by Scott Mandel, SportsReporters.com
It’s just one game on the books for the 2019 New York Giants and 15 more to go for a once-proud original franchise in the National Football League. So why does it feel like this season is over?
One game in and 2019 is already shaping up to be a gigantic embarrassment for John Mara, the owner of the team as well as the legion of Giants fans. One game and you’ve never seen so many Big Blue fans burying their collective heads in their hands as they did yesterday after Dallas exposed the Giants defense and the Giants coaching staff for the frauds they truly are. The Giants, along with another once-proud franchise, the Miami Dolphins, are TANKING this season.
This roster of young Giants is comprised of respectful, well-mannered, polite guys, just as Giants general manager, Dave Gettleman, wanted. Good character guys. Unfortunately, good character is usually a buzzword in the sports business for losers. Anybody paying attention to Bill Belichick and Antonio Brown, lately?
History is dotted with teams with good character guys who couldn’t spell win, even if you spotted them the W. In getting rid of elite NFL talents over the past year like Pro-bowler Odell Beckham, cornerback Eli Apple, Pro-Bowl safety Landon Collins, Pro-Bowl defensive linemen Olivier Vernon, Jason Pierre-Paul, Damon “Snacks” Harrison, and Linval Joseph and soon, Eli Manning, Gettleman has destroyed the Giants for the foreseeable future by removing veteran, proven talent from a team that is painfully short on talent, coaching, and really, everything else.
It’s not all Gettleman’s fault, of course. He was brought in by Mara to replace another incompetent football executive, Jerry Reese, who was fired in 2017. Reese’s main problem was he couldn’t judge talent, as only four players, Sterling Shepherd, Evan Engram, Davlin Tomlinson, and Wayne Gallman remain on the Giants from Reese’s ten-year (2007-2017) draft history.
For comparison’s sake, the New England Patriots, who compete for or win the Super Bowl every year, never get to draft high picks because NFL rules give the worst teams, like the Giants, the first opportunities to grab the best players in the country. The Patriots get stuck with a lot of players in the later rounds. So, how many players do the Patriots still have on their current roster from the past 10 years of drafts? Thirty-three players still perform in the NFL, drafted by the Patriots, since 2010.
But this 35-10 loss last night to Dallas, in a game that wasn’t even THAT close, was not Manning, who threw for 305 yards, or the offense’s fault. This loss could be pinned on exactly what we thought the Giants’ most glaring weaknesses were all along entering the season: their young, inexperienced cornerbacks and their nonexistent pass rush. The problem in those two units are two-fold. They are very young players and, they possibly will not turn out to be any good, at any age.
The Giants’ secondary couldn’t cover anybody the Cowboys sent out to catch passes, and their pass rush treated Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott (25 of 32, 404 yards, four touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating) with more respect than Cowboys’ team owner Jerry Jones has in not signing him to a contract extension.
In short, the NFL debut for Giants rookie cornerback DeAndre Baker was a nightmare, and the day wasn’t much better for backup Antonio Hamilton, either. Not that this was all on those two players.
“Reality check?’’ safety Michael Thomas said. “We’ve got to get back to work. We can’t make the mistakes we made out there regardless of [whether we’re] young or not. And it wasn’t just young guys, myself included. We’ve got to get better.’’
Safety Antoine Bethea, a veteran of 14 seasons, and, a character guy with little speed or NFL skill remaining, said, “Yeah, we’re young, but we get paid to do a job, and we’ve got to do it with no excuses.’’
Bethea’s message to the youngsters?
“They’re going to keep coming at you until you start making plays,’’ he said.
Baker, the first-round draft pick from Georgia, had the roughest game of all.
“Rookie corner in the NFL, out there playing for the first time, there’s a lot to be learned,’’ Giants coach Pat Shurmur said.
With Baker and Hamilton out there looking like raw meat to a lion (with the lion being Prescott), the Cowboys quarterback never bothered to look in the direction of Giants veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins once all afternoon.
“I expected that,’’ Jenkins said.
Jenkins’ message to Baker and Hamilton?
“You got a lot of talent, a lot of potential, and we’ve got 15 more games to go,’’ he said. “It’s pretty tough, but you’re either going to man up or lay down.’’
The nightmare for the secondary began early, on the Cowboys’ second offensive series after the Giants had taken a 7-0 lead on the opening possession. Baker was beaten by Cowboys receiver Michael Gallup (7 catches for 158 yards) on a 13-yard completion on third-and-4 to keep the drive alive.
Several plays later, the Cowboys tied the game at 7-7 on a busted coverage that left tight end Blake Jarwin wide open on a 28-yard TD.
“It’s the NFL, so there’s no excuses about whoever they’re throwing the ball at — whether they’re throwing at me 10 times, DeAndre 10 times — we’ve got to make our plays,’’ Hamilton said. “There ain’t no excuse.’’
Baker was torched by Amari Cooper (6-106, TD) on a 21-yard Prescott TD pass that made it 21-7 Cowboys.
“I didn’t have the best game that I wanted to have, but it’s about bouncing back and showing what I can do next week,’’ Baker said. “I have to fight to through adversity.’’
How does Jenkins, the veteran of the cornerback group, think the youngsters will come back from this next Sunday against the Bills in the home opener?
“We’re going to respond like big dogs,’’ Jenkins promised. “We came out a little short this week. We’re not far away. Just mental mistakes, small things that can be fixed in practice.’’
That all sounds good. It’s just that none of what happened to the Giants on Sunday seemed small.
Fifteen more to go.