EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Steve Tisch sat stoically last month as fellow co-owner John Mara unloaded about the perception that the New York Giants didn’t have a plan earlier this offseason. They were hearing a lot of “What is the plan?” at the time given that they had just traded star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and followed by committing to quarterback Eli Manning and signing Golden Tate.
Tisch eventually calmly chimed in on the conversation.
“We know where we need to build certain positions,” he said at the time. “[General manager] Dave [Gettleman] has a plan. He discusses it with [coach] Pat [Shurmur]. Pat has a plan. He discusses it with Dave. There is a plan.
“Over the next six weeks, pieces of that plan are going to start coming together.”
Those six weeks have passed, and the Giants’ present and future have taken shape. They’ve since drafted Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the No. 6 overall pick, the most notable of 10 selections, and signed wide receiver Sterling Shepard to an extension. It provides a glimpse into what the post-Manning era might become.
Like it or not (and it seems the majority of fans and pundits feel the latter), the Giants are fully invested in Jones as their next franchise quarterback. The mad scientist Gettleman has staked his career on it.
It’s a risky proposition given the wide range of evaluations on the Duke quarterback. Speaking to some coaches, executives and scouts, I heard everything from “what box doesn’t he check?” to “fairly high ceiling” to “pedestrian talent” to “liked” but with a second-round grade to “backup!” But at least the selection of Jones signals that the Giants have seriously begun preparing for that next generation. That is a significant step for this franchise.
Without a successor for Manning, the Giants were stuck swimming in the marsh of the Meadowlands. That’s an ugly place to live after collecting a total of eight victories in the past two seasons. Now, at least there can be hope that Jones silences the critics. It’s not as if it’s out of the question. He was a first-round prospect (likely a top-20 pick) whether the Giants took him at No. 6 or not. So the future of the franchise now rests on the young Eli clone playing alongside one of the league’s best running backs (Saquon Barkley) along with Shepard and tight end Evan Engram.
“In time, you’ll be very pleased,” was Gettleman’s message to fans after the selection of Jones.
It’s going to be a process. The Giants might think internally they can compete for the playoffs this season (with Manning as the starter), but it’s irrational logic considering the comings and goings over the past year. They’re long shots, at best. This team isn’t built for immediate success with the holes that exist on the roster. Just think: The Giants allowed Landon Collins to walk, traded Beckham and Olivier Vernon and replaced them with Jabrill Peppers, Tate and Markus Golden and Oshane Ximines (a third-round pick from Old Dominion). They added veteran guard Kevin Zeitler and seem to be operating as if right tackle Mike Remmers is next.
Through all this, the Giants still don’t have a true difference-maker on defense. They have a bunch of players they can win with, just none they can win because of, and that’s a problem.
That’s the cost of taking a quarterback at No. 6 overall and jettisoning defensive playmakers in free agency and with trades. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Antoine Bethea are the only players on the roster to make the Pro Bowl on the merits of their defensive contributions.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Gettleman said over the weekend.
Gettleman admitted walking a tightrope with the desire to win while trying to rebuild. He, of course, won’t use the term “rebuild.” But that is what the Giants are doing, even if they have declined to tear it down completely before trying to resurrect Rome. They believe cleansing the roster will, to a degree, lead to better results.
And maybe it will. This team still isn’t competing for anything serious until Jones (or maybe the guy after him) is behind center. The Giants remain a crime scene with remnants of the caution tape lingering.
“I’ve got to think short term, and I’ve got to think long term. That’s the box I’m in. That’s the position I’m in. Coaches have to win now, and I ask myself — I’ve told you guys a million times, I ask myself that question, am I giving Pat and the guys enough players to win with, OK? And really, you know, it’s tough,” Gettleman said.
“But I can say this to you guys right now. When we got in here Thursday night, the question was posed, ‘Why didn’t you wait until 17?’ Well, I know for a fact there were two teams that would have taken him in front of 17. I know that for a fact. So it’s tough, it really is. It wasn’t easy for me to pass up Josh Allen [the edge rusher who went No. 7 to Jacksonville]. For me, my background, that was very, very difficult. But I think that much of Daniel Jones and his future as an NFL quarterback.”
There is the hope. There is the plan. It lies with the next franchise quarterback. That really should be the biggest takeaway from this draft. Forget where Jones was selected, whether it was at No. 6, No. 17 or somewhere in between. That is almost irrelevant. You can finally see where the Giants are headed. It’s wherever their first-round quarterback will take them, no matter his draft spot.
For better or worse, that is the plan that will decide the legacies of Shurmur and Gettleman.