The Soul of Schoen: the 2023 Offseason as a Window into the Future of the NYG

We know that for all intents and purposes, the 2022-23 season was meant to be a treading-water kind of year. We all tittered when Schoen said "I think you can compete today and still build for tomorrow." When he signed Mark Glowinski, Jihad Ward, Richie James and Jon Feliciano off other teams' scrap piles we shrugged and gave him a participation award. "Solid effort, Trader Joe," we said, "but we're not expecting anything from these bargain basement players." When he drafted Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal we politely applauded. "Great, potential tentpoles that may amount to something in three-to-five business years, but an untrained monkey throwing poo at a prospect picture collage could have made those picks."

Perhaps some of us felt the first flickering of hope when Brian Daboll talked about building a program founded on relationships, respect, and the triple pillars of smartness, toughness, dependability. But, like a spouse responding to a grovelling serial cheater we responded with two words: prove it.

And by God has this team proven it.

Independent of what happens this Saturday (Sunday for us here in the great Down Under), 2022 is looking like a year of the calibre of 1983 (year one of Bill Parcells) or 2004 (Tom Coughlin); even if not appreciated in its day, in retrospect it's clearly the start of something great. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Y2 will be a continuation of what this year has brought, or whether Big Blue will once again trundle down the road littered with the corpses of Joe Judges and Ben McAdoos.

The more I look at the 2023 offseason, the more I feel like it will give great insight into how Schoen, Daboll and Co. want to craft this team. To put it in architectural terms (coming from a decidedly non-architect): we have the foundation and the most important pieces. Now it is time to build upward.

That alone makes me excited. Gone is the hope that maybe the Giants will claw their way back to mediocrity, and a single shiny toy will be the saviour of our beloved team. For the first time in a while, I have confidence that the Giants have a staff that will not simply be asking "who are the best players available," but "how can we use the best players available to improve what we already have?" In short, the Giants seem to be building a team, rather than the motley crew of helmeted 20-somethings running around the field like unattended children in a sandpit our eyes have been forced to digest.

This may seem obvious, but think of teams that have become punchlines in the NFL and sporting world at large. To my younger sensibilities that means teams like the Browns or the Texans. These teams seem to have all the direction of a drunk camel in the middle of the Pacific. In many cases, they seemed to reach for shiny players without the slightest idea how they would fit into the team and make it better; the Giants' selections of Evan Engram and Clint Sintim are oft-cited examples of this disconnect.

Maybe the players would be spectacular on an individual level: JJ Watt and Deandre Hopkins are two examples that spring to mind, slugging away on one epically bad Texans team after another. But did the team as a whole improve and reach the consistent success that is so difficult to achieve in this league? Frequently not. And that is because without direction, without a consistent culture and without people at the top who are able to navigate the games' evolving trends without getting mired in what used to work, a team will land exactly where the Giants have been for most of the past decade: stuck in the muck of humiliation, irrelevance and, worst of all, apathy from fans, players and coaches alike.

And so we come to the 2023 offseason. More specifically, the 2023 Draft. Even more specifically, the question of how does Schoen take a team that is so deeply flawed most pundits had it picking in the top 5 for the umpteenth time, and evolve it (note the deliberate choice of word) into a consistent contender? That elusive prize may be closer than we thought, but we are likely not there just yet.

I have taken the WR draft class as a microcosm of the draft and offseason as a whole to illustrate the point, purely because it is one of the most common refrains surrounding the team: how can we maximise the talents of our newly, and near-unanimously anointed franchise QB? The pining after Justin Jefferson in the two Minnesota weeks on this very site captures that emotion perfectly.

As a starting point, here are the top 10 WR prospects (per PFF):

1. Quentin Johnston, TCU, 6'4"/215lb
2. Zay Flowers, Boston College, 5'10"/172lb
3. Jordan Addison, USC, 6'0"/175lb
4. Josh Downs, North Carolina, 5'10"/175lb
5. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State, 6'1"/200lb
6. Rome Odunze, Washington, 6'3"/201lb
7. Nathaniel Dell, Houston, 5'10"/165lb
8. Parker Washington, PSU, 5'10"/212lb
9. Jalin Hyett, Tennessee, 6'0"/185lb
10. Rashee Rice, SMU, 6'2"/203lb

Now, there will be a lot of virtual ink spent on the exact order of these prospects between now and April; I personally am very high on Zay Flowers, and like Xavier Hutchison from Iowa State (did not make this list). But what Brian Daboll has created at Giants Drive means that they can focus on which players are going to fit their team, rather than a player that runs a fast 40, or put up gaudy statistics in college. There will be no "full bloom love" here, though perhaps in light of recent events we shouldn't lampoon that particular turn of phrase as much. Instead, you can tell that if Schoen and Daboll pick a WR in this draft, it will be because they see a part of a greater whole, both on the field and off.

If Daboll (+/- OC Mike Kafka) decides he wants a smaller receiver to pair with Wan'dale Robinson and subject teams to death by a thousand bee stings? Josh Downs, Zay Flowers or Parker Washington are likely to be there at various points on Day One or Two. Want an absolute cruise missile that's a threat to take it all the way every play (who can hopefully catch better than Slayton)? Jalin Hyett, JSM or Zay Flowers (both to a lesser degree), come on down! Want to double down on smooth and big with mitts that could snag a flying buffalo out of low-Earth orbit? Rashee Rice, Rome Odunze, the aforementioned Hutchinson and many others are there for the picking, most after Round One. Want a WR who can do it all? Quentin Johnston almost certainly will not be there, but there are other prospects that may prove to be exactly that. After all, the aforementioned Jefferson was the fifth WR picked in 2020, doncha'know?

I have used the WR class for illustrative purposes, but the same logic could be applied to any other position. The one thing we can definitively say even now is that players this team selects will be (say it with me, now) "smart, tough, and dependable."

The greater thrust here is that for the first time in a long while I'm not just hoping that the front office will pick an impact player somewhere, anywhere to turn this team around. I'm interested in who the Giants pick and wondering, nay dreaming, how they will resurrect the ghosts of champions past and once again bring glory to East Rutherford.

Many have said it, but it bears repeating: it is once again a good time to be a fan of the New York Football Giants.

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