• The Giants haven't reached their nightmare scenario just yet, but they may already be wondering what might have been
By Conor Orr
September 17, 2018

There are enough problems caused by all-powerful head coaches and general managers these days when they accept new positions and gut rosters simply because the team isn’t set up the way they’d like it to be. A lot of times, good talent is kicked to the curb simply to stoke an ego.

So when Dave Gettleman returned to the Giants as general manager this offseason, along with head coach Pat Shurmur, it was somewhat refreshing to see him interpret the players on hand as good enough to make a run at the NFC East title in 2018. They did not trade Eli Manning. They did not run away from most of their gaudy contracts on defense, aside from Jason Pierre-Paul. They spent at the top of the market for a left tackle in Nate Solder, believing that a facelift was enough to make an offensive line with glaring issues functional.

Most notably, they sat out of what may turn out to be a generational class of quarterbacks in the 2018 draft. Picking running back Saquon Barkley No. 2 overall was the final and most glaring indication that they planned to squeeze the last bit of toothpaste from the Manning era before moving on.

When taking this kind of risk, one rarely thinks: “What’ll happen if we screw this thing up?” The Giants, now sitting at 0-2 after a punchless 20-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night, may start wondering if Gettleman and Shurmur’s decisions were in fact a miscalculation. No matter how refreshing they seemed at the time.

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Inside the facility, most will roll their eyes at the notion that 0-2 is a death sentence (even though only 10 percent of teams who start out with that record go on to reach the postseason). There are still 14 games to play and they are only one game behind their three divisional foes. They could theoretically trade for a right tackle to limit the chaos pinballing Manning around the backfield and triple down on their egregious bet. They could develop a niche in their offense that may finally unleash some of the potential playmakers, like Sterling Shepherd and Evan Engram, who see a good amount of single coverage thanks to Odell Beckham. Nothing is impossible, especially in a scattershot NFC East that was always going to be far from predictable this season.

However, next they get the Texans, a team that could thrash the Giants’ defense in a similar way to what Dallas did Sunday. Plus, they have better pass rushers and receivers. Then comes Drew Brees and the Saints, Cam Newton and the Panthers, the Eagles (presumably with Carson Wentz under center) and the Falcons in prime time. When does it get easier? Each of those teams could take advantage of the Giants’ bumbling right tackle to rip into the backfield with consistency and take their two best defensive backs and bracket Beckham, forcing the rest of this lineup to take over a game.

This is not (yet) to say that the Giants should have played for the future and selected Sam Darnold. Any rookie QB comes with growing pains, and it would have been hard for a fan base coming off the Ben McAdoo era to stomach another inept season, no matter how bright they may come through on the other side of a rebuild. In some ways, the franchise may also be avoiding the inevitable because of their love of Manning and the memory of the two Super Bowls he won there. It was always going to be complicated.

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But by taking the “compete in 2018” road, the Giants have now left themselves in a wildly troubling position for 2019 should this skid continue. Imagine missing the playoffs. Imagine having no theoretical successor to Manning to start the year, or plunging into a far less certain draft class in 2019 hoping to strike gold. Imagine having some version of this offensive line back again, one year older, trying to create something for Saquon Barkley to run through. It would be a pile of valuable, if ultimately incompatible, parts.

This nightmare scenario is still a ways away. Though for the first time, visions of what may have been are starting to appear. 

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