Honest self evaluation. That is a key to long-term, sustained success in any endeavor. You have to be able to properly, and emotionlessly, assess what you are and what you are not to enjoy the positive outcome you seek.
In the wake of their stunningly inept play while starting the 2023 NFL season 1-3, it is pertinent to ask whether New York Giants GM Joe Schoen, head coach Brian Daboll, ownership and the rest of the organization properly evaluated the state of the team after the Giants’ surprising success in 2022.
The Giants admitted after last season’s 9-7-1 record (10-8-1 including the playoffs) that there was a talent gap between themselves and the league’s best teams. Yet, the offseason raised outside expectations.
Quarterback Daniel Jones received a much-ridiculed four-year, $160 million contract — though it is really a much less objectionable two-year, $80 million deal. They gave big contracts to Dexter Lawrence and Andrew Thomas.
Schoen made what seemed like a ‘win now’ trade for 31-year-old tight end Darren Waller. The Giants gave a big contract to free agent linebacker Bobby Okereke. They added veterans like Rakeem Nunez-Roches, A’Shawn Robinson and Parris Campbell in free agency.
The draft brought exciting trades up for cornerback Tae Banks and wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, and a much-needed starting center in John Michael Schmitz.
The roster appeared to be upgraded. That meant the Giants would show in 2023 that they had moved closer to the top teams in the NFC. Right? Four primetime games in the first six weeks of the season tells you the TV networks were all-in on the Giants as a legitimate contender.
Well, not so fast.
Four games into the season the Giants look farther away from being a serious contender. They got obliterated by the Dallas Cowboys to open the season, haven’t been competitive in their three prime time losses, have done nothing particularly well, and appear more likely to earn a top five pick in the 2024 NFL Draft than to somehow pull things together and be a playoff contender.
It is fair to question a lot of things with this Giants team.
- Why has the offensive line been a hot mess?
- Are Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal ever going to be the players they were drafted to be?
- Why has Daniel Jones regressed?
- Why don’t the Giants, struggling to pass protect, lean more on their running game — even without Saquon Barkley?
- Why are the special teams so consistently bad — with the usual exemption of extraordinary placekicker Graham Gano?
- Why can’t the defense create turnovers?
- Why have the Giants, outscored 77-9 thus far, been inept in the first halves of games?
- Why, with a coaching staff lauded for creativity and personnel usage a year ago, have there been so many curious decisions about personnel deployment and play-calling thus far?
- Why have the Giants not played with the resolve they showed a season ago?
- With penalties, assignment breakdowns, turnovers and poor tackling seeming to be the norm why have the Giants been so undisciplined?
- Why didn’t Schoen add add a veteran edge rusher with pass rush ability? A better veteran cornerback than Amani Oruwariye? A veteran interior offensive line backup with a better pedigree than Shane Lemieux?
I am not sure, though, that the Giants’ braintrust mis-evaluated what the Giants are. I am not sure they believed this was a team that would pick up where it left off in 2022.
“Every year is a new year” is something Daboll says constantly, reminding that one season’s success or failure doesn’t guarantee anything the following year.
Here is what Schoen said about expectations at the end of training camp:
“We haven’t played a game yet, so, so we’ll see,” Schoen said. “I think I said it last year at the same press conferences, it takes a few weeks into the regular season to figure out who the team is again, how we’re gonna react when adversity strikes and how we’re gonna handle if there’s success or if you’re down at halftime.
“I think that showed last year against Tennessee in the second half. I didn’t know how the team was gonna react coming out of halftime, or if you’re playing Green Bay in London and you’re down, in the second quarter, 17-3. We still have a lot to learn about this team, and we’ll see when it comes to Sunday against the Cowboys how they’re gonna come together as a team in jell and how they’re gonna react in those situations.”
Is the roster better?
“Again, we’ll see. I like some of the guys that we brought in and free agency,” Schoen said. “I like some of the guys that we, that we drafted, but you know, they still gotta go out there and do it on Sundays.”
Can the Giants challenge in the NFC East?
“We’ll, see,” Schoen said. “Our guys didn’t play a lot in the preseason. They played that Carolina game as a unit. We’re still practicing and getting better daily, and we’ll see what it looks like when, you know, we get to the regular season.”
We talked a lot throughout the offseason about how the Giants played above expectations a season ago. We talked about those heightened expectations, the much tougher schedule, the idea that we might see improvement while not seeing a better record.
The start to the season has been unimaginably bad for the Giants. There have been some questionable decisions. There have been players not meeting expectations. When I think about the self-evaluation question, though, I can’t conclude that it’s because the GM and head coach thought this team was something that it is obviously not.