5 Silver Linings for New York Giants' Abysmal 2013-14 Campaign
Nearly two months into the 2013 season, the New York Giants accomplished something for the first time: They won a football game. Aside from the obligatory joy of staving off an 0-16 season of shame, there are plenty of reasons New York should be hopeful moving forward.
Seven long weeks of disappointment have finally come to an end for the Giants.
It took a quarterback with absolutely no familiarity of his system and team to make New York look like a semi-respectable outfit once again. If nothing else, New York's dismantling of Minnesota's Josh Freeman is an indication that Tom Coughlin's team refuses to give up on the season.
Finding overt positives from a dismal 2013 campaign of this magnitude is a tricky task.
Very few fans will tell you a 1-6 start is exactly what the doctor ordered for Big Blue, and nobody in the organization would dare admit anything close to that sentiment. Still, if you put your rose-colored glasses on for just a few moments, you'll see the Giants will come out of this appalling season as an improved franchise. Here are five reasons to be optimistic about an extremely underwhelming New York Giants team.
End of Gilbride's Gimmicks
Most Giants fans would agree Kevin Gilbride is the bane of their existence. The Giants' offensive coordinator is insufferably stubborn in his ways, causing an absolute collapse in continuity for New York.
Gilbride has single-handedly managed to oppress a core of talented skill players with his offensive philosophy. That is not an easy task to accomplish.
New York rarely layers its play-calling through the course of games in order to keep a defense guessing. Instead, the opposition has quite comfortably managed to put the Giants in 3rd-and-long situations on a consistent basis.
Gilbride's lack of imagination and creativity will ultimately be his downfall in New York.
The Giants were a paltry 0-6 heading into a nationally televised Monday Night Football contest. Rather than test out some new wrinkles against an equally inept defense, Gilbride saw it fit to pound the ball with yet another run-down player in Peyton Hillis.
The fact that New York was unable to display a semblance of entertaining football last night is a sign that under Gilbride, things will not change for the better. Style points count for something, especially when your team is not heading anywhere positive.
The silver lining here is the sense that there are only two plausible outcomes from Gilbride's struggles. The long shot of the two would be he hits his head so hard against a wall through the course of the week (or Buddy Ryan does it for him) that he finally realizes it's time to alter his approach to play-calling. A more likely result, however, would be the Giants' decision to dismiss their offensive coordinator and his outdated playbook.
2013 Offers a Reality Check
The 2013 season presents an ideal opportunity for general manager Jerry Reese to fix some inherent errors in judgment from recent years.
While never to be confused with an actual GM, anybody who has ever played the Madden franchise apparently knows something that Jerry Reese does not. Signing or retaining players in professional sports is never about what they've done in the past, but rather what they are expected to do in the future.
Just as you would refuse to pay a player $5 million Madden dollars for stinking up the joint in two consecutive years, you would expect a NFL GM to have similar standards when handling actual money.
New York has increasingly become possessive when it comes to high-priced veterans at the tail end of their contracts.
While on the surface Justin Tuck may not have much in common with the Queen of England, the two are mirror images when it comes to their vocations. Like the Queen, Tuck is a figurehead resigned to the stigma of appearing to have an actual purpose. "Leader" is often an adjective used to disguise a player with dwindling value on the field.
Tuck, Webster and Diehl are each a shell of their former selves. Rather than step on a few toes and make the right move, the Giants have decided to play nice and retain these players outright or negotiate a pay cut.
A general rule of thumb in the NFL is that if you start to show cracks after the age of 30, a rebound to top form is unlikely. The Giants have a chance to right some wrongs this summer. That starts by getting rid of the sentimental dead weight.
A Valuable Draft Pick Is Almost Assured
Viewing pleasure aside, any reasonable person would tell you, "If you're team is going to stink, you might as well stink all the way." Tanking is never an option in a league where a livelihood is not a guaranteed luxury for players, but from a fan's perspective an 8-8 record is toxic.
If Big Blue is fortunate enough to struggle with the worst of them, an impact player will be at their beckoning call in next April's rookie draft.
South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney is currently the most-prized prospect in the college ranks. The 6'6", 274-pound defensive end is a phenomenal athlete and enticing bookend option to pair with Jason Pierre-Paul.
C.J. Mosley is another defensive stud from the SEC conference to keep an eye on. Despite Jerry Reese's best efforts to completely neglect the linebacker position (most recently Alec Ogletree in the first round of the '13 draft), the Giants must be increasingly aware of their deficiencies on the second level.
Another interesting option is wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
Although New York has several other pressing needs, the potential absence of Hakeem Nicks and inconsistency of Rueben Randle could mean the team will be searching for an outside receiving threat.
If they are bad enough, the Giants are guaranteed to get a top-tier player next spring. So here's to hoping the beloved Giants avoid mediocrity—in an unapologetically terrible sort of way.
2014 Success Is Attainable
The 2012 Indianapolis Colts went 11-5 following a two-win season the previous year. This season, the Kansas City Chiefs are 7-0 after posting a league-worst 2-14 mark. If recent history has taught us anything, it's that teams in the NFL can reload with just a few fresh faces in key positions.
New York has solid pieces to build around moving forward.
A surplus of skill position players means the Giants will need to focus on avoiding the "sexy" move and inject some of this into the team. Jerry Reese's shopping list will be headed by more than one durable offensive lineman. Rebuilding Big Blue's line will almost certainly cure all the ailments they have suffered through on offense this season.
Re-establishing a push in the trenches will open up lanes for running backs who likely forgot what daylight looks like carrying behind this current group.
Already halfway towards redemption, Reese will need to target a three-down linebacker and No. 2 cornerback to pair with Prince Amukamara. These moves will give New York a steady dose of playmakers on all three levels of their defense.
A few key upgrades to New York's roster will be integral in achieving a quick climb back into contention in the NFC next season. If history is any indication, that goal is very much attainable.
The Jaguars Have Set the Bar
Another silver lining for New York is the simple fact that they are not the Jacksonville Jaguars. It's startling to think an 0-6 team outscored by over 100 points heading into Week 7 isn't even close to the most pathetic team in the league.
The Giants' commitment to punishing a vanilla Vikings offense pushed them to 1-6. That record compared to the Jags 0-7 mark is like getting a 25-mile head start against 60-year-old Shahid Khan and his phenomenal mustache in a marathon.
Eli Manning looks absolutely incompetent when you compare him to brother Peyton in 2013. Enter Blaine Gabbert into the discussion, though, and Eli once again looks like the top-5 quarterback from just two years ago.
Gabbert has been absolutely dreadful this season. No quarterback in the history of the NFL has sabotaged an entire city's efforts to retain their team as evidently as he has.
The Jaguars make it impossible for Big Blue to secure a top overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. They are heading so far into the abyss of hopelessness that New York's struggles pale in comparison. So thank you, Jacksonville, for making a really bad team seem not-so-awful.