“It’s been a very difficult four- or five-year period for us and I’m tired of the losing and of having a post-season press conference trying to explain what went wrong and why I think we’re making progress. It’s time for us to start winning some more and that’s one of the reasons we spent the money that we did.” ...
“I think we’re moving in the right direction, but obviously it’s been brutal the last few years and we’re looking forward to turning it around and not having to make excuses for why we haven’t done it.”
Here are some of the other takeaways from Mara’s media availability on Wednesday.
Free agency bonanza
The Giants were obviously major players in free agency, signing Kenny Golladay and Adore Jackson and getting a long-term deal set with Leonard Williams. They did a masterful job getting players under the cap in 2021, but know there will be ramifications down the road.
“We’re desperately hoping that we’re going to have more revenue to work with and that the cap will be a little bit higher because, yes, we did obviously spend a lot of money and we pushed some money into future years to be sure to create some additional space.
“Certainly we’re hoping that our revenues will be up and we believe they will be given the rollout of the vaccines and whatnot. We’re certainly a long ways from making any predictions on that yet.”
The Giants held what are now relatively old-fashioned free agents visits with big-ticket items Golladay and Jackson.
“It was a very thorough process. We had a number of people in the building sit with these players, specifically with Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson. We got a pretty good understanding of what they’re about, and that to me was a big advantage,’ Mara said. “It’s much more difficult to do this when you can’t get the guys in the building and you have to make a commitment to a large amount of money without getting a chance to eye them up and talk to them and get a feel for them. I was happy that we were able to do that this year.”
Mara said the money the Giants spent didn’t bother him.
“I tell our people I don’t care how much money we spend or how much cash we have to spend, just make sure it’s the right guys that we’re bringing into the building,” Mara said.
Expectations for 2021
The narrative in the media and fan base has been that the spending by the Giants raises expectations for the 2021 season, making anything less than a playoff berth a disappointment. Mara, as is his typical style, wasn’t playing the expectations game.
‘I think you have to seize the opportunities when they present themselves to you. The big money we spent recently was on two young players that we think can be here for a while,” Mara said of the money spent in free agency. “In terms of whether I expect to make the playoffs, look, I go into every season expecting to make the playoffs. Unfortunately I’ve been wrong the last five years. I always expect us to make the playoffs and expect us to be in contention at some point.”
What message does the spending spree, more than $100 million on Williams, Golladay and Jackson, send to the fan base?
“I think it’s just that we’re committed to doing whatever we have to do to put a winning team on the field,” Mara said. ‘As I said before there were opportunities that presented themselves to add quality young players that were highly regarded, we think they can make an impact and also were positions of need, so we took advantage of them.”
Joe Judge as a recruiter
Several players who signed with the Giants indicated that Judge was a major factor. Mara liked Judge’s work during free agency.
“The word I would use is thorough. Even before guys came into the building he did a lot of background checks with former colleagues of his, other coaches around the league or college coaches that he has a relationship with so he knew a lot about these players before they walked in the building,” Mara said.
Entering a second season with Judge as head coach, Mara remains pleased with the team’s outside the box decision to hire the first-time head coach.
“What he was able to do last year as a brand-new head coach in this league at his age not having any offseason program or any on-field activity, no preseason games, you just jumped right in to Week 1. We only won six games but i just sensed a different feeling from the players. they believe in his message and in his program ... Now is the time to just start winning some more games. He showed me a lot. I think he showed all of us a lot. Now it’s time to take the next step.”
Full stadiums in the fall?
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said this week that the league expects to have full stadiums in 2021. With the COVID-19 pandemic still very much a reality that, though, is not an NFL decision. How much attendance is allowed at sporting events is very much a state decision. So, can the Giants get to full attendance during the 2021 season? Mara made no promises.
“We’ve been in close communication with the governor’s office here. We’ve had a number of discussions with them,” Mara said. “We’ll continue to work closely with them as the vaccinations continue to roll out. Hopefully the positivity rate will decrease in future months. We’ll be guided certainly by the governor’s office. We’re hopeful of having a full stadium this year. That would be a huge plus for our players, our fans and for our organization.”
A deal for Saquon Barkley?
Saquon Barkley is heading into his fourth NFL season. The Giants could use their fifth-year option on Barkley for 2022. Mara was asked, though, if it was time to get a long-term deal done with the star running back or if he needed to see him on the field first after his 2020 torn ACL.
“We’re not in any hurry to do that,” Mara said of a long-term deal with Barkley. “We fully expect him to be as good as new ... we’re not in any hurry to do at this point, particularly after the money we just spent.”
Mara, though, did reiterate he expects Barkley to be around for a while.
‘I said at the end of the season, I’ll say it again — we hope he’s going to be a Giant for life and at the appropriate time we’ll start those discussions,” Mara said.
The Giants are looking for a Year 3 leap from their quarterback. Getting him more help for an offense that finished 31st in the league last season was a must.
“I think surrounding Daniel with more weapons was certainly a priority coming into this offseason,” Mara said. “It’s become more and more of a passing league and we saw an opportunity to add some guys who have some unique talents. Hopefully it’ll pay off for us.”
“We think the world of Daniel in this building,” Mara said. “I know our coaches feel very strongly about him. We want to see him take the next step. I don’t have any specific benchmarks other than let’s win some more games.
“I think he will have a better team around him this year than he has had in previous years, so we certainly expect him to take the next step but I’m not going to put any specific benchmarks on him right now. I just want to see him continue to improve because I think he does have what it takes to be a long-term winner in this league.”
Did Mara drop a hint that the Giants won’t select a wide receiver at No. 11 in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Among the many reasons Mara pointed to for signing Golladay, a top-tier wide receiver, was how it set up the Giants draft board. Mock drafts, of course, heavily leaned toward a receiver for the Giants at No. 11 prior to the team’s signing of Golladay.
“It also takes pressure off of us going into the draft,” Mara said. “We don’t have to take a receiver in Round 1 or Round 2. We can sit there and just take the best player available when it comes to our spot.”