Zach Wilson of the Jets reacts after a first down during...

Zach Wilson of the Jets reacts after a first down during the fourth quarter against the Jaguars at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 26, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Both are staggering to the finish line at 4-12. Both are in last place in their divisions.

Both were out of realistic playoff contention by midseason — which is saying something in a league in which 13 of the 14 playoff spots still were open heading into Week 16.

With two draft picks each in the top 10, there is far more riding on what happens in three months than what happens as they close out the season on Sunday.

But as far as the Jets and Giants are concerned, that’s where the similarities end.

With the Jets ready to face the playoff-bound Bills in Buffalo and the Giants hosting the Washington Football Team, this is very much a case of two teams pointed in opposite directions.

The Jets are heading up.

The Giants are going down.

Way down.

This was supposed to be a season of significant improvement for the Giants, with president and co-owner John Mara saying over the summer that the investment of millions into free-agent receiver Kenny Golladay, defensive lineman Leonard Williams and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson signaled a potential playoff push. On paper, they looked good.

"I’d like to see us show that on the field now and win more games and make the playoffs," Mara said. "I really do believe we’re moving in the right direction here. I think the attitude on the team is really good."

It didn’t take long for the optimism to disappear, as the Giants went 0-3 and then 1-5 before getting to 4-7. They haven’t won since, and a loss to Washington would mean a six-game losing streak to end the season.

What an ugly scene that would be at MetLife Stadium, where fans have become increasingly despondent with each loss.

Mara looked ahead to this moment last August with this thought in mind:

"I think when I walk off the field after the last game, whenever that is, I want to feel like, do we have a chance to win the Super Bowl with this group? . . . Are we moving in that direction? If the answer to that is yes, then we’re not going to consider making any changes. If I feel like we’re going backwards, that’s another discussion."

And there is your answer: The Giants most certainly are going backwards, and there most certainly will be changes.

The most obvious is replacing general manager Dave Gettleman, who is a horrid 19-45 since taking over in 2018. As far as Joe Judge is concerned, Mara has said he would prefer not to make a coaching change after only two seasons for the third straight time, so he may give Judge a reprieve for the moment.

Giants head coach Joe Judge looks on during the fourth...

Giants head coach Joe Judge looks on during the fourth quarter of the game against the Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Chicago. Credit: Getty Images/Quinn Harris

And if that is the case, it will lead to other potential hazards in the days and months ahead.

If Judge stays and a newly hired general manager wants him to go, what then? Or does Mara seek out a GM who is willing to keep Judge, similar to the way the owner was enthused about hiring Gettleman because he believed Eli Manning still had productive years left?

That ill-fated analysis by Gettleman backfired and set the Giants back significantly; Manning played only one more full season and was benched three games into Daniel Jones’ rookie season in 2019.

Whoever inherits the Giants’ roster will find a spectacularly large number of holes to fill. Gettleman failed to adequately fix the offensive line. The Giants need help at tight end. Rookie receiver Kadarius Toney missed most of the season because of injury. The defense is thin along the line and at cornerback. And who knows if Jones, who suffered a sprained neck against the Eagles and missed the rest of the season, will be improved enough to carry the offense?

Quite simply, it’s a mess.

For the Jets, it’s a far more optimistic picture moving forward.

Not that we’re about to predict a last-to-first improvement in 2022; that’s simply unrealistic, even in a league in which at least one team has won a division title the year after finishing last in 17 of the last 19 seasons. With Buffalo now a perennial playoff team and the Patriots much improved with first-year quarterback Mac Jones, it will be tough to contend for a playoff spot that quickly, much less a division title.

That said, there’s at least a glimmer of hope. Several glimmers, in fact.

Start with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, who has shown demonstrable improvement since returning from a knee injury that kept him out of four games. He hasn’t thrown an interception in his last four games, and he went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady last week in a 28-24 loss to the Buccaneers. The Jets would have pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the years had offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur not botched the communication with Wilson before he was stopped on a fourth-and-2 quarterback keeper.

