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: WILL A STRONG FINISH MEAN ANYTHING?
IF THINGS SEEM POINTLESS
... MAYBE THEY ARE
For a while there, it looked
as though the Giants were going to make some noise and maybe, just maybe, pull
off what would have been considered an upset on Sunday, in the weird snow/rain,
at MetLife against Green Bay.
hung within a touchdown and went into the fourth quarter down by just four points
before, well, something happened and everything fell apart, mostly the defense,
which allowed 14 unanswered points (right, the offense collapsed, too). Suddenly,
the game went from a close one to a blowout in front of about 12 people in the
With the loss, the Giants fell
to 2-10, were officially eliminated from the post-season and guaranteed a worse
record than 2018, when they went 5-9, which was a two-game improvement over 2017's
Whatever hope and improvement
the Giants showed in the first half on Sunday, that they let it all slip away,
was as repetitive as any broken record you can find. The Giants are 7-19 under
head coach Pat Shurmur and since 2012, the follow-up season after the team's miraculous
victory over New England in Super Bowl 46, they have gone 49-75 with just one
ill-fated playoff appearance after a surprising 11-5 season in 2016. To drill
down even deeper, the Giants have a 10-34 record from 2017 to right now.
Whatever had worked in the past is gone now. There was a time, from roughly 1985
to 1995 and then 2007 to 2013, that the Giants were in "the conversation"
almost annually despite losing seasons and an absence of superstars. Counting
this season, which has four games remaining, the Giants will have posted just
two winning records in eight seasons. Some of them were ugly seasons, like the
ones in the 1970s and then the late 1990s into the early 2000s, shortly after
the Giants were blown out in Super Bowl XXXV by Baltimore and but before Eli Manning
blossomed as the Giants starting quarterback.
seeing the kinds of things we saw before former general manager George Young came
on the scene, back to the 1970s and late 1960s, when nothing worked, nothing was
good. When fumbles bounced the wrong way, tickets burned and planes flew. Is this
current roster as bad as those from way back when?
not. Instead, the game has changed, as have expectations and, somehow, time itself.
No longer do players spend their entire careers with one team. No longer do teams
comfortably develop rookies over three or four years, seasoning them and preparing
them for long careers. Free agency has been a boon from some teams and players,
but the salary cap (a brilliant demand by the league to counter free agency in
1993 that went live in 1994) has hurt only the players, really. Now, financial
strategies that involve signings, releases and trades can turn a team's fate on
Parity, a long-lived paradox
that was once a bad word and now, honestly, barely comes up anymore, wasn't some
sort of dark magic designed to control the outcome of games. Instead, parity created
an atmosphere in which most teams in the league would be alive for playoff spots
as the season rounded the final turn into December. That way, fans across the
country had more to root for than just "wait 'til next year."
of now, just six teams have been eliminated (the Giants have the second-worst
record of that group), meaning the fans of 26 other teams still have hope, some
more than others.
The Giants have no
hope now and haven't had any in a while. The more we look at the 2016 season,
when they went 11-5 and earned a playoff berth as well as a yacht trip from hell,
it is now clear that the Ben McAdoo-led turnaround was an aberration.
all leads us to the future: Will the Giants retain head coach Pat Shurmur and
his staff of assistants? Will they retain general manager Dave Gettleman? Should
It's hard to pull the plug after
two seasons, especially considering the previous years of mostly failure after
failure, after sending Tom Coughlin packing and leaving Manning in tears.
can question Shurmur's play-calling and in-game strategies, but he still has the
locker room and is a relative breath of fresh air compared to McAdoo. However,
being a players' coach can be a curse instead of a blessing. Coughlin turned into
a players' coach -- his team would have run through the proverbial brick wall
for him -- but he was a taskmaster and a tough rules maker. There is a concern,
as there was with McAdoo, that Shurmur is so well-liked by his team that many
players are now complacent, lacking any sense of urgency at all.
There are many who believe Shurmur should go, or already be gone, but the next
choice would have to be stellar as the franchise itself can no longer maintain
the losing and the disastrous hires amid high hopes. Shurmur currently has one
more year on his contract and the team has made it a practice to never have a
coach working in his last year, meaning that he could be extended by a year and
given 2020 to make things right.
... this could be it. We'll get to potential candidates soon (Carolina just fired
Ron Rivera this week), but it's this writer's opinion that going after retread
coaches with mixed resumes just isn't that effective. Rivera has one Super Bowl
appearance and several losing seasons, no matter how much people think of his
coaching skills; Dallas' Jason Garrett's name has come up, but he hasn't won much
of anything with a fantastic roster, and he may not even be fired.
Regarding Gettleman, while he must be praised for two decent drafts (yes, there
were clunkers but overall the rookies and second-year players are solid) and has
to receive credit for his conviction in drafting running back Saquon Barkley with
the second pick in 2018 and quarterback Daniel Jones with the sixth pick this
past April. Along with Shurmur, Gettleman left the door open for Manning to start
the 2019 season yet did not stand in the way when Shurmur pulled Manning after
just two games.
so far, has been his free agency management, both incoming and outgoing, and even
more than a good draft, the right free agency signings can make an immediate impact.
Of course, he was left with a terrible salary cap situation that he is still trying
to fix, so he gets at least a partial pass.
Even with Barkley and Jones and defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence and a few others,
it's hard to be completely sure than Gettleman drafted Barkley and Jones only
for the good of the roster. Maybe he drafted for the good of the franchise and
its image. Imagine a team with Manning under center, left guard Quentin Nelson,
center Garrett Bradbury and linebacker Josh Allen all starting.
Imagine, but that lineup exists only in an alternate universe. The Giants live
in the real world, and it's really ugly.
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