There could not be a more divergent set of circumstances or expectations for the Giants and Jets, and even the inevitable feelings of hopefulness at the start of training camp can’t mask the stark truth of how far apart these teams are.
The Giants come off their first playoff season since their 2011 Super Bowl run and are rich with talent, even more so after the signings of free-agent receiver Brandon Marshall and tight end Rhett Ellison, and the drafting of speedy tight end Evan Engram. With an improved defense that remained largely intact, the Giants belong high on the NFC’s list of legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
They were grounded with a 5-11 record last season despite high expectations after going 10-6 the year before, then took a torch to an aging roster by releasing Darrelle Revis, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Nick Mangold, David Harris, Breno Giacomini, Nick Folk and Marshall, among others. It was a housecleaning so complete that the Jets are left with an untested, mostly inexperienced team that will be lucky to win four games. There are some who suggest they could be as bad as the 2008 Lions, the only team ever to go 0-16.
The gap between the Giants and Jets rarely has been as pronounced. You could argue that it hasn’t been this bad since 1969, the summer after the Jets won their only Super Bowl. With Joe Namath capturing the imagination of New York like no football player before him, the Giants were in the midst of a generational slide that wouldn’t be completely over until their first Super Bowl championship nearly two decades later.
How bad was it then? Giants president and co-owner Wellington Mara fired coach Allie Sherman after a winless preseason in 1969, a summer of discontent that included a 37-14 loss to Namath’s Jets.
The Jets aren’t about to move on from Todd Bowles before the regular season, but considering the absence of a competitive roster, it would be an upset if Bowles were to make it back in 2018. With a total rebuild thanks to owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Maccagnan’s decision to tear down what was left of a mediocre team — ostensibly to get younger and potentially be in position to draft a franchise-caliber quarterback next spring — Bowles hardly can be expected to compete against the rest of the league, especially the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots.
There will be an open competition at quarterback among 38-year-old journeyman Josh McCown and young draft picks Christian Hackenberg (2016) and Bryce Petty (2015), but none of them can be expected to light up the scoreboard, especially with such a limited supporting cast.
The best-case scenario is if Hackenberg can win the job outright or get enough of a chance during the regular season to see if he is a potential answer at the game’s most important position. But even if he acquits himself well, the Jets still will keep an eye on prospects such as Sam Darnold of USC, Josh Rosen of UCLA, Josh Allen of Wyoming and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.
The Giants, meanwhile, have as stable a roster situation as you could want. They have arguably the best wide-receiving corps in the NFL with Marshall added to Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. Paul Perkins showed enough to win the No. 1 job at tailback. Eli Manning, who struggled through much of last season, can only be helped by the improved talent level — especially if his line can do a better job with another year’s worth of experience.
Barring injury or continued poor play from Manning, there is no reason to think they can’t win the NFC East and go deep into the playoffs.
And maybe even contend for another Super Bowl title.