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Big Blue View mailbag: Wink Martindale, MIke Kafka, QB situation, more

The mail’s here!

Steve Alessandrini asks: I know you’ve encouraged us to move on from the Wink-Daboll drama and I had for the most part. The recent report of him joining Michigan though did get me wondering if the fact that Wink didn’t land another NFL job might be an indication that folks around the league were a bit wary of him and felt he was more responsible for the fractured relationship than had been portrayed by many in the media who took his departure as an opportunity to really paint Daboll in a bad light. I am sure both played a part but it is interesting that Jacksonville, Philly, Dallas and several others passed. What are your thoughts?

Ed says: Steve, my view is that of course teams were going to be a bit leery of Martindale after what happened with the Giants. The truth of what happened between Martindale and Brian Daboll is probably somewhere in the middle, and there is likely some blame on both sides.

Still, it was an ugly exit for Martindale. His exit from the Baltimore Ravens was also not without some discussion of discord between Martindale and John Harbaugh. Martindale is good at what he does with defenses, no doubt. Part of the job is getting along with your bosses, though.

A job as defensive coordinator for the defending collegiate national champions is nothing to snicker at. Still, it is the first time Martindale has coached at the college level since 2003. I think that’s telling in regards to his reputation. I don’t know how it can’t be.

Chris Chianese asks: Ed, would the NYG shy away from QB Penix because he is a lefthander and the critical position of RT is weak for the G’s?

What do you make of the “promotion” of Kafka to Assistant HC? Is Daboll and Schoen adding to his title to keep teams from being able to offer him a lateral OC job? Or is there more to it than meets the eye?

Ed says: Chris, nice job sneaking in two quick questions.

On Penix, I don’t think being left-handed would have anything to do with it if they have a chance to draft Penix and choose not to. I think it would be about Penix’s injury history, the idea that Penix really doesn’t give you much in the quarterback run game and, to be honest, the more I watch Penix the more I worry about his accuracy. To me eyes, he misses a lot of easy throws. What do the Giants think? We’ll find out.

On the new titles for Kafka, Shea Tierney and Jerome Henderson, people are going to spin that according to whatever narrative they believe in. There are probably a few things at play.

For Henderson, he was a candidate for the defensive coordinator job and obviously didn’t get it. He is a really good coach, though, and I’m sure the Giants don’t want to lose him. This gives him something.

For Tierney, Daboll sees him as an up-and-coming offensive coach. It puts more on his plate and is another step in his progression.

Kafka is perhaps more complicated. I have no inside information on the reason for the move, what I’m about to offer is only my educated guess. I really don’t think the Giants wanted to deal with the optics of replacing all three coordinators this offseason. That had to be part of why they didn’t let him interview for offensive coordinator in Seattle.

I also don’t know exactly how much tension there was last year between Kafka and Daboll, but I’m sure there was some. That’s pretty natural. Daboll is an offensive-minded coach. The Giants didn’t win enough. The biggest reason they didn’t win enough? The offense was bad. So, nobody on that side of the ball was going to be all smiles.

Maybe ‘assistant head coach’ is just a fancy title. Maybe it’s just a way to keep other teams away from Kafka for the time being. Maybe it just gives the Giants an excuse to give Kafka a raise (everybody loves to get a raise!). Maybe Daboll and the Giants actually shift some daily responsibilities to Kafka that help the head coach. If nothing else, the title probably helps Kafka inch closer to his goal of becoming a head coach.

Daniel Nugent asks: My question is in regards to the title of Assistant Head Coach. With Kafka now getting the title, is it something that teams give to make their coaches feel more important or does it come with actual higher job responsibility’s? If it is so much more important, why is it usually not a stand alone job as opposed to being a coordinator/assistant head coach.

Ed says: Daniel, I touched on this in the first answer. In reality, the bumped up titles for Kafka, Henderson and Tierney is probably a big nothing-burger. A fancy title to justify a raise. It’s not usually a stand-alone job because it’s not usually a real job. It’s really just a title.

