Fire GM Joe Schoen! Fire head coach Brian Daboll! Daniel Jones sucks! Tank for Caleb Williams! Evan Neal should never start another game! 67-year-old Brad Benson is probably still a better guard than Mark Glowinski! Kayvon Thibodeaux is a bust! John Michael Schmitz stinks!
Has everyone gotten the Week 1 Monday morning overreactions out of their systems? I hope so.
Schoen isn’t getting fired, and the notion is ridiculous. He is an excellent young general manager who has the franchise pointed in the right direction. Will every decision he makes be right? No. That’s impossible.
Daboll didn’t suddenly become a terrible coach. He made a mistake with his handling of Jones on Sunday night. He made a mistake last year having Adoree’ Jackson return punts. All human beings make mistakes. Daboll is an excellent head coach the entire organization believes in. Giants’ fans should hope he is the head coach for a long time.
Jones doesn’t suck, and the Giants shouldn’t tank for Williams. Jones had a poor game while playing under tremendous duress. There might be better options than Glowinski, but he’s a decent veteran who probably just played the worst game of his career. Neal? Last year wasn’t good. Sunday wasn’t better. What realistic option do the Giants have, though, other than to let him keep playing for now and seeing if he can figure it out?
Now that we have gotten past all of that silliness, let’s try to look realistically at the Giants.
What did we really learn on Sunday?
I think we learned a few things.
The Giants aren’t all grown up yet
We focused a lot during the offseason on the idea of progression vs. regression — which would the Giants show in 2023?
That was, and is still, a legitimate question. Perhaps the better question, though, was whether or not the Giants could build on their unlikely 2022 success and show in 2023 that they were moving closer to becoming one of the NFL’s ‘big boys.’
A 12th loss in 13 tries to one of those big boys, the Dallas Cowboys, especially in an embarrassing blowout that was over when it reached 16-0 before the game was 13 minutes old, says probably not.
The Giants acted during the offseason like a team that expected to ascend. They gave Daniel Jones a relatively big contract. They traded for Darren Waller. They signed Bobby Okereke. They traded for Isaiah Simmons. They traded for Boogie Basham. They gave Dexter Lawrence and Andrew Thomas big money.
The Giants went all-in on last year, believing that the foundation for success was in place and they just needed to add pieces to it. Sunday stung so much because the Giants believed they were beyond being embarrassed like that, and had done enough to take a step forward.
Sunday’s result certainly calls all of that into question.
The NFL’s best teams — the Cowboys (yes, gulp!), the Philadelphia Eagles, the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Francisco 49ers, the Buffalo Bills, the Miami Dolphins among them — didn’t get there overnight. After a decade of bad football, the Giants won’t, either.
Games are still won in the trenches
Yes, the NFL is a passing league. Yes, the quarterbacks, wide receivers and sometimes the running backs get the glory (even if running backs don’t get the paychecks). Games, though, are still generally decided by the behemoths at the line of scrimmage — the offensive linemen and the defensive front seven.
Sunday against the Cowboys, the Giants did not measure up on either side. You have likely seen the numbers. While Jones was being turned into one Giant bruise by the Cowboys (7 sacks, 12 hits, a bunch of scrambles to avoid sacks), Dak Prescott was virtually untouched. Never sacked, hit just three times in 24 dropbacks. Dallas has 15 sacks of Giants quarterbacks to zero for New York in the last three meetings.
We know that the problem for the Giants is really the right side of the offensive line. Seventeen pressures allowed from that side, eight by guard Mark Glowinski and nine by tackle Evan Neal, don’t lie. BBV’s Nick Falato did a great job breaking down the issues Glowinski and Neal had on Sunday.
We will discuss potential personnel changes a bit later. We knew, though, that the pass protection from the right side of the line was a potential trouble spot for the Giants in 2023. It was a problem last season, and the same two players are in those spots this season.
I don’t think we learned anything about the line on Sunday that we didn’t already know. We knew Glowinski was a sub-par pass protector, and we already know it will be a shocker if this isn’t his last year as a Giant. We knew Neal had to play better than last year for the line to be better.
One thing I do have to acknowledge about Neal. I believe Falato is likely correct in his analysis that Neal might not be as athletic as we thought coming out of Alabama. His footwork, balance, and ability to re-direct don’t look like a player who is a smooth athlete. Can he trust his technique enough to overcome those things?
Defensive front seven
As creative as defensive coordinator Wink Martindale can be in scheming pressure, sometimes players just have to win. Dexter Lawrence was his typical dominant self on Sunday. Leonard Williams, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari, and Isaiah Simmons? As quiet as church mice. Not a single pressure from any of them.
Let’s be realistic. Thibodeaux is not Micah Parsons. Ojulari is not Von Miller. They are, though, highly-drafted, talented, athletic edge defenders who need to be impact players. I think they both will be, but to get there you have to make plays against the good teams, not just the mediocre ones.
Thibodeaux, in particular, needs to give the Giants more. Calling him a bust right now is silly, but the Giants can’t compete with good teams unless their supposed impact players actually make an impact. Thibodeaux has to be one of them.
