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June 27, 2023

10 reasons the Giants will be a dumpster fire this season

Here's a look at why the Giants will be a disaster this season.

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062423DanielJones Danielle Parhizkaran/USA TODAY Sports

"Hey Saquon, I'm going to ask for $160 million this offseason."

This week, all week long, we're taking a negative look at each of the teams in the NFC East, in detail. On Monday we roasted the Dallas Cowboys. Today we'll poke fun at the New York Giants.

To note, we will not be talking about the positives of any of the Eagles' NFC East rivals, because, well, that's no fun. This will be 100 percent vitriolic. And yes, we'll get to the Eagles as well at the end of the series.

1) The Giants hitched their wagon to Daniel Jones 👰

Over the five years preceding the 2022 season, the Giants had a share of the worst record in the NFL at 22-59 (0.272), with a point differential over that span of -530. In 2021, they became a laughingstock, embarrassing themselves seemingly on a weekly basis. 

The owner was kicking press box trash cans after losses, they had a "free medium Pepsi" giveaway during which a bunch of season ticket holders were told they were ineligible for their free medium Pepsi, their head coach tried to assuage their fans by proclaiming that the Giants "ain't some clown show organization," and he followed up those comments by calling QB sneaks on second and third downs to give his team more room to punt. There was more, but that's just a small sampling.

Under a new coaching regime in 2022, the Giants went from bumbling buffoons to competency 🥂🍾. They went 9-7-1 during the regular season, and won their first playoff game since the 2011 season, beating the Vikings on the road. 

Of course, it all came crashing down when they ran into a good team in the divisional round, and were blown out 38-7 in a game in which they were never competitive. Still, what the Giants did was probably the absolute best that even the most delusional Giants fans could have reasonably hoped for at the start of the season. They shed their "clown show" status, and were somehow one of the final eight teams still standing, despite finishing the season with a negative point differential and a 21st overall DVOA ranking. The 2022 Giants were overachievers, and they should be celebrated.

Along the way, they finally got a decent season out of Daniel Jones, who was a turnover machine the first couple years of his career, but who protected the ball far better over the last two seasons. He came so far along on the ball security front that he had the lowest INT percentage in the NFL in 2022, at 1.1 percent. 

In the wake of Jones' seemingly promising 2022 season, the Giants were faced with three decisions on his future with the team:

  1. Let him walk in free agency, thus starting over at quarterback after making the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season.
  2. Franchise-tag him, paying him roughly $32.4 million for one year and punting on a decision on Jones' long-term standing with the team until next offseason, and likely losing Saquon Barkley in free agency because the team wouldn't be able to tag him instead.
  3. Hitch their wagon to Jones, long-term.

They chose option No. 3, signing Jones to a four-year deal worth $160 million, tying him for seventh among NFL quarterbacks (at the time) at an average annual value of $40 million per season. With their quarterback locked up long-term, the Giants then placed the franchise tag on Barkley. Celebrations all around!

062423DanielJonesRunItBack

So these were all smart decisions? Well, that depends. For a team that tasted some medium level of success for the first time in a long time and feared an immediate slide right back to the NFL's basement? Sure, these moves make sense. For a team trying to put themselves in a position to compete for a Super Bowl long-term, LOL, God no. I urge NFL general managers to consult the following flow chart if there's any debate as to whether or not to pay a quarterback, long-term: 

062623DanielJonesFlowchart

According to the NFL’s NextGen stats, Jones was the most conservative quarterback in the NFL in “intended average air yards,” at 6.3 yards through the air per throw, and “air yards to the sticks.” On average his passes landed 2.8 yards short of the first down marker. 

062423DanielDink

The Giants' offense didn’t hit big plays in the passing game in 2022. They had 28 pass plays of 20+ yards, fewest in the NFL. The league average was 49. Certainly the Giants' lack of quality receivers played a part in their ultra-conservative passing game, but there's little question that Jones' ball security improvements weren't as impressive as the numbers suggest, since, you know, he rarely tried to push the ball down the field.

Anyway, good luck with all that, Giants fans.

