The Giants will head into the offseason in a very bad place: Unsure of what they are and who will be leading them, and not a lot of salary cap space to help them get there. They were built to be a playoff contender this season, but in some ways they look like a team that needs to be torn down.
And no one sure if the Giants even know which way to go.
The direction they take will be shaped in the coming weeks and months as they make some huge, franchise-altering decisions. SNY interviewed more than a dozen current and former NFL executives and scouts over the past month in an effort to figure out what’s gone wrong with New York football — and most importantly, how to fix those problems.
Here’s a look at their suggestions for what the Giants should do when the offseason begins:
The front office
There is no doubt from the outside: It’s time for Dave Gettleman to go. And everyone is convinced he will announce his “retirement” shortly before or after the end of the season. There’s also a belief that ideally co-owner John Mara would want to hand the reins to assistant GM Kevin Abrams to keep the job “all in the family.”
But the overwhelming opinion was that Mara shouldn’t, and maybe can’t, do that. He needs, as one former GM put it, “new voices in his head, new ideas, and someone who tells him the truth, not just what he wants to hear.”
“If one of the criteria is having an historical connection to the Giants, they’re using criteria that really doesn’t have anything to do with winning or losing,” said former Eagles president Joe Banner. “Then they’re cheating themselves out of what could be a really great candidate.”
Who would that be? There were many guesses and suggestions, but no one could be sure what Mara will do, or whom he will choose to trust, if he looked outside. Some believe he should look for a candidate with ties to head coach Joe Judge, such as Monti Ossenfort, who worked with Judge in New England, or Dave Ziegler, the Patriots current director of player personnel.
“But how do you give a rookie coach with a terrible record that much power,” said a former NFL executive. “You’re going to let him have a hand in picking the GM when his job should be on the line?”
Others suggested the Giants need an experienced hand at the helm — like former Chiefs and Browns GM John Dorsey or former Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell.
“I don’t think that’s a good spot for someone to learn on the job,” said a former NFL GM. “That situation is crying out for someone who’s done it before.
The coaching staff
While things can always change, it does appear that Judge will get another season from the Giants despite his current 10-20 record. His players seem to like him, his teams play hard, and Mara strongly endorsed him as recently as late October.
But the strong sentiment was that Judge needs to shake up the offensive side of his coaching staff. He already fired offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, whom one former GM said “(Judge) never wanted in the first place.”
“That offense is a train-wreck,” said a current NFL scout. “It wasn’t just Garrett. They haven’t developed any players at any offensive position. Everyone there is underachieving.”
One name to watch: Two years ago, Judge requested permission to interview Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, whom Judge worked with in New England, but the request was denied. He may take a run at him again.
There are no good options for replacing Daniel Jones, who has shown flashes of talent and not nearly enough production. But several advised the Giants not to pick up Jones’ $21.3 million fifth-year option for 2023, which they need to decide on by May. That would put Jones in the final year of his contract next season.
“Then you’ve got options,” one former NFL executive said. “You can’t guarantee him $21 million when you don’t know what he is.”
The idea is to see what Jones can do in 2022. If he fails again, they can move on. If he finally fulfills his potential, they can try to sign him to a long-term deal or use the franchise tag on him. It would cost over $30 million by then, but that would be a bargain if they’re sure he’s definitely their long-term quarterback.
And one other thing was suggested: “Sign a better backup,” said an NFL scout. “If you’ve got a quarterback who gets hurt, you need one who can really play. And it shouldn’t be hard to find a good one because they’ll see an opportunity there.”
A favorite suggestion: Former Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is now a backup in Las Vegas.
There isn’t a lot the Giants can do here because, at the moment, they’re only projected to have about $3.5 million in room now under the $208.2 million salary cap. They have the flexibility to create about $20 million more by cutting receiver Sterling Shepard, tight end Kyle Rudolph and punter Riley Dixon. Of course then they’d need a third receiver, a punter and a tight end, unless they were able to re-sign tight end Evan Engram.
And that still wouldn’t be enough to fill all their holes, especially with safety Jabrill Peppers, tackle Nate Solder, and guard Will Hernandez headed for free agency, too. Maybe they could create another $15 million by restructuring some contracts. But they’ve restructured so many in recent years, there aren’t a lot of possibilities left.
That’s why a former GM said “They should just sit free agency out and fix their financial problems. They need to build through the draft, not go on another spending spree.”
That’s likely what they’ll do, too, though it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add some decent veterans to their very shallow offensive line.
Ironically, one of Gettleman’s best moves was also one of his last – trading down in the first round in 2021 to pick up Chicago’s first-round pick in 2022. That currently gives the Giants two high first-round picks – for the moment, Nos. 5 and 6.
And there is no doubt amongst anyone what they need to do with those picks.
“They’re horrible on the offensive line,” said a former NFL executive. “Their defensive line, I wouldn’t say it’s horrible, but I wouldn’t say it’s great. That has to be their focus.”
Lucky for the Giants, this happens to be a terrific draft for pass rushers, according to many scouts. The only mystery is whether they can get high enough to get either Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux or Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, who might end up going 1-2. With two high picks, the Giants certainly have the ammo to trade up for one of them if they wanted. Or they could settle for a consolation prize like Purdue’s George Karlaftis or the other Michigan edge rusher, David Ojabo.
And, lucky for them again, it’s thought to be a good draft for tackles. N.C. State’s Ikem Ekwonu (6-4, 320), Mississippi State’s Charles Cross (6-5, 325), and Alabama’s Evan Neal (6-7, 360) are all potential Top 10 picks.
So unless they win a couple of meaningless games down the stretch to ruin their draft position, the Giants should be in an ideal spot to address two of their biggest needs. Given how bad their offensive line and pass rush has been, they’d be crazy to look at anything else.