Giants co-owner John Mara didn’t go as far as to characterize the upcoming season as a "playoffs or bust" type of deal.
But after watching general manager Dave Gettleman secure over $130 million in talent to help second-year head coach Joe Judge take the Giants from a 6-10 team into a possible playoff contender, it was clear that nothing short of a playoff berth will suffice.
“In terms of whether I expect to make the playoffs – look, I go into every season expecting to make the playoffs,” he said. “Unfortunately, I’ve been wrong the last five years, but I always expect us to make the playoffs and expect us to be in contention at some point.”
Interestingly, Mara said that the team’s plan wasn’t to go on a massive spending spree as it did, but that things gravitated toward that direction when various opportunities they weren’t previously anticipating to be there presented themselves.
“I think you have to seize the opportunities when they present themselves to you,” he said, no doubt referencing the unexpected availability of cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and tight end Kyle Rudolph, two players who were cut by their former teams as free agency got underway.
“In terms of the money we spent this year, I mean, there were opportunities that presented themselves, particularly at positions of need with quality players and guys that we did a lot of research on, so we took advantage of the opportunities and hopefully they’ll pay off.”
The last time the Giants embarked on a significant spending spree was in 2016 when they added big-ticket players like Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, and Janoris Jenkins to help Ben McAdoo, then in his first year as head coach, off to a positive start.
That spending worked temporarily as the giants went 11-5 that season and qualified for their first postseason berth since their 2011 Super Bowl championship season. But the following year, things fell apart at the seams as the magic wore off at the stroke of midnight.
The Giants finished that next season 3-13, and both McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese were fired in-season, the first time a head coach was fired before the end of a season since Bill Arnsparger in 1976.
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Since 2017, the Giants have posted an 18-46 record and have undergone a massive organizational overhaul in the locker room. They are in year three of the Daniel Jones era, and the only draft picks that remain from Reese’s tenure are tight end Evan Engram and receiver Sterling Shepard.
But under head coach Joe Judge and his program, Mara believes the Giants are on the right track. He saw how well the players responded to Judge and his program during last year’s 6-10 season, and he believes that with a few additional pieces, the Giants can once again be relevant.
“I think it’s just that we’re committed to doing whatever we have to do to put a winning team on the field,” he said. “As I’ve said before, there were opportunities that presented themselves to add quality young players that were highly regarded, that we think can make an impact and also were positions of need, so we took advantage of them.
“I think you can’t do that every year, but when the opportunity presents itself I think you have to seize it and I think that’s what we did this year. We think it will pay off, but time will tell. We’re certainly not a finished product by any stretch of imagination. We need to add some more pieces in the draft, but I do like the direction that we’re going in.”
He hopes that direction will ultimately lead the Giants back to the Super Bowl.
“It would mean the world to me,” Mara said. “It’s been a very difficult four or five-year period for us, and I’m tired of the losing and of having the postseason press conference trying to explain what went wrong and why I think we’re making progress.
“It’s time for us to start winning some more, and that’s one of the reasons we spent the money we did. I do think we’re making progress here. We’ve added more players; it’s definitely a better locker room than we’ve had in a while, and I think Joe has done a terrific job instilling a certain culture here.
“Obviously, it’s been brutal the last few years and we’re looking forward to turning it around and not having to make excuses for why we haven’t done it.”