The Giants had six players named to the All-Pro first and second teams on Friday. As of less than three years ago, none of them were Giants.
Since that time, the Giants added Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie as a free agent in 2014 and drafted Odell Beckham Jr. that same spring. The following April they drafted Landon Collins. Then this past offseason they signed Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins.
Presto! Not only have the Giants’ selections achieved personal goals, they are guiding the team back to the playoffs after a four-season drought.
“I don’t know who did the scouting or brought this group together like that, but I know Jerry Reese had a big part to do with it,” Harrison said of the general manager. “The group of guys that were here before and the group of guys that they brought in, you just don’t see that too often. Different groups that genuinely get along on and off the field. That had a lot to do with it. We enjoy being around each other. I’m around the DB’s just as much, maybe even a little bit more than I am the d-line.”
It’s an unusual way to build a winning team, one that more often than not backfires. And it’s certainly anathema to the team they are facing in Sunday’s wild-card game, the Green Bay Packers. That team is made up almost entirely of home-grown talent. Forty-eight of their 53 players have never played for a team other than the Packers.
Part of what made the Giants’ investment in free agency pay off — the $200 million on Harrison, Vernon and Jenkins in particular — was looking not only at the players’ on-field abilities but their personalities as well.
“You have to give the personnel department, Jerry, a ton of credit for that,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “What we did, we hit the lottery in character and integrity. The guys fit together well and they enjoy seeing each other be successful. That’s a big reason why we’re playing great defense with them.”
An All-Pro level defense.