New York Giants

A good front office, a good coaching staff, and a bad, bad roster.

We’re bad at making decisions. All of us. But especially the New York Giants. They’ve made a lot of really, really bad ones lately.

Like hiring Dave Gettleman, a man who knows his way around a fake keyboard better than an actual keyboard, to be their general manager.

Like hiring Joe Judge, a man who calls quarterback sneaks on second-and-11 instead of fourth-and-1, to be their head coach.

Like giving away medium sodas to only a select group of ticket holders on Fan Appreciation Day.

Oof. That last one might be the worst of them. It’s hard to hire good people. But a soda giveaway? That should be easy.

[Turns to look at the New York Giants.]

Medium sodas? Really? Medium? You’re the New York Giants. “Giant” is literally in your name! You are worth $5 billion. At a minimum, you have to offer larges. To anyone and everyone willing to come to New Jersey for an afternoon of bad football. But if you’re truly committed to the whole “Giants” thing, you should go bigger. Like, diabetes-in-a-bucket big. If you’re not going to do that, change your name. Own being ordinary. Be the Regulars. Or the 5-foot-8ers. Or the White Sneakers.

[Turns away from the Giants.]

Medium sodas. Goodness, what a clown show.

Judge didn’t think so. “This ain’t some clown show organization,” he said amidst a six-game losing streak, clearly unaware of the universally accepted rule about clown shows. If you want people to believe you are not a clown show, you cannot insist that you are not a clown show. Denial is confirmation.

A few days later, the Giants fired Judge. Co-owner John Mara had said that he wanted to feel good about the direction of the team. After the 2021 season, how could he? That wasn’t just a bad Giants team. It was an all-time bad Giants team. They lost nine games by at least 14 points, most in the NFL. Their -29.6% total DVOA was the lowest of any Giants team in the past 40 years. Talk about disrespecting the game…

The team’s descent into laughingstock wasn’t all Judge’s fault. The downfall was set in motion well before he arrived. For far too long, the organization built around a declining Eli Manning, who was 34 in 2015 when he signed a four-year, $84-million extension that contained seven more years than it should have. The extension triggered a series of ill-advised win-now moves, like in 2018 when Gettleman signed offensive tackles Nate Solder and Patrick Omameh and drafted running back Saquon Barkley second overall. The Giants could have drafted Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson. They also could have drafted Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen. But even if they weren’t sold on the quarterbacks in that draft, they could have addressed other pressing needs, such as cornerback (Denzel Ward or Jaire Alexander), offensive line (Quenton Nelson), or defensive line (Vita Vea).

The Giants didn’t want to fire Judge. They fired Ben McAdoo after two seasons. Pat Shurmer, too. With Judge, they wanted to be patient, or at least give the impression of organizational stability. When word spread in November that Gettleman planned to retire at the end of the season, news reports implied that Judge would return in 2022. And maybe he would have if he had stopped talking. As the losses mounted, he sought to project strength and resolve but instead conveyed desperation and delusion. The more he said, the more he embarrassed the Giants. They were losing games and their dignity.

Make no mistake, ownership—spellbound by Manning’s Super Bowl heroics and seduced by Gettleman and Judge’s football-guy bluster—made this mess. Still, ownership also deserves some credit, even if begrudging, for finally snapping out of it and hitting the reset button. The time was right. The Giants needed their general manager and head coach to be in lockstep.

To fill those jobs, they looked west to Buffalo. The Bills were in a similar place in 2017 when they plucked a coordinator (Sean McDermott) and an assistant general manager (Brandon Beane) from the Panthers and installed them as their head coach and general manager. It worked. Buffalo has gone from talent-deficient and salary cap-strapped catastrophe to perennial Super Bowl contender. The Giants shamelessly copied that blueprint, first hiring Bills assistant general manager Joe Schoen to be their general manager and then offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to be their head coach.

Schoen inherited arguably the worst salary cap situation in the NFL. The Giants weren’t the only team over the cap before the start of the new league year, but they were the farthest away from contention, leaving Schoen to figure out how to rebuild the roster while simultaneously tearing it down. That meant jettisoning several Gettleman signings—tight end Kyle Rudolph, running back Devontae Booker, safety Logan Ryan, and cornerback James Bradberry—and shopping for bargains. Of the 17 free agents Schoen signed, 14 received one-year deals worth between $1 million and $1.3 million. His “splurges” were guard Mark Glowinski (three years, $18.3 million), backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor (two years, $11 million), and center Jon Feliciano (one year, $3.3 million). The aim here is to avoid humiliation in 2022 while preserving flexibility in 2023, or as Schoen said more artfully at his introductory press conference, “I think you can build a roster where you can compete today and build for tomorrow.”

As for Daboll, he’s the Giants’ fourth head coach since they forced out Tom Coughlin after the 2015 season. A former assistant coach with the Patriots (2000-2006 and 2013-2016), he comes with the Bill Belichick seal of approval, which the Giants care about way more than they should. Yes, he oversaw Josh Allen’s development into a star quarterback, but was he responsible for it? Before 2019, Daboll wasn’t regarded as a quarterback guru. His stints with the Jets (quarterbacks coach, 2007-2008), Browns (offensive coordinator, 2009-2010), Dolphins (offensive coordinator, 2011), and Chiefs (offensive coordinator, 2012) were unremarkable (Table 1). His quarterbacks in that span included Chad Pennington, Kellen Clemens, Brett Favre (the too-busy-sexting version), Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson, Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Matt Moore, Chad Henne, Matt Cassel, and Brady Quinn again. Not one of those teams ranked in the top half of the league in pass DVOA.