GM Jerry Reese deserves credit for “building” 2011 New York Giants
As one of the minority to pick the New York Giants to win the NFC East (full disclosure: the LiveBall QDS projections had the Eagles (fractionally) ahead of the Giants; I only picked the Giants to win on tiebreaker), I thought that the way that the Giants frustrating “off-season” got blown out of proportion had an effect on how the Giants were perceived heading into the season. Injuries in the preseason ravaged the Giants defense, to the point where they weren’t right (relative to where they were in 2010) for the first 15 weeks of the regular season.
To recap: the Giants released 40% of their offensive line, could not agree to a contract with WR Steve Smith, did not reach a contract extension with Osi Umenyiora, and let TE Kevin Boss walk in free agency. And a year later, we know the following: neither Rich Seubert or Shaun O’Hara was healthy enough to play in 2011, Smith did absolutely nothing as a Philadelphia Eagle and will hit the market at the low point of his value (where a Giants return is not out of the question), Kevin Boss had a decent year but didn’t even play a majority of Oakland’s offensive snaps, and the only move that had a detrimental effect on the Giants season was perhaps the lack of contractual security that may (or may not) have influenced Osi Umenyiora’s decision to sit inactive in seven games this season. His return is one of the primary reasons the Giants defense has been very good in the playoffs after struggling in the regular season.
But the real job Jerry Reese has done in New York is more of a credit to how he approaches the task of season to season management of his roster. The Giants won the super bowl behind the strength of Reese’s first draft class in his first season on the job, but that championship roster was built by Ernie Accorsi. If the Giants win the super bowl this year, Reese will deserve all the credit (even though he’ll never get the credit for having Eli Manning on the roster — despite making the decision to extend him for 6 years – $100 million). Sure, it’s easier to build around a quarterback then it is to find a quarterback while building, but we need to remember that when Jerry Reese took this job, Eli Manning was far closer to being let go by the Giants than he was to the contract Reese gave him. And while the Giants SB championship in 2007 wouldn’t have been possible without a great contribution from Reese’s rookie class, you could have argued that up until now, that super bowl championship did more for Reese than Reese had done for the Giants.
But Reese did very unpopular things this summer. And almost all those moves ended up being unconditionally right, only exception to the ones where we don’t know how they will end year. We don’t know how Osi Umenyiora’s Giants contract will end yet. But we know that the Giants have exceeded their expectations for this season, once again saving Tom Coughlin’s job in the process. The term addition by subtraction doesn’t adequately describe how the Giants prepared for this season: they struggled for a lot of this year because of questionable additions (Antrel Rolle), and injuries (Terrell Thomas, Jon Goff). But Eli Manning’s excellent season was fairly predictable (which I predicted here in explaining my reasoning for being higher on the Giants than the Eagles) despite the regression of his offensive line, and though we would have never known Victor Cruz (who I liked coming into this year) was going for 1,536 yards receiving, he essentially ended up playing the role it seemed like Mario Manningham would play.
The Giants were an above average team in the regular season, which is better than most people expected, and probably about what they deserved to be. The team that is torching teams in the playoffs is a function of the design of Reese and his staff. The Giants are not doing it with a great contribution from it’s 2011 draft class, where 6th round pick LB Jacquain Williams of USF is probably having the best rookie season of the group. It’s a different model this year from the one they used in 2007. Gameplans are much more Eli-centric now-a-days. Victor Cruz is far more reliable than any receiver that played for the Giants in the past. The offense around Manning is almost entirely comprised of Reese acquisitions (LT David Diehl, RG Chris Snee, RB Brandon Jacobs, and RT Kareem McKenzie, who are all having mediocre-at-best years, are the other exceptions), and it’s that offense that has kept the Giants in the hunt all season. So has defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, another Reese move.
It doesn’t seem like Jerry Reese deserves so much credit because here we have Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning as the faces of the Giants, and they’ve been around since 2004. But this team that’s winning now is winning entirely because of Reese’s organizational philosophy and because of his decisions made this summer. And he deserves plenty of credit for their success.