By dinner time on Sunday the New York Giants will either be 3-1 or 2-2 at what roughly equates to the quarter-pole of the NFL’s awkward 17-game season.
A 3-1 record would be nice, and it is certainly within reach with the Giants favored to defeat the passing-challenged Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium. Winning is always better than losing. It’s more fun to write about, talk about and read about.
Still, a loss Sunday wouldn’t be the end of the world for the Giants. A 2-2 record would be their best four-game mark since 2019, and would surpass where most expected the Giants to be at this point in the season.
In the big picture, though, the 2022 won-loss record really doesn’t make much difference.
The New York Football Giants will be wearing Legacy uniforms on Sunday, a throwback to the Bill Parcells 1980s era when the Giants won two titles and were annually among the league’s best teams.
I love those uniforms. They are my favorite Giants’ uniforms of all time.
The uniforms are appropriate. Yes, partially because they are playing the Bears. Not, though, because these Giants are a championship contender like most of Parcells’ Giants teams. They are not.
These Giants are at the beginning of trying to get to the place where those late-1980s Parcells teams that wore those beautiful blue uniforms with ‘GIANTS’ emblazoned across their helmets were.
They are at the place where the Giants were when George Young hired Ray Perkins to begin the process of bringing the Giants out of the wilderness. They were still at that place when the Giants went 3-12-1 in 1983, Parcells first year as head coach.
Emerging from the wilderness then came in fits and starts, and you had to look for the signs. The Giants had one winning season from 1980-83, a 9-7 year under Perkins in 1981 that saw them make the playoffs for the first time since 1963.
Sustained success, which is the point of what every team is trying to build toward, did not come until the 1984 season began a string of six playoff appearances and two Super Bowl titles over a seven-year period.
The Giants are trying to get to where those mid- to late-’80s Parcells teams were. Right now, they are where those Perkins teams were, and that 1983 Parcells team was.
First-year GM Joe Schoen and first-year head coach Brian Daboll are at the beginning of trying to haul the Giants out of the wilderness they have been in for most of the last decade.
This year is not about winning. Winning games helps, but it is not the be-all and end-all. The 2022 season is about taking the initial steps to set the Giants up for a better future.
It is about clearing away some of the tangled brush, like the salary cap mess they were handed.
It is about assessing the bedraggled roster they were left with and making judgments on which pieces they can, or should, go forward with.
It is about beginning to stock the cupboard with the kind of players they want, and it’s about us beginning to learn if the players Schoen and Daboll want are ones that will take the Giants back to the league’s upper echelon. One NFL draft and one free agency period handcuffed by Gettleman era financial malfeasance is not nearly enough to judge, although early signs have been good.
It is about beginning to assess whether Daboll is the head coach who can lead the Giants for an extended period of time. After the brief tenures of Ben McAdoo, Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge the Giants must find some stability in that chair.
This season is not about winning, although that is always nice and never hurts. It is about making progress clearing that path to a better future and setting the path for the Schoen-Daboll era to remembered the way Giants fans remember the Parcells-George Young era.
Saquon Barkley trade talk
Now that Saquon Barkley is SAQUON BARKLEY again, and yes, I will return to referring to him as superstar running back Saquon Barkley, we have to revisit that whole offseason “should the Giants trade Barkley” discussion.
WFAN radio’s Boomer Esiason went there during a recent appearance on Kay Adams’ podcast, suggesting that the better Barkley plays the more likely it would be that he is traded at this year’s deadline. Oh, and that the Buffalo Bills would be the perfect trade partner.
I have said since early in the offseason that I favored trading Barkley. My reasoning? Running backs have a limited shelf life, it won’t be long before Barkley is a declining player (see Ezekiel Elliott) and it is nearly impossible to see a world where Schoen is willing to give Barkley the big money he is going to want should he have the big year it appears he is headed toward. My thought has always been to get the biggest haul of draft picks you can to help restock a roster that needs a lot of help.
Now, my position has softened. Maybe not changed entirely, but softened. I can still see how it would be justifiable to trade Barkley — is the price is right. Which, in my views, means the price is overwhelming to the point where the Giants would be stupid to say no.
So, what is that price? Let me start by saying Barkley’s value is going up. He leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage and both looks and feels like the Barkley of 2018. The better he plays, the more valuable he is — both to the Giants and to potential suitors.
Back to what it would take for the Giants to part with Barkley. If I am Giants’ GM, and I am not, that price begins — but does not end — with a first-round pick. I want a Day 1 pick plus a couple of other picks, at least one on Day 2, or a couple of other young plug-and-play starters in addition to that first-round pick.
Is that realistic? I don’t know. I doubt it. Yo, Jeff Diamond, Mike Tannenbaum, Joe Banner, Randy Mueller. If you’re reading and want to chime in, I’m here. All I know is if I’m the decision-maker, no first-round pick coming back means no Barkley going elsewhere.
If the Giants can’t get that price tag via trade? I think they would, and should, be happy to keep Barkley. For the short term, anyway. Barkley is currently a great security blanket for Daniel Jones. You know what else he would be for a year or two? A really, really nice security blanket for a young quarterback on a rookie contract who is trying to find his way in the NFL.
The Giants have the franchise tag at their disposal. They could use that franchise tag on Daniel Jones at an estimated $31.497 million. Or, they could use the tag on Barkley at an estimated cost of $12.696 million.
In my view, that’s a no-brainer. You use the tag on Barkley for 2023. Maybe you use it on him again in 2024. After using the tag once, or twice, you make a decision. See if you can come to a reasonable deal with a guy who will be closing in on his declining years, or move on.
Is that completely fair to Barkley? Maybe not, but Schoen and the Giants have to do what is best for them.