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.
ON SECOND THOUGHT: GIANTS REEL AS MANNING STRUGGLES ...
BUT WAS A DRAFT MISTAKE
REALLY THE ROOT CAUSE? MAYBE NOT
It's tough to argue
that the Giants are just going through growing pains, though there is an argument
that it might take a quarterback, let alone other players, nearly a season before
being comfortable in a new system. It's also hard to argue that players earning
$5, $10, $20 million or more can use such an excuse.
After last Thursday's debacle at home in a 34-13 loss to division rival and defending
Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, there were cries from GiantLand that
Eli Manning is finished, that rookie Kyle Lauletta should be prepped to start
“to see what he can do” and that the team missed their opportunity to get their
hands on a franchise quarterback for the future in the April draft.
There are other issues as well besides quarterback play. Odell Beckham Jr., inadvertently
or otherwise, has drawn attention to real problems on the offense as well as those
he perceives. Mostly, though, he has drawn attention to himself.
offensive line still struggles and before you jump up and yell about Manning being
washed up and immobile, show me a quarterback who could take 20 sacks and dozens
of hits and pressures in six games and show much progress. No excuses, but it
is a factor that cannot be ignored. Veteran free agent Nate Solder is here to
stay and has been up and down under the weight of his humungous contract. Rookie
Will Hernandez is coming along nicely but he's not dominant yet. Center John Greco
has been fine at center despite the loss of Jon Halapio (knee) and the off-season
trade of Brett Jones. Patrick Omameh has been fair and right tackle Chad Wheeler
is holding on but has miles to go to be a solid starter.
could go on and on about various nuances and strategies of the offense, but there
is a topic that needs to be addressed. So many of us have been fairly talking
about Manning and general manager Dave Gettleman's decision to draft Saquon Barkley
instead of Sam Darnold, Josh Allen or Josh Rosen. The choice was based, at least
publicly, on the idea that Manning was hardly finished playing at a high level,
that the Giants wanted to get into a win-now position and that Barkley is a “generational”
Following the selection
by Cleveland of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, the Giants had the pick of
every other player available with the No. 2 pick. There sat Darnold, probably
the only other quarterback worthy of being taken second, despite what you might
think of Allen, Rosen or even Lamar Jackson. There was also a guard (Quentin Nelson)
and a few defensive gems, but the Giants had publicly settled on Barkley days
before the draft. Of course, many thought it was smoke or at least an attempt
to bait another team into making a tremendous trade offer for the No. 2 pick.
With the selection of Barkley, the Giants signaled their intention to stick with
Manning for at least another year or two. There is nothing wrong with Barkley
and he will be great for years to come. Manning clearly looks to be on the wrong
side of his career arc, but he remains at least for this season.
factor that few have considered needs to be made clear: Right or wrong, it's very
possible that Gettleman and his office did not like any other quarterback option
nearly enough to pass on Barkley. They would never have taken a potential franchise
quarterback in whom they didn't see a bright future filled with greatness. Never.
That's not how any of this works. Instead, they took the best player in the draft,
stuck with their starter, drafted Lauletta in the fourth round, signed veteran
journeyman Alex Tanney and plenty of other things went wrong that had nothing
to do with the draft.
Right, had they
drafted Darnold, Manning would still be the starter until they felt Darnold was
capable of playing better than Manning. It might have been a repeat of 2004, when
the Giants signed Kurt Warner before trading for Manning in the draft, then waited
until mid-season to give the rookie the ball. The point is, Gettleman and the
rest, probably head coach Pat Shurmur, Senior Vice President/Player Personnel
Chris Mara and maybe President and CEO John Mara, didn't feel that Darnold or
Rosen or Allen were good options at No. 2, or at all.
also may mean that the team gambled not only on Manning but also on the 2019 draft.
If everything worked out well, they might have thought, then the Giants would
make the playoffs and there would be more time to stick with Eli while developing
Lauletta, Tanney and/or someone else. If things went badly, and it looks like
that's what's happening now, then they'd have a high pick next spring and be able
to grab a quarterback they liked more than anyone else available this season except,
Who's that? Teddy Bridgewater?
While he has managed to mount a strong comeback, did you really think the Giants
were prepared for the kind of gamble it would have taken to sign him, given his
devastating injury and nearly two-year break from football? Would signing Bridgewater
have made a difference with Manning on the roster - and along that line of thinking,
that he would unseat Manning at the start of the season?
Before you yell about Bridgewater's amazing and courageous comeback, remember
that the Jets weren't prepared to start him and traded him to New Orleans, which
has no intention of benching their starter, a guy named Drew Brees. Maybe they'll
sign him next year, if he hits the open market in March, but that would be just
There are those who think
that the Giants really believe Lauletta is the future franchise quarterback, even
while lacking a shotgun for an arm. He hasn't been active yet this season and
while Shurmur has said that the rookie gets as many reps as Tanney, we have yet
to see any action that might signal a sea change. If and when Lauletta is moved
up to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, you might prepare yourself for a late-season
appearance or even a start.
or not ... warranted or not ... a change may very well be on the horizon.
more quick thought, and this is a doozy: Have the Giants allowed themselves to
fall into a Bermuda Triangle-like rut in which they can't seem to get anything
to work? Shurmur is their third coach in four years, yet the team still seems
to fall into a fog at times during games and allow big plays, and become dramatic
and frustrated and mystified. The Giants have looked like the same old Giants
for several years and the solution seems just out of reach and impossible to see
in the fog of losing. And while little of it is not the fault of Shurmur or Gettleman,
it's their circus now and they have to get it together, a task that could be monumental
and take longer than anyone wants.
Mara, Shurmur and Manning (and the rest of the crew) admit that everyone has to
do a better job on and off the field, but that these things take time.
Patience? Easy for them to say.
it all over to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Twitter @_AaronKlein
forget to follow us on Twitter @E_Giants
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
- Send a request to email@example.com
for a free week's worth of news!