When Giants co-owner John Mara took to the media during training camp to discuss the Giants’ 2021 season, he did so with cautious optimism that things would get better eventually, that his team would begin to make tangible progress towards a playoff berth. and, finally, another Super Bowl championship.
“I want to see us progress and become a winning team again,” he said in August, standing a few yards from the training ground. “We’re late on this, and we’ve spent a lot of money on free agency. I think we’ve had some really productive projects. Now is the time to prove it on the pitch.”
Almost three months later, things couldn’t be much worse.
The Giants are 2-6, they haven’t shown the ability to win close games, their defense has mostly been a disappointment, Daniel Jones hasn’t elevated his game to elite status, Joe Judge doesn’t. has not stood out and the playoffs seem light years away.
(voice of Jim Mora): Playoffs. . . playoffs? Are you kidding?
The Giants put in another rambling performance in a 20-17 loss to Kansas City, a game that seemed close at hand in the end but came undone after a penalty made up for what could have been a decisive interception at the end of the fourth quarter.
Nearly halfway through the season, things couldn’t be much worse.
The Giants are 2-6 and tied for last place in the NFC East. They’re already desperately behind the Cowboys 6-1, who are looking good for the Super Bowl this season, and unless there is an immediate turnaround, they’re headed for another season with no playoff spot. They’ve only made the playoffs once since winning the Super Bowl in 2011, and there’s no indication they can stage a race at this point.
After all, they should be 7-2 in their last nine games just to set a winning record. Anyone who thinks he can get this hot that quickly?
I did not mean it.
Off-field issues were added to the misery on the field this week, as a slew of false-positive COVID test results had much of their work done for the Giants practically ahead of Sunday’s game against the Raiders at MetLife Stadium. The judge looked back on his experience last season dealing with intensive COVID protocols and things have gone as smoothly as possible given the circumstances.
But to expect the Giants to suddenly uplift their game is a pipe dream at this point. And Mara’s vision of restoring respectability to a team that was once the gold standard for NFL excellence has yet to wait.
What makes this year’s situation particularly awkward is what happens next. Assuming the Giants don’t make it to the playoffs, you can expect some big changes in the offseason. It starts with general manager Dave Gettleman, who will almost certainly not be asked to return next year after presiding over a fourth consecutive losing season.
This roster isn’t much better than the one he inherited, and Jones just isn’t the franchise-caliber quarterback you need out of a No. 6 overall pick. He’s good, and sometimes he is. very good. But he’s not a top passer and probably never will be.
The Giants will no doubt exercise the fifth-year option for Jones, keeping him under contract until the 2023 season, but that still doesn’t change the fact that Gettleman hasn’t found the Giants’ next Eli Manning.
Assuming there will be a new GM next year, that creates a tricky dynamic with Judge, who has regressed this year after a rather impressive rookie season in which he pulled the Giants closer to a playoff berth. playoffs while training with several limitations due to the pandemic.
Do you bring in a sidekick judge at the top of the front office, a general manager who will do what the judge asks or even demands? Or do you create a clearer line between the two and hand the power over to a coach who has yet to prove himself? Or do you plan to quit Judge altogether?
It’s a tricky dynamic to navigate, and Mara will need to thread the needle with a cadre whose staff assessment skills are far superior to Gettleman’s. This is not a talent roster, and only a more gifted GM can change that over time.
Mara knows it will be a complicated equation, but he also knows that his actions will determine the immediate and long term future.
“We are all in the hot seat, with our fans in particular,” Mara said in August. “We’ve given them too many losing seasons. It’s time for us to start winning.”
Unfortunately for Mara and the fans of her team, no, now is not the time to win.