2) Saquon is pissed 😡

There is seemingly a growing rift between the Giants and their best skill position player. I think we can most effectively get you up to speed in timeline form, in case you haven't been following along:

April 26, 2018: Former GM Dave Gettleman and the Giants made the insane decision to select Barkley with the second overall pick in 2018 NFL Draft. He then mocked computer nerds far and wide for their egghead theories on why drafting a running back so highly is a poor use of resources:

(I'm contractually obligated to include that gif 👆 in every Giants dumpster fire post.)

Gettleman valued running backs, maybe more than any GM of the last 20 years. It appears the new regime does not, but a lot more on that in a moment.

The 2018 season: Barkley accumulates over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 15 TDs as a rookie, and defenders of the Barkley pick briefly have their moment in the sun.

The 2019 and 2020 seasons: Barkley's production falls off substantially in his second season, and he tears his ACL in his third season, causing him to miss 14 games. 

The 2021 offseason: The Giants exercise Barkley's fifth-year option for the 2022 season, which will pay him about $7.2 million.

2021 season: Barkley returns to the football field, but is mostly ineffective, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, albeit on an awful team.

2022 season: The Giants get out to an unexpected 7-2 start, and Barkley is a big reason why. During the first half of the season, the Giants are putting a lot of mileage on him, as he has carried 198 times for 931 yards (4.7 YPC) and 6 TDs though the first nine games. He is on pace for over 2,000 yards from scrimmage. In Week 9, Barkley carries 35 times for 152 yards. But, he looks like the player he once was.

The over-usage may have caught up with Barkley and the Giants, as he is less effective thereafter. From that point on, the Giants finish out the rest of the season with a 2-5-1 record, and eke their way into the postseason. Barkley ends up finishing with 1,650 yards from scrimmage and 10 TDs. He still makes the Pro Bowl and finishes third in NFL Comeback Player of the Year voting.

It is later reported by Bob Brookover of NJ.com that the Giants offered Barkley "a multi-year deal worth $12.5 million a season at the bye week (basically the height of Barkley's season), then increased that number to $13 million with a chance to get to $14 million in incentives shortly after the season."

March 7: The Giants sign Daniel Jones to his four-year extension worth $160 million.

Also March 7: The Giants place the franchise tag on Barkley, which, if signed, will pay him $10,091,000 for the 2023 season, or about 1/4 of the average annual value of Jones' deal.

March 27: Joe Schoen tells reporters at the NFL owners meetings that the Giants pulled their previous offers. Via the Giants' website:

"There's no outstanding offer right now," Schoen said. "Once we put the franchise tag on him, we stepped back. We knew that throughout the negotiation that if there was a time that we can't come to an agreement, we're going to go to the franchise tag. And that's what we did.

"Essentially when you're building a team, and I'll say this to everybody, there's 53 players. You can't look at everybody in a silo. As you're going through negotiations and you can't come to an agreement on what the value of a player is, then you have to shift to plan B. And we knew we had the franchise tag as a tool. And we'll utilize that - see if anything happens down the road."

April 17: Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News reports that Barkley is "seeking Christian McCaffrey money ($16 million)."

June 12: At his football camp for kids, Barkley calls reporting of the Giants' contract offers "misleading," and implies that the Giants leaked them. He adds, "I'm not trying to set the running back market. For those reports to come out and try to make me look like I'm greedy or whatever, that's not even close to being the truth."

When asked if he would sit out the season rather than play on the tag, Barkley says, "We got until July 17th, right? I guess I'll make those decisions or start thinking about that when July 17th comes." Barkley seems to get emotional near the end of his interview session at the camp when asked about the running back market as a whole:

Future dates of importance:

July 17: The July 17 date referenced by Barkley above is the deadline for any franchise-tagged player to sign a multiyear contract or extension. After this date, Barkley can sign only a one-year contract with the Giants for the 2023 season. That contract cannot be extended until after the Giants' last regular season game.

November 14: Deadline for teams to sign their unsigned franchise-tagged players. If Barkley is still unsigned after this date, he is prohibited from playing in the NFL in 2023.

OK, so are we all up to speed? Cool. Let's analyze the situation.

