The New York Giants’ 2022 season is just around the corner, and we wanted to pause for a second and take stock of how we got to where we are.
2022 started off with a bang for the Giants. Maybe not the kind of “bang” fans were hoping for at the start of 2021, but a “bang” nonetheless. 2022 started with the kind of seismic eruption that shakes a franchise and changes its course for years to come.
As we all remember, the Giants were in shambles by the time January 2022 rolled around. They started off the year by losing to the Chicago Bears and Washington Commanders by a combined score of 51-10. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett had already been fired, and it was apparent to all observers that head coach Joe Judge was next. It was pretty apparent by that point that general manager Dave Gettleman’s time with the team was up as well. Gettleman had been under fire after he failed to deliver a functional offensive line and players in whom the Giants invested heavily failed to produce.
The Giants franchise and fanbase were also rocked by allegations of nepotism and meddling from the Mara clan; actions that Giants fans have long derided when done by other owners.
It was evident by the time Jan. 10 rolled around that the Giants needed to clean house and go in an entirely new direction. And for the first time since Wellington Mara was arm-wrestled into hiring George Young, that’s exactly what the Giants did.
A new regime
The Giants went outside Young’s immediate executive lineage for the first time, interviewing a relatively large number of diverse candidates. The Giants interviewed several big-name candidates, as well as under-the-radar candidates, who played important roles in building (or re-building) some of the best teams in the NFL.
The Giants ultimately went with Joe Schoen, who has experience helping to turn around the Buffalo Bills and manages to combine both youth and a wealth of experience at a variety of front office positions. While Schoen is a relatively young GM at 41 years old, his football roots run deep. For instance, he spent five seasons as a scout for the Miami Dolphins, three of which were under former Giants head coach Bill Parcells. But where his predecessor openly derided data science, Schoen is admittedly open to incorporating it into every facet of the Giants’ decision-making process in the search for a competitive edge.
Schoen wasted absolutely no time launching the team’s search for a head coach. He was hired on Jan. 21 and held his first interviews (with then-Bills OC Brian Daboll and DC Leslie Frasier) later that day. The Giants interviewed a wide range of candidates beyond Daboll and Frasier and had at least one interview with former Giants DC Patrick Graham, Dallas Cowboys DC Dan Quinn, Cincinnati Bengals DC Lou Anarumo, and former Dolphins HC Brian Flores.
The Giants ultimately hired Daboll on Jan. 29. Daboll in turn quickly moved to hire Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka to be the Giants offensive coordinator. Less than a week after that, former Baltimore Ravens DC Don “Wink” Martindale was hired after Patrick Graham left the Giants to join Josh McDaniels with the Las Vegas Raiders.
A not-so-frenzied free agency
The Giants’ surprising free agent spending spree in 2021 put the new regime in a serious cap crunch for the 2022 offseason. In fact, they were about $5.76 million over the salary cap when Schoen was hired. In other words, they needed to release players just to be compliant with the salary cap, before having to free up the (roughly) $12 million just to sign their incoming rookie class.
The Giants were forced to part ways with players like CB James Bradberry, DB Logan Ryan, TE Kyle Rudolph, and RB Devontae Booker. The Giants were also forced to negotiate a pay cut with injured receiver Sterling Shepard.
But even with all the cost-cutting moves, the Giants were forced to be frugal in free agency. They were forced to allow OLB Lorenzo Carter, TE Evan Engram, NT Austin Johnson, NT Danny Shelton, DB Jabrill Peppers, and G Will Hernandez to all leave via free agency. Those losses created a number of holes on the Giants’ roster that needed to be filled.
Despite the cap constraints, Schoen was able to fill out his roster ahead of the draft at the end of April.
The Giants signed QB Tyrod Taylor, G Mark Glowinski, G/C Jon Feliciano, iOL Max Garcia, RB Matt Breida, and WR Richie James over the course of March and April.
The Giants also signed veteran OT Matt Gono as a potential right tackle or swing tackle, however he left the team after it was revealed that an old neck injury could threaten his career.
While the Giants’ signings weren’t flashy, they did set the team up with a variety of contingency or depth options. The goal of the free agency period was to take “need” out of the equation for the team’s draft strategy.
The Giants also made two significant decisions regarding 2019 first-round picks. The team made news by declining quarterback Daniel Jones fifth-year option, but picking up DT Dexter Lawrence’s option. The decision makes this a true “prove it” year for Jones, who has struggled through the previous three seasons. Picking up Lawrence’s option ties him to the team through the 2023 season.
Home runs and who’s that?
While the Giants were in cap hell to start the 2022 offseason, they weren’t completely without resources for their rebuild. The Giants had the second-most draft capital of any team in the NFL, powered by five picks in the first three rounds.
The Giants owned the fifth overall pick courtesy of the 4-13 record on the 2021 season. And thanks to the first-round trade in 2021 and the Chicago Bears (and their 6-11 2021 record) the Giants also held the seventh overall pick.
They also held the 36th pick in the second round as well as the 67th and 81st picks in the third round.
On the third day of the draft, the Giants held the 112 pick (from the Bears), the 147th pick and 173rd pick (from the Kansas City Chiefs), and the 182nd pick.
Giants fans were elated after the first round, when the team selected Oregon edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux and Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal. Each player was widely considered among the best at their position, and they addressed long-standing needs along the offensive line and defensive front.
Schoen traded back twice in the second round, netting a second fourth and a third fifth-round pick before selecting WR Wan’Dale Robinson out of Kentucky. While it wasn’t a surprise to see the Giants select a wide receiver, it was a surprise to hear Robinson’s name called in the second round. The undersized receiver only had one year at the position, and his skill set closely replicates that of 2021 first-round pick, Kadarius Toney.
The Giants then selected OL Joshua Ezeudu out of North Carolina and LSU cornerback Cor’Dale Flott in the third round. Ezeudu showed impressive versatility in college and has played every position but center. Flott has a slender build, but has great length, quickness, and fluidity. As with the offensive line and wide receiver positions, it wasn’t a surprise to see a cornerback drafted at some point.
Schoen kept reinforcing his roster in the fourth round, adding TE Daniel Bellinger out of San Diego State and safety Dane Belton out of Iowa. Bellinger should bolster the Giants’ thin tight end position and provides a well rounded skillset for the offense. Belton, meanwhile, seemed to be drafted with Wink Martindale’s DB and blitz-heavy scheme in mind.
The fifth round saw the Giants reinforce the offensive and defensive fronts with Indiana LB Micah McFadden, Arizona State nose tackle D.J. Davidson, and North Carolina offensive guard Markus McKethan (who landed on injured reserve and is expected to miss his full rookie season with a torn ACL). Cincinnati middle linebacker Darrian Beavers (who also tore his ACL and is on injured reserve) rounded out the Giants’ draft class in the sixth round.
There’s no question that the 2022 offseason has been a historic one for the Giants.
They went through a massive shakeup in the front office and coaching staff. The new regime got right to work rebuilding a team that hasn’t been competitive in years. And while they couldn’t go on a spending spree in free agency, they plugged holes and allowed themselves to use draft capital to fill in the team’s foundation.
We’ll see how it all comes together for the Giants, but there’s a feeling of freshness and optimism that the team has lacked for a long time.