Think back to the last time the Giants effectively gave up on their season in October.
With the team in full rebuild mode after the trades of cornerback Eli Apple and Damon “Snacks” Harrison, it’s a good opportunity to see how the last such fire sale went and how long it took to rebuild the team from the ashes of a lost season.
Wait. Was there ever another time when something like this happened, when the Giants waved the white flag this early?
We think not.
The only remotely similar time may have been in 1969, when the Giants lost all five preseason games – including a 37-14 loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Jets – and they fired coach Allie Sherman a week before the start of the regular season. Former Giants running back Alex Webster replaced Sherman and went 6-8 that year as the Giants embarked upon the darkest era in team history – a drought that ended only after general manager George Young brought stability back to the franchise beginning in 1979.
The Giants desperately hope this won’t be the start of a similar run of futility, but it is abundantly clear that they are ready to tear out the guts of this team and start anew. Before Tuesday’s trading deadline arrives, there may be more deals involving key players.
Among those who might be traded: defensive end Olivier Vernon and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. And who knows? Eli Manning, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, may decide he wants one more shot at a championship and seek a trade to Tom Coughlin’s Jaguars. Manning said Wednesday that’s not the case.
The Manning era is effectively over in its 15th season, and regardless of how many more games Eli plays here, the team will be moving on from him. At 1-6 and realistically, if not mathematically, out of the playoff race, Manning will be a placeholder for whoever comes next.
Even if the Giants don’t trade him, Manning almost certainly will be replaced by fourth-round rookie Kyle Lauletta. The Giants don’t want to make the same mistake as last year, when they failed to see what they had in former third-round pick Davis Webb, who is on the Jets’ practice squad. The Giants, under then-coach Ben McAdoo, made the ill-fated decision to bench Manning late last season, but rather than play Webb, they had journeyman Geno Smith start against the Raiders.
Pat Shurmur said Tuesday that he expects Manning will remain with the team, but things move quickly when you’re in last place and willing to stockpile draft picks for an inevitable rebuild.
General manager Dave Gettleman has put out the “For Sale” sign on his roster and he’ll surely be getting more calls in the coming days. He’s more than willing to deal, even at discounted rates. He took a fifth-round pick in 2019 for Harrison, and he got a fourth-rounder next year and a seventh-rounder in 2020 for Apple, a top 10 pick in 2016.
Gettleman got himself into this jam with a flawed vision of what he had coming into the season. Thinking that Manning had more good years left, he drafted Penn State running back Saquon Barkley at No. 2 overall instead of USC quarterback Sam Darnold, who went third to the Jets. A rebuild around a franchise quarterback such as Darnold would have made complete sense. Instead, Gettleman operated in a win-now mode and acquired left tackle Nate Solder, who has been abysmal in pass protection, and linebacker Alec Ogletree, who has been a solid addition, but not the kind of player you want for a team building from the ground up.
Co-owner John Mara isn’t without blame, either. He was convinced by Gettleman that Manning still had productive years left – or was that simply what Mara wanted to hear? – and he’s paying the price.
Mara realizes, though, that the teardown is required, and that the rebuild will not take place overnight. When he met with reporters last week at the NFL owners’ meetings in New York, he acknowledged as much.
“I’m not sure it’s going to be a quick fix,” he said.
He’s right about that. Mara can only hope the fix doesn’t take as many years as it did the last time the Giants surrendered so early.