To begin, why would Schoen pull the Giants' offer to Barkley? Is the idea there to not have previous offers serve as a baseline for any further negotiations, as in, "We have to start over from scratch, and that number doesn't count anymore?" That's dumb, if so. Of course that number still serves as the baseline negotiating point! To pretend otherwise is laughable. 

What's even dumber is if the Giants were indeed responsible for the leak. All that does is piss off the player for making him look greedy in the public's view, but even worse, it's dumb to put that out there publicly on a strategic level. Why? Well, now that the $13 million/year number is out there, Barkley and his representation can't accept anything less or the overwhelming reaction is going to be, "That greedy dummy should've just taken the better deal at the end of the season."

But also, why choose this player to play hardball with? By all accounts, Barkley very well liked, well respected, says the right things, genuinely wants to play for the team, and, you know, he's good! Like, if you can't see eye-to-eye on the terms of a contract, that's fine, but negotiating through the public is disrespectful and counterproductive.

If a deal doesn't get done by July 17th and Barkley is stuck with the tag, while it's unlikely that he won't miss any regular season games, the Giants probably shouldn't expect him to show up anytime soon. In fact, until he signs the tag, he's not under contract (duh) and thus isn't really even on the team. He wouldn't be allowed to show up. The uninformed will call it a "holdout," but Barkley won't face any fines and will be well within his rights not to sign the tag and not show up. He will only start losing chunks of his $10.1 million when he starts missing real games. 

Barkley doesn't really need training camp. He's a veteran who knows the offense, and he is no doubt keeping in good shape, as he has done his whole life. But the ensuing distraction and locker room angst that his potential absence will cause probably isn't worth this weird game of chicken that the Giants have chosen. 

If Barkley were to sign the tag and show up wide-eyed and bushy-tailed for Day 1 of training camp, the Giants have no reason to fear slapping the tag on him again next offseason. There's just no good reason for Barkley to play the good soldier if he's saddled with the tag when the Giants haven't dealt with him in good faith.

Ultimately, like with Jones' situation above, there probably aren't any great outcomes here. The Giants are either going to have to overpay a running back (and I think Barkley has more leverage than people think), or deal with the fallout if they don't.

3) They're loaded with No. 3 and No. 4 wide receivers 🗑️

The Giants have a lot of receivers, but none of them are going to make opposing cornerbacks lose any sleep. Here's a list of their top 9, and each of their best seasons in the NFL:

Player Best season: Rec-Yards-TD 
Sterling Shepard 2018: 66-872-4 
Jamison Crowder 2016: 67-847-7 
Darius Slayton 2019: 48-740-8 
Parris Campbell 2022: 63-623-3 
Isaiah Hodgins 2022: 37-392-4 
Collin Johnson 2020: 18-272-2 
Wan'Dale Robinson 2022: 23-227-1 
Jeff Smith 2020: 17-167-0 
Jalin Hyatt (rookie) N/A 


Those guys have 33 seasons of NFL experience between them, and none of them have ever cracked 900 receiving yards in a single season. The rest of the teams in the NFC East have a combined 6 players with 1000-yard seasons, with 16 such seasons between them.

  1. Brandin Cooks, Cowboys: 6
  2. A.J. Brown, Eagles: 3
  3. Terry McLaurin, Commanders: 3
  4. CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys: 2
  5. DeVonta Smith, Eagles: 1
  6. Michael Gallup, Cowboys: 1

Who even is the Giants' No. 1 receiver? Is it Isaiah Hodgins? I'm sure that's giving guys like Stephon Gilmore night terrors.

062423GilmoreHodgins
 

4) The OL still stinks 🦨

The Giants' starting five:

LT LG RG RT 
Andrew ThomasBen Bredeson John Michael Schmitz Mark Glowinski Evan Neal 


Thomas has become one of the best left tackles in the NFL after a rocky rookie season. There's maybe some room for optimism for Schmitz, a second-round rookie, but the rest of this group... Yuck.

Evan Neal owes Thomas BIGTIME. If Thomas didn't trailblaze a bad rookie season before eventually panning out, Neal would have gotten absolutely roasted by the locals last season, because he was horrendous. Because of Thomas, Giants fans aren't quite as quick to criticize Neal, but Thomas was never anywhere near as bad as Neal was last season.

