NFL

Mandel’s Musings: New York Giants Go to 4-1, Defeating the Green Bay Packers as Daniel Jones Exhibits Leadership

The New York Giants crashed the party on Sunday as they overcame a 14-point deficit to beat Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, 27-22 in front of a Cheesehead-dominated Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on what marked the historic franchise’s first game in London.

Saquon Barkley put the Giants ahead for the first time in the game with six minutes left as he darted to the outside on a two-yard touchdown run to cap a drive he had exploded into life with a 40-yard catch and run reception.

I just re-watched this game because, yes, I am a football nerd. I discovered something that should make the Giants organization happy. It looks like their quarterback, Daniel Jones, is developing into a leader and maybe, just maybe a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL (which he certainly has not been for the three plus seasons he’s been Big Blue’s QB.

Today, Jones played hurt, with a moderate to severely sprained ankle incurred during the Giants last game seven days ago. As anyone who has experienced a bad ankle sprain will tell you, it’s damn near impossible for that thing to fully heal in seven days no matter how heavily the trainers tape it.

No matter, Jones was excellent in crunch time, both passing and running the ball without Saquon Barkley on the field during the third quarter. Jones led the game-tying drive, a 15 play, 91 yard gem, during which he was seven for seven passing while gaining 25 yards running the ball on that bad ankle. And he did it against a team from Green Bay with a championship pedigree and a Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rogers.

Saquon Barkley making a defensive back miss on 40-yard pass play

The Giants, who won four game all of last season (4-13) are now 4-1, under new head coach, Brian Daboll, who is now the early leader in the Coach of the Year running. Daboll’s biggest challenge in taking over this sad, forlorn franchise was to resurrect some form of leadership from the quarterback position. Jones was inherited by Daboll and Joe Schoen, the new general manager from the previous and incompetent Dave Gettleman years and can easily move on from Jones as soon as his final year of his four-year rookie deal runs out at the end of this season.

However, Jones may just make that decision a little tougher for Schoen and Daboll, if he keeps playing and leading as he did, today.

Teammates notice this stuff. They see when the light all of a sudden turns on for a player. So do opposing players and coaches around the league.

It was one good day at the office for Daniel Jones, today. He looked like a winner for the first time in four years. The challenge will be in repeating this performance. We’ll see.

Jones found his touch in the second half

Mandel’s Musings: Football Giants Developing Core of Potential Stars But Still a Long Way from Competitive

By Scott Mandel

Excuse this bit of obviosity but, breaking news, the football Giants have been an embarrassment for more than a decade. A civic embarrassment to New Yorkers and an angry embarrassment to their season ticket holders.

It’s been 13 years since Big Blue made it to the Super Bowl. By itself, that’s not a terrible thing since it’s really hard to make it to that game. The Giants, once one of the more successful franchises in NFL history, has made it to the ultimate championship game a total of FIVE times since the Super Bowl came into existence 56 years ago. And that’s a good number. By comparison, the Jets have made it, ONE time, when Joe Namath was 25 years old. Namath is 79, now.

But, in the proceeding years, since the Giants last appearance in the Super Bowl, back in 2011, the Giants overall record has been 61-100. They have missed the playoffs 9 of the past 10 seasons and they have not been competitive in any of those seasons, save for a 6-10 record in 2020 which got the masses excited. That’s how far this franchise has fallen. Their combined record over the past five years is 22-59, an average season record of 4-12.

Giants fans are THIS close to wearing paper bags over their heads at home games. The team has fired four head coaches in the past 9 years. This once-proud franchise has become an eyesore even the most loyal Giants fans try NOT to watch on Sundays.

But, as with most losing teams, hope springs eternal with its fan base. And here we are, at the outset of another NFL season and what is sure to be another losing situation for New York’s Giants (the more they lose, the more we may start calling them the New Jersey Giants, where they play their games and practice and live).

Coming into this 2022 season, which begins tonight with a Thursday night game between Buffalo and the Rams, the Giants have a long way to go to respectability but they appear to be developing a small core of pro-bowl type talent to build around.

