The State of the Giants: John Mara Training Camp Edition

The Giants owner spoke to the media about his expectations for the season

The New York Football Giants will play their first game in 25 days. Three weeks from Sunday they will be in Dallas the way they are nearly every year to open the season. It’s the beginning of another Giants season and the true beginning of the end for Eli Manning as the Giants’ starting quarterback.

The New York Football Giants will play their first game in 25 days. Three weeks from Sunday they will be in Dallas the way they are nearly every year to open the season. It’s the beginning of another Giants season and the true beginning of the end for Eli Manning as the Giants’ starting quarterback.

With each Giants loss or each Manning underperformance, the cry for first-round pick Daniel Jones to play will start. Barring a Giants upset over the Cowboys in Week 1, the cries will start immediately following the first game of the season. The Giants’ poor decisions over the last two years and ridiculous roster construction since the end of last season have put them in a situation where a quarterback controversy can even exist, and the controversy will eventually overshadow the entire season.

Giants owner John Mara, who’s responsible for the Giants getting to this point, spoke with the media on Tuesday.

On when Daniel Jones will take over for Eli Manning:
“I hope Eli has a great year and Daniel never sees the field. That would be in an ideal world, you’d like to see that, but again at the end of the day, it’s going to be a decision by the head coach as to when or if Daniel ends up playing this year.”

The only way Manning has a good enough year for Jones to never see the field is if the Giants are a playoff team or still playing for a playoff berth through Week 17. A first-round, sixth overall pick isn’t sitting out an entire year unless his team is going to the playoffs and the starting quarterback is healthy.

It’s also not Pat Shurmur’s decision as to when Jones plays. Shurmur might have some say, though not much, but the decision will ultimately be that of Mara and Dave Gettleman. Shurmur doesn’t get to decide when the longest-tenured Giant in history goes to the bench for good.

On Eli Manning’s training camp:
“He has played well when the protection has been there in front of him and he has confidence in the protection.”

Manning might not be the player he once was, but he’s still worthy of being a starting quarterback in the league, when he has the right players around him (like any quarterback would be). Any quarterback would look as impatient, flustered and jittery as Manning has the last few seasons with his offensive line constantly changing and featuring rookies, journeymen, overpaid veterans and busts. I think Manning has handled and played as good as possible with such a weak supporting cast around him.

When Manning dumped off his first pass attempt in the preseason game against the Jets last week, it drew a lot of ire. The play didn’t happen the way it did because that’s all Manning is capable of at this point, it transpired because that’s what he’s had to do to stay upright and out of the hospital the last few years. If the offensive line is truly better this than it has been, Manning will get comfortable playing behind it and regain his trust in it. It wasn’t going to happen on his first pass attempt of the preseason, on the first play he could actually be hit since Week 17 of last season, not with the kind of pressure he’s grown accustomed to, especially on his blindside.

On Dave Gettleman’s decisions as general manager:
“He makes decisions that he feels are in the best interest of the franchise and he doesn’t give a damn what people think about it, be it the media or be it fans or anybody.”

I would hope Gettleman is acting with the Giants’ best interests in mind when trading away the team’s top players and drafting a quarterback in the first round after bringing back the franchise quarterback at an enormous salary. I would hope Gettleman has the Giants’ best interests in mind and not the Cowboys’, Eagles’ or Redskins’. Has there ever been a general manager in any sport who has made decisions without the best interests of the team in mind? What a weird thing to say about your general manager and what an odd way to defend his unfavorable decisions.

Certainly, no general manager should base his decisions based on how the media or fans think or how they might be respond. But if those decisions don’t work out, it will be the media and fans who decide if the general manager keeps their position. Gettleman is safe with his decision making for now because of the rebuild and because he’s attached to both Shurmur and Jones.

A year ago, Gettleman told everyone the Giants would contend in 2018 and then he changed course after a five-win season to rebuilding the team around a running back and a quarterback who isn’t even the starter. Gettleman misread who the Giants were a year ago when he thought 2015 and 2017 were the fluke seasons and not 2016, and then he mismanaged the roster and salary cap in preparation of an actual rebuild. He has been unsure of what the Giants are and the roster directly reflects that with a lack of talent and unnecessary contracts.

On what will be considered a good season:
“We need to win some games. I want to feel like at the end of the season that we’re moving in the right direction. I’m not going to say it has to be a minimum number of games that we have to win or we have to make the playoffs, I want to feel when I’m walking off the field after the last game of the season, whenever that is, that this franchise is headed in the right direction.”

The Giants won three games in 2017 and five games in 2018. If they win six or seven games in 2019, are they headed in the right direction? I’m sure Mara thought the team was headed in the right direction in 2016 when his rookie coach won 11 games and took the team to the playoffs. That led to the coach and general manager being fired midseason the very next year after they decided to bench the franchise quarterback, and since the start of 2017, the Giants have gone 8-24.

Essentially, Mara’s idea on how he will feel about his franchise after 2019 contradicts his “ideal world” scenario. For him to truly feel good about where the Giants are headed, Jones has to play and play well. Manning is nearing the end of the road and is no longer part of the “right direction” Mara refers to. Manning’s a placeholder for the inevitable of Jones taking over, the way Kurt Warner was for Manning 15 years ago.

On the Giants’ recent losing seasons:
“I’m not very patient. I take the losses pretty hard. But I understand that you have to make decisions that are in the best interest of your team in the long run.”

I think Mara is a little more patient than he’s letting on. He has to be. His team has made the playoffs once in the last seven seasons and twice in the last 10. There have been a lot of losing seasons and a lot of losses for him to take hard during that time.

The decisions for the “long run” have produced arguably the weakest wide receiving corps in the league, which will only help fast track Manning’s eventual benching, an offensive line which is still a work in progress, a defensive line incapable of creating pressure and a secondary needing to prove it can be competitive. The “long run” doesn’t have an actual date, but it’s hard to envision the “long run” being any date in 2019.

I have always said the Giants are at their best when there aren’t any expectations. The second the Giants are supposed to be good or supposed to win, everything falls apart. That doesn’t mean they’re going to win the division or a wild-card berth or finally stay mathematically in the postseason picture past October.

As a Giants fan, I know I’m in for a season in which Manning will most likely play his final game in what will be another losing season. It’s the kind of season Giants fans have gotten used. It’s the kind of season Mara has let us get used to.


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