For the fifth time in six years, the New York Giants are 0-2.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Giants were putrid in 2017, setting a franchise record for losses in a season. Ownership jettisoned the coach who led the team to their only postseason appearance since winning Super Bowl XLVI. They also got rid of the general manager who put together the rosters for the Giants’ most recent Super Bowl runs.
In comes Dave Gettleman, a former Giants executive tasked with Winning Now. Gettleman brought in Pat Shurmur, a former NFL head coach and quarterback guru who got the best seasons out of signal callers who don’t have Eli Manning’s pedigree and resume.
Both Gettleman and Shurmur made it very clear they believe the almost 38-year-old Manning can lead the Giants back to the upper echelon of the NFL in very short order. After two regular season games, their logic is being questioned.
The questions are especially pointed considering the Giants’ reward for the NFC’s worst record a season ago was the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Instead of selecting one of the five quarterbacks taken in the first round, the team went with running back Saquon Barkley.
There is no mistake in taking the player viewed by many as the draft’s best regardless of position. Gettleman and Shurmur fell in love with Barkley after seeing him at the NFL Combine. Once the Cleveland Browns selected Baker Mayfield first, Gettleman said there was never doubt he was going to take Barkley.
Barkley showed his big play ability on his first preseason snap. In his first regular season game, he had a 68-yard touchdown run that astounded his teammates, opponents, and anyone who watched a sports highlight show last week. Barkley followed it up by setting a franchise record for receptions by a rookie running back with 14 in Sunday night’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Barkley will be a playmaker in the NFL for years to come. The problem is that selecting him is going against Gettleman’s mantra of Winning Now, at least after the first two games. Barkley is not the final piece of a Super Bowl competing puzzle. The quarterback situation is of significantly more importance.
Manning has never missed a start to injury. In fact, the way his benching (and end of the second-longest consecutive start streak in NFL history by a quarterback) was handled all wrong. No. 10 has done everything asked of him since coming to the Giants and he doesn’t complain. At the same time, he has looked like a deer in headlights at moments this season.
The Giants’ so-called upgrade of the offensive line is not working, at least through two games. The O-line’s issues continued Sunday night with six sacks of Manning and the loss of center Jon Halapio for the season because of a broken ankle. It is unknown if these issues are a matter of continuity needing to be worked out or if Manning simply doesn’t trust the O-line to protect his backside and keep him upright.
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No player better exemplifies the problems of the offensive line than Ereck Flowers. Flowers is also symbolic of another Giants issue: the draft. Flowers was selected ninth overall in 2015 and has never played to the level of his draft position. In fact, the Giants have missed on many draft picks in the 2010s. They hit it right with Odell Beckham Jr., Landon Collins, and Sterling Shepard but there are more failures than successes.
Because of their inability to develop players through the draft, the Giants had to go the free agency route.
Some free agents (like Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, and Olivier Vernon when he’s not injured) have been game changers for the Giants even if they spent more money on them than they wanted to. The jury is still out Nate Solder, who has looked nothing like an offensive lineman who played in seven AFC Championship Games and four Super Bowls despite being the NFL’s highest paid O-lineman.
The Giants also have gone the trade route (i.e. Alec Ogletree’s really expensive contract) with questionable success.
In Gettleman and Shurmur’s defense, they inherited a marginal roster at best. If the Giants were any good last season, Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese would still be employed by the team. They may have underestimated the depth of the Giants’ roster issues and how long it would take to turn things around. The 2018 Giants are not last year’s Minnesota Vikings (Shurmur was their offensive coordinator) who came within a game of Super Bowl LII.
The hiring of a new general manager and head coach raised expectations to an unrealistic level, perhaps. Getting back Beckham after a season-ending broken ankle and the selection of Barkley only raised expectations even higher.
Of course, the Giants have 14 games remaining on the schedule. It is easy to forget this team had the NFL’s fifth-best record and was in the playoffs just two seasons ago. The team’s problems are magnified because of the 0-2 start but the Giants could easily be 2-0.
They weren’t outworked or outplayed in either loss. The Giants had a chance to beat Jacksonville on the game’s final possession and tie Dallas in the closing moments. The 0-2 start would be easier to accept if they were blown out of the stadium in both games, if they were as terrible as the analysts (both studio and armchair) believe they are.
The truth is the Giants have great players on both sides of the ball. The problem is that they haven’t done anything, except set a franchise record for losses and get the brakes beaten off them at Lambeau Field in their lone playoff appearance.
There are only two players remaining on the roster from Super Bowl XLVI. As time goes on if management and coaching are derelict, Giants fans could become like fans of the team that made Big Blue look might miniscule Sunday night: reminiscing about the good ol’ days when they won championships, when years of Super Bowl drought turns into decades.
The Giants are 0-2 yet again. Questions and criticism are bound to happen because the team is better than their record would indicate. If the losing continues, the questions and criticism will only grow. If the Giants right the ship and make it to the playoffs, all the questions and criticism (including this article) will sound pretty bleepin’ stupid.
The Giants have issues, there is no doubt about it. However, no one really knows anything after two regular season games. The prudent move would be to see how this plays out and revisit in a few weeks…but what fun would that be?
– Curtis Rawls is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL, the New York Giants, and the NBA. Please like and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Twitter. Curtis can be followed on Twitter @CuRawls203.