The Giants named former Bills assistant general manager Joe Schoen as their new general manager--that was the easy part.
Now comes the hard part, as Schoen will have his work cut out for him over the next few months if he is to steer the Giants franchise back to its winning ways.
Let's run down a few of the major tasks likely to be on the new general manager's to-do list.
Head Coach Search
One of the first and most important decisions Schoen will have to make is identifying head coaching candidates. Team president John Mara said the head coach and general manager would be the two driving forces in getting this franchise turned around and stocked with better personnel, better schemes, and a more competitive group.
Ideally, the general manager selects the best candidate, regardless of background. However, With so many qualified candidates likely to be considered, will more weight be given to an offensive-minded head coach that can help optimize the Giants offense, or will it be a defensive minded-head coach?
And does the new general manager tend to favor a coach who wants to run a 3-4 defense or a 4-3? A power or gap scheme? And how far away is the team from having the appropriate personnel to run the desired system?
"We will cast a wide net," Schoen said in a team-issued statement. "It can be former head coaches, first-time head coaches but, more importantly, it has to be a person who possesses the ability to lead an organization and the ability to motivate and develop players."
In the end, some of these decisions might not matter if the goal is to get the best possible candidate on board, but they are still very much valid questions and decisions that need to be considered. One would hope that the best candidate gets the job, but still, it will be interesting to see what philosophies that person has since presumably, that person will have to be on the same page as the general manager.
Ask any general manager what he looks for in a player, and he'll probably tell you, "The best player available." There's some truth to that statement, as, after all, who doesn't want the best players available?
The best available has to fit the overall picture, which is not always the case with every prospect. For example, look at Ifeadi Odenigbo, a 4-3 edge rusher whom the Giants thought they could convert into a 3-4, only to find out that his skill set wasn't a fit.
So that leads to the question of what characteristics and traits the general manager expects in certain players? Does she have a height/weight requirement? Are specific measurables more desirable? Is he more about the production? Does he prefer football players over athletes (as he should), or is he from the "best athlete" school of thought?
In addition to desired traits, the new general manager better understand how he wants the scouting process done. Will it be a tiered system? How will the reports be written and entered into the team's system? How much will analytics come into play?
And what will the philosophy be in rebuilding what's, in essence, a poorly constructed roster with not nearly enough quality depth accumulated via the draft?
"On the personnel side, we will begin to evaluate our roster and prepare for the draft and free agency," Schoen said. "Our goal is to build a roster that will be competitive, have depth, and most importantly, win football games.”
The bottom line is that scouting isn't an exact science. Most teams share similar goals and philosophies, but at the same time, every team has little intricacies that are specific to their needs and beliefs. Schoen will have to define what's what and hope that the scouting track record is solid moving forward.
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Salary Cap Maneuvers
I mentioned in this article how the Giants are ridiculously top-heavy in their salary cap, meaning that their top-five highest cap figures account for nearly 50 percent of the total estimated 2022 cap figure.
Taking this a step further, Over the Cap now lists the Giants as being $18,844,049 in the red in functional cap space needed to comply with the Top 51 rule that starts the new league year in March.
This means player contracts will have to be shed, and dead money will be accumulated. But Schoen can't simply look at the dollar figure next to the player's name and decide to take the cap hit without a plan to replace the player or treat the dead money that comes with such a move.
And for those big cap hits that Schoen wants to retain, there is a matter of deciding how to restructure the contract so that it doesn't choke future cap years.
For example, if you have a player with a $19 million base salary that has three years left on his deal, just how much do you look to convert into a signing bonus to gain cap relief, knowing that whatever you do convert will result in the cap swelling up in subsequent years?
These decisions likely won't be made until the new head coach is on board to give his opinions on which players he wants to keep.
Everyone is talking about quarterback Daniel Jones and his fifth-year option, but not many people are talking about the other first-round pick in that 2019 draft on whom they need to decide whether to pick up the option year: defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence II.
Per Over the Cap, Jones would cost the Giants $21.369 million for his option year in 2023. That's a rather hefty figure for a guy who has missed playing time every season due to injury (and who is dealing with a neck injury that, while optimism exists of him recovering from it, is still very much a question mark).
And of course, let's not forget the competitive aspect of it. While one might argue that Jones hasn't been helped by an organization that didn't put a competent offensive line in front of him or give him an offensive coordinator that optimizes what he does best, there are still questions about the pace of his progress that could raise a concern about making such a commitment.
Lawrence, per Over the Cap, will cost them $10.069 million in his option year, a rather hefty figure for a player who thus far has proven to be a solid run-stopper but who has yet to blossom into the pass rusher they were hoping he'd become.
Front Office Adjustments
While there might be a few additions and subtractions in the personnel department--especially if Schoen wants to bring in his own people to fill roles that might currently be held by others already in place in the Giants' front office--it's doubtful the new general manager will do a wide sweeping cleanup without first having a chance to review the work of the scouts and others who make up the department.
The scouting process, which has been going on since August, is about to ramp up later this month, starting with the All-Star games, the combine, and then the pro days. Teams usually don't disrupt the scouting process in mid-stream--that's like expecting a team to fully revamp its offensive scheme in mid-season after firing its offensive coordinator.
But make no mistake about it. Schoen will have access to scouting reports and other information that should help him decide whose work fits into his model and whose doesn't. So don't be surprised if, after the draft, you hear of people leaving or being reassigned.
And along that end, will Schoen have full autonomy to reassign or remove people that have been with the organization for years, or will such moves be subject to approval by ownership?
If the Giants are going to do things the right way, they need to trust Schoen. And regardless of how ownership might feel about a proposed move, they need to put aside personal feelings of sentimental value and embrace progress.