5) Turnovers are coming 🎁

Remember in the Daniel Jones section above we noted that the Giants' passing game in 2022 was basically just a dink and dunk yawn-fest? That's not what Brian Daboll wants it to be, and the Giants made sure to add some guys who (theoretically) can make plays down the field. The re-signed Darius Slayton, they added Parris Campbell in free agency, they drafted Jalin Hyatt, and they traded for tight end Darren Waller. Jones will be expected to push the ball down the field in 2023.

That means taking more chances with the football (AKA more INTs), and it probably also means more plays in which the offensive line is asked to block longer while routes develop down the field (AKA more strip sacks)

In so many of the games the Giants won last season, it felt like their opponent was just kind of cruising along, and then late in the game they're like, "OH GOD, NO! WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!?" Here's that sentiment in win probability form:

101722GiantsGameCast

The Giants didn't make the "big mistakes," they just kind of hung around, and eventually their opponents screwed up or barely fell short. Like this:

Or this: 

Or this:

There's a pretty good chance that with a more aggressive approach offensively the Giants will be the team making those big mistakes this season, and not the other way around.

6) Joe Schoen gets rid of good players for no good reason 👋

Last offseason, the Giants tried to trade James Bradberry before they eventually dumped him for nothing in May, long after teams around the league had already filled holes at cornerback either in free agency or the draft. The Eagles then capitalized by signing Bradberry to a bargain one-year deal worth $7.5 million. Bradberry proceeded to earn second-team All-Pro honors after a stellar season, and this offseason he signed a reasonable deal with the Eagles worth $38 million over three years.

He also had an INT against the Giants in the playoffs, while the Giants had the No. 22 ranked pass defense (via DVOA).

When the Giants released Bradberry in 2022, he was set to make $13.5 million and count for $21.9 million on the Giants' salary cap. By releasing him, the Giants saved a little over $10 million on their cap, and took a dead money hit of $9.7 million.

The reason they needed that savings? 

"Where we are financially, we still have to sign our draft picks," Joe Schoen said on WFAN a few days before his release. "We have to be able to sign our practice squad and have replacement costs during the season." (Schoen also repeated that sentiment in other media sessions. At the time, the Giants had around $6 million in cap space and the they needed about $13 million to sign their draft picks.)

First of all, LOL, "We have to be able to sign our practice squad." Have you ever heard a GM say that they have to cut a good player because they have to sign practice squad guys? No? Well there's a good reason. For one, it's idiotic, but also, only the top 51 cap numbers on the roster count toward the salary cap, which means that the practice squad guys don't count at all.

But even that aside, that answer is nonsense, as it implies that the only answer was to release Bradberry, which really couldn't be further from the truth. The Giants could have very easily converted Bradberry's base salary into a signing bonus and spread his salary cap commitments into void years in 2023 and beyond.

Many of you might have no idea what a void year is. I'll try to simplify it by comparing it to a mortgage. As you're aware, a mortgage is a loan you get from a lender to finance a home purchase. When you take out a mortgage, you promise to repay the money you’ve borrowed in future years with an agreed-upon interest rate tacked on.

In terms of NFL contracts, spreading out base salaries over several years is similar to taking out a mortgage on a player, in that you get the use of that player now, while paying for him later. The big difference is that NFL teams pay no interest for that right, while interest-free mortgages on houses don't exist. 

Does that all make sense? It's basically a way for teams to borrow from future years to expand their current spending ability, again, with no interest penalties.

“I would rather not [borrow from the future] if we don’t have to," Schoen said last March. "Again, eventually you have to pay the piper. Early on I’d rather not."

As of June 27, even after Jones' new deal, the Giants have a projected $59 million in cap space in 2024 (depending on how much the cap increases next season), per OverTheCap. They have a projected $136 million in 2025. $185 million in 2026. They couldn't have borrowed a small amount from the future to keep one of their rare good players? It's better to have a glaring hole at a premium position?

This offseason, the Giants had a similar situation with safety Julian Love, a young ascending player and team captain who signed a very affordable two-year deal worth $12 million with the Seahawks. By all accounts, Love was well respected by his teammates, well regarded as a player by the coaching staff, and is a versatile defensive back thought to be a great fit for Wink Martindale's scheme. So how did he get away? Well, according to a Dan Duggan of The Athletic...

