As we’re on a short work week due to the Thursday Night Football, I’m throwing a five-yard penalty flag against the NFL for their constant insistence on forcing the players to engage in another game so soon after a Sunday game and for forcing those of us who cover the games to cram six days worth of work into three.
So, I’m only going with five thoughts this week--but not to worry, the 10-thought format will return next week.
1. Although the Daniel Jones era is off to a promising 2-1 start, one can’t help but feel a little bit of regret that there won’t be that final "rematch" between quarterback Eli Manning and the New England Patriots defense.
If you’re a Giants fan, you know all about how tough Manning has been against Bill Belichick and company.
Manning, who holds a 3-2 overall career record against the defending Super Bowl champions (including a 2-0 postseason record), has led the Giants to a 123-119 scoring advantage over Bill Belichick, Brady, and company—that’s how close the Giants-Patriots games in the Manning era have been.
In their two losses to the Patriots, the last of which was a 27-26 loss on November 15, 2015, the Giants’ largest margin of defeat was three points, that coming in Week 17 of the 2007 regular season.
A lot, of course, has changed since that last meeting besides the quarterback. The Giants are on their second head coach (Pat Shurmur), they have a new general (Dave Gettleman), and they have rebuilt the foundation of the team.
As part of that foundation, there is a lot of confidence in Jones, who continues to learn from Manning behind the scenes.
The rookie has done everything right, and while it’s easy to compare him to Manning and his ways, it’s probably not fair to keep doing that given that Jones isn’t Manning.
But hey, if Jones can achieve the type of success that Manning did over his career--and not just against the Patriots but the entire NFL--then I don’t think there’s anyone who won’t take that.
2. I don’t think there are many people out there who disagree with Giants head coach Pat Shurmur’s unhappiness with the NFL officiating this year.
But I’m becoming a little concerned over how much Shurmur appears to be taking this so personal.
In his postgame comments last week, Shurmur was asked about the officiating, especially a non-call in last week’s game against the Vikings whom Shurmur perceived as having roughed up quarterback Daniel Jones.
“Hold that thought,” the head coach said. “I’m going to get to it at some point. It’s going be to be epic, but not today.”
I’m totally on board with addressing the officiating quality as it’s never been perfect, and it’s not going to be any time soon--not when the rules keep becoming more and more convoluted, and not when there seems to be a significant turnover of officiating crews from year to year.
But much like the schedule and injuries, the officiating is not something that a head coach or his players can control.
And for every bad call that ticks off a team, there is usually an equal number of favorable calls that go their way just as there are calls that are missed by the officials that are in the team’s favor.
If Shurmur is promising an epic rant, at best, all it will get him is a hefty fine in a battle he’s not going to win.
You might recall how in the Week 1 loss to the Cowboys, Shurmur, out of frustration, threw a challenge flag on a play inside of two minutes when all reviews must be initiated from the booth.
Shurmur indicated after the game that he threw the flag to “prove a point” but was darn well lucky that the officials didn’t penalize him 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, which they could have done at their discretion.
I think if I were this team’s head coach, I’d worry more about addressing issues that were in my control and launch my epic rants behind the scenes.
3. While on the topic of Shurmur, and I think he’s a good man with good intentions.
But with that said, for whatever reason, and whether he realizes it or not, he has taken on a passive-aggressive approach with his handling of the media of late that could come back to bite him if he doesn’t start producing a winning team.
I’ll give you three examples of answers in which I thought Shurmur came off as a bit testy when asked legitimate football questions. (Full disclosure: I asked one of these three questions.)
In the summer, he was what punter Riley Dixon, who had struggled with consistency, he had to improve to become more consistent. Shurmur deadpanned and said, “Punting the ball.”
After realizing his attempt at making a joke (presumably) didn't’ go over well, he did give a more thorough answer that was usable.
This past Sunday, Shurmur was somewhat flippant when asked about his play call decision to run the ball with Jon Hilliman using a run-heavy personnel package that pretty much broadcast what the play was going to be, and which resulted in the Vikings safety.
Here’s what he said:
Other than run the ball? We could’ve thrown it. I certainly could have thrown it. It was a run play that, in hindsight, we didn’t execute it well enough, and we gave up a safety. That’s two points; you move on. What did we get beat by? Eighteen? That was a bad play on our part. We have to clean it up and move on.
That the Giants only gave up two points in what ended up as an 18-point deficit wasn’t the issue.
The issue was snuffing out what had been a momentum-turning event at that point in a game in which the Giants were desperate for a spark, and while he admitted it wasn’t the best play call, to try to pass it off as “Well so what? It was only two points,” wasn’t a good sound byte.
The third example came Monday when Shurmur was asked about potentially getting snaps for Julian Love in place of a struggling Antoine Bethea.
“He’s getting reps right now,” the head coach said, obviously referring to practice reps instead of addressing the question of game reps.
All he had to do to avoid getting stuck between a rock and a hard place with either player was to say that Love is making progress and getting better every day toward a more increased role.
I get it that sometimes the questions are loaded, but distinguishing the legitimate football questions from the loaded ones isn’t that hard to do.
It’s my hope that down the line, he makes a better effort to identify those opportunities where he can safely disseminate information that clarified any existing misconceptions without trying to make the people who ask the legitimate questions look like fools.
4. I’m not very optimistic about the Giants’ chances of upsetting the New England Patriots Thursday night--I don’t think anyone outside of the Quest Diagnostics Training Center is, either.
But what I do want to see is a competitive and spirited effort.
If the Giants can come out of this game not being completely blown out of the water-- I’m talking lopsided margins in the key statistical areas of epic proportions--then I think you take that as a moral victory of sort for a team that, even though it refuses to admit to this, is clearly in a rebuilding mode.
5. Thursday night, we could very well see the Giants’ very own version of “11-personnel” make its debut.
Okay, more specifically, the 11-cent personnel package, a play off the nickname given to Daniel “Danny Dimes” Jones and the surname of fullback Eli Penny, the latter of whom is expected to get the start at running back for the injured Saquon Barkley (ankle) and Wayne Gallman (concussion).
“We list him as a fullback, but when we put him in at tailback, we expect him to do tailback things,” Shurmur said.
“I think he’s a good runner. He’s got good vision. He’s got good collision balance. To this point, when we’ve handed it to him, he’s secured it well. Those are all the elements you are looking for in a running back.”
Penny, who always has a smile on his face, likened his 15 yards on three carries in last week’s game to his “glory days” as a young running back in training.
“It was fun,” he said. “It kind of reminded me of my glory days in high school and college. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the 'W,' but it was a good feeling getting the ball and being productive with it.”
Penny has never carried the rock more than five times as a Giant, doing so last season in a Week 14 win over Washington.
In fact, his single-game career-high came in 2017 as a member of the Arizona Cardinals in a Week 15 game also against Washington where he carried the ball ten times for 45 yards
With all that said, once Saquon Barkley returns from his injury--and all signs as of this writing are pointing to that being a realistic possibility for the Giants October 20 game against Arizona--Penny will no longer be the “man” in the backfield.
However, with a strong showing against the Patriots, things could get very interesting for the Giants to where if Penny shows he can handle the workload as well as they think he can, perhaps that opens up an opportunity for the team to move Gallman, once he’s healthy, to a team in need of a running back in exchange for a 2020 Day 3 draft pick.
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