Leslie Frazier got hired in Seattle as assistant head coach. He’s there simply to be a sounding board for a rookie head coach in Mike MacDonald, and creating that spot was a good way for the Seahawks to bring in a veteran coach who could help their new head coach grow into the job.

Anthony Viola asks: There is constant debate on BBV as to how much involvement John Mara has on day-to-day decisions/operations. Obviously, he has “final say” authority, but how much input does he have as to how the GM and HC navigate their jobs and on the direction of the Giants during a given season?

In your opinion, and based on what you see and hear (I realize that you are not “in the room”), what is your opinion as to the input or influence that John Mara has on the Giants’ decision making?

Ed says: Anthony, John Mara’s opinion will always matter. Although he is removed from the day-to-day operation, so will that of Steve Tisch. Their families each own 50% of the team.

I think Mara was hurt a couple of years ago by the accusations that he and his family were too involved in the football decisions, and too unwilling to listen to anyone outside the Giants’ hemisphere.

In hiring Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll, Mara did finally go outside the organization for a leadership team. I think he has tried to step back and give them a wide berth to do what they think is right.

Schoen was allowed to hire the coach he wanted. He was allowed to reshape the front office, removing or demoting some people who had been entrenched for a long time.

I think the handling of Saquon Barkley’s contract would have gone differently if Mara was calling that shot. The report was that Barkley and the Giants only a million or two apart last offseason. Mara loves Barkley, and could easily have ordered Schoen to just pay the difference and get a deal done. Didn’t happen.

That said, Schoen is operating with the knowledge of how the owner feels about Barkley. He is operating with the knowledge of how the owner feels about Daniel Jones. We may not, but I’m sure Mara knows the truth of the Daboll-Wink Martindale relationship and how Daboll treats his coaches.

I don’t believe Mara is pulling the strings. I think Schoen has autonomy, but that he also knows that if and when he makes decisions that the owner might not feel great about he better be right. Otherwise, he won’t have a job.

Michael D’Ambrosio asks: I have a hypothetical scenario that I’d like your take on.

- The Giants take a QB in the first round of this draft.

- DJ starts, stays healthy, and repeats his success from 2022.

I feel as if we’re all assuming DJ stays on the team but fails at QB in ‘24, but what if they end the season with a first round pick on the bench, and a starter in Jones that did everything asked of him?

Ed says: So, what’s wrong with that, Michael? That seems like a good problem to have, and one that could net the Giants some useful draft capital.

When the Kansas City Chiefs were in that spot with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes after the 2017 season, they traded Smith to the Washington Football Team for a third-round pick. Smith was 33. Daniel Jones will be 27 this season. I would guess that if Jones plays well in 2024 and the Giants reach the playoffs they could get that much in a trade.

Derick Gross asks: Ed, Brian Daboll is credited with developing Josh Allen and Tommy DeVito (and even Daniel Jones). The best way to maximize Daboll’s skill in developing a quarterback would be to draft someone who is relatively undervalued right now based on how Daboll could help him improve. Shouldn’t we spend a second- or third-round pick on a player like Michael Pratt or Spencer Rattler instead of trading up for a highly-regarded QB prospect? The #6 draft pick could be used on a premium prospect at a position the Giants feel less able to improve. Shouldn’t we be talking more about strategically drafting players the coaches can improve, and spending premium draft/free agency capital on positions this particular coaching staff has a harder time developing?

Ed says: Derick, the idea of the Giants taking a quarterback like Rattler or Pratt on Day 2 or early on Day 3 is one that is not uncommon. I did it in my mock draft last Sunday. I see talk about that idea more and more, and I understand it.

If Jayden Daniels or Drake Maye falls to No. 6, I could fully support the idea of taking a quarterback at No. 6. I would not be in favor of taking Bo Nix, J.J. McCarthy or Michael Penix this early. Considering that some of the chatter is that it could cost three first-round picks, maybe more, to move up into the top three to guarantee a quarterback, I’m not in favor of that, either. The Giants need too many other things to give up that much.

