A Return To The Dark Days

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The New York Giants four Super Bowl Championships are tied with the Green Bay Packers for the third most in National Football League history. The Giants also have the luxury of being the only NFL franchise to win Super Bowl Titles in four different decades. The last two Giants championships came in 2007 and 2011 respectively which gave the younger fan base of title glory, but since that last trip through Lower Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes in February 2012, things have changed drastically for Big Blue.

What led to that championship glory for the Giants was the front office’s ability to draft quality players which is something that they’ve recently failed at. Since 2012, only three of the Giants first-round picks remain on the team, while only four are still on the team’s roster in regards to the players that they selected between 2012-2016. And with that it should not come as a surprise that since the Giants last Super Bowl win in 2011, they’ve only had two winning seasons with just a single playoff berth. The Giants finished this past season with a record of 5-11 which clinched their second consecutive last place finish in the NFC East. This marked the first time since 1978 that the Giants finished in last place in the NFC East in consecutive years as that was when the team was in the midst of the worst stretch in franchise history. And if the Giants are not careful, the dark days that hung over this team for most of the 1960’s and 1970’s could be settling in once again over the Meadowlands.

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Dave Gettleman

Dave Gettleman is entering his second season as the general manager of the Giants, and after year one got off to a solid start for him as he drafted running back Saquon Barkley second overall in last year’s National Football Draft who would be later selected as the league’s Rookie of the Year, the sophomore act does not appear to be that much of a slam dunk.

In a very surprising move the Giants decided to not use the franchise tag on strong safety Landon Collins. In four years with the Giants, Collins was a three-time Pro Bowl selection, while also finishing third in the National Football League’s Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2016. Collins was a bright spot on a defense that has been one of the worst in the NFL in recent years, but he fell into the squeeze that is the salary cap of the NFL, while also having his fate decided with the Giants by a general manager who did not draft him.

Gettleman has thrown out different excuses for not using the franchise tag on Collins from the 11$ million cap number that would have been attached to the strong safety, to him not fitting the team’s defensive scheme, and being injury prone. But at the end of the day all of it is hog wash because if Gettleman truly wanted to keep Collins in the Giants fray, he would have found a way to make it happen.

Gettleman is now going to cry poverty for the Giants, but he was the one who took on the contract of outside linebacker Alec Ogletree last year when he acquired from the Los Angeles Rams. Ogeltree did record 5 interceptions last season and a pair of defensive touchdowns for the Giants, but he does not have the same impact on the game like Collins does which makes his cap hit of nearly $11.75 million less appealing. Ogletree is not the only big cap hit that the Giants will be taking this season as the enigmatic wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s cap hit is $21 million, while that of the aging quarterback is at $23 million. The Giants were able to trade veteran defensive end/outside linebacker Olivier Vernon to the Cleveland Browns today, but they will still have to eat $8 million in dead money on his contract.

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Landon Collins

The Giants are currently roughly $28 million under the cap as all signs don’t point to them being big players in free agency. But what will sting the most with the Giants fan base in letting Collins walk away is that it did not have to end like this. This financial issue didn’t just fall into the lap of Gettleman, and if his intention was not to bring Collins back, he could have traded him last year in order to get something back for him. But Gettleman has instead allowed one of the top safeties in the National Football League leave in a move that will be immensely dissected for years to come. Yes the Giants were only 5-11 last season, and it is no secret that their defense was 24th in the National Football League in yards allowed, but you don’t get better by allowing a player the caliber to leave town.

In recent years one thing that has hindered the Giants has been a lack of leadership in the locker room, and to a man, Collins was one of the few bright spots in that category. There are some people who wanted Collins to be better in pass defense, but in four seasons with the Giants, he proved to be an excellent run stuffer as he was forced to make up for the team’s lack of a presence in their front seven.

