Three Giants writers discuss how the team's brass will evaluate the 2017 season and plan for next year:
Our writers give their final thoughts on 2017 and look ahead to a major offseason for the franchise:
When you take a look at this Giants season you are in wonder at how so much could have went wrong in the same year. From losing close games early in the year (one on a Jake Elliott 61-yard field goal), to all the subsequent injuries, and off-the-field circumstances it was a Murphy's Law-type season for the Giants. The question is how to do you analyze it to make the proper decisions going forward.
In terms of analyzing the talent on the roster, you almost have to look at two parts of the season and analyze them in different ways. The first part is prior all the injuries to the wide receiver group. Odell Beckham Jr. broke his ankle against the Chargers, and the Giants also lost Dwayne Harris and Brandon Marshall to injury. Sterling Shepard was in and out all year with an ankle injury, migraines, and then a neck injury. It's impossible to properly analyze the offense after all that so the first four and a half games are important.
The defense is a different story. They also suffered injuries to people like cornerback Janoris Jenkins and linebacker B.J. Goodson, but the defensive line was intact most of the year and Landon Collins was on the field until the final game. The Giants' front office needs to figure out whether the defense is the unit that was great in 2016, or the group that struggled mightily in 2017. It's not an easy season to figure out for the Giants, but it's something Dave Gettleman will begin right now.
After a new hire here, a different scheme there, a draft pick here, and a free-agent signing there, it turned out the Giants needed to make the wholesale changes that are underway right now. In 2014, the Giants revamped the offense by hiring Ben McAdoo as their coordinator. In 2015, they brought back defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. In 2016, they parted ways with Tom Coughlin as McAdoo and a group of big-ticket free agents blended nicely to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011. In 2017, however, the patchwork neither patched nor worked.
That's how the Giants got to where they are today, changing their general manager and head coach in the same year for the first time since 1979.
Enter Dave Gettleman, who plans to to kick butt every day until either the Giants take his key card or the good Lord calls him home. When a 93-year-old franchise loses its most games in a single season, It's time for a return to basics. "Offense scores points; defense wins championships," Gettleman said near the top of his introductory press conference. Shortly later he added: "At the end of the day, it's the same three things you had to do in '35 that you got to do now in 2018. You got to run the ball. You got to stop the run. You got to pressure the passer." Keep those things in mind as the speculation and reports swirl around the Giants' search for their next head coach, what they will do in free agency, and their plans for the No. 2 pick in the draft.
The Giants' 2017 season is the perfect example of how in the NFL things can drastically change from one season to the other. While many love to invest time perusing preseason power rankings, how a roster looks on paper isn't a direct correlation to how it will perform on the field. This season, the Giants were decimated by injuries, on both sides of the ball, and that certainly had a significant impact on the results. But it's also important to note that in 2016, when New York finished 11-5, the Giants went 8-3 in games decided by seven points or less (eight of those 11 games were decided by five points or less). Just about all those contests went down to the wire where one defensive play or one offensive play proved to be the difference. That means there's a very fine line between winning and losing in this league, especially when you play a number of close games. When you look more closely at how 2016 played out and the close margin of victories, an 11-5 season could have yielded very different results.
In 2016, the Giants' defense was a huge part of the identity of the team as it helped seal numerous games. However, given the injuries and the drop-off in production, that unit struggled to do much of the heavy lifting in 2017. When your offensive production is limited, where do you turn to make up for those deficits? In 2016, the Giants finished second in the NFL in points allowed per game, 10th in total defense and tied for third against the run. Flip the calendar forward one year and the defense finished tied for 27th, 31st and 27th, respectively. New York also had eight fewer sacks. Last season, even though the offense had issues putting points on the board, the defense was consistent, and more often than not the team relied on that side of the ball to close out games. This season, that wasn't the case as early in the year the defense surrendered either a game-winning field goal or touchdown in three straight games from Weeks 3-5, hence the 0-5 start.
Every single offseason there's plenty of turnover on rosters across the NFL, so change is inevitable. New general manager Dave Gettleman certainly has some pieces to work with on both sides of the ball, but his big focus will be to bolster the depth chart so that when the team is faced with injuries, the drop-off isn't significant. While it seems the Giants have a lot of work to do, turning things around isn't necessarily a lengthy, agonizing process. Case in point, each of the last three NFC East champs, including this season's Philadelphia Eagles, finished in last place in the division the previous season. That doesn't mean the Giants are a lock to win the NFC East in 2018, but it's an indication that one season doesn't dictate the next as New York learned by seeing where 2016 ended and 2017 started.