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):