive lineman, not a quarterback. An acquiring team takes all of that into consideration when it makes an offer.

When the Giants traded Damon Harrison they got back a fifth-round pick, which didn’t seem like equal value. What did Harrison give the Detroit Lions? A half-season of good play, followed by a full season of bad play. Then, he was gone. The Giants were lucky to get something for him when they did.

My point is simply that there are a lot of factors that get weighed beyond “he’s a first-round talent, so we should get a first-round pick in return.”

Jeff Newman asks: Ed, I’m a little concerned with the Giants lack of draft picks, especially with less money to spend in free agency this year and a lot of holes to fill. There’s no such thing as a sure thing in the draft so the picks you have the better your chances of hitting on a few of them. Do you think the Giants are equally concerned and might do something to add a few more picks this year? Maybe making a trade or possibly trading down in the draft even though that’s something DG has never done. If so, any scenarios you could see happening?

Ed says: Jeff, accumulating picks to take more swings at the plate is a philosophy I have always endorsed. The Giants have just never really believed in it. The old George Young philosophy was let the draft come to you — do your scouting, trust your evaluations, make the best pick you could possibly make when your turn came up. Don’t chase players or manipulate the board. Jerry Reese largely operated that way. Dave Gettleman does as well. Gettleman has been asked about it, and he simply says trading down and accumulating picks is just not how he was trained. He will tell you he has worked for and with a lot of top executives who didn’t believe in it, though he says he is willing in the right circumstance.

Now, would Gettleman do it this year? Maybe. Joe Judge comes from a New England Patriots organization famous for that approach. It depends on what the offers are and how the Giants see the board. If they think they can move down 8-10 spots, get a player they like, and feel good about what they can do with an added pick or two later, I’m fine with it.

One thing, though. I’m not sure that the Giants need “volume” at this point, though I’d take it. I think what they need are a couple of true “difference makers.” I’m not sure you get that difference maker by trading down. Just a ‘Devil’s Advocate” argument.

This topic is one I’m going to examine in a lot more depth as the draft gets closer.

Devin Aronstam asks: Great stuff as always. Whenever the idea of drafting Kyle Pitts is mentioned in an article, the author often states that there are doubts that Jason Garrett could be creative enough to use Pitts correctly, and as such, the Giants may not be a good fit for him. Really? Just like we say about head coaching positions, there are only 32 OCs – if the overwhelming belief by the media that covers the Giants is that Garrett isn’t creative enough to put Pitts in positions like other hybrid TEs who have had success, how can it be acceptable to keep him? I would feel differently if his offense was a success overall last year and this was a singular flaw – but that obviously wasn’t the case. I have heard Judge likes “teachers” which is great for a young team, but an OC that most feel doesn’t run a QB-friendly scheme, isn’t as creative as the top tier OCs and produced a poor product in his first year doesn’t feel good enough. Frankly, sounds like the opposite of Patrick Graham on defense – a coordinator that was creative and put players in positions to be successful. While not a super-high ranking, it was obvious to everyone that he got the most out of his personnel – not sure why we wouldn’t hold Garrett to the same standards – am I missing something?

Ed says: Devin, your question tells me that you have been reading Chris Pflum’s work. I know Chris feels strongly that the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Pitts is a wide receiver and not a tight end. I also know he’s in the camp that doesn’t have a ton of confidence in Jason Garrett. Anyone who has those feelings is entitled to them. They might be right. I just don’t share them.

When it comes to Pitts, I look at him like a receiving weapon. My belief is that if you pigeon-hole the guy as purely a tight end or wide receiver you aren’t making full use of him. Move him around — inline, slot, out wide, even out of the backfield at times. Create matchups. That’s what the league is all about now, finding matchups you can exploit.

As for Garrett, the guy isn’t stupid. We know the Giants didn’t score enough points in 2020, and that things like motion and play-action probably have to be a bigger part of what the Giants do next season. Garrett and Joe Judge know those things, too. If they are both as smart as I think they are they will take a hard look at what the Giants did on offense in 2020, what some of the other teams in the league are doing successfully on offense, and make some adjustments going forward. There was an ESPN report Thursday that Garrett will be back, but that several offensive coaches will have altered or expanded roles. That indicates to me that the Giants are trying to make those adjustments.

The Giants aren’t going to draft Kyle Pitts — or anyone, for that matter — without a plan as to how they would intend to use him. If they draft Pitts and keep Evan Engram it will be because they have a detailed plan for how to play the two together. If they don’t think it will work — and as a guy who knows a lot less about offensive football than they do I’m not sure why it wouldn’t — they won’t do it. Same with any player they draft.

When you say “most” feel Garrett doesn’t run a quarterback-friendly, who are ‘most?” Commenters here at Big Blue View? Fans on Twitter? Complaining voices generally scream the loudest, whether they are in the minority or not. Obviously, the Giants didn’t score enough points in 2020. Is that entirely because Garrett stinks? I don’t think so.

Could the injury to Saquon Barkley have something to do with it? The fact that Evan Engram had some drops at critical times? The reality that the Giants need an upgrade at wide receiver? The fact that the offensive line was a mess for the first third of the season, maybe more? The injury to Daniel Jones, which sidelined him for a couple of games and removed his running from the offense for five or six weeks?

Most of those folks don’t know what Garrett’s system is. They don’t know what the verbiage is. They don’t know how much freedom the quarterback has or doesn’t have within it. How easy or difficult it is for a quarterback to learn. Whether or not the offense is designed to create enough easy completions. How much input Jones has or doesn’t have into what the Giants do, and don’t do. I don’t know those things, either.

Does Garrett need to make some changes? Yes. All I know is most of the people I talk to and trust believe that keeping Garrett paired with Jones and letting them try to to grow the offense together for another year is the best approach the Giants can take right now. A year from now things might be different, but I’m not ready to advocate moving on from Garrett — or Jones — just yet.

Billy Pilgrim asks: Everybody seems to think the Giants will resign Williams and most of the mock drafts have the Giants taking a WR. What are the chances that DG does not sign Williams or trades him after franchising or signing long term. He then uses the money slotted for Williams and signs a free agent WR (Robinson, Godwin, Golladay). He could then draft Barmore at 11 or trade down and draft him. Barmore would then be Williams’ replacement. We know DG loves defensive tackles. What do you think?

Ed says: Billy, I think everyone who reads Big Blue View knows that my preference is for the Giants to bring Leonard Williams back next year. At some point, you can’t just churn talent. At some point, you have to keep your best players. A guy like Williams is not only talented, but he buys into Joe Judge’s program, he wants to be coached hard, he wants to win. He’s a guy players respect. He can be a long-term leader, a lynch pin as Judge builds his program.

That said, Williams is a free agent. Maybe he gets a better offer the Giants just can’t match. Maybe they do make the decision to spend whatever money they have available another way. Then, yes, they would have to find a way to replace Williams.

Christian Barmore? I have not done a full study of Barmore, but I have watched enough to know that he’s a heckuva player. As anything from a 0-tech to a 3-tech. Honestly, I think he would be a fantastic replacement for Dalvin Tomlinson if the Giants lose him. I don’t think he has the athleticism or versatility be successful out on the edge like Williams is, or even Dexter Lawrence at times.

I would prefer to see the Giants use that pick at No. 11 to add to a current weakness like receiver, cornerback, edge, linebacker. Not to have to rebuild something that was a 2020 strength but now has a hole because of players lost in free agency. That, though, can change as we see how free agency plays out. Two months from now, I might feel differently.