Ignore for a moment the insane shifting of energy; the accumulation of what appears to be a bulletproof all-star team assembling on the long-tattered football graveyard in Cleveland.
That is a story to be told over the coming months. A fanbase finally reaping an investment after years of blind faith. A modicum of legitimate excitement and consistency.
Today, we mourn whatever the hell is happening in East Rutherford, New Jersey. For years, this franchise was the model for nearly everyone to follow — patient when they needed to be and aggressive when the time came. Each season, for more than a decade, they kicked off on opening weekend with a puncher’s chance at the playoffs. Even at their worst, there was always that sheen of professionalism.
And then the past few seasons upended everything, exposing the flimsy, dying roots. Years of bad drafting. Years of desperate free agency, and years of intense loyalty to a quarterback who, at least from the outside looking in, fails to carry the weight of the franchise like some of his contemporaries on a consistent basis.
Looking at the last calendar year in a microscope, the Giants:
• Opted against selecting Eli Manning’s replacement in what may end up being a generational quarterback class, choosing instead to select a running back with the No. 2 overall pick en route to finishing the 2018 season 5-11, dead last in the NFC East.
• Spent precious remaining cap space on what was then the most expensive offensive lineman in NFL history, 30-year-old Nate Solder. According to Pro Football Focus, he finished that season as the 21st-best offensive tackle in the NFL – the 34th-best run blocker, and the 23rd-best pass blocker.
• Cut loose 25-year-old, three-time Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins, opting not to use the franchise tag. Collins re-set the safety market on the first day of free agency on a six-year deal with Washington.
• Traded 28-year-old Pro Bowl defensive end Olivier Vernon for Browns guard Kevin Zeitler, momentarily signaling one last-ditch effort at fixing this sputtering offense and hoisting it into the post season.
These radical swings, moves that should theoretically bolster the present while securing some kind of future for the franchise, have instead painted a bleak picture of the next few seasons. At best, 2019 features a Giants team ramming Saquon Barkley into a crowded box with no fear of the deep ball to ease his workload, further grinding away the best years of a running back’s athletic prime. By the time a rookie quarterback steps in to learn the ropes, his offensive line will be near its expiration date.
Admittedly, it’s hard to see the bigger picture here. If you were remaining hard-headedly by Manning’s side, then why remove the best passing threat he’s had in half a decade — especially in a draft where no clear successor exists – and agree to take on all this dead money?
If you were entering into a full rebuild, why act like drafting a quarterback was a radioactive proposition? Why stockpile veteran offensive linemen? Why draft the kind of luxury offensive weapon that is typically reserved for pushing a complete team over the edge?
It wouldn’t be a bad idea for Barkley to show up in the facility on Monday morning sporting a dyed-blonde mustache, trying to force his way out as well. Recent developments have indicated that the rebuild now apparently taking place will be far longer, and far more arduous than it needed to be.
GRADE FOR BROWNS: B+
This acquisition is not without its challenges. All at once, a rookie head coach with just a few weeks of coordinating experience inherits the most explosive offense in the NFL while simultaneously trying to ensure that last year’s rookie quarterback develops on schedule. Beckham, paired with long-time best friend Jarvis Landry, will be happy to exist outside the decaying confines of MetLife Stadium. But for how long?
GRADE FOR GIANTS: F
This was a move that either needed to happen before signing him to a long-term deal or not at all. Beckham invented ways to destroy bracket coverage. He was a multi-faceted weapon unique to the Giants’ offense. Now, they enter 2019 deflated, with Sterling Shepherd and Corey Coleman as their top wide receivers.