Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Except the Giants.
New York's once proud franchise -- now amongst the NFL's most dysfunctional, only saved from total public derision by the blue-chip aura that somehow still pervades the club courtesy of a narrative spoon-fed to us over the years -- never had a plan.
The Giants got punched in the mouth anyway. Their counterpunch looks feeble at best.
Dave Gettleman, the only GM in recent memory to draft a running back in the top 10 of back-to-back NFL drafts for two different franchises, tried to sell the trade of Odell Beckham to the Browns as something the Giants needed to do, a bold move part of a bigger strategy.
"You can win while you build a roster," Gettleman said. "We do have a plan, and this is a part of it."
If they were so enthusiastic about shipping off a potential Hall of Fame wide receiver in the middle of his prime, why did the Giants PR and social media team bury the lead six feet under?
If the Giants truly believe trading Odell Beckham is part of a bigger plan, why did Gettleman tell us in January the Giants didn't sign Odell just to trade him?
Gettleman: We didn’t sign Odell to trade him.— New York Giants (@Giants) January 2, 2019
A plan involves looking ahead at the future and understanding the long-term ramifications of the moves you're making. Over the past two years, the Giants have flirted with trading Beckham -- make no mistake, it was under consideration during the owners' meetings last year -- only to promptly sign Beckham to a deal that made him the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL and then actually trade him not even a full calendar year later. New York paid Odell more than $20 million in cash for his 2018 season alone and now will deal with a $16.5 million cap hit in 2019.
Are they rebuilding? Are they reloading? They're in limbo, floating in NFL purgatory, and they got there on their own accord and by their own decision-making. Eli Manning is the quarterback of the past, but he's also the quarterback of the present and, apparently, the quarterback of the future. A Giants source told Dan Graziano of ESPN the Giants would be picking up Eli's $5 million roster bonus option on Friday and rolling with the 38-year-old because "he's what we have at this point."
Hope is not a viable strategy. But the Giants are hoping Eli can summon ... what exactly? His playoff form from the team's two Super Bowl runs over the course of 16 full games at an extremely advanced age after trading his best wide receiver to Cleveland? It doesn't make any sense.
It's clear now more than ever the Giants always wanted to deal Beckham. We should have listened to Gettleman more carefully when he spoke at the combine in February.
"I've been to seven [Super Bowls] and every single team had a great locker room," Gettleman said. "I'm not saying you can never take a chance on a guy, but part of the responsibility of a general manager is to eliminate distractions, allow players to play, and coaches to coach. Unfortunately, guys who have character issues create distractions."
The Giants clearly never liked Beckham. They wanted him gone for years now despite his talent. Ownership didn't care for the wide receiver, even as he set records on the field. The fire hydrant stuff turned the stomachs of people in the highest levels of the organization. John Mara and Dave Gettleman clearly do not believe that Beckham's antics on and off the field are a worthwhile headache for the production he brings when he's playing.
Beckham is great, though. He has the potential to be a top-five wide receiver all-time. Which is why it's beyond frustrating to see the absurd narrative being spun out of some sections of the New York media that this was a "good trade" or that -- and this is not a joke -- Beckham is the reason the Giants haven't been successful the last five years.
The sad thing is? Giants fans are buying this narrative. The Sports Pope has the kind of power that can push a narrative in the Big Apple, even though the idea that "Wide Receiver Wins" is a thing that exists is complete and utter nonsense. (Never mind Francesca said Tom Coughlin didn't discipline Beckham after "the Carolina game," meaning the Josh Norman fight game -- Beckham was suspended by the NFL for that brouhaha.)
Not even kidding about the Giants fans thing: this fanbase is absolutely willing to buy into bag of beans they're being sold by both the Giants and various media organizations.
Acting like Odell is a bad player or a bad person just because he's going somewhere else? Please. Act like you've been there, Giants fans, rather than acting like some egg on Twitter lashing out at a top high school prospect who didn't chose your team. People are screaming about how Beckham is injury prone, ignoring that most of his injury issues relate back to a fluke injury he suffered in the preseason several years ago along with a follow-up injury (when he was on the field but shouldn't have been) that cost him most of 2017. Beckham only played 12 games last year but he still recorded 77 catches and 1,052 receiving yards.
Did Gettleman get a decent return for Beckham in a vacuum? Sure. No. 17 overall is a nice pick in a deep draft with good defensive players. Adding Jabrill Peppers is buying low-ish on a former first-round pick: I have no problem if you want to qualify that as a essentially getting another first-round pick. He also added a third-round pick in the process and picked up Kevin Zeitler, who is a very good guard, if the Giants Twitter account didn't make that abundantly clear, thought that last addition cost a pass-rusher in Olivier Vernon and made the need to find an edge presence even greater.
Having a pair of first-round picks gives them multiple options on how to attack year's draft,. Gettleman has been an NFL talent evaluator for a long time. He has a strong record of hitting on draft picks and finding value. We don't have a track record of him finding a quarterback. How he handles that will define his tenure in New York, even if Gettleman has another player in mind to pin the hopes and dreams of the G-Men moving forward.
The buzz for several weeks now -- and I've talked about this ad nauseum on the Pick Six Podcast, it's daily, all NFL talk, you should check it out and listen to our Giants discussion below -- is the Giants desire to shift the focus of the club onto Saquon Barkley.
Make no mistake: that's the pivot here. Adding offensive lineman while shipping out the other key offensive skill position guy? It's patently obvious how the Giants are playing this. They want to be a run-heavy team despite the explosion of passing offenses in 2019. You need a quarterback to win, which is exactly what the Giants sold us on when Eli raised those two Lombardi trophies over the last 15 years.
Francesca is yelling about teams never winning with high-priced wide receivers, but who's the last team to take down a title with a highly-paid running back? Don't bring any Todd Gurley nonsense in here either. C.J. Anderson carried that team down the stretch, proving the entire point of running back fungibility.
New York wants Saquon to be the guy on and off the field, the center of attention, the guy on billboards and that smiling face when the season tickets show up. Marketing Barkley is easy. He's a superstar and a highlight machine. Every time he touches the ball is a potential house visit. He's the lightning rod without the controversy. Barkley deserves better than to receive the scorn of people who believe the Giants should have drafted a quarterback No. 2 overall.
The Giants should have taken a quarterback, and although the Barkley vs. Sam Darnold argument it isn't worth rehashing right now, it is worth reminding everyone that the plan for the Giants less than a year ago was to win now with Eli Manning and Odell Beckham.
That's the problem here: the Giants have not had a plan the last two years. Now they're pretending one exists where it clearly doesn't.