They do need to add to the quarterback room. Matt Miller of ESPN said recently the talk he’s hearing is about the Giants adding a veteran like Jacoby Brissett. Even if they do that, I’m fine with a third- or fourth-round pick being used on a guy like Rattler. Why not take the chance? Look around the NFL. There are a lot of quarterbacks who weren’t drafted in Round 1 playing good football. If it doesn’t pan out, no harm. Take another swing.

As for positions the coaching staff has a harder time developing, I’m not really sure where you are going with that. To me, it’s just about using your premium picks in the best possible way.

Michael Aquilino asks: Daniel Jones had a big turnover problem in 2021. When Daboll came in as coach, he really emphasized ball security. Early in the 2022 season, he had that sideline outburst when Jones threw that interception in the end zone.

Could you talk about the possible consequences of this really strong emphasis on ball security by an emotional and overbearing head coach? Could Jones have just gotten into the habit of playing super conservatively? Maybe that’s why he doesn’t look down field as much as he should. Maybe that’s why he holds onto the ball so long, waiting until a receiver is “definitely” open. Maybe that’s why he turns to the run too soon, because you can’t throw an interception if you run. Maybe that’s why he shies away from throwing passes with anticipation because if he does throw with anticipation then he’s taking a small risk that the receiver won’t actually wind up where he’s anticipating.

Daboll is obviously a great offensive coach. However, although his relationship with Jones may be good on the surface, some actions Daboll took early on maybe caused his relationship with Jones to be poor below the surface. Now, no matter what Daboll says, the original strong emphasis on “ball security” will continue to affect Jones’ play.

I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Ed says: Michael, I think you have your timeline and your head coaches confused.

It was the combination of Joe Judge and Jason Garrett who hammered Jones about ball security. In 2021, Jones threw only seven interceptions and fumbled just seven times, both career-lows at the time. That was Judge’s second season.

I specifically remember in Daboll’s first training camp that he talked about wanting Jones to play freely and let the ball go.

Yes, Daboll has gotten openly angry a couple of times over mistakes Jones has made. It seems to me, though, that Jones didn’t go into a shell because of it in 2022. He played the best football of his career.

There were a ton of issues with the Giants’ offense in 2023, but I don’t think one of them was Jones being afraid to make a mistake because Daboll would yell at him. Mostly, I think Jones was afraid of getting killed courtesy of an awful offensive line.

Wally Cirafesi asks: It seems crazy to me to think of selecting WR in round one. It’s so obvious they are going nowhere with out a great upgrade on the OL. If they don’t nothing else matters on O. What’s more there will be some excellent WR available at top of round 2. If we don’t go into 2024 with a solid OL then it’s time to move on from this GM. Your thoughts, Ed?

Ed says: Wally, why is it crazy? We don’t know whether the Giants will move Evan Neal from tackle to guard in 2024. If they are leaving him at tackle, then you don’t draft a tackle at No. 6. There are no pure guards in the discussion for being picked in the top half of Round 1, so that isn’t an option.

Remember that great Diehl-Seubert-O’Hara-Snee-McKenzie offensive line? The highest draft pick on that line was Chris Snee, a second-rounder. Shaun O’Hara and Richie Seubert were undrafted players. Kareem McKenzie a third-round pick by the Jets. David Diehl was a fifth-round pick. Point is, you don’t need all first-round picks to have a good line.

Also, free agency comes before the draft and we don’t know what the Giants will do there.

Yes, the Giants need to improve the offensive line. That doesn’t mean put blinders on and just do that.

The way this draft appears to shape up, if there isn’t a quarterback the Giants want at No. 6 wide receiver is an obvious possibility. Especially if Neal is going to be given one more chance at tackle. A game-changing wide receiver is also a need, and there should be one available.

Improving the line is critical — I say that over and over. That doesn’t mean they absolutely have to use their first-round pick on that position.

John Foti asks: Loved your Mock Draft 1.0. I’d sign up for that right now. First, I would not trade down out of the top 10. I think the Giants can hit a home run at receiver, edge or offensive tackle at their current position. I think the 40 times at the combine will settle the rankings of the top three receivers. I’d love to get Powers-Johnson in the second round. As much as the talk swirls around the tackles, I think the Giants have been weak between the tackles for a long time and just can’t run inside due to a lack of interior power. I think improving on the interior is just as important as improving at right tackle. What are your thoughts?

