The Giants will finish out their latest failed season on Sunday at home against longstanding rival Washington, ending a miserable year that began with hopes of a playoff run and will end with another horrendous record.
And now comes the hard part.
Joe Judge may get one more year as head coach — although "nothing is etched in stone," according to one person familiar with the Giants' situation. But there is no such wavering with general manager Dave Gettleman, who is expected to leave the franchise and set the stage for one of the most important hires since George Young became general manager in 1979.
And while co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch undoubtedly want to act swiftly to hire their next lead executive, it says here that they must act deliberately and cast a wide net to find the right answer in righting a ship that listed throughout Gettleman’s four-year tenure.
For this mess to be cleaned up, the Giants must find the right man for the job.
Or the right woman.
Kim Ng broke the glass ceiling in baseball when Derek Jeter hired her in 2020 to become general manager of the Miami Marlins. After spending decades as a baseball executive with the White Sox, Yankees and Dodgers, Ng became the first female general manager in the four major sports leagues.
Are the Giants ready to make that kind of leap as they look for a replacement for Gettleman? Doubtful, given that the talent pool among football executives is overwhelmingly male. But as the NFL seeks to increase diversity among the coaching and executive ranks, the Giants absolutely should consider executives serving in different capacities across the league.
In fact, the NFL’s Football Operations Department, overseen by Troy Vincent, recently released a list of vetted candidates of color and gender that includes three women: NFL senior vice president of football operations Dawn Aponte, Eagles vice president of football operations Catherine Raiche and Buccaneers director of football research Jackie Davidson, who previously worked for the Jets.
"If someone is qualified to do the job, gender doesn’t matter," said Amy Trask, who served as the firstfemale CEO of an NFL teamwith the Raiders from 1997-2013. "Nobody wakes up and says I’m going to be the CEO, general manager or head coach. You work your way into that position. Can there be a woman head coach? Of course. Can there be a woman GM? Of course. A number of teams are creating pipelines so that people can work their way up into these positions."
Trask believes that the Giants — or any other team looking for a general manager — ought to "look far and wide. That’s important when you’re looking for a general manager. It’s important when looking for a chief executive or a head coach. I think that applies to all business, not simply football. Why would you constrain yourself to a narrow search when you have an opportunity to do a broad search? There is a sense within the NFL that you have to rush to do this. But I think there needs to be a balance."
The NFL’s push for equity at all levels of the sport has yielded mixed results, which is one reason the league now requires teams to interview at least two diverse candidates in person for all head-coaching and lead executive jobs. It's not known whether Aponte, Raiche, Davidson or other women meet the requirements of what the Giants are looking for, but the team at least owes it to itself to consider investigating those options.
"I had the tremendous good fortune of working for someone who hired without regard to race, ethnicity or gender," Trask said of Raiders owner Al Davis. "That’s why I had the career I had, because he didn’t give a damn about my gender."
The Giants can choose from a very large and very diverse group of candidates. On that list: Giants assistant GM Kevin Abrams, former Eagles personnel executive Louis Riddick (who now is with ESPN and interviewed for the job in 2018), Bills assistant GM Dave Schoen, Titans director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort, Patriots director of personnel Dave Ziegler, Dolphins senior personnel executive and former Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie, Ravens director of player personnel Joe Hortiz, Chargers director of player JoJo Wooden (a former Jets executive) and Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds.
No winners in Antonio Brown saga
If you were surprised by the messy divorce between Antonio Brown and the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, you haven’t been paying attention.
When Brown stormed off the field in the third quarter of last week’s game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium, it was the culmination of a months-long series of issues and ultimately led to the team’s decision to release him. In fact, coach Bruce Arians essentially cut him during the game after Brown refused to play because of what he said was an ankle injury.
The ankle issue didn’t prevent him from prancing off the field through the end zone and waving to the crowd, or from running his routes during the first half and early third quarter with no outward discomfort.
It also was reported that Brown had to be calmed down at halftime because he felt he wasn’t being targeted enough by quarterback Tom Brady.
Brown has been with four teams, and there have been four ugly separations.
He demanded a trade from the Steelers after repeatedly running afoul of coach Mike Tomlin, once even sending out Tomlin’s postgame speech on social media in a clear violation of team policy. When he was traded to the Raiders in 2019, he never even got onto the field; furious that he couldn’t wear his preferred helmet, which no longer was allowed by the NFL because it didn’t meet safety standards, Brown eventually was released.
He was signed by the Patriots the day he was released but played only one game before they released him because of allegations of sexual and personal misconduct against him. Brown also was accused of sending threatening text messages to one of his accusers.
Brady lobbied for the Bucs to sign him before the 2020 season, and Brown helped the team win the Super Bowl. Earlier this season, he was suspended three games by the NFL for obtaining a phony vaccination card. Yet despite saying last year that he’d have a zero-tolerance policy if Brown messed up again, Arians reinstated him last month. Sunday’s confrontation was the last straw, and the 33-year-old receiver was released again.
Now Brown has turned on Brady, who is the only reason his career continued after his release from the Patriots. Brown said Friday on the Full Send Podcast that he was Brady’s friend "because I’m a good football player." Earlier in the week, he posted a picture on his Instagram account with a large picture of Brown in the foreground and smaller pictures of Brady and Arians in the background with the words "Home Alone."
Brown still wants to play, and there surely will be a team tempted to take a chance on his talent. Here's a piece of advice: buyer beware.
Strahan’s record in jeopardy
Michael Strahan’s single-season record of 22½ sacks has lasted nearly two decades, but Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt is in position to eclipse the mark in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Ravens in Baltimore. Watt put himself in position to challenge the record, set by Strahan in 2001, with a four-sack performance against the Browns on Monday night. That gave Watt 21½ sacks.
