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Takeaways from Giants President John Mara at NFL Annual Meeting


ORLANDO, Fla. – John Mara remains a strong supporter of the Giants' player procurement process and those atop the team's decision-making hierarchy. But he expects better results after a season that he said, "nobody was happy with."

The Giants were 6-11 in 2023, a step back after winning nine games, plus one in the playoffs, the previous season. But in a conversation with reporters today at the NFL owners meeting, Mara expressed confidence that general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll can lead the Giants to greater accomplishments.

"Certainly, last season was a huge disappointment to me, especially coming off of a playoff year," said Mara, the Giants' president and chief executive officer. "I still believe we're headed in the right direction, and I have all the confidence in the world in Joe and his staff and in Brian Daboll and his staff.

"I think the communication is terrific. I think the process they go through is great, and I do think we're headed in the right direction. Obviously, until we start winning games not everyone is going to buy into that. But I happen to believe it. … We were 6-11, so nobody was happy with that. I still very firmly believe that Brian is the right guy for us going forward."

Mara also remains a vocal advocate of quarterback Daniel Jones, who was limited to six games in 2023 because of injuries, notably a torn ACL that ended his season on Nov. 5. And when he did play, Jones was subjected to frequent pressure because of a spate of injuries on the offensive line.

"I know a lot of you killed Daniel for his performance this year, but we had the perfect storm," Mara said. "Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. Guys got hurt. The wrong guys got hurt. Let's face it, for a while we couldn't block anybody, and Daniel was getting hit all the time.

"I still have every confidence in the world in Daniel. Let's put a better team around him. Hopefully he'll get healthy, and I think the real Daniel Jones is the one that played in 2022, particularly down the stretch in the playoffs."

Schoen and Daboll have been busy adding players in the last two weeks. They sent two draft choices to the Carolina Panthers for premier pass rusher Brian Burns, running back Devin Singletary, wide receiver/return specialist Isaiah McKenzie, and five offensive linemen, notably guard Jon Runyan, Jr. and the versatile Jermaine Eluemunor.

The last part of that sentence is particularly significant, because Mara admits the Giants' quest to improve the offensive line – which allowed an NFL-high and franchise-record 85 sacks last year – is past its deadline.

"It's ridiculous, and it's a continuing source of frustration for me," he said. "It's time to get it fixed. We've invested in a couple of number one draft picks on offensive tackles (Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal). We have a number two draft pick (John Michael Schmitz) playing at center, and now we have spent some money in free agency. We have a new offensive line coach (Carmen Bricillo). I expect us to be a hell of a lot better this year.

"That was certainly a priority going into this offseason was to get the offensive line fixed. You can't win in this league unless you have a good productive, consistent offensive line. It's what we had years ago when we were winning, and we have to get back to that. I think we have the right pieces in there now. We'll see. Life in football starts on the offensive line. If you can't block them, you're not going to win."

Assuming he is healthy, Jones remains entrenched as the starting quarterback. Both Mara and Schoen expressed confidence that Jones will be healthy enough to participate in training camp. In case he isn't ready, the Giants this month signed Drew Lock, a quarterback with 23 NFL starts.

The Giants own six selections in next month's NFL Draft, including No. 6 in the first round. Neither Mara nor Schoen ruled out taking a quarterback with that pick. Mara would support that decision and he emphasized that does not indicate the team is unhappy with Jones.

"If they fall in love with a quarterback and believe that it's worth pick No. 6, or moving up, I certainly would support that," Mara said. "I let the general manager and the head coach build the roster. We have operated the same way for many years here. If they have a conviction about a player, I'm not going to get involved.

"I'll question them about it, make them defend their position, but the only time I'm going to get involved and exert any influence is if I think it's a conduct issue off the field. That's happened not with this group, but in the past on very rare occasions. In terms of them evaluating the players, if they have a conviction about a player and want to draft one, want to get one in free agency, then all I want to make sure is that they're both on the same page."

Jones is entering the second season of a four-year extension he signed prior to the 2022 season. Mara disputed the contention that choosing a quarterback high in the draft would indicate the Giants are giving up on Jones.

"I don't think so," he said. "Why not let them both compete and let the better man win?

"Even if we draft somebody, I expect Daniel to be the starting quarterback when the season starts. He'll still get all the reps in the world, assuming he is healthy, which we think he'll be ready for training camp. So, I dont see that being a factor."

View photos of the newest members of the Giants touring the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for the first time.

Mara discussed other subjects in his 30-minute conversation with the team's beat writers.

*On losing running back Saquon Barkley in free agency to the Giants' division rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles.

"It was tough, it really was," Mara said. "Everything he did for us on the field, off the field, he was a class act in every respect. I hated to see him leave. I certainly hated to see him go in the division.

"On a more personal note, I have 14 grandchildren who have a (number) 26 jersey, and it was tough breaking the news to them, too. Saquon was everything you want a player to be. I hated to see him leave. "

Particularly to the Eagles.

"Let's be honest, I would have preferred if it was out of the division, but I have enormous respect for him. The people that are criticizing him for doing that to me are way off base. These guys, their careers are so short. I understand you've got to take the best deal that's out there. That's what he did. He grew up in the Pennsylvania area, so I don't begrudge him that. I'm not looking forward to having to play against him twice in a year, but I'll always have enormous respect and appreciation for everything he did for us."

*On the Giants' overhauled coaching staff, which will include nine newcomers this year.

"He wanted to make some - he being Brian Daboll - wanted to make changes with certain members of the staff at the end of the season," Mara said. "I always believe that you let the head coach pick his own staff. Obviously, you don't want to have as much turnover as we had, but he wanted to make some changes. So, we let him go ahead and do that."

View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2024 cycle.