EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants thought last season was a debacle. Well, this season might be worse. They’re on pace for a franchise-record 14 losses and doing it with Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley on the roster. It almost seems inconceivable -- until you start rehashing an offseason of misevaluation and questionable moves.
The fingerprints on the Giants' 1-7 start can be traced to the beginning of the season, when it was a clean slate for players, coaches and the front office. With a new regime in place, the mistakes of the past were forgiven, even if they were impossible (see: the roster) to completely forget.
The offensive line
Gettleman arrived and preached about his desire to fix the offensive line. “The O-line and the D-line, I believe in the hog mollies,” he said. “We’ve had some great groups here, had great groups everywhere I’ve been, and we’re going to get back to that.”
Gettleman went about that this offseason by using substantial financial resources to sign left tackle Nate Solder and right guard Patrick Omameh. Solder has struggled in his first season with the Giants. Omameh has already been benched. Gettleman also went into the season with Ereck Flowers as his right tackle, with second-year undrafted free agent Chad Wheeler as his contingency plan. Flowers has since been cut, and Wheeler probably shouldn't be an NFL starter. The lone move that has shown promise is second-round pick Will Hernandez. But that hasn’t been nearly enough. “We’re going to go as far as that line will block for us,” coach Pat Shurmur said before the season. In retrospect, how prophetic.
Part 1 of the offensive line rebuild has dramatically flopped. Quarterback Eli Manning has already been sacked 31 times. His career high for a season is 39.
Which leads us to...
Manning has eight touchdown passes in eight games. He’s going to be 38 years old before this season’s Super Bowl, and he hasn’t played well consistently since the 2015 season. Gettleman and the Giants quadrupled down on the two-time Super Bowl winner this offseason, bypassing what was a historic quarterback draft in the first round. Little did Gettleman realize he was already in the place he was trying to avoid. Except the Giants are even worse.
“There are teams that are in what I call quarterback hell,” he said this past offseason. “They've got quality defense, they've got a good special teams, and they're going 7-9, 8-8, 9-7. And now if there is a legitimate guy, they've got to trade up and give away the farm to get the guy."
The Giants’ defense is ranked 18th in the NFL. Their special teams are 13th, according to Football Outsiders. They’re on pace for 2-14. The only saving grace is that if the Giants keep losing, Gettleman might luck into a top pick that will prevent them from giving up the farm for their next quarterback.
Either way, this is an organization stuck in no-man’s land until it finds its next franchise quarterback. Anybody think that is Kyle Lauletta right now?
The offseason appraisal
The disastrous moves:
Manning: Clearly this was not a win-now team made to operate with an immobile, aging quarterback. The results speak for themselves. Everything was set up for the Giants to move on (new coach, new GM, No. 2 overall pick, 37-year-old QB who was benched last year). They didn’t, and it could set them back years.
Omameh: A misevaluation of talent. The Giants signed him to a three-year, $15 million deal this offseason. Omameh was benched after six games.
Flowers: They tried to make this work with the 2015 first-round pick and somehow didn’t have a strong contingency plan. Flowers was benched after two games and eventually cut.
No returner specialists: Four players have returned punts. Five players have returned kickoffs. The Giants went into the summer with Hunter Sharp and Kalif Raymond as their return options. They cut them both before the start of the season, and it has been a revolving door ever since.
Not looking good:
Solder: He has struggled early in his Giants career. Solder has the third-lowest pass-block win rate among offensive tackles through Week 8, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He was given a record deal for an offensive lineman at the time (five years, $62 million).
WR Cody Latimer: He was signed as a free agent to be the third wide receiver and make an impact on special teams. He had six catches for 108 yards before landing on injured reserve.
S Curtis Riley: The Giants went with Riley over Darian Thompson and Andrew Adams this summer. It has been a struggle for Riley, who seems to be learning on the job. He had never started a game before this season.
The told-you-so move:
RB Jonathan Stewart: Everybody seemed to know that he was done except Gettleman. Stewart was 31 years old, and his yards per carry had dipped in each of the previous three seasons. He was, at best, a minimum-salary signing for his locker-room presence. The Giants gave him $2.95 million guaranteed and got six carries for 17 yards in extremely limited playing time before he landed on injured reserve.
Trading JPP: It was the one move this offseason that was made with the future in mind. Jason Pierre-Paul is having a strong season in Tampa Bay, but this was about making the Giants financially healthier moving forward. They are now, even if they had to absorb the $15 million dead-money hit this season.
Top draft picks: Aside from not taking a quarterback (I know it’s hard to ignore, but...) the early returns on the players Gettleman selected early in the draft are promising. Barkley is a stud. Hernandez should be a quality starter. Third-round picks B.J. Hill and Lorenzo Carter look like NFL players. It’s not a bad start.
CB B.W. Webb: Nobody thought much of the offseason signing of the nomadic veteran cornerback for minimum salary. He’s now starting and has played pretty well. Of all the cheap secondary help the Giants tried to accumulate this offseason, Webb is the one who worked out.
Re-signing DL Kerry Wynn: Another move that went under the radar. Wynn signed for one year and $1.25 million, and he has been perhaps the Giants’ most consistent defensive player this season. He’s also a special-teams dynamo.