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The Problem With the New York Giants

After going 12-36 in the last three seasons, it’s time to ask and answer the tough question. What’s wrong with the New York Giants?

Another NFL postseason is underway and the New York Giants are on the outside looking in after another unimpressive season. The Giants stand with a record of 4-12 heading into the final game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles at home. Over the past three seasons, New York has a total record of 12-36 with a no better season record of 5-11 in that span. Even more so, in the now eight seasons since they won the Super Bowl, the Giants have made the playoffs only once and had a record above .500 twice. Putting it lightly, the New York Football Giants have been on an awful run for a while now.

So it’s time to ask the million dollar question. What went wrong? How can a franchise that’s known as one of the most historic franchises in football and a team won a Super Bowl completely fall off a cliff? The answer is simple. Over the past eight seasons, the New York Giants have been a very conservative and backward thinking organization. They’ve made decisions and hires based on comfort and familiarity with the organization rather than actual conviction and credentials. Furthermore, they’ve stuck with those hires much longer than they should’ve. What exactly does that mean? Let’s dive into the past several seasons of New York Giants football to find out.

The Resignation of Tom Coughlin & the Hiring of Ben McAdoo

What better place to start breaking this down than where this all really started? That is in the 2015-16 season and the resigning of longtime and hall of fame head coach Tom Coughlin. After three straight losing seasons, Coughlin’s days with the Giants were numbered. You got the feeling that he was losing his once strict demeanor in the Giants locker room. It was time to find a new voice to lead the New York Giants.

The problem arose with how the Giants moved on from Coughlin. A head coaching change as drastic as this should’ve signaled change for the whole organization. After all, general manager Jerry Reese was just as much, if not more to blame for the Giants losing seasons than Coughlin. Reese’s poor drafting history ultimately left Coughlin without much talent to work with. However, Reese kept his job and only Coughlin was given the boot.

To make matters worse, not only did the front office remain the same, the coaching staff did as well. The Giants hired then offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to be the next head coach. In a time where there was supposed to be change, moving on from Coughlin was the only real change the Giants made. First of all, using Coughlin as a scapegoat like the Giants did is a very unfair way to treat a franchise icon such as him.

Second and more importantly, hiring in-house like the Giants did with McAdoo is exactly the type of move that has gotten the Giants into the situation they are today. Many other more qualified candidates for the job were available such as Sean Payton, Doug Marrone, Mike Smith, and Teryl Austin. Instead, the Giants chose the safe route and hired McAdoo, who was ultimately fired after less than two seasons.

The Hiring of Dave Gettleman

Along with Ben McAdoo, Jerry Reese was also fired at the same time as the former. Meaning the Giants would be looking to hire their next general manager. This was another chance for CEO John Mara to truly start over and give his organization the breath of fresh air it desperately needed. Instead, the Giants hired Dave Gettleman, who was their pro personnel director from 1999 to 2011. The Carolina Panthers then hired Gettleman in 2013 to be their general manager. Carolina ended up firing him four years later in the summer of 2017.

The list of questionable moves that Gettleman has made in his two years as Giants GM is a long one. From the signings of Nate Solder and Jonathan Stewart, to trading for Alec Ogeltree, to moving on from Landon Collins and Odell Beckham Jr. while getting minimal in return. Even the drafting of superstar running back Saquon Barkley has some question marks surrounding it. Why would you spend the second overall pick in the draft on a non-premium position when you needed a quarterback and weren’t close to contending?

So after two seasons finishing with nine total wins, both Gettleman’s and head coach Pat Shurmur’s job status were in question. Nether of them have done a good job in their two years on the job. It was another opportunity for Mara to make the wholesale changes necessary. Instead, the Giants only fired Shurmur and retained Gettleman, making the same mistake they made with Coughlin and Reese. When you fire a head coach and bring back a general manager on the hot seat, it rarely ends well.

