This is the time of year when every NFL team starts over.
Whether they won the previous Super Bowl or had the worst record in the league, the beginning of training camp always signals a newness that is fresh and exciting and often optimistic. Every coaching staff takes the same approach: Last year was last year, this year is this year, and neither has anything to do with the other.
That’s always been the mindset when the Giants have reported to their training camps of yore, no matter who was running things for the organization.
This year, though, the degree of that tabula rasa is something very few have ever witnessed. When the players report to training camp at the team facility on Tuesday and take the field for the first time as a squad on Wednesday, they’ll be led by a head coach and general manager who bring with them something no other such pairing has had since 1979.
Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll have zero previous connections with the Giants.
For a franchise that has always taken immense pride in its past, that has so often fought the prospect of necessary change by simply reshuffling its organizational flow chart, that has relied almost exclusively on management deeply entrenched in the Giants’ Way, the commencement of this season brings with it as sharp a veer as has been felt in nearly 4 1⁄2 decades.
The start of camp is always new. This? This is something else.
It has many of the longtime Giants employees in various departments throughout the building a little curious to see how things will go. No one really knows what a Daboll-run practice will look like. No one completely understands what kind of protocols Schoen will put in place. More to the point, no one can say with any certainty that any of it will work.
Obviously, the old way did not, at least not for the past few years. The Giants have reached the postseason only once since 2011 and cycled through three head coaches (four if you count interim ones) in six seasons.
The most recent nosedive was led by general manager Dave Gettleman, who was hired to rebuild the Giants into the kind of team that won two Super Bowls and reached a third with him on the scouting and personnel staffs from 1998 to 2012. His tenure was such a wreck that it forced ownership to alter its long-standing approach of hiring from its own human resources Rolodex (yes, if any team in the NFL still has an actual Rolodex, it would be the Giants) and bring in outsiders in Schoen and Daboll.
Not everything will be brand spanking different as these 2022 Giants begin the process of coming together. There certainly will be familiar faces, especially on the field at key positions.
Daniel Jones returns in his role as the quarterback hoping to make the “next leap” in his development . . . for the third straight season. Saquon Barkley is back, healthier than he has been in several years, and perhaps finally in an offensive system that can properly utilize his talents. Sterling Shepard, the longest-tenured current Giant, is rehabbing a torn Achilles that cut his 2021 campaign short and led to his taking a significant pay cut to remain with the team.
It’s not outlandish to wonder if, by this time next year, all three will be former Giants. The 2023 team could begin their training camp with the same newness as this iteration, theirs more reflective on the field than off it.
There are 12 months before any of that does or does not happen. A full season ahead, followed by a full offseason that will bring more transition and change, addition and subtraction, on the Giants’ roster.
For now, the Giants find themselves at Square One of a new era. It will be a training camp spent learning not just playbooks but personalities, not just X’s-and-O’s but expectations and ordinances.
It will be a camp learning how Schoen and Daboll do their jobs and trying to get a sense of whether the Giants are indeed improved by their presence . . . or just different.
Giants training camp practices open to the public:
July 27-July 30, 10 a.m.
Aug. 1-Aug. 3, 10 a.m.
Aug. 5, 6 p.m., at MetLife Stadium
Aug. 7-Aug. 9, 10 a.m.
Aug. 14, 10 a.m.