By Steve Silverman
It’s not getting any better for the New York Giants, and as a matter of fact, it’s getting worse.
This is a team that is a major mess and belongs in the conversation about the worst teams in professional football. The 1-7 Giants are no better than the Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers or Cleveland Browns.
Actually, we will take the Niners out of the conversation. Yes, they are losing nearly every week, but they added a young, winning quarterback a year ago at this time, and if Jimmy Garoppolo had not suffered an ACL injury, they might be viewed as one of the up-and-coming teams in the league. When Garoppolo returns next year, the Niners will not be an awful football team. They may not be ready to contend, but they will be on the right track.
Where the Giants will be is a another situation entirely. The truth of the matter is that they have been a mediocre or bad team since the start of the 2012 season, and years of poor player personnel moves and a quarterback who can no longer get the job done have turned the team into a bottom feeder.
The fact that they have an up-and-coming superstar at running back in rookie Saquon Barkley and a receiver who can make the most eye-catching receptions in the sport in Odell Beckham Jr. puts the spotlight on how badly this organization has performed at putting the proper personnel on the field.
It is not enough to have a couple of shiny superstars who are capable of making highlight-film plays, and it never has been.
The game is about putting together an offensive line that attacks the defense in a cohesive manner play after play. It doesn’t matter if these players are good enough to perform at an All-Pro level. They have to be hungry and they have to want to knock the guy opposite them down and keep doing it.
On the other side of the ball, the front seven must live for the battle and have a hunger to seek and destroy. Rules have changed dramatically over the years and players can’t go over the line like they did when Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks ruled the roost, but they have to do a lot more than the current defense is doing.
It wouldn’t matter what kind of game strategist or motivator Pat Shurmur is if his players don’t have the hunger to win the battle. The previous administration and the current one have not given Shurmur the building blocks it takes to win, just a couple of shiny baubles who are being wasted.
Barkley put it succinctly after the Giants lost to the Redskins Sunday when he said that it seemed that his teammates only play with urgency when they get behind and the team gets desperate. That’s no way for any team to win.
“It sucks that we’re losing because I am a competitor,” Barkley said. “We’re all competitors in this locker room. Everyone hates losing. I knew you lose more in the NFL, but yeah, I’m disappointed. I’m upset. We’re 1-7 right now. We know we’re much better than that record.”
Barkley has his heart in the right spot and he has the talent to become a game-changing superstar, but he is wrong in his assessment. The Giants are not much better than their record.
They can’t block well enough to sustain drives and their red zone record is laughable. The defense lacks the wherewithal to do its part to earn victories, either.
Of course, the other problem is the most obvious. The Eli situation has to be addressed when the Giants head to the draft in April.
General manager Dave Gettleman drafted Saquon Barkley because of his physical skills, intelligence, leadership and potential. He thought a running back of the first order would make everyone around him better.
He thought the line would block better and that it would take pressure off of Eli Manning and the defense.
His theory made some sense, because in an era of football more than generation ago, a great running back could do that.
That is not the case any longer, because everything is so quarterback-centered. Manning can’t move around well enough to get away from the rush.
In his prime, he mastered the art of sliding in the pocket, getting away from the rush and finding his receivers. However, that’s no longer the case.
Younger, faster and better-conditioned defensive linemen break through the Giants offensive line regularly and they have no trouble catching Eli.
That has to change, and it can’t happen until the Giants get a real quarterback who has the athleticism to move and get away from the rush.
Gettleman has his work cut out for him, because the Giants have two or three years of rebuilding to do if they are going to be competitive once again.
The long wait will continue.