The Hiring of Joe Judge

This past Thursday, Jan. 9, 2019, the Giants introduced Joe Judge as their next head coach and overall, the hiring is both a positive and a negative. Starting with the positive, it’s hard to not like Judge by himself as a hire when you look at his resume and body of work. First and foremost, unlike Ben McAdoo and Dave Gettleman, Joe Judge is an outside the box hire. Meaning the Giants didn’t hire an inferior candidate because of previous ties to the organization. The Giants hired him after reportedly being blown away by him during his interview. The Giants hired him based on what they believe he’ll bring to the table as a head coach. He’s 38 years old, making him the third youngest head coach in the NFL, bringing a much needed younger voice to the team.

One criticism of Joe Judge is his lack of experience. Not only has he never served as a head coach, he’s never been an offensive or defensive coordinator. Joe Judge has worked primarily with special teams. He was a special teams assistant with Alabama from 2009 to 2011 and with the Patriots from 2012 to 2014. Last but not least, he was the Patriots special team coordinator from 2015 to 2019.

However, in many ways, being a special teams coordinator is better preparation for a head coach than being an offensive or defensive coordinator. With the latter, your only coaching one side of the ball, offense or defense. With the former, you’re coaching both sides and familiarize yourself with all the players, similar to what you will be doing as a head coach. Furthermore, having worked with Alabama and the Patriots, he’s worked under some of the greatest head coaches of all time in Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, both of which had high praise for the Giants new head coach.

The biggest thing thing to like about Joe Judge is his overall demeanor and background. One big problem that both Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur shared was their ability, or lack-thereof, handling the New York media. McAdoo admited he grew up seeing the media as an enemy. Pat Shurmur had several incidents with the Cleveland media back when he was the head coach of the Browns. When you take two individuals like them and make them a head coach in the biggest media market in the world, it’s a recipe for disaster. Joe Judge, however, showed in his introductory press conference that he’s not that type. He handled the media brilliantly, giving answers and quotes that inspired life in the Giants fanbase.

Still Behind the Times

With all the positives of Judge we’ve just went over, what could the negatives be? Turns out, it’s not necessarily about Joe Judge at all. It’s about John Mara and Dave Gettleman and how they continue to run football operations. While Judge does bring some new life to the Giants, he also brings a lot of the same “old-school” mentality that they cannot get away from. Now being “old-school” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you still have to be able to adjust and adapt when necessary. The Giants haven’t been able to do that, as shown by Gettleman’s comments questioning the modern NFL as a passing league.

To add another layer to the story, we have to look at who was thought to have been the favorite for the Giants job going into the process. That would be former Baylor now Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule. Rhule had been targeted by NFL teams for a long time following his work at Temple and Baylor Universities. He’s widely regarded as a new age program builder after turning both those programs around. He was exactly the type of modern mind the Giants needed to lead them into a new era. Following his interview with the Carolina Panthers, he was offered a seven year, $60 million contract before his interview with the Giants. Rhule’s agent called the Giants to see if they wanted to match, but the Giants declined.

Now at first glance you may say that the Giants were smart to not pay a coach with minimal NFL experience that much money. First of all, between Steve Tisch and John Mara, the Giants are worth an estimated $3.2 billion. Second and more importantly, the salary for the head coach does NOT count towards the salary cap. If they really believed that Rhule was their guy, could they really not afford to overpay for him?

However, there’s one key factor that has to be mentioned. One of the things that Matt Rhule desired in a NFL head coaching job was a state of the art sports science center. A center where all types of football analytics and research are available. The Carolina Panthers were able to offer Matt Rhule the opportunity to build that program. The Giants, on the other hand, were not. In fact, when Dave Gettleman discussed the Giants getting deeper into the analytics, he said they they hired “four computer folks.” If that doesn’t speak volumes of how behind the Giants are with the times, nothing will.

Throughout the years, the Giants have had multiple scapegoats for their lack of success. From Tom Coughlin to Ben McAdoo to Jerry Reese to Eli Manning, and now to Pat Shurmur. While all of them were definitely issues, the real problem is in fact John Mara. He’s made bad hires based on familiarity with the organization rather than credentials. He’s kept bad general managers in Jerry Reese and Dave Gettleman longer than he should. But most importantly, he’s constantly refused to get out of his comfort zone and make the wholesale changes the Giants desperately need to get with the times. And until he does, it will make the Giants rebuild that much harder.

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New York & New Jersey Sports Staff Writer, New Jersey Jackals Beat Writer


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