In his annual bye week press conference, New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese didn't shed much new information behind the reason for the team’s 2-6 first half of the season, which includes a 0-6 start.
“Obviously, 2-6 is not what we expected at the beginning of the season, but that’s where we are right now and we’re going to make the best of it,” he said.
What has been the biggest reason for the Giants' 2-6 start?
“Things could be worse than they are. Our division has been slow to get started, so that’s good fortune in respect to that. We’re still in it. We’re happy about that, to be in this position at this point, all things considered.”
He’s correct that the Giants are still in the division hunt, but the fact remains that the team he put together is just as much a part of the “NFC Least” where clearly the only race worth watching seems to be which team creatively descends to the bottom of the division.
As the Giants take the bye week to self-scout their tendencies and figure out a way to string together at least a 6-2 finish to the season, Reese noted that everyone in the organization has to do his job better, himself included.
When asked what specifically he thought he could do better, he sidestepped the question.
“Everything—whatever my job entails, I can do better,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who know how to do my job, but I can do a lot of things better and I will do things better.”
Since Reese wouldn't get into specifics about what he can do better, here’s a breakdown of three of the most glaring areas where he can help to do his part in his role as the Giants’ architect.
Salary Cap Management
In a September analysis, I noted how the Giants salary cap spending in 2013 has been a complete disaster.
Unfortunately, nothing has changed since I wrote that report, as the Giants have consistently been at or near the bottom in terms of available cap room every week this season.
Again, while a team can’t anticipate injuries, the Giants currently have approximately $28.317 million, or an estimated 23 percent of their 2013 cap figure, tied up in players who are not contributing to the team right now due to injury or their no longer being on the team.
|Category||Number of Contracts|
|On Other Teams||9|
|Out of the League||46|
Data compiled from Over the Cap
The estimated monetary breakdown, using data from Over the Cap, is as follows:
A look at 2014 initially seems promising—per Over the Cap, the Giants currently have 35 contracts on the books for an estimated $107 million.
If we use this year’s cap figure of $123 million as a base line for calculating the Giants' 2014 cap space, New York should have $14.94 million to spend next winter on the remaining 16 contracts that will compromise the “Top 51” report.
Approximately $389,000 is tied up in prorated dead money stemming from contracts that have not yet come off the books, such as safety Tyler Sash and defensive tackle Marvin Austin.
The Giants could also see a significant boost in their available cap space for next year if they terminate the contracts of center David Baas and guard Chris Snee, they void the option years in the contracts of cornerback Corey Webster and tight end Brandon Myers, and they lower quarterback Eli Manning's $15.15 million base salary.
Manning's contract aside, the following table, all data of which is from Over the Cap, represents the estimated amount of additional cap space the Giants stand to gain if they address a few inflated contracts of players who mot likely are not in the plans for 2014:
|Player||2014 Cap Figure||Prorated Bonus||Cap Savings||Notes|
|David Baas||$8,225,000||$6,450,000||$1,775,000||Likely June 1 designation|
|Brandon Myers||$4,375,000||$1,125,000||$3,250,000||Contact must be voided|
Source: Over the Cap
If the Giants make the above moves, they would clear another $11,677,500 of cap space. Also, if they designate Baas' contract as a post June 1 move, they would get another $3,225,000 of cap space after June 1.
If Reese and Co. can do a better job with managing their spending, they should be able to lock up key free agents such as receiver Hakeem Nicks, defensive tackle Linval Joseph and linebacker Jon Beason.
They also should be able to pick up some additional key players such as on the offensive line, linebacker and cornerback to help fill some of the many holes that are expected to develop thanks to the one-year “rental” contracts they relied so heavily upon in 2013.
Before going any further, it needs to be pointed out that the 2007 Giants draft class, the first in Reese’s tenure as general manager, was actually one that he put together during the organizational restructure.
Remember, Ernie Accorsi had retired following the 2006 season, and Reese, for a time, did double duty as both the general manager and as the director of college scouting. Following the 2007 draft, the Giants hired Marc Ross to take over assembling the draft board.
With that all said, there have been a couple of interesting articles on the Giants’ draft success (or lack thereof) since 2007.
Grantland’s Bill Barnwell penned an outstanding piece that looks at the past five Giants draft classes and how injuries have affected their production. Chris Smith of Forbes took Barnwell’s piece a bit further by comparing Reese’s draft classes to the rest of the NFL.
In April 2013, as part of a draft preview, I wrote an analysis that makes an argument for the Giants draft booms and busts based on player performances.
Injuries aside—no general manager can anticipate if a player is going to be injury prone and thus shouldn't really have his draft classes judged on that factor—it’s probably more important to look at the production the team has received from the draft picks.