S: Xavier McKinney

OT: Evan Neal

OT: Andrew Thomas

EDGE: Azeez Ojulari

EDGE: Kayvon Thibodeaux

WR: Wan’Dale Robinson

WR: Kadarius Toney

DT: Leonard Williams

DT Dexter Lawrence

RB Saquon Barkley

Thibodeax expects a big year

The problem will be in their ability to defend the pass. From what I have seen in the preseason, the starting cornerbacks, Aaron Robinson and Adoree Jackson, are going to get burned constantly in single coverage sets. Giants defensive coordinator, Wink Martindale will need to play lots of zone and nickel schemes to help those guys out while he prays for two things:

That the Giants can play at a very high level on the defensive front. Those seven positions, between the defensive line and the linebackers, will need to pressure opposing quarterbacks on every passing down. That will be a big ask from that group. And, Martindale is hoping the Giants offense can control the ball for 35 to 40 minutes every game to keep the ball out of the opposing teams’ hands. The best antidote for a Swiss cheese defense (lots of holes) is a good offense with a good, clock-consuming running game.

The Giants biggest question mark remains their quarterback, Daniel Jones, who was drafted in the first round four years ago and has not progressed into a winning player, some of which is his fault, some with the coaching staffs and management teams of this franchise. He has been turnover-prone, between interceptions and fumbles, often putting his defense into terrible field position. There isn’t an NFL defense, current or past, that can overcome a terrible quarterback on their own team.

Here in 2022, the NFL predominantly remains a passing league when it comes to putting points on the board. That makes the quarterback position the most important on the field. It also makes cornerbacks the second most important position on the field. The Giants are sweating out these two most important positions. If the level of performance from Daniel Jones does not grow exponentially this season, and if the weakness of Adoree Jackson and Aaron Robinson continues into the regular season games, this will turn into another 4-13 season for Big Blue.

And, yet again, another opportunity to draft their next “franchise quarterback of the future.”

Arizona Cardinals QB, Kyler Murray Signs $230.5 Million Extension, Could Forfeit Every Dime if he Doesn’t do Film Study

By Scott Mandel

I am as bored and shocked with the kinds of contracts non-elite players who have won nothing are being offered these days. A new one just popped up that turns out to be absurd, not only in the numbers versus the performance of the athlete but in the embarrassing requirements stipulated by the contract.

Kyler Murray, the highly overrated 5‘8“ quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals who is probably in the middle range of NFL quarterbacks (10-15), was offered a 5-year, $230.5 million extension to continue his non-star performances, a contract that includes quite possibly, the most juvenile clause in professional sports history.

Apparently, Kyler Murray has difficulty doing the prep work required of an NFL quarterback, which always includes hours upon hours of film study of all opposing teams, breaking down their weaknesses that can be exploited in upcoming games.

Signed a 5-year contract extension

“I’m not one of those guys that’s going to sit there and kill myself watching film. I don’t sit there for 24 hours and break down this team and that team and watch every game because, in my head I see so much.” That was Kyler Murray recently.

The clause in question? Murray is required, contractually to “do his homework,” or risk having the contract canceled, all $230.5 million of it.

Murray will be required to do at least four hours of “independent study” before each week’s game. This study material will be provided by the team, and time spent in team meetings for normal game prep does not count toward the four hours. Yes, this is a real thing.

To earn those four hours of weekly credit, the team will monitor Murray’s iPad usage to ensure he avoids activity that might “distract his attention” (actual contract language!) while he does this independent study.

This sounds perfectly fine for a middle-school assignment. I’ll even allow a tightly run college sports program. But this? For adults? Absurd. The amount of suspicion and mistrust baked into this contract — which could default, by the way, if Murray fails to adhere to the homework, is enormous. And embarrassing.

Two true things: It’s a bad look for Murray for obvious reasons, and an equally bad look for the Cardinals, who were concerned enough about Murray’s preparation to put this juvenile clause in.

This poor kid will be hearing about it from fans in opposing stadiums this entire season. Murray is at risk of approaching former Steelers quarterback, Terry Bradshaw, of whom an NFL opponent once said, “Bradshaw couldn’t spell cat if you spotted him the C and the A.”

Mandel’s Musings: NFL Is In Big Trouble As Al Sharpton Enters the Fray. Billions of Dollars At Stake for the League and its Owners

by Scott Mandel

Al Sharpton is getting involved with Brian Flores’ NFL lawsuit. The NFL should be afraid, very afraid.

Especially the owners.

Al Sharpton - Personal Life, Age & Facts - Biography
Al Sharpton will be assisting Brian Flores in his case against the NFL

Sharpton and other top civil rights leaders have requested a meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a class-action suit against the league alleging racial discrimination.

“In light of the recent lawsuit filed by Brian Flores, it has brought this attention back to the forefront of our community, and it is important that you have an immediate open dialogue with Civil Rights leadership,” the letter read. “We are being asked to do everything within our power, including direct action at next week’s Super Bowl, as well as appealing to local municipalities that underwrite and give special considerations to stadiums to pressure the NFL and its owners to get more serious about enforcing the ruling law.”

