By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
Since the Redskins formally threw the Giants’ playoff ambitions in a deep, dark grave with Saturday’s win in Philadelphia, it is now appropriate to ponder this team’s future.
It’s not good. It’s going to be a long, busy offseason that will begin around 4:30 p.m. next Sunday, just after they wrap up the season and, possibly, the Tom Coughlin era against the visiting Eagles.
As is their custom, co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch will let the dust of a fourth straight season out of the playoffs settle a bit before making any decision on Coughlin and his staff. And how that will turn out remains anybody’s guess.
That decision — to fire Coughlin or let him coach out the final year of his contract in 2016 — will come down in due time. But other decisions should be made immediately, and some of them should be fairly obvious. One, though, will be tougher than others.
What to do about Jason Pierre-Paul.
At one point in his career, the nine-fingered defensive end was considered an invaluable asset, one of the handful of players along with Eli Manning and Odell Beckham and maybe Victor Cruz that absolutely, positively had to stick around. That’s why the Giants hung that $14.8 million franchise tag on him last year, before the July 4 accident that took his right index finger, part of his right thumb, and left him the player he has become today.
Just like most of the rest of the roster — especially on the defensive side.
As disappointing as the offense was at times this season, the defense is what needs a refurbishing. And if general manager Jerry Reese is smart, he’ll spend most of the $48 million he has available under what is expected to be a $150 million salary cap to get that side some quality players.
Or at least a bunch which would recognize that last-second leads are meant to be held onto.
The Giants need a pass rush that can actually pressure the quarterback consistently, and can actually bring him down at important times.
JPP used to do that. He can’t anymore. And he probably won’t even after he stops wearing the heavy, confining wrap that protects his mangled hand.
He will never again grab effectively with that hand. And as age — he turns 27 on New Year’s Day — and time erode his explosive acceleration off the snap, he will become even less of a sack threat than he is now.
It simply would not be wise to invest a huge chunk of that cap space to keep him around for even another year. Certainly not if the franchise tag for 4-3 defensive ends comes in at $16 million or so. And it definitely would not be wise for Reese to tie his team to him long-term.
With as many holes as the defense has right now, Reese may need every cent available to bring the talent that will return that unit to late-game effectiveness.
It needs a whole new set of linebackers.
It needs defensive tackles who can stop the run and get pressure up the middle.
It needs depth in the defensive backfield, and a safety who can provide a strong complement to Landon Collins.
It needs defensive ends who strike fear in opposing tackles’ hearts.
Basically, the Giants’ defense needs more than Pierre-Paul.
He was once thought of as indispensable.
Now, with just one sack in the six games heading into Sunday night’s meaningless game in Minnesota, even a surge of sacks and quarterback hits won’t change the impression that he has become anything more than expendable.
Regardless of whether Coughlin stays or goes, regardless of Reese’s future employment status, the one thing that should come to a conclusion this offseason is the JPP era.
That Fourth of July fireworks display changed everything. He is no longer the player he once was, which means he’s no longer worth a big investment of cap space.
It was fun while it lasted.
But it should end now.
Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino