Team Giants


Special Report

Sent: 01-17-17

Dave Klein was the Giants' beat writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls. Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.


By Dave Klein
While four teams get ready to play for Super Bowl invitations on Sunday (two will get letters in the mail, two others will be nothing but good wishes), the Giants are taking all the time they need to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.

Problem is, they don't know what went wrong, because it started to go wrong prior to the beginning of the 2016 season.

No, this doesn't have anything to do with the replacing of head coach Tom Coughlin with Ben McAdoo. In the mind of co-owner John Mara, it was time to make that move. Coughlin, despite the two Super Bowl championships and a 110-93 overall regular season record, had put together four consecutive non-playoff seasons and his final two years were identical 6-10 twins.

That's not good enough, and we are sure that Mara realized Coughlin's team was aging and Coughlin's general manager hadn't done a very good job personnel-wise and, frankly, the front office had slumped in its effectiveness.

But it was time for Coughlin to go, and replacing him with McAdoo didn't do anything to improve the offensive line, or the running backs, and it certainly didn't stop quarterback Eli Manning from aging.

So the team went into the season with faults that were not cured by the draft or the unprecedented foray into the world of veteran free agents, where the general manager spent close to $200 million - on defensive guys.

Fine, all well and good, and the defense was definitely better. How do you think the team managed its 11-5 record? And what do you think the problem was when the Giants were absolutely embarrassed by the Green Bay Packers (one of the teams still playing, by the way) in the first playoff weekend?

So now it's time for the general manager to address the offense. The line is highly offensive, one might say. Left tackle Ereck Flowers, a first-round draft pick in 2015, cannot play left tackle. There are guys on that line who started for no earthly reason other than that there wasn't anybody better. Their names are John Jerry, Bobby Hart and Marshall Newhouse. No good, no future, no hope for improvement.

The running game finally evolved into the use of a rookie, Paul Perkins, as the starter. Stop with the predictions of future success for Rashad Jennings, because it won't happen. Orleans Darkwa, Bobby Rainey and a retread named Shane Vereen (signed from New England, yet another team still playing) are fringe players at best. Perkins might have a chance but the others - yes, including Jennings - don't.

Now, there is an old coaches' mantra that goes something like this: "If you can't block, then you can't run." Makes sense, no? But there is also this - on a team with a great offensive line (let's say Dallas), only Perkins might have a chance at greatness. On a line with such as Jerry and Newhouse, there was no chance to move the ball with any effectiveness at all.

So the general manager's job, when the free agent festival begins March 9, is to find offensive linemen and running backs. Oh, there's the need for a tight end, too, but it's not quite as desperate as the line and the rushers. You can find a tight end in the draft, assuming you know where to look, and since the Giants aren't going to spend their first-round pick on a quarterback, perhaps drafting 23rd might present the opportunity to find a tight end.

There are tight ends, and one of them might be available with the 23rd pick. The Giants' general manager might pick from Alabama's O.J. Howard (6-6, 250, 4.57), Clemson's Jordan Leggett (6-5, 255, 4.73) or Michigan's Jake Butt (6-5, 250, 4.74) for instance

So from the same folks who brought you Olivier Vernon, Snacks Harrison and Janoris Jenkins, among others, it is now time to focus that scrutiny on the offensive players who will become available. The Giants, by all seemingly accurate reports, have upwards of $35 million to spend on free agents.

Of course, that isn't close to the nearly $200 million they paid out for the 2016 defensive geniuses, but with the clever handling of the current roster (you know, release a few, renegotiate a few) there could be $40 million.

That should be able to buy a left tackle and a quality running back and perhaps a pair of guards - although Flowers might be shifted to guard and Justin Pugh, one of the best guards in the NFL, might get a shot at right tackle.

When the season started, there was a guy sitting next to your reporter in the press box, who flatly predicted that Jennings would get "at least" 1,000 yards. A steak dinner was offered to say we disagreed with that. No sign of the dinner yet - although Jennings gained 593 yards in 181 carries with a 3.3 average per carry. Put three of those attempts together and you punt.

Perkins, on the other hand, had 69 fewer carries, gained 456 yards and averaged 4.1 per rush. But the truth is that neither one of them is seen to be capable of being the featured back, the every-down, workhorse running back.

Hey, maybe the general manager will find one of those, too.

Check out Dave's website at E-GIANTS where you can subscribe to his newsletters which run much more frequently than what is available here.
- Team Giants

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