It’s important not to be fooled into thinking that Wilson can play that well every week, and it’s a dangerous game to put too much stock in moral victories. But you can just see the improvement Wilson has shown since the beginning of the season, when he took way too much time on too many throws, was sacked too often as a result and had nine interceptions in his first five games.

Rookie receiver Elijah Moore, who has battled hamstring and quadriceps injuries this season, has shown enough promise when he has played to make observers believe he can be a big-time player in the years ahead. First-round guard Alijah Vera-Tucker has been one of the team’s best offensive linemen. If left tackle Mekhi Becton, who had a terrific rookie season, can come back next year after missing this season with a foot injury, they’ll be that much better off up front. And running back Michael Carter, who will return from a concussion on Sunday, has looked good as the season has gone on.

This team needs an upgrade at tight end, no question, and GM Joe Douglas needs to get another playmaking receiver for Wilson. Douglas also has work to do in upgrading the defense, but remember that pass rusher Carl Lawson, who had a terrific training camp after signing as a free agent, will be back next year from an Achilles injury. And the young secondary got some much-needed experience.

Get two impact players in the first round, and things look even better.

All in all, it’s a decent-looking future.

Certainly a brighter one than the Giants’.


COACH: Joe Judge has a 10-22 record, one game better than the 9-23 mark that led to Pat Shurmur's ouster after the 2019 season. Judge has tried to convince skeptics that a change in the team’s culture eventually will result in more wins, but that hasn’t convinced angry Giants fans who have lost faith in a coach who said he would restore pride to the organization. Team president and co-owner John Mara appears reluctant to move on and might give Judge another year in hopes of seeing progress in 2022.

GENERAL MANAGER: Dave Gettleman promised he’d rebuild the Giants’ roster, stressing the acquisition of talent along the offensive and defensive lines. But his four-year run has been a colossal failure, as his 19-45 record since 2018 attests. Gettleman likes to call quality offensive linemen “hog mollies,” but he has found only one good player in Andrew Thomas. Not enough. He’s likely to retire and clear the way for a new GM.

QUARTERBACK: Daniel Jones has shown modest improvement since a turnover-filled first half of the 2020 season, but it’s certainly not enough to suggest he can be the caliber of Eli Manning. Jones suffered a season-ending neck injury against the Eagles and didn’t have enough time to let the injury settle down. He’s still under contract, and with a so-so quarterback class in this year’s draft, it looks as if he’ll be the guy in 2022.

OVERALL: Problems. Big problems. While Judge may get a reprieve for now, the Giants’ search for a new general manager might be limited to those who believe in the coach and ignore those who have a different vision of how this team should look. It’s not a good combination, meaning this team likely will struggle for the foreseeable future with a talent-starved roster. It helps to have two first-round picks — if the Giants get them right.


COACH: Robert Saleh grew into the job as the season went along, but having a first-year head coach, a first-year offensive coordinator in Mike LaFleur and a first-year defensive coordinator in Jeff Ulbrich made the transition challenging. Even so, Saleh seems to have the temperament for the long rebuild ahead. Not only that, but his team showed solid improvement in terms of the quality of play, if not the record.

GENERAL MANAGER: Joe Douglas had by all accounts a very promising draft class that included guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, wide receiver Elijah Moore and running back Michael Carter. Questions persist about the top of the 2020 group, particularly about left tackle Mekhi Becton, who missed the season with foot problems, and wide receiver Denzel Mims, who underperformed badly. Still, Douglas has the benefit of two top-10 picks, including one of the two he secured in the Jamal Adams trade.

QUARTERBACK: It was a tough beginning for Zach Wilson, which is to be expected for a rookie quarterback, even one drafted with the second overall pick. But Wilson got better as the season went on, especially after he returned from a knee injury against the Patriots. He is starting to look more comfortable and make the tight-window throws that often mean the difference between success and failure.

OVERALL: The division is still loaded with the Bills, Patriots and a decent Miami team, but a year’s worth of experience for a young roster ought to do wonders moving forward. Quick turnarounds are commonplace in the NFL, and if the Jets get healthy at key positions next season and add an infusion of talent that might include a big-time free-agent receiver, they could get better in a hurry.