The Bears travel to New Jersey this weekend to take on the New York Giants. While the Giants are struggling through their 2018 season, they feature a couple of dynamic offensive stars in Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley that are worth the price of admission. The Giants were a franchise that I couldn’t figure out this off-season as they made moves that indicated they believed Eli Manning still offered them a window to compete for championships while my eyes told me otherwise. To dig into that and all things Big Blue related, I reached out to the Editor of Big Blue View, Ed Valentine.
Windy City Gridiron: 1. The Giants suffered through a disastrous 2017 highlighted by then-Head Coach Ben McAdoo benched Eli Manning for... Geno Smith. The Giants cleaned house and as the first order of business, hired former Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur. What has Shurmur brought to the Giants as the HC and how long will it take to realize his vision for this Giants team? Can Shurmur’s offense move the ball against Chicago this weekend?
Big Blue View: I think the first part of your question is a really interesting one. Reality is, I’m not sure Shurmur or GM Dave Gettleman realized just how extensive this rebuild was going to have to be. I know the fan base didn’t. I have said this many times to Giants audiences, but it took six years of bad personnel decisions -- maybe even more than that -- to fall into the mess the Giants are in. It’s foolish to think you can climb out in one offseason, which many believed the Giants could. It’s going to take multiple years to rebuild this roster.
How quickly can they turn it around, and can the Giants win with Shurmur as head coach? That depends on the answer to one simple question -- can they find the right successor for Eli Manning? Whether his time as the Giants’ QB lasts one more game or one more season he really is just a placeholder at this point.
As for Sunday, the Giants have Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard and maybe Evan Engram, if his hamstring injury isn’t serious. They have the weapons to threaten anyone. Can they protect Manning well enough to use them? Against the Bears I have my doubts.
*Editor’s Note: We have our doubts too, Ed.
WCG: 2. As an independent observer of the Giants, it seemed incredibly obvious that Big Blue would grab their signal caller of the future in the 2018 draft. At the #2 spot in a QB rich draft, the Giants instead drafted the phenomenal running back Saquon Barkley. With Barkley the front runner for Rookie of the Year, but the Giants at 3-8 with an end-of-career Eli Manning the only viable option under center, is it fair to say that Barkley was the wrong pick for the Giants despite his other worldly talent?
BBV: This is an argument that will never go away. It was waged before the draft. It’s still being waged. It will go on for years. Maybe decades. Barkley is a fantastic player. There is no way around that. But, quarterback is more important than running back. There is no way around that, either. Was Barkley the wrong pick? He’s so good it’s hard to say that, and I don’t think we can answer the question yet. If the Giants find their quarterback this offseason and go on to have a number of winning teams while Barkley is still at the top of his game, then they look brilliant. If Barkley and Beckham just produce big numbers on bad teams without a good enough quarterback, then what difference does it make?
WCG: 3. Odell Beckham Jr. seemed to be headed down the road of hot-head receiver in the Dez Bryant / Terrell Owens mold. A selfish player who would get into fights with kicking nets on the sidelines. This year, it seems as though Odell has started to turn the corner after signing a record $90M deal before the season began. Has Beckham matured and is he the cornerstone to the next great Giants team or would the Giants have been better off trading him away for draft assets as was rumored?
BBV: Did you not see his ESPN interview, where he threw Manning under the bus and said he wasn’t really sure like New York? Did you not see Beckham question Shurmur’s game plan the other day? Beckham is Beckham. He’s a marvelous talent, but somehow he always finds a way to make the story about him. I don’t think they would have been better off trading him, but I do think it’s fair to wonder if he will still be a Giant when his current mega-contract comes to an end.
*Editor’s Note: No, I didn’t see the ESPN interview because, well, I avoid ESPN, but I might have agreed with Beckham. I did see the Beckham criticism of Shurmur’s gameplan but it seemed tame to me. Is he just being honest, destructive to the team, or both?
WCG: 4. The great Giants teams of the past are all headlined by the defense. While the Bears defense has led the way in their resurgence, the Giants defense has been actively bad, ranking 28th in Football Outsider’s DVOA. The Giants seemingly didn’t help the defensive talent by trading away run-stuffer extraordinaire Snacks Harrison and mercurial cover corner Eli Apple before the trade deadline. What’s the long term vision for this side of the ball and who are the pieces to build around? What’s the game script this defense needs to be successful against the Bears on Sunday?
BBV: There are many in the fan base who still don’t understand the trades of Harrison and Apple, especially Harrison. Great player, but a 350-pound, one-dimensional 30-year-old with a massive contract -- and the Giants have two young defensive tackles in Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill who are good players.
I don’t know exactly what the long-term vision is, though I don’t think defensive coordinator James Bettcher has all the pieces he needs. Not close. The Giants need pass rush help. They need a three-down inside linebacker. They need more corners. They need a quality free safety. They need a lot of help.
WCG: 5. The semi-finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame were recently released. Of the 25 modern era nominees, no Giants or Bears were on the list. Who do you believe the next Giants Hall of Famer will be and why?
BBV: Well, this leads us to the Eli Manning debate. Is he a Hall of Famer or isn’t he? I think he is. Two Super Bowl titles, especially the way those Super Bowls were won, I think speaks for itself. But, I certainly get the other side of the Eli argument and I have no idea what will ultimately happen when he is eligible. I always stump for former Giants GM George Young. He rebuilt this franchise in the 1980s and I really don’t understand why he isn’t in yet.
Thank you to Ed and Big Blue View for the info!