Also, if it can be proven Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins, indeed encouraged Flores, his head coach to “tank” the season to gain a higher draft pick for the Dolphins by offering Flores $100,000 in cold hard cash for each loss they suffer, Ross will be removed from the sport.

I’m just not sure how Brian Flores can prove all of these accusations or racism in the NFL’s hiring practices and tanking a season. Evidently, there’s nothing in writing.

The latest news today comes after Ross had more than 24 hours to think about it, Ross issued a fiery response to the claims made against him by Flores.

“With regards to the allegations being made by Brian Flores, I am a man of honor and integrity and cannot let them stand without responding,” Ross wrote. “I take great personal exception to these malicious attacks, and the truth must be known. His allegations are false, malicious and defamatory.

“We understand that there are media reports stating that the NFL intends to investigate his claims, and we will cooperate fully. I welcome that investigation and I am eager to defend my personal integrity, and the integrity and values of the entire Miami Dolphins organization from these baseless, unfair and disparaging claims.”

Flores was fired in January after three seasons, the last two of which produced winning records. He claims that the team conducted a smear campaign in media and in league circles after his dismissal in an effort to paint him as “an angry Black man.”

The NFL. The “Not For Long” league, but, only if you get caught. Maybe the league should be re-named, DGCL. The Don’t Get Caught League.

Mandel’s Musings: As Tom Brady Decides to Retire From the NFL, Is it Even Debatable Who the Greatest Quarterback of All Time Is?

By Scott Mandel

In the sports business, fans and media alike often get into debates about which team or player is the greatest of all time or, certainly, of a particular era. It’s a viable debate, unlike a discussion of the greatest scientist or politician of all time. Too many variables in those areas!!

But, in sports, other than it being difficult to compare eras, mostly because of advancements in training conditions, the human body, coaching techniques, etc., it’s easy to compare players and teams, intra-era.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has a shoe room for his 180 pairs
Is Mahomes the heir apparent to Brady as the NFL’s best QB?

That’s why the statement, “Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of his era, and possibly, of all time” is as real and accurate as “Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of his generation, or other generations.”

Or, “Thurman Munson was better than Johnny Bench.” Or, “the New York football Giants suck.”

All of these statements have more than a degree of truth. The fun part of these debates begins when you compare the greatest players or teams from other eras:

Who was better? The ’27 Yankees or the 1976 Big Red Machine? That would take us through a steak dinner and dessert, at least.

Don’t get me started on the greatest presidents. I can just imagine someone in a bar, after way too many imbibed alcoholic beverages saying, “Trump would have wiped out the Cold War before it even started. That Truman dude didn’t have a clue!! Get me another beer!!”

Former Giants Busts, DeAndre Baker and Eli Apple, May Hold the Key to Bengals or Chiefs Super Bowl Chances

by Scott Mandel

Next week, two former NY Giants cornerbacks, both drafted in the first round by Big Blue, will be playing in the American Football Conference championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals, with the winner going on to play in the Super Bowl, that game with all that great halftime entertainment and great football food, like pigs in a blanket.

For DeAndre Baker of Kansas City, the Giants 1st round pick in 2019 from the great University of Georgia program and Eli Apple of Cincinnati, whom the Giants chose with the 10th overall pick in 2016 as the first cornerback in that draft class out of Ohio State University, it’s been a long hard road to get to this pinnacle of their sport.

From gun and robbery charges and serious injuries for Baker to mental health accusations thrown in Apple’s direction, both young men were considered busts as NFL players.

Now, Eli Apple and DeAndre Baker will each be facing two of the greatest young quarterbacks in the history of the sport. How they perform can very well be the difference between their teams going home or going to the Super Bowl to play for the championship of the sport and the most-watched sporting event in the country.

Apple and Baker, as cornerbacks, will be charged with the sole responsibility of preventing Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow from doing what these two outstanding QBs do better than almost any other quarterback has ever done, particularly at such young ages (under 25), in the history of professional football. They complete passes, throw multiple touchdowns and, embarrass opposing cornerbacks at an alarming rate. Over and over again.

We will be paying close attention to these two young star quarterbacks this entire week but it is DeAndre Baker and Eli Apple, the former college All-Americans who turned into NFL busts who will be given a chance at redemption this Sunday, in the biggest game of their lives. Baker and Apple will try to recover their soiled and sordid reputations, back to the time they entered the league as college stars.

