The tandem of general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll made a big impression in 2022, their first year in New York. They guided the Giants to a winning record and a playoff victory over the Minnesota Vikings—the team’s first postseason win since Super Bowl XLVI, more than a decade earlier. Schoen and Daboll had played key roles in turning the also-ran Buffalo Bills into Super Bowl contenders, along the way developing talented quarterback Josh Allen into an MVP candidate. One year in, New York looked to be on the same trajectory.
Halfway into year two, the rise has fizzled out. Through ten weeks, the team ranks dead last with just 118 points scored. Quarterback Daniel Jones tore his ACL after playing only six ineffective games; he ends the year with just two touchdown passes against six interceptions and a whopping 30 sacks. Unsurprisingly, the team has won just two games, and the path moving forward looks much murkier.
Owner: John Mara and Steve Tisch
General Manager: Joe Schoen
Head Coach: Brian Daboll
The Giants enjoyed stability for a long period early in the 2000’s. Tom Coughlin won two Super Bowls during his 12 years with Big Blue, and the franchise only changed general managers once, with Jerry Reese seamlessly taking over for a retiring Ernie Accorsi. The years since have seen considerably more upheaval. None of the three hires following Coughlin—Ben McAdoo, Pat Shurmur, and Joe Judge—lasted more than two seasons. Reese was ousted along with McAdoo, and his successor, Dave Gettleman, retired in 2021 after four losing seasons.
The stable period, notably, began with the hires of Accorsi and Coughlin under the previous generation of owners: Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch, both of whom died in 2005. Their children, John Mara and Steve Tisch, as well as John’s brother Chris, a longtime personnel executive, have yet to prove they can make effective hires, or show patience with the hires they do make. Schoen and Daboll figure to get at least a third season, but may begin 2024 on the hot seat.
Daboll has a proven track record of success, as an assistant with the New England Patriots and offensive coordinator with Alabama and the Bills. He built a well-regarded coaching staff, including coordinators Mike Kafka (offense) and Wink Martindale (defense). As with many personnel men, it’s difficult to tease out Schoen’s contributions from the overall team path, but his resume is strong. The bigger question is how much rope ownership will give the duo to turn things around after the disappointment of 2023.
Schoen and Daboll elected not to pick up his fifth-year option on quarterback Daniel Jones, a key decision early in the 2022 offseason, their first with the team. That looked like a mistake after Jones’ breakout 2022, and they wound up signing him to a much more expensive four-year, $160 million dollar extension in March. But now that deal looks like the mistake, given Jones’ struggles, which match his poor track record prior to 2022.
Offensively, New York has one of the game’s brightest young talents at one of the hardest positions to fill: left tackle Andrew Thomas. A preseason extension locked the 24-year-old up through 2030. The offense also features star running back Saquon Barkley, but he hits free agency this offseason after playing on a one-year extension in 2023.
The defense boasts two young studs up front in defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, like Jones a first-rounder in 2019, and 2022 first-round pick Kayvon Thibodeaux, currently leading the team in sacks with 8.5 in nine games.
New York’s secondary looks pretty rough, with veteran Adoree’ Jackson and 2023 first-round pick Deonte Banks both ranking among Pro Football Focus’ bottom-10 cornerbacks. And despite Lawrence and Thibodeaux, the Giants rank 31st in the NFL with 15 sacks and a sack rate of just 4.4%, well below the league average of 7.1%. They wound up dealing star defensive tackle Leonard Williams at the trading deadline, which surely won’t help moving forward.
But I’m burying the lede—the Giants need offense! Jones has failed to follow up on his breakout 2022. While it may be time for New York to move on, the team still owes “Danny Dimes” $36 million in guaranteed salary for 2024, possibily delaying the decision to make a change at quarterback.
There are plenty of other areas Schoen and Daboll can look to upgrade on offense. The receiving corps has disappointed. Kadarius Toney, a first-rounder in 2021, lasted just two games into 2022 before Schoen shipped him to Kansas City, where he’s currently breaking the hearts of Chiefs fans. Wan’Dale Robinson, a second rounder in 2022, isn’t faring a lot better. Tight end Darren Waller has made some contributions and third-round rookie Jalin Hyatt flashes big-play ability, but overall the Giants aren’t getting enough from their receivers.
The offensive line, unfortunately, is making the receivers look like All Pros. Jones took 30 sacks in just six games. Injuries have limited Thomas to only three games. Right tackle Evan Neal, the seventh pick in 2022, has been a disaster; Pro Football Focus grades him dead last among 64 tackles who’ve played at least 50% of their team’s snaps. Rookie second-round center John Michael Schmitz Jr., and Joshua Ezeudu, a third-rounder from 2022, have also played poorly. So has virtually everyone New York has played up front, but the failures of those three recent high picks especially sting. The Giants will need to throw more resources at the position, whether in free agency or via the draft.
Trading Williams landed a dead money hit of nearly $27 million on New York’s salary cap, about half of the team’s total dead money. He’ll cost another $10.6 million on the 2024 cap, but at least the Giants have more breathing room then, almost $48 million in projected cap space according to OvertheCap.
Schoen and company will have a lot of draft capital to work with, too. In addition to the projected high pick that comes with being one of the worst teams in the league, they netted Seattle’s second-rounder in the Williams trade. A top-five selection and two second-round picks seems like a pretty good start to the rebuilding effort in East Rutherford.
Prognosis and Plan
First, the Giants will have to make a decision on quarterback. ESPN Analytics gives New York the best odds of finishing with the first overall pick, given their record and remaining schedule. If that’s the case, they need to seriously consider top quarterbacks Caleb Williams and Drake Maye. The organization clearly likes Jones and he’s still owed a boatload of money, but there’s a real opportunity to pick a quarterback in what’s shaping up to be a rich draft class. With the second overall pick in 2018, then-general-manager Dave Gettleman selected Barkley over his pick of quarterback options, including Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. Schoen and company shouldn’t repeat that mistake.
Whether Jones is back or the team turns to a rookie, they need to place their signal-caller in better position to succeed. Having a healthy Thomas locking down left tackle will help. Neal has disappointed tremendously at the other tackle spot, and perhaps would be best served by moving to guard, where he played early in his college career. The team can hope for some improvement from him and Schmitz, but must also invest in the line in free agency and / or the draft. And the team can't ignore wide receiver of the defensive backfield.
The Giants do have a fair amount of cap space and an extra second-round pick, but at 2-8, needs loom everywhere. Rebuilding this team won’t happen overnight, and it’s fair to wonder how much time ownership will grant Schoen and Daboll given their impatience over the previous decade. The magical 2022 season looked like a turning point; 2023 serves as a reminder of how long it’s been since the glory years.