As the Jets and Giants stagger toward the conclusion of one of the most collectively miserable seasons in recent — or distant — memory, a few thoughts on what lies ahead for both teams:
• My sense is Todd Bowles will be back as the Jets’ coach, with chief operating officer Christopher Johnson, now serving as the proxy for team owner Woody Johnson while he serves as ambassador to the United Kingdom, having seen enough of a positive culture change to warrant Bowles’ return.
The record likely will end at 5-11 for the second straight year, but there is a promising young core of players and that bodes well for the future. By no means is it a complete roster, but there’s enough to like for 2018.
• There is simply no chance that Steve Spagnuolo will get the “interim” tag taken off after the season, not after three straight losses and the continuation of a defensive collapse.
Spagnuolo was thrown into a difficult situation after the firing of Ben McAdoo, but there just isn’t enough there to keep him in charge beyond Sunday’s finale against the Redskins. Spagnuolo will always be remembered for presiding over one of the team’s great defensive performances in 2007, but he’s not the answer at head coach.
• Whoever does take over as coach and general manager of the Giants must decide where Eli Manning is as a player. Does he still have something left, as demonstrated by his mostly brilliant performance last week against the Eagles? Or is he in decline, as shown by his mostly miserable performance on Sunday against the Cardinals?
It’s not an easy call, but this much seems certain: The Giants, who most likely will end up with the second overall choice in the draft, must take a quarterback with a pick that comes around only so often (unless you’re the Browns, in which case it comes every year).
• The Jets’ most obvious need is at quarterback, and with the Browns having clinched the No. 1 choice and the Giants on track to get No. 2, presumptive choices Sam Darnold of USC and Josh Rosen of UCLA likely will be off the board. (There’s no way the Giants would trade this pick to their MetLife Stadium co-tenants; besides, they need a quarterback of the future, so it’s a virtual lock that they will take one here.)
Where does that leave the Jets? Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield (he’s 6-1 — maybe on his tiptoes) and Josh Allen of Wyoming (he completed well under 60 percent of his passes the last two years) have obvious shortcomings. Which is why it’s too soon to write off Kirk Cousins as a viable alternative. He’ll cost a pile of money as a free agent, but the Jets will have tons of cap space and can solidify the QB position for the next half-dozen years.
• If the Jets do sign Cousins, how about drafting Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and thus producing a stunning upgrade on offense?
• Christian Hackenberg likely will finish his first two NFL seasons with zero game-day snaps. Zero. In today’s play-now world of the NFL, that’s stunning for a second-round pick.
• You learn a lot about players during a losing season, and safety Landon Collins revealed himself to be one of the most important members of the Giants. He has generational talent, and his loyalty, pride and leadership are every bit as good. With plenty of contract decisions affecting several players, Collins ought to be the top priority when it comes time to redo his deal next season.
• Giants president and co-owner John Mara has been outspoken about his desire to make wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. a Giant for life, but his subtle walk-back of that assessment at his news conference announcing the firing of McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese may leave some wiggle room. With a thorough GM and coach search going into high gear next week, Mara is sure to hear differing views on whether the team should acquiesce to what will be huge contract demands when multiple needs must be addressed. A fascinating deliberation ahead.