Urban Meyer on Eli Apple's NFL issues: 'He was fantastic for us' -  cleveland.com
Eli Apple in his Ohio State days in 2016

Both players may well hold the result of this game in their hands, either by allowing a touchdown to be scored against them as they lose track of the opposing teams’ great receivers or, by picking off a pass and taking it to the house, sending their team to the Super Bowl, with the crowd going crazy in the stadium and more than 100 million viewers watching on television.

We know both of these kids are dreaming big dreams of being heroes, which is exactly what they used to be on campus. The alternative is, of course, nightmarish, something both Mahomes and Burrow are used to inflicting on opposing cornerbacks. They can light up the sky with passes and points.

Former Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker facing armed robbery, aggravated  assault charges | Georgia Sports | redandblack.com
DeAndre Baker – University of Georgia, 2018

DeAndre Baker and Eli Apple are playing for much more than a Super Bowl berth. They are playing to turn their lives around.

Legend of Mike White, NFL Quarterback, Continues on Thursday for Jets. Could He Be THE ANSWER?

By SCOTT MANDEL

After yesterday’s phenomenonal performance by the Jets fill-in quarterback, one Mike White, we wonder if the J-E-T-S are thinking about putting their prized number one draft pick, Zach Wilson, who was gifted the starting job immediately after signing his rookie contract, on the trade market to try to pick up a few chips for upcoming drafts? After all, White, the 26-year old journeyman has become a national story since yesterday, when he replaced the injured Wilson in the first start of his three-year career, leading the lowly Jets to a stunning come-from-behind upset win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

If MIke White is the real deal, in effect, THE ANSWER for the Jets at the quarterback position, it opens up a plethora of opportunities for Joe Douglas, the Jets general manager. But we are getting far in front of ourselves.

We are cognizant of the potential, if not the likelihood White may be a one hit wonder, despite his hellacious debut in the NFL against a Bengal team many see as a contender to get to the AFC championship game. After being a three-year benchwarmer, White completed 37 of 45 passes, throwing for 405 yards and three touchdowns in the thrilling 34-31 win, the kind of victory that has been few and far between for the Jets for many decades.

But, this kid has skills. He can throw the ball accurately and with velocity. Given enough time in the pocket, this 6’5″, 220 pound kid seems to have the poise, the boys (guys know what that means), the vision to check down, the foot work, the arm strength, the quick release, and the accuracy to complete NFL-type passes. And that is something Jets fans have not seen consistently from their quarterbacks since Joe Namath, in 1968. And, that includes Zach Wilson, who has not unexpectedly been an erratic performer, at best, in his rookie season.

Yesterday, Mike White was able to make average or unproven receivers, both downfield and those coming out of the backfield, look better than their individual talents. He also made a disheveled, less than talented offensive line look much better than they have played this entire season. A quick release will do that for you.

Some quarterbacks raise the level of play for their team through inspiration and talent while other quarterbacks need to be surrounded by great players to play well (like Eli Manning, for instance). Mike White made the 1-5 Jets look like a confident, physical football team for the first time this season. That’s a fact.

Will White be a one-hit wonder? Could be. He played at South Florida University before transferring to Western Kentucky, being drafted in the fifth round in 2018 by the Cowboys. Dallas cut him despite needing a backup quarterback and the Jets cut him this year, bringing him back when they needed a third practice quarterback so the legend of Mike White may just be a temporary interregnum in another depressing Jets season in search of a good story.

Jets Mike White Zach Wilson
Zach Wilson, Jets #1 draft pick and starting QB since his first game, is not assured of holding onto his job

On the other hand, the legendary Hall of Famer, John Unitas was once cut by the Steelers before breaking every passing record in the sport as a Baltimore Colt. And, Kurt Warner was cut a few times before he became a Hall of Famer, beginning in his late 20s. Sometimes, the light just clicks on for some people later in life than it does for others. And, sometimes, it’s a bummer when Cinderella, with her back story of the glass slippers and the horse-drawn carriage turning into a pumpkin when the clock strikes 12, has her one shining moment before reality kicks in.

Either way, it’s a great story and this moment has captivated New Yorkers as well as football fans all over the country. It has also captured the fancy of Jets head coach, Robert Saleh, who said yesterday, in his post-game comments when asked if Zach Wilson will retain the starting job when he is healthy to play, “anything’s possible” about White getting an extended run as the starter.

Now it’s on to game two, in three short days, for the Mike White saga. It says here, Mike White will get to wear his shiny glass slippers/cleats for a third consecutive game, after this Thursday, when Wilson, the golden boy #1 draft choice, is expected to return from his knee injury.

We will find out, week by week, whether Mike White is THE ANSWER or, just another passing fancy.

