EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants spent Sunday at home watching the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers, 31-20, in Super Bowl LIV. Like the 29 other teams at home, they had an opportunity to see this season's winning formula and can try to apply it to 2020.
It is, after all, a copycat league. The Giants can only hope to replicate the speed of San Francisco's turnaround.
The 49ers went from 4-12 to the big game, and came close to winning the title. The Chiefs had been building for several seasons and their approach was revered by the Giants. Remember, it was less than a year ago that general manager Dave Gettleman referenced the "Kansas City model" in regard to his quarterback situation in hopes that Eli Manning would give way to a young quarterback (it turned out to be Daniel Jones) similar to the way Alex Smith gave way to Patrick Mahomes with the Chiefs.
Of course, that played out differently in New York with Jones starting earlier than expected, but it worked for the Chiefs and the season concluded with a great passing team lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Let's start there.
Star quarterbacks win
You run the ball, stop the run and rush the passer. Those are still the top priorities to win in the NFL, Gettleman insists.
Let's be real. Super Bowl Sunday was another reminder that star quarterbacks win championships. Look at the list of title winners since 2001. It's a who's who of the league's best quarterbacks.
That's not an accident, and Mahomes is the best in the NFL at the moment. When it came down to it in the fourth quarter of a tight game, the star quarterback (Mahomes) made the plays; San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo did not. In the simplest form, that was the difference.
The Giants are banking on Jones reaching that level. Maybe not quite Mahomes', but at least Manning's. Otherwise, the Giants will be playing for that once-in-a-decade lottery ticket to win a Super Bowl with a serviceable quarterback.
Jones, the No. 6 overall pick in 2019, flashed enough during his rookie season to provide hope.
"We believe Daniel is our guy," Gettleman said recently.
Jones has enough arm. He has the mobility to make plays under pressure -- watching Sunday, it proved again to be a necessity in today's NFL given the emphasis on rushing the passer -- but does Jones have the ability to make the players around him better and to thrive in the biggest moments?
The Giants should cross their fingers, because if he doesn't, they pretty much have no chance to win the ultimate prize.
Rush the QB
The Giants are well-aware they need to improve their pass rush. Landing their version of Nick Bosa (12 pressures against the Chiefs, per Pro Football Focus) like San Francisco did last year with the No. 2 overall pick went out the window late in the season for New York. Victories against the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins pushed the Giants down in the 2020 NFL draft order.
There appears to be one top-five edge rusher in this draft, Ohio State's Chase Young, and he's expected to be gone when the Giants pick at No. 4.
Hello, NFL free agency! Not always the best route to travel, but it's likely the top option to add a true difference-making pass-rusher this offseason, with Yannick Ngakoue and Jadeveon Clowney potentially on the market.
But the Super Bowl proved it's not just that one edge spot where the Giants need work. The 49ers had Dee Ford opposite Bosa, and they had Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner in the middle. Both defensive tackles were among the NFL leaders among defensive linemen with 35 pressures apiece this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
The Chiefs had Frank Clark and Chris Jones wreaking havoc Sunday. Jones pressured Garoppolo into an interception and knocked down three passes. He had 34 pressures in 13 games this season, an incredible average of almost three per game from the interior.
The Giants need some of that, whether it's from Leonard Williams (who is set to become a free agent) or someone else. Their high draft picks in recent years -- Dexter Lawrence (No. 17 overall pick last year) and Dalvin Tomlinson (second-round pick, 2017) -- had pressure rates in the 5 to 7% range. Jones, Buckner and Armstead were all at 8 to 9%. The Giants need to find a way to replicate that with their inside rushers.
Gettleman has said in the past that "Rome wasn't built in a day." Well, this Giants team isn't done rebuilding after two years and it's not going to be finished this season, either. As Gettleman has already conceded, there was a miscalculation as they tried to retool while still trying to win.
The Giants should be better this fall, thanks to a promising young quarterback, more than $70 million in salary-cap space and a top-five pick in the draft. A title run seems unlikely this season, but the work is being done.
The Chiefs have been collecting talent and working their way up to this point for several years. They have been a playoff team for five straight seasons. They reached the AFC Championship Game last season with Mahomes setting records and still lost to Tom Brady and the Patriots.
The 49ers went through a four-year rebuilding process. But their jump from 4-12 to 13-3 was slightly distorted because they played most of last season without their starting quarterback. Garoppolo returned to throw 27 touchdown passes.
San Francisco had also stockpiled first-round picks to use on its defensive line for years, and those investments paid massive dividends. The Giants have some promising talent on offense but are devoid of difference-making building blocks on defense. Giants coach Joe Judge will be installing new systems, unlike the 49ers, who were in their third season under Kyle Shanahan.
The Giants' ascent, if it's on the horizon, will take time -- especially considering they have been adamant about building through the draft.
"We have to build a foundation this year," Judge said recently. "This isn't about a quick fix."
Patience, beyond the 2020 season, will be key.