New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll likes to remind prying media members that every year is a new year. That what happened last year has no real bearing on what will happen in the current season.
Daboll has certainly been right about that. Sadly, they haven’t been right about much else. The Giants’ 2023 season has been the polar opposite of the 2022 season.
The Giants had a charmed 2022 season in many ways, finishing 9-7-1 and winning a playoff game for the first time since the 2011 Super Bowl season.
A year ago, it seemed like everything the Giants did worked. Go for 2 points to win a game Week 1 vs. the Tennessee Titans? That worked. Rest your players Week 18 vs. the Philadelphia Eagles? That worked out when the Giants beat the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs.
Daboll and his staff were lauded far and wide for coaching an under-manned team to an unexpectedly good season. Daboll earned Coach of the Year honors. Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka did the head-coaching interview circuit. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale got a head-coaching interview.
GM Joe Schoen and the front office were praised for turning over every rock and finding a number of players off the NFL scrap heap who had productive seasons.
It seems like nothing the Giants have done has turned out right.
There have been numerous questionable personnel decisions.
The money spent on Daniel Jones drew daggers from some quarters, and in the wake of his potentially “significant” knee injury on Sunday will likely draw more. We’re seeing why the Darren Waller move was a gamble, although it was a worthwhile one.
Even Sunday, leaving the inexperienced Tommy DeVito as the only backup for Jones, who was returning from a neck injury, was risky. Could an experienced quarterback like Matt Barkley, who is on the practice squad, have given the Giants a better chance to compete vs. Las Vegas?
Tyre Phillips. Not adding depth on the edge. Loading up on slot receivers who couldn’t find roster space. The list goes on. Why did they add a placekicker to the 53-man roster on Friday and leave him inactive Sunday for a guy they added to the practice squad the day before? I could go on.
The Giants have been questioned for their handling of some injuries, though that might not be entirely fair. Why wasn’t Andrew Thomas initially placed on short-term IR? Why did they wait until it helped cost them a game to move Graham Gano to IR? Why didn’t they add a veteran quarterback right after Jones’ neck injury?
There have been odd in-game happenings. Daboll flipping a tablet in Jones’ direction. Some in-game confusion from a veteran staff that has either cost the Giants timeouts or left them without enough players on the field. Daboll seeming to have abandoned that 2022 go for broke mentality, making conservative decisions like playing last week’s game vs. the New York Jets so cautiously and not going for a first down that would have won the game in the closing seconds. Some questionable game plans, especially on offense.
The Giants have seemed dysfunctional, particularly on offense, from the beginning. Poor play? Poor planning? Poor coaching? Some combination of all of that?
How did that happen just a year after the Giants’ front office and coaching staff were widely praised and it looked like the Giants were finally back on the path to NFL relevance?
I don’t have the answer.
Yes, every year is different. And with every development, every game, every embarrassing loss, the latest of which was Sunday’s 30-6 whooping by a Las Vegas Raiders team that fired its head coach on a short week and started a rookie fourth-round pick at quarterback, this one gets worse.
The Giants will have to make some changes for 2024. They might have to change the quarterback. At the least, they have to strongly consider drafting a potential Jones replacement. They probably have to move Evan Neal inside, or to another team. They have lots of free agent decisions to make. They have to add more difference makers. They have to figure out what to do about Saquon Barkley. They might have to take a hard look at some of the assistant coaches.
Here is one thing they cannot, or should not, do. Co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch simply cannot scratch their two-year itch and fire Daboll, perhaps sending Schoen packing with him since the coach and GM came to the Giants in what really amounted to a package deal in the winter of 2022.
Ever since letting Tom Coughlin go after the 2015 season, the Giants have more or less run in place. They haven’t gotten anywhere. Ben McAdoo flamed out after less than two years, and the Giants kicked GM Jerry Reese out the door with him. Pat Shurmur got two years and proved he wasn’t up to the task. Joe Judge got two years, and proved only that he is another failed wannabe Bill Belichick. GM Dave Gettleman had his key card revoked along with Judge.
All of that change and the Giants are still basically in the same place. They teased us in 2016 with a playoff berth, and then went right back to being a disaster. After the unexpected success of 2022, they are doing that again in 2023.
Thing is, the Giants simply can’t start the rebuild the organization merry-go-round again. They can’t blow things up and start over again. They keep trying that, and they are still stuck in the same place. When you keep changing ... and changing ... and changing everything you really wind up changing nothing. You never establish the consistency to actually build anything, you just keep tearing down and starting again.
At some point, good or bad, you have to let it ride. In my view, that is what the Giants have to do with Daboll and Schoen.
The first-time GM has been part of a number of head-scratching decisions this season. Still, the Giants don’t reach the playoffs a year ago without his excellent work. Schoen has assembled an excellent front office. One mystifyingly bad season shouldn’t be enough to get him sent packing.
Same with Daboll. We saw what the Giants can be with Daboll in 2022. Why Daboll hasn’t seemed to have that same aggressive mindset, why the Giants have seemed to lack the resilience, the get up off the floor and fight mentality they had a year ago, is difficult to understand.
As Mara warned way back in the offseason, it’s not hard to go from the beloved Bono to the belittled Bozo. Daboll, in the eyes of many, has done just that.
Still, kicking Schoen and Daboll to the curb and trying something new isn’t the answer. Maybe the promise of what they showed Giants fans a year ago was Fool’s Gold. Maybe it’s not.
The best path for the Giants is to give their current braintrust time to show us the answer.