The NFL is pushing ahead with business-as-usual, having just wrapped up its period of free-agency frenzy and carrying forward with its plans for the draft later this month and the start of the 2020 season in September. But for the individual teams and players, this offseason is presenting challenges that would have been undreamed of just a few short weeks ago.
Playbook installations, which are expected to begin next week, are going to be handled not in classrooms and on fields but through Zoom and FaceTime. And players who normally would use the spring as a time to forge bonds in the weight room that will last throughout the season now are training in isolation.
The root of the disruption to this NFL offseason certainly is unique, with teams having to adjust their calendars and work plans around the new guidelines to help curb the spread of COVID-19. But while the cause of the disruption is a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, the obstacles themselves have a fairly recent (if far less sinister) parallel.
In 2011, the NFL had virtually no offseason programs as it spent most of the spring and summer in a labor lockout. That meant players — especially young players — had to scramble to find ways to keep in shape, stay sharp and grow as professional athletes.
Colt McCoy was one of them. He was entering his second NFL season, was fighting for the starting job with the Browns (under coach Pat Shurmur, by the way), and called the experience “probably the worst thing that happened to me as a young quarterback.”
“I didn’t get the playbook,” McCoy recalled. “We had two or three weeks of training camp and that was the first time I knew anything. It was a completely new system. I played decent, but our team certainly struggled.”
Fast-forward almost a decade and McCoy again is being locked out . . . this time by a virus, not a labor negotiation. But one of the newest Giants — who, at 33, also happens to be the oldest Giant in terms of his age — thinks the experiences he went through in 2011 can help him now.
More to the point, they can help Daniel Jones.
Because this time it is Jones who is a second-year quarterback whose most important offseason of his career is being affected. It is Jones who will be the Giants’ starting quarterback heading into whatever the 2020 season winds up looking like. And it is Jones who will be relying on veterans McCoy and Alex Tanney in the quarterback room (or virtual meeting space for now) to help pull him through this.
“I think I can take some experience and some lessons learned from  and hopefully help Daniel,” McCoy said on a conference call on Wednesday. “I think Daniel is well-prepared for this. He played a lot more his rookie year than I did. But still, there are challenges. It’s a new system and new ways to call plays and a new philosophy in what we’re trying to accomplish as an offense. I’ll really do my best to be a great resource for him during this time.”
Jones has the unenviable job of replacing Eli Manning as the franchise quarterback. McCoy has a somewhat similarly daunting role of replacing Manning as Jones’ mentor. Unlike last year, though, when Manning went into the season as the starter and had to adjust to a new role as veteran backup after two games, McCoy has no ambiguity about his job description. He spent the past six seasons with Washington and started only seven games. There were two full seasons — 2016 and 2017 — where he never took a snap.
Manning’s original task in 2019, as told to him directly by the coaches and front office, was to keep Jones off the field. McCoy’s task will be to make sure Jones is better on it.
“I’m assuming Daniel is the starting quarterback, he was the sixth pick in the draft, and he has a super-bright future,” McCoy said. “He’s obviously very lucky to have had a guy like Eli in the QB room, a guy I look up to and respect as a guy who did it right his whole career. I think Daniel knows the importance of a great quarterback room, a healthy quarterback room.”
McCoy had never had an in-depth conversation with Jones before they became teammates in mid-March. They’d met only briefly before the games when the Giants played Washington. But McCoy said he watched a lot of film of Jones last season because his team and the division rival Giants faced many of the same opponents.
The two already have started to build a relationship through phone calls and other communications, and once the offseason program begins in an as-yet-undetermined format, McCoy said he expects there will be even more one-on-one talks with Jones.
The Giants could have brought in any number of veteran backup quarterbacks to help Jones, all of whom already had been through that all-important first full offseason in the NFL. They were lucky to add one of the few remaining in the league who can possibly relate, even in a peripheral way, to what these next few months will be like for Jones as he is barred from the team facility and actual contact with coaches and teammates.
“Teams like us that have a new coach and a new system are at a little bit of a disadvantage,” McCoy said. “We’re going to have to get creative in ways to learn and grow . . . I remember that lockout season being a real challenge for me, but I’ll do my best to help Daniel and make sure he’s feeling as confident as he can and we as an offense are feeling as good as we can too.”
Giants sign long snapper Kreiter. Pro Bowl long snapper Casey Kreiter signed a one-year deal with the Giants on Wednesday, the latest unofficial indication that free agent Zak DeOssie’s 13-year, 199-game run with the team has come to an end. DeOssie ended 2019 on injured reserve and is a free agent.
As for Kreiter, he spent the past four seasons with the Broncos and was a Pro Bowler in 2018. He also was an undrafted free agent with the Cowboys in their 2014 and 2015 training camps before he was cut by that team (and former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, now the Giants’ offensive coordinator).
The Giants also have long snapper Colin Holba on the roster for 2020. Holba finished the season for them after DeOssie’s season-ending — and many speculate career-ending — injury.