One of the standard posts I have become known for is the ‘things I think’ column I do on a regular basis. Today, I am turning that post on its head. Here are ‘10 things I did not think would happen’ during this 2022-23 New York Giants season.
Giants make the playoffs
The Giants making the 2023 playoffs was definitely not on anyone’s Bingo card when the season began. But, here we are.
I said, and still say, from the beginning that this season wasn’t about winning. It was about laying the foundation for a future that will hopefully see the Giants as regular playoff participants over the next decade rather than once-in-a-decade interlopers.
The Giants did not need to make the playoffs for this season to have been a success. They needed to show progress from their 4-13 2021 season. They needed to show that the right head coach and GM were in place, and that there were at least a handful of building block players to go forward with. Those things were accomplished.
Playoffs? The Giants are playing with house money. Of course, it would certainly be fun if Daboll’s team has more surprises in store.
Daniel Jones earns the right to stay
Remember John Mara’s words after hiring Joe Schoen as GM?
“We’ve done everything possible to screw this kid up since he’s been here,” Mara said. “We keep changing coaches. We keep changing offensive coordinators, keep changing offensive line coaches. I take a lot of responsibility for that. But let’s bring in the right group of coaches now and give him some continuity, try to build the offensive line and then be able to make an intelligent evaluation of whether he can be the franchise quarterback or not.”
Even with brilliant offensive minds in head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka at the controls, it always seemed like an uphill battle for Jones to remain as Giants’ quarterback past 2022. My position was always that Jones playing well enough to earn a return to the Giants was possible, but that odds were against it.
Well, Jones has flipped that script. It now seems to be a matter not of whether or not the Giants want Jones back in 2023, but how much will it cost and how many years beyond 2023 will they have to commit for?
Isaiah Hodgins becomes the Giants’ best receiver
Well, this one is easy. Hodgins spent most of the season on the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad, was claimed on waivers by the Giants during their Week 9 bye, and did not debut for the Giants until Week 10.
GM Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll, who knew Hodgins well, had to figure they would get something out of him. But this? Thirty-three receptions, 351 yards and four touchdowns in eight games. There is no way they could have expected this.
Dexter Lawrence leads the team in sacks
I had the opportunity to speak 1-on-1 with Sexy Dexy for the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast during training camp.
“I just want to be disruptive and I just want to wreck games,” is one of the memorable things Lawrence said to me that day in August.
He has done that better this season that at any time in his career, earning his first Pro Bowl selection in the process.
On a team with Leonard Williams, Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux is is Lawrence, with a team- and career-high 7.5 sacks, who has led the team’s pass rush.
Xavier McKinney’s season is derailed by a Can-Am
Injuries happen in football. Some players get hurt more than others, but it’s impossible to truly get mad at a guy who does his job, prepares and practices properly, plays hard and gets hurt.
To me, it’s a different story when a player hurts himself and his team doing something he probably should not have been doing. Such is the case with Xavier McKinney and his Can-Am accident in Cabo during the Giants’ bye week.
McKinney missed seven games after suffering multiple fractures to fingers in his left hand that required surgery.
Boys will be boys and young men with money and time on their hands will want to have fun, and no one should begrudge them that. I wish, though, that McKinney had exercised better judgment.
Daboll talks all the time about doing the right thing on and off the field, and both in and away from the Giants’ facility. McKinney did the wrong thing. Fortunately for him and the Giants, it seems there won’t be any long-term ramifications.
Wink Martindale would be so funny
I knew Martindale would bring an aggression to the role of defensive coordinator that the Giants hadn’t seen since Steve Spagnuolo’s first tenure as the team’s defensive coordinator. I also figured Martindale would be a crusty, media-hating curmudgeon.
Martindale’s weekly press availabilities have turned into can’t-miss entertainment.
Among his best quotes or quips:
On wanting “playoff fans” Week 17 for the potential clinching game vs. the Indianapolis Colts:
“Everybody’s talked about how we want playoff football around here. Here’s what we need: We need playoff fans to show up for this game and be as loud as they can be. I know it’s New Year’s Day, so if you have one going on on New Year’s Eve, keep it going. And take it all the way through the game.”
On players taking playing time gripes to Twitter:
“Why don’t I seem like a big Twitter guy? I’m more of a TikTok guy (laughs). TikTok has good golf tips on there, scare cam’s one of my favorite things to see, and a lot of comedians.”