More NFL games are lost than won
How did the Giants win many of their games last season? By grinding them out, keeping games close, not turning the ball over or committing ill-timed, costly penalties. They hung around, then pounced on late-game mistakes by their opponents.
What happened Sunday? The halftime score was 26-0, and 20 of those Dallas points were a direct result of mistakes by the Giants.
- The Giants reached the Dallas 8-yard line on their opening drive. From there, they went false start penalty, bad shotgun snap, blocked field returned for a touchdown. Instead of potentially being ahead 7-0, they were down 6-0. A 13-point swing.
- Trailing 9-0 and facing a hopeless third-and-19, Jones dumps a harmless pass to Saquon Barkley. Trevon Diggs separates the ball from Barkley, the Cowboys return the ‘interception’ for a touchdown. It’s 16-0. The game is over.
- Early in the second quarter, a flustered Jones forgets he’s not Patrick Mahomes and throws an ill-advised across his body, against the grain pass that is picked off by Stephon Gilmore at the giants’ 38-yard line. Dallas capitalizes a few plays later with a touchdown to make the score 26-0.
Talk about the ‘talent gap’ all you want. The Giants dug that 26-0 hole with their own mistakes. They have to hope that type of sloppy performance was a one-time thing.
What happens now?
This is a challenge for Daboll. The Giants are shell-shocked. They didn’t expect the kind of beatdown they were given on Sunday, humiliated in front of a national TV audience. Their flaws were not only exposed, but ripped wide open for everyone to feast on.
Daboll was NFL Coach of the Year in 2022. He earned it. His team looked awful on Sunday, and he consequently earned a fair share of criticism from that. He has work to do.
Daboll said the Giants have to look at Sunday, “own it,” then move on.
For me, one of the hallmarks of great coaches is consistency. Can they pull a struggling team up by the bootstraps and get them pointed in the right direction?
Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers does this year after year. In 17 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tomlin has never experienced a losing year. Some of these Steelers teams weren’t good, yet Tomlin always seems to maximize what he had.
Former Giants coach Tom Coughlin is remembered for his two Super Bowl titles. Coughlin, though, did some of his best work when the Giants were terrible. In 2013, he took an 0-6 Giants team to a respectable 7-9. Even those Super Bowl titles Coughlin won were with teams who did more than most thought they were capable of.
The psychology of the job is one thing. Daboll will do everything he can to address that, and get his team to remember that they 16 more opportunities to get things right.
What will Daboll and the Giants do about some of the flaws Dallas exploited?
A year ago, the Giants quickly moved on from players like wide receivers Kenny Golladay and David Sills, as well as linebackers Austin Calitro and Tae Crowder when it became apparent those players could not do the job.
Are there personnel changes that can, and should, be made this year?
“We evaluate the tape, I’d say, with a critical eye starting with us as a staff first and the players and then if – not to go back into last year, but you sit down as a coaching staff during the week,” Daboll said. “Obviously, you take into account what happened the previous game and you have difficult discussions if you need to have them and then try to make the best decision you can for the team based off of – you do look at performance in training camp, no question about it, but you also are real with performance in the game, so I’d say it’s probably a little bit of both and at the end of the day you’ve got to make the decision you think is going to help your team.”
Maybe there will be moves. It isn’t clear, though, what those could be.
There are calls from the fan base for the Giants to sign Pugh to take over for Glowinski. There are several problems with that scenario, as I explained in the YouTube clip above.
Pugh is 33. He is coming off a major knee injury. He just began working out for teams in August. Even if he signed, he told me a couple of weeks ago that he would need a ramp-up period of a few weeks before he would be comfortable playing in a game. So, even if he signed this week the earliest he might be able to play is Week 4. And, that might be optimistic.
Plus, do we know for certain that coming off a torn ACL, with no spring or summer practice that Pugh is better than anything the Giants have? There is no guarantee of that.
Maybe the Giants give Marcus McKethan a chance, but the fifth-round pick missed all of last season with a torn ACL and played a handful of snaps in one preseason game. He would be a complete unknown.
Josh Ezeudu? Maybe, but he might have to play left tackle on Sunday if Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart can’t go. Shane Lemieux? The Giants preferred to have the untested McKethan active against Dallas.
Replacing Neal isn’t really an option, either. Especially with the health of Thomas and Peart in question. Again, Ezeudu may have to play left tackle. Jalen Mayfield and Jaylon Thomas are on the practice squad, but are those better options? No.
For now at least, the Giants likely have to continue to give Neal opportunities to see if he can improve from last season. Maybe he will prove that he can’t. In that case, he probably plays right guard in 2024 after the Giants draft or sign a replacement.
On defense, rookie cornerback Tre Hawkins III committed a couple of penalties against the Cowboys. Those are the type of “hiccups” Martindale spoke about with rookie cornerbacks. I don’t think the Giants are in a great position to abandon the plan to start Hawkins, nor do I think they should after one game with mixed results.
Bottom line is there aren’t a lot of obvious, easy changes the Giants can make.