Watt embraces the moment.
"I get only one chance at this," he told reporters this week about the way he approaches his career. "You only get to play for so long. It has consumed a lot of my life, and I’m completely OK with that. The people around me understand my obsession with this game and wanting to be the best."
The Steelers signed Watt to a four-year, $112 million contract extension just before the start of the season, and he has made good on the deal. Watt not only is in position to break Strahan’s sack record but could win NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors for the first time in his career.
An interesting side note to Watt’s pursuit of Strahan’s record: Strahan broke former Jets pass rusher Mark Gastineau’s record of 22 sacks in the regular-season finale against the Packers, when quarterback Brett Favre appeared to go down just before Strahan closed in on him. It led some to suggest there ought to be an asterisk next to the record. And now Watt faces a somewhat similar scenario in this respect: Strahan set his mark in 16 games and Watt has an extra game now that the league has gone to a 17-game season.
A quieter QB market in store?
Not all that long ago, it appeared we’d be in for a wild offseason of quarterback movement, starting with presumptive MVP Aaron Rodgers of the Packers and Russell Wilson of the Seahawks.
That could very well be the case. Rodgers requested a trade during the offseason and floated the idea of retirement if the Packers didn’t grant his wishes. Wilson has been coy about his future with the Seahawks, who will finish with a losing record for the first time since he became the starter as a rookie in 2012.
But there’s a chance that we’ll see both quarterbacks stay right where they are in 2022 and beyond.
Rodgers — who didn’t participate in the team’s voluntary offseason program for the first time in his career and acknowledged when he did report to the team for training camp that he had been unhappy with the lack of communication with the front office — has suggested in recent weeks that his relationship with GM Brian Gutekunst has improved significantly. The Packers have earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs and Rodgers is likely to win his fourth MVP award. Which makes it crazy for the team to consider a future without him.
Wilson was vague last week about his future plans, offering a cryptic response about whether he’ll be back next season. But he has since sounded more committed to the idea of remaining in Seattle.
"My goal is to win more Super Bowls, and my plan is to win them here," he said Thursday. "It’s that simple. There’s nothing really else other than that."
Rams, Browns to honor football pioneers
The Rams and Browns will pay tribute on Sunday to the first African-American players to integrate modern pro football.
Before and during their game against the 49ers at SoFi Stadium, the Rams will honor Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, who became the first two Black players to permanently break the NFL’s color barrier in 1946 — a year before Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball.
Washington and Strode played together at UCLA and were football teammates of Robinson when the Bruins produced an unbeaten season in 1939. Washington, an All-American halfback, might have been taken with the first overall pick in the 1940 draft, but no Black players were in the NFL from 1934-45.
Rams players will wear "KW" decals on their helmets. The team also has created the "Kenny Washington Memorial Scholarship" to provide four years of financial support to 13 aspiring college students in low-resource communities.
During the Browns’ game against the Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium, the team will honor Bill Willis and Marion Motley, who joined the team in its first season in 1946 and were the All-America Football Conference’s only Black players. Browns founder Paul Brown, who also founded the Bengals, signed Willis and Motley despite the risks he knew would come with it. Both players faced death threats and were subjected to abuse by many opponents.
Belichick: Reeves’ legacy is special
In addition to being pro football’s most accomplished coach, Bill Belichick has an extraordinary understanding of NFL history. Which is why he was perhaps the best person to put Dan Reeves’ legacy in perspective.
Reeves, who played for the Cowboys and became a Dallas assistant coach before going on to become a head coach with Denver, the Giants and Atlanta, died last week at the age of 77.
"Dan had a tremendous career," Belichick said. "I don’t know of anybody, or not many anyway, that you could really stack up with what Dan did. As a player, he was a tremendous player. He was a very important assistant coach on those Dallas teams with Coach [Tom] Landry, and then he went on to have a head-coaching career in the National Football League. From start to finish, at all three levels, and I know assistant coaches really don’t get a lot of recognition when you start talking about Hall of Fame and things like that, but when you look at Dan’s career, I don’t know how you could have accomplished much more than what he did on all three levels."
It was an extraordinary run for Reeves, who made the Cowboys as an undrafted quarterback out of South Carolina. Reeves originally was projected as an NFL safety, but Landry switched him to running back. Reeves may have been the last player-coach ever, and he was a part of nine Super Bowls as a player and coach.
"When you put the whole body of work together, honestly, I think you could put it up there with just about anybody," Belichick said. "Player, coach, when you combine it all, he might not have been the greatest player that ever played or the greatest coach that ever coached, or the greatest assistant coach, but he was very, very successful at all three for a long, long period of time with just tremendous success. I recognize that as just one fantastic career."
Chrebet sees himself in Berrios
Count former Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet as a fan of Braxton Berrios.
Like Chrebet, the overachieving free-agent receiver who made the team as a walk-on out of Hofstra in 1995 and produced one of the greatest careers in franchise history, Berrios has blossomed into a quality Jets receiver and return man. The Jets are interested in keeping Berrios — who will miss Sunday’s game against the Bills because of a thigh bruise — into next season and beyond.
"He’s making something out of nothing," Chrebet said on his "The Underdog Jets Podcast" with host Robbie Sabo. "My pet peeve about people coming up short on first-down conversions — he has a knack for getting the first down. I think Zach [Wilson] believes in him a lot. They’re the best connection there is. Braxton is showing why he deserves a long-term contract."
Chrebet added that "the great thing about him is he expects to score. I felt the same way. I expected to score on every catch."
Chrebet, who retired after the 2005 season because of repeated concussions, finished with 580 catches for 7,365 yards and 41 touchdowns.