On the team’s changing schedule because of playing on Thanksgiving:
“Do you guy’s clocks get thrown off with this stuff? Or is it just coaches and players? Like it’s usually Thursday but now it’s Wednesday, or is that just me being old.”
On his shared taste in music with, of all people, rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux:
“I’ve said it before, it’s like he’s got an old soul. We’ll play music before we start the defensive meeting. Like today was old school Thursday, it’s my favorite day and he knows all those songs, the bands, and everything else.”
On what music they had played that day in practice:
“Some Ohio Players, we played Zapp. I mean, we played some good stuff.”
On Thibodeaux having a lot of swagger:
“So do I.”
On facing Aaron Rodgers (before they played Green Bay Week 5 in London):
“It’s like owning a python and saying, ‘don’t worry about it, he won’t bite’. Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers. To me, there’s no difference. I think that he’s just as effective today as he was five years ago, six years ago.”
Exhorting fans before the home opener vs. Carolina:
“If you want to be part of changing this culture here with the Giants, be loud and have that place rocking where people don’t want to come to our stadium. We’ll take care of the rest, and we’ll give you something to be loud about.”
After Bill Belichick complained that the Giants blitzed too much in the preseason opener:
“We’re on to Cincinnati.”
On what he learned from dealing with injuries during his final season with the Baltimore Ravens:
“Don’t go to DoorDash to find a backup corner.”
On why he values players with length:
“I always say there’s a good place for a small person. It’s behind a big, long person in this league, because you know, it helps everything. It helps your open field tackling and helps separating off blocks and it helps going up to the 50/50 ball. Length does play a big part of it.”
Sterling Shepard would become a cheerleader
The Giants do not have cheerleaders. They do, though, have Sterling Shepard. That is really all they need when it comes to a sideline cheering section.
The veteran wide receiver did not disappear from the Giants’ landscape after suffering a season-ending torn ACL, as most players on IR do. He is always around the Giants’ locker room, and during games you will often find Shepard standing on the bench waving a towel and exhorting the MetLife Stadium crowd.
“I just try to stay around stuff that makes me happy, and these guys make me happy,” Shepard told The Athletic.
“If you talk to old, ex-players, that’s what they miss the most is the camaraderie and being around the guys,” Shepard said. “I want to cherish those moments as much as I can. I’m closer to the end of my career than the beginning, so you got to cherish those moments.
“Just because I’m hurt doesn’t mean that I gotta just not be around anymore.”
Ben Bredeson would become so important
Who knew that Bredeson, a third-year offensive lineman who had to earn a roster spot during training camp, would become one of the Giants’ most important offensive linemen?
Bredeson started the first seven games at left guard this season after Shane Lemieux, penciled in at that spot when training camp began, suffered a serious toe injury that required surgery. The Giants went 6-1.
Bredeson suffered a sprained MCL Week 7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. After he was injured, the Giants used Joshua Ezeudu, Jack Anderson, Nick Gates and Lemieux as starters at left guard. They went 1-4-1.
The Giants are 2-2 and have averaged 24.5 points per game since Bredeson returned.
Is he a good luck charm? Or a good player?
Micah McFadden would be last draft pick standing
The Giants selected 11 players in Joe Schoen’s first draft as general manager. Indiana linebacker Micah McFadden, selected 146th overall in Round 5, is the only one of the 11 draft picks who has not missed at least some time to injury this season.
Offensive lineman Marcus McKethan (Round 5) and linebacker Darrian Beavers have spent the entire season on IR. Wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson (Round 2), offensive lineman Joshua Ezeudu (Round 3) and defensive tackle D.J. Davidson (Round 5) are also on IR due to in-season injuries.
And, yes, I’m apologizing to McFadden in advance. I know I have probably jinxed him and he will get hurt Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
I would get to speak with Laura Young
One of my favorite things about covering the Giants this season has been the opportunity I was afforded to speak with several of the women in key roles both on the coaching staff and other places in the Giants’ organization.
Daboll calls Director of Coaching Operations Laura Young a “rock star.” Schoen calls her “the MVP of the organization.”
Young generally doesn’t do interviews, but I did get the opportunity to sit down with her 1-on-1 during the season. I also spoke with several of the other women who are in prominent roles with the Giants. If you didn’t read about them back in November, read about them now.