New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese stood in front of the podium at his annual bye week press conference and took the blame for the team’s 1-6 start. Reese doesn’t draw plays or stand in the huddle but the Giants’ current place as the team with the NFL’s third-worst record rests squarely on his shoulders.
Reese’s biggest blunder was a refusal to upgrade the Giants’ woeful offensive line.
The Giants preferred to go with a young offensive line that is familiar with one another. It was hoped that the group would mature and evolve into a formidable unit.
“Well, the starting five we felt like had a lot of snaps together, and we felt like those guys, when you have some continuity in your offensive line, that’s a help.” Reese said. “We brought in (free agent D.J.) Fluker, we brought in a young kid (sixth-round pick Adam Bisnowaty) …and there weren’t a lot of choices to go out there.
“We looked a lot of different situations, but there just weren’t a lot of offensive line help options out there from our perspective, and we had an opportunity to get somebody, but we looked at some different situations, and it didn’t work out for us.”
This way of thinking helped put the Giants, who had preseason aspirations of building on their 11-5 2016 season, in the NFL’s basement.
A year ago, at the trade deadline, it was rumored the team was in talks with the Cleveland Browns to acquire 10-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Joe Thomas. For reasons that cannot be explained, the deal was not made. Thomas recently saw his record streak of 10,363 offensive snaps broken when he suffered a season-ending triceps injury.
The Giants also failed to strengthen the offensive line through the free agent market, other than signing the inexpensive Fluker. They bypassed offensive linemen who have proven themselves in the NFL like Kelvin Beachum (who signed with the 3-4 New York Jets), Russell Okung (who signed with the 3-4 Los Angeles Chargers), Riley Rieff (who signed with the 5-2 NFC North leading Minnesota Vikings), and Ricky Wagner (who signed with the 3-3 Detroit Lions).
Okung and Wagner’s respective teams defeated the Giants this season.
The most egregious non-signing was Andrew Whitworth, who signed with the 5-2 NFC West leading Los Angeles Rams. The 35-year old Whitworth has helped the Rams’ offensive line become one of the NFL’s best. The Giants will host Whitworth and the Rams after the bye week. The Rams have the NFL’s top-ranked offense, scoring 30.3 points per game.
Reese’s rationale for not picking up one of these more established offensive linemen was age.
“Well, again, we want to be a younger football team, and everybody has an opinion about who was available and who wasn’t,” Reese said. “To us, it didn’t make sense for us, and that’s what we went with. We want to be a younger offensive line. Again, do you want to try to develop a 23-year-old guy or do you want to bring in a 36-year-old guy? We chose to go with the young guy.”
It’s hypocritical for Reese to take the youth movement stance when his biggest free agent signing was wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Marshall turned 33 not long after signing with the Giants. In addition, the Giants have a 36-year-old quarterback in Eli Manning. Manning wasn’t the mobile quarterback even in his younger days but now needs top-notch protection for him to be at his best.
Instead, the Giants went all in on Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart. Any faith in Flowers, a former first-round pick, was shattered when he personally allowed three sacks of Manning in the Week 2 loss to the Lions. Hart injured his ankle before he was benched. The team re-signed John Jerry, who is 31 and not a part of this youth movement Reese envisioned.
In spite of all evidence to the contrary, Reese believes his line is getting better.
“No, I think our offensive line—we have some young players. I think they have improved,” Reese said. “We’ve run the ball some, a little better than we have in the past. But you have to be consistent doing it. You have to commit to running the ball some. I think our offensive line is comparable. Do we want to upgrade our offensive line? Of course, we do, but is our offensive line comparable to a lot of teams around the National Football League? Absolutely, it is.”
The Giants are ranked 27th in yards per game with 296.4 and rushing yards with 3.9. The offensive line allowed 17 sacks and 35 hits of Manning. They’re 31st in first downs per game with 16.6 and only manage to average 16 points per contest, ranked 30th.
There is plenty of blame to go around for the Giants’ 1-6 season. It all begins with the general manager and the personnel decisions he’s made that have come back to bite the Giants in their collective posterior.