Another trait of the Giants draft classes under Reese’s leadership is that they seem to take far too many risks in trying to pick up guys in later rounds with the hope that they’ll emerge into superstars, thus making the other 31 teams that passed on a player look like fools for passing over a player.
Some recent examples of gambles that haven’t panned out include linebacker Clint Sintim (Round 2, 2009), a 3-4 linebacker who, when he wasn't on injured reserve just wasn't a fit for the Giants’ 4-3 scheme; Ramses Barden (Round 3, 2009), a physically gifted receiver from Cal Poly who couldn't transfer his skill set to the pro level; and tight end Travis Beckum (Round 3, 2009), whose limited experience at tight end during his collegiate career showed when he made it to the pro level.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a risk on a player, but when the risks far outweigh the returns on investment, then it becomes time to reassess the practice of gambling because blown draft picks can and do set organizations back for multiple seasons.
Given the restrictions placed on teams because of the salary cap, it’s also important to make sure that draft picks are at least contributing something at some point their rookie season, other than dead money to the current year’s salary cap.
Andre Woodson, Stoney Woodson, Rhett Bomar, DeAndre Wright, Matt McCants, Ryan Nassib and Adrien Robinson are all examples of Giants draft picks that didn’t make it out of training camp as rookies, or who, despite making the roster, have yet to contribute on the field at their respective positions.
The selection of Nassib in particular still remains a curious one. It’s one thing if a team is undergoing a transition and doesn't have a solid quarterback that is still relatively young enough to give the team many more years.
It’s quite another story when a team has a two-time Super Bowl MVP who, despite whatever troubles he’s had this season, would probably be a welcomed addition on teams such as the Eagles, Vikings, Jaguars, and Bucs, just to name a few.
When a team’s general manager says of a fourth-round draft pick, via Jim Corbett of USA Today, “If he doesn't ever play, that would be great,” then something is really wrong with the logic behind making the pick—one that the Giants traded up to get, no less—in the first place.
It’s especially puzzling when that draft pick is tying up a roster spot that can otherwise be devoted to a position with a greater need for depth.
These days, loyalty is hard to find in business people, especially those who make a living sitting in the front offices of NFL teams.
The Giants, under Reese, seem to have developed a tendency to hang onto players a year or two too long when those players’ declining production otherwise suggests that they need to be replaced.
Reese was asked about his thought process regarding players who are kept one year too long.
“Well, the thought process is if you keep him a year too long and he gets injured and he doesn't play well, then you don’t look too smart,” he said. “The other process is if you keep him a year longer than you probably should, he works out for you, then you look like a smart guy.
“I wish I had a good answer for that, but I don’t have a good answer for that," he added. "Sometimes you guess right and sometimes you guess wrong on some personnel issues.”
The problem, though, is that the Giants sometimes fail to realize that just because a player was a solid contributor in his prime doesn't mean that several years later he’s going to be that same player, especially if age and injury set in.
Take for instance right guard Chris Snee. There is no question that Snee has been a staple on the Giants offensive line as a player and a leader.
However, when his body began to break down following years of wear and tear, his athletic ability wasn't too far behind it.
Yet the coaching staff, because they had seen Snee do things well once before, had blind faith that he could do things such as execute pulls even though it was as plain as day that the trauma his body absorbed playing the game wasn't going to let that happen.
Out of respect, the team let Snee decide whether to attempt to squeeze out one more year in his career, which in retrospect wasn’t the smartest move given his age and the type of surgery he had.
Because all parties went with their hearts instead of their heads, the Giants ended up having to carry a player who, according to Over the Cap, counted for $8.5 million against the salary cap.
If Reese is panicking about the rest of the 2013 season, he certainly did a good job of minimizing that, especially when he was asked about possibly making changes for next year.
"I’m not worried about that right now," he said. "All I’m worried about is trying to win those last eight games and we’ll worry about that after the season."
He's was also quick to dismiss the notion that a major rebuilding is in store after the season.
“It’s always rebuilding, even when you win Super Bowls," he said. “Your roster changes every year. I think you’re always going to have good core players that you can build around as you move forward, but major rebuilding, I don’t think we can phrase it as a ‘major rebuilding.’”
Certainly “major rebuilding” is subjective, but the fact remains that the Giants have 35 players under contract for 2014, and many of those not under contract probably won’t be offered a chance to return.
One thing that can be said is that with an opportunity to shake up a roster that has underachieved through the first half of the season, Reese, like his team, can ill-afford to commit any major blunders that might set the franchise back even further.
Patricia Traina is the senior editor for Inside Football. All quotes and information obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow Patricia on Twitter,@Patricia_Traina.