Ed says: John, reality is improvement is needed at both guard and right tackle. For that matter, the Giants need center John Michael Schmitz to play better in Year 2, as well.

Dan Hatman of The Scouting Academy, who knows more football than I ever will, says to have a really good offensive line you need three studs regardless of position and two adequate/capable players to fill the other spots. I buy that. The Giants have Andrew Thomas. Schmitz might be the second stud if he develops. Who is the third going to be? The Giants hoped it would be Evan Neal. Now, I think they would settle for him landing in the adequate/capable category.

Doctor Geskie asks: Do you think the perception of the Giants around the league has shifted strongly in a bad way after their handling of Wink? Was it extremely immature (some high school locker stuff) to fire his right hand men and piss him off more to force him out? Is that all on Daboll? Will potential coaches stay away from working with him after that mess and him being on the hot seat now? Was the GM involved in that horrible sequence? Was ownership? That would be even worse? Thanks guys and if most of your answers are yes would Coughlin ever come back and take on head of football ops?

Ed says: Doc, since you sent in this question the Giants have hired a defensive coordinator and a tight ends coach. The Daboll-Martindale thing was always going to be combustible. They are two alpha personalities with strong opinions. It was either going to be glorious or ghastly. We know which way it ended up.

Daboll was perfectly within his rights to fire two men who did not see him as their boss. From the reporting they saw Martindale as their boss, and Martindale saw John Mara, not Daboll, as his boss. Can’t function that way. The head coach is the HEAD COACH.

No, I don’t think the personality stuff is a major issue for guys in looking at the Giants as a place to work. I doubt there is an assistant coach in the league who hasn’t been yelled at by a head coach. What can be an issue is the perception that Daboll might be on the hot seat in Year 3. Being an assistant coach in the NFL is a vagabond existence where guys change jobs — and consequently have to move their families — every couple of years. If a guy can find a place where he knows there will be stability for two or three years he is going to choose that over a place where he knows he might be looking for work again in a year.

As for Tom Coughlin, no I don’t think he would come back in a front office role. That didn’t work out for him in Jacksonville, largely because he approached it like a coach. That’s what he is. I interviewed him a few months ago and he said he would still love to be in the game — as a head coach. He is 77 years old, though, and I don’t think that’s in the cards.

Donal Brennan asks: You’ve spoken previously about the Giants unwillingness to admit a mistake and how much it’s hindered them over the past number of years. I’ve always agreed with you that the team has been too slow to move on from sunk costs but it’s more based on own my opinion and not backed up with any facts. My first question then becomes, is there a way of actually showing how bad the Giants have been in this area and how much it’s held them back vs. the rest of the league?

My second question is specifically on Jones as a sunk cost (which IMO he is at this point). Per Over the Cap, the Giants would save $13,790,000 against the cap by trading him pre-June. This saving would be worth a Tyrod Taylor level QB, a starting level G/T in free agency along with the additional cap space in 2025. If I’m the Giants and a team offers me even a late round pick swap, I absolutely take that for Jones at this point but as per my first question I don’t think the Giants will admit this mistake. So my question is really a 2 parter: a) do you think there would be any trade market for Jones and if so what would his value be? and b) do you think the Giants would even consider the possibility of trading Jones this offseason?

Ed says: Donal, in terms of your first question the only instance I can really think of where I have talked about that is with Ereck Flowers. It’s not fair to hold that against this regime — that’s two GM’s ago. All I have said is that I hope if the Giants leave Evan Neal at right tackle it isn’t because Joe Schoen stubbornly wants to be right.

I do want to clarify your Daniel Jones question. I am not sure how you are reading Over The Cap’s numbers. There is no savings for the Giants if they move on from Jones this offseason. He carries a $47.105 million cap hit. If they trade/cut him before June 1 that escalates to $69.315 million. So, it costs them more than $22 million extra. As a post-June 1 cut it is still a $47.105 million cap hit with no cap savings.

He is not being traded this offseason. Not with the Giants having to swallow that kind of money, and with uncertainty around his knee injury.