However this is not the first time that Gettleman has made controversial decisions like this as a general manager in the National Football League. From 2013-2016, Gettleman was the general manager of the Carolina Panthers, and following the 2013 season, he released wide receiver Steve Smith. In 13 seasons with the Panthers, Smith was arguably the franchise’s best player, and his release is something that he has never forgotten. Following the Panthers NFC Championship in 2016, the Panthers used their franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman. But when talks between Gettleman and Norman’s representatives stalled that spring, the Panthers rescinded the franchise which made the cornerback a free agent. And as Gettleman had created an uneasiness among the players in the Panthers locker room because they never knew if they were coming or going, he was relieved of his duties in July 2017.

But the Giants brass was willing welcome Gettleman with open arms since he was the team’s pro personnel director from 1999-2011 and in that time he saw some of the highs and lows of the franchise; however he and team co-owner John Mara are currently flirting with disaster.

Image result for craig morton giantsSome fans of the Giants are too young to remember the dark days of the franchise when from 1964-1980, New York only posted two winning seasons, and not a single playoff berth. The Giants were plagued by bad personnel decisions which was caused by the epic rift between Wellington Mara and his nephew Tim who were the team’s co-owners. The Miracle at the Meadowlands in 1978 was the straw that broke the camel’s back as the Giants would soon reach out to the National Football League for help, and thus George Young was appointed to be a buffer between the quarreling Maras. And with Young leading the way, the Giants would once again become one of the NFL’s marquee franchises which included winning a pair of Super Bowl Titles.

And what is currently happening with the Giants is a crying shame because it was not that long ago that this team was contending for Super Bowl Titles. Reese’s job as the Giants general manager was to keep the machine rolling that his predecessor Ernie Acorsi had created. But after the Giants last Super Bowl Championship, Reese failed miserably in drafting as he was never able to properly replace players such as defensive end Justin Tuck and guard Chris Snee who were key players on New York’s last two title teams. In doing so the Giants wasted some prime years of Manning’s career, and after making former head coach Tom Coughlin the scapegoat in 2015 which led to his departure, they did the same to Manning in 2017. Former Giants head coach Ben McAdoo benched Manning late in that season in favor of Geno Smith which didn’t sit well with the fans or media in New York City. Mara would then hang McAdoo out to dry in regards to the decision, and within a matter of days, he and Reese were gone.

Ever since Beckham’s spectacular catch in his rookie season of 2014, Mara and the Giants have made it their business to put up with his antics in regards to being a diva. Yes Beckham is one of the most explosive players in the National Football League, but unlike Collins he is not a leader.

So now the Giants who already have a litany of needs on both sides of the football heading into next month’s National Football League Draft now have another void to fill which is finding a strong safety. The Giants have the sixth overall pick of the draft, and although all signs point to them taking a quarterback early, they simply don’t have enough selections in order to plug all of the holes on this team.

The Philadelphia Eagles are two years removed from winning the Super Bowl, while the Dallas Cowboys have their sights on getting there this year. And as those are the two teams that the Giants must go through in order to win the NFC East, 2019 is setting up to be a wash for them before it gets started. Gettleman has always had a “my way or the highway” philosophy in regards to how he treats his players, and just it was his undoing in Charlotte, it will be his demise in New York City soother rather than later. Gettleman is going to be the one that will show Manning the door in a few months, and although that the franchise quarterback is getting up there in age, it is one of those situations that you better make sure that you have his replacement before showing him the door as being the starting quarterback for a New York area team is a little different than it is in any other National Football League. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, just look at the Giants bunk mates at MetLife Stadium in the New York Jets who are still searching for the next Joe Namath. Gettleman struck gold on Barkley, but if his replacements for Manning and Collins don’t yield immediate dividends, his fate with the Giants will be sealed. And if Gettleman does fail to find the right replacements along with quality talent at other positions, it will also symbolize that the Giants have become one of the worst teams in the NFL which was a far-fetched idea several years ago, but following the departure of Collins could be the new reality of this franchise. And if that does happen, the younger Mara may have to go to the NFL in the same fashion that his father did 40 years ago in order to correct his franchise’s ineptitude. But for anyone who wants to doubt me on this, just sit back and see what Gettleman does or does not do at next month’s NFL Draft.

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