EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – "It's time for us to start winning some more."
After a busy two weeks of player arrivals and departures, John Mara today made his first public comments of the offseason in a Zoom news conference. And all the hopes, expectations and confidence he expressed for the 2021 season can be distilled to the quote above. After four consecutive double-digit loss seasons, the Giants' president and chief executive officer believes his team can take a big step forward in Joe Judge's second season as head coach.
"We're committed to doing whatever we have to do to put a winning team on the field," Mara said. "There were opportunities that presented themselves to add quality young players that were highly regarded, that we think can make an impact and also were positions of need, so we took advantage of them. I think you can't do that every year, but when the opportunity presents itself, I think you have to seize it and I think that's what we did this year. We think it will pay off, but time will tell. We're certainly not a finished product by any stretch of imagination. We need to add some more pieces in the draft, but I do like the direction that we're going in."
Mara, of course, has been associated with the Giants for all his 66 years. Each defeat to him is both a heartbreaker and a gut punch. A losing season is a four-month exercise in torture. The Giants have not enjoyed a winning season nor made a postseason appearance since 2016. That is a lifetime to Mara, and to Steve Tisch, the team's chairman and executive vice president.
From their perches atop the organization, Mara and Tisch are doing everything possible to end the team's four-season slide. For each of them, a return to greatness would be both a professional and personal triumph.
"Obviously, it would mean the world to me," Mara said. "It's been a very difficult four or five-year period for us and I'm tired of the losing and of having the postseason press conference trying to explain what went wrong and why I think we're making progress. It's time for us to start winning some more and that's one of the reasons we spent the money we did. I do think we're making progress here.
"We've added more players, it's definitely a better locker room than we've had in a while and I think Joe has done a terrific job instilling a certain culture here. The players believe in him and the fans seem to believe in him, too, so I think we're moving in the right direction. But obviously, it's been brutal the last few years and we're looking forward to turning it around and not having to make excuses for why we haven't done it."
The Giants have been one of the league's most active teams during the free agent signing period that unofficially began on March 15. They have signed 12 veteran free agents, most notably wide receiver Kenny Golladay – who has two 1,000-yard seasons and led the NFL with 11 touchdown receptions in 2019 – cornerback Adoree' Jackson and two-time Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph. They also added defensive linemen Danny Shelton and Ifeadi Odenigbo, linebackers Reggie Ragland and Ryan Anderson and running back Devontae Booker, among others. They also re-signed defensive tackle Leonard Williams, one of their most valuable players, and other 2020 contributors.
It was an expensive haul of talent. But Mara is certain the players' talent and the team's circumstances made the moves mandatory.
"The big money that we spent recently were on two young players (Golladay and Jackson) that we think can be here for a while," Mara said. "And in terms of whether I expect to make the playoffs – look, I go into every season expecting to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, I've been wrong the last five years, but I always expect us to make the playoffs and expect us to be in contention at some point. In terms of the money we spent this year, I mean, there were opportunities that presented themselves, particularly at positions of need with quality players and guys that we did a lot of research on, so we took advantage of the opportunities and hopefully they'll pay off.
"My feeling whenever we go into a free agency period – and I tell our people this – I don't care how much money we spend or how much cash we spend, just make sure it's the right guys that we're bringing into the building. Make sure it's the right guys and that's why being able to bring Kenny Golladay and Adoree' Jackson into the building and for our people to have that much access to them and to do the research on them was so vitally important. It made it, quite frankly, an easy decision to me. My only concern is, what's the cap effect and how is it going to hamstring us in the future? We think we'll be able to manage that going forward, but the critical thing for me was bringing them into the building, having the thorough process that we had, all the research that was done on them and then having the conviction of so many people in the building about those two individuals, and Kyle Rudolph as well and also the other guys that we signed."
View photos of every move made by the Giants this offseason.
The fate of the team does not rest inordinately on the performance of the newcomers. Mara, general manager Dave Gettleman and Judge are counting on a return to greatness for running back Saquon Barkley, who missed almost the entire season after tearing his ACL in Week 2.
And like any team, the Giants' rise or fall will be significantly influenced by their quarterback. And the organization's decision-makers are convinced they can soar with Daniel Jones, who is preparing for this third pro season.
"We think the world of Daniel in this building," Mara said. "I think I've said that publicly before, I know our coaches feel very strongly about him. We want to see him take the next step. I don't have any specific benchmarks other than let's win some more games. I think he will have a better team around him this year than he's had in previous years, so we certainly expect him to take the next step. But I'm not going to put any specific benchmarks on him right now. I just want to see him continue to improve because I do think he has what it takes to be a long-term winner in this league."
Golladay is a big (6-4, 214) receiver who excels at securing contested balls. Rudolph has 50 career touchdown receptions, including two in the postseason. The Giants also added an intriguing player in former Cincinnati Bengal John Ross, a speedster who was the ninth overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.
"You have two guys – Golladay has obviously put up some great numbers in this league and John Ross is somebody who has some unique speed and we think maybe we might hit on him as well," Mara said. "I think surrounding Daniel with more weapons was certainly a priority coming into this offseason, but that would be true no matter who the quarterback is. You always want to put as many weapons on the field as possible. It's becoming more and more of a passing league, and we saw an opportunity to add some guys who have some unique talent and hopefully it'll pay off for us."
View photos of the Giants' roster as it currently stands.