Mandel’s Musings: Giants Start Out Fifth Straight Season 0-2 After Loss to WFT

By SCOTT MANDEL

The New York Giants stink. Again.

You know that old cliche and ongoing excuse losing teams always invoke – We lost a game tonight we should have won? The Giants have been using that old saw for almost a decade, now, and 2021 looks like more of the same. Other excuses/detachments from reality are also expressed as:

  1. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
  2. I saw some good things out there.
  3. We have a lot to build on.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…..

The Giants don’t have a pass rush. They don’t have an aggressive defensive secondary, they lost their best offensive lineman and captain for the season with a gruesome broken leg from a unit considered by many as the worst in the National Football League.

When does basketball season start?

New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton drops would-be 43-yard  touchdown from quarterback Daniel Jones
Darius Slayton drops TD pass in the end zone against WFT tonight

The Redskins, eh, I mean, the WTF’s or is, WFT’s, controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The backup quarterback for the “Team,” Taylor Heineke, shredded the Giants for 325 yards passing, with the gift of all the time he had in the pocket to play pitch and catch with his receivers.

The final score was 30-29 on a field goal with zero seconds on the clock but who cares. The football season is over for the Giants and Giants fans. The pressure cooker in New York is going to be turned up on Giants head coach, Joe Judge, whose teams have shown more than a propensity for shooting themselves in the foot with the kinds of mistakes professsionals are not supposed to be making. Dropped touchdown passes in the end zone, offsides penalties with seconds to go and the Giants up by two points moving the Team five yards closer to field goal range.

It’s terrible to have any hopes or dreams if you are a Giants fan. Pretty soon, John Mara will call Giants general manager, Dave Gettleman to send him into his retirement. Gettleman has had three seasons to improve the offensive line and, the team’s record. He hasn’t been successful at either objective.

NY Giants Arriving for 2020 Training Camp. Masks and Everything

By Scott Mandel

It’s game on—or more accurately, training camp on, for the NFL after the league and the NFL Players Association finally resolved their remaining differences regarding operational and financial matters that had threatened to end the season before it had a chance to get off the ground. 

The Giants rookies have already reported for camp. By Sunday, they will have completed the mandatory five-day testing period in which they were to have taken a COVID-19 test on reporting day (July 23) and again on July 26.

Both tests must be negative if they are to be allowed to begin training within the sterile environment the team has set up to be based out of MetLife Stadium.

The veterans are due to report for their five-day testing period on July 28. There will be an established schedule (as laid out by SI.com’s Albert Breer), who also reports that walk-through practices will be permitted during the strength and conditioning part of the schedule.

Schedules aside, the Giants will have no shortage of storylines this summer, ranging from what new head coach Joe Judge’s practices and command of the team will look like to how the new offensive and defensive schemes will take shape.

Buccaneers’ Donovan Smith raises concerns about playing 2020 season: ‘I’m not a lab rat or a guinea pig to test theories on’

By Ryan Gaydos

Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman Donovan Smith will have the job of protecting new quarterback Tom Brady in 2020.

But Smith is unsure whether playing in the midst of a global pandemic is worth it.

“With the start of the 2020 season fast approaching, many thoughts and questions roam my mind as I’m sure it does for many of my co-workers across the league,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “The unfortunate events of the COVID-19 pandemic have put a halt to a lot of things. Football is not one.

“To continue discussing the many UNKNOWNS do not give me comfort. Risking my health as well as my family’s health does not seem like a risk worth taking. With my first child due in three weeks, I can’t help but think about how I will be able to go work and take proper precautions around 80+ people every day, then go home to be with my newborn daughter.”

He wondered how players are going to be able to practice safe social-distancing measures when every play requires contact.

“How can a sport that requires physical contact on every snap and transferal of all types of bodily fluid EVERY SINGLE PLAY practice safe social distancing? Yes, we can get tested every day, but if it takes 24 hours to get my results, how can I know each day that I’m not spreading the virus or contracting it. The recurring issue here is how? There are too many ‘hows’ that have yet to be answered to ease player concerns and ensure the safety of not only myself but also my family. I can’t imagine how the game will be the same during these unprecedented times.”

Smith said playing this season would, at the very least, call for a pay raise.

“I’m not a lab rat or a guinea pig to test theories on. I’m a man, a son, brother, soon to be a father, and I deserve to be safe at work.”

Some of the NFL’s health and safety guidelines were reported this week. Some of the rules include no jersey swapping or postgame congregating.

Smith is entering his sixth season with Tampa Bay. He’s played in 79 out of 80 games in his first five seasons.