Love’s market was challenging to forecast heading into free agency, with league sources projecting his average annual salary anywhere from $5 million to $9.5 million. The Giants and Love didn’t bridge their gap after the season, so the team moved on as the 25-year-old tested the market.

Love visited the Seahawks last week after the initial wave of free agency and received the two-year, $12 million offer Friday. That’s slightly less per year than the Giant’s in-season offer, according to a league source. Love presented Seattle’s offer to the Giants and the team didn’t match it, according to a league source. By that point, the Giants had already re-signed [Darius] Slayton to a two-year, $12 million deal.

Lol, what? A $6 million per year deal for Slayton precluded them from also keeping Love? Again, the Giants have a ton of future cap space, not to mention like double-digit veteran players prime for restructuring. It would have been pretty easy to dump the vast majority of Love's $12 million total cap commitment into the 2024 season. Instead they just let him walk and are replacing him with... checks notes... a 30-year-old Band-Aid in Bobby McCain? 

The only way that letting players like Bradberry or Love walk makes sense is if they just don't think they're any good, which in the case of Bradberry at a minimum... OOPS!

7) Their run defense sucked last year 🕳️🚚

I'm just realizing we haven't even mentioned the Giants' sucky defense yet. They were especially bad against the run:

Giants run D Stat NFL Rank 
Run DVOA 12.1% 32 
Rushing yards per game allowed 146.3 28 
Rushing yards per attempt allowed 5.3 31 
Rushing first downs per game allowed 8.1 30 


This offseason the Giants signed LB Bobby Okereke, who was a nice player for the Colts in 2022, collecting 151 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and 5 pass breakups. Okereke landed an above-market four-year deal worth $40 million, while comparable off-ball linebackers like T.J. Edwards and Germaine Pratt signed deals for under $7 million per season, but I guess when you're the worst run stopping team in the NFL you're willing to overpay for an off-ball linebacker. 

The Cowboys averaged 172.5 rushing yards in two games against the Giants last season. The Eagles averaged 218.7 rushing yards (lol) in three games.

8) The Cowboys and Eagles own the Giants 🤠🦅

At some point the Giants are going to have to figure out how to beat the Cowboys and the Eagles.

• The Giants haven't beaten Dak Prescott in their last 10 tries. 😬

• The Eagles currently hold a 10-game home winning streak over the Giants, and have won 25 of the last 31 matchups overall. The Giants last swept the Eagles in 2007. The Eagles have since swept the Giants eight times. 🧹🧹🧹🧹🧹🧹🧹🧹

9) The Giants' early schedule looks pretty tough (at least on paper) 📆

Remember when the Giants got out to a 6-1 start in 2022, which was good enough for them to juuuuust hang onto a wildcard spot after they predictably faltered in the second half of the season? Well, this year five of their first six games are against teams that made the playoffs in 2022, and four of their first six games are on the road:

Week Opponent 
Cowboys 
At Cardinals 
At 49ers 
Seahawks 
At Dolphins 
At Bills 


The Cardinals are trash, but I think most would consider the Cowboys, 49ers, Dolphins, and Bills legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

10) Teams with negative point differentials that make the playoffs usually don't make the playoffs the next season ➖

Here are the last 10 teams (not including 2022) that had a negative point differential and what they did the following season:

Team Point differential Record the next season? 
2021 Steelers -55 9-8, no playoffs
2021 Raiders -65 6-11, no playoffs
2020 Browns -11 8-9, no playoffs
2019 Texans -7 4-12, no playoffs
2017 Titans -22 9-7, no playoffs
2017 Bills -57 6-10, no playoffs
2016 Lions -12 9-7, no playoffs
2016 Dolphins -17 6-10, no playoffs
2016 Texans -49 4-12, no playoffs
2014 Panthers -35 15-1, playoffs


So, you know, nine in a row. (I should note that the 2006 Giants had a negative point differential and then they won the Super Bowl next year, but shut up your quarterback is Daniel Jones and that's not happening.)


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