It's all so familiar. So demoralizingly familiar.
For the fifth straight season (and eighth time in nine years), the New York Giants are 0-2. They lost in soul-crushing fashion, 30-29, to the Washington Football Team on Thursday night. It was a comedy of errors. Bad play-calling. Mistake after mistake. Maybe the worst drop you'll ever see in a football game. A penalty at the end so boneheaded that it defies description.
The Giants are a bad football team—again. For all the offseason talk of improvement, very little has changed. And the G-Men look like a team on a collision course with a last-place finish in the NFL's worst division.
Before we start breaking down all the things that went wrong (there's quite a list), there's one thing that needs to be clear. Of all the players and coaches who will be dining on crow this weekend, quarterback Daniel Jones isn't one of them.
The much-maligned 24-year-old actually had his best game in a while, completing 22 of 32 passes for 249 yards with a touchdown and a passer rating of 102.2. Jones stood in the pocket. Worked his reads. Delivered mostly accurate passes. And avoided the turnovers that have plagued him.
When it was time to run the ball, Jones had success in that regard as well—his 95 yards on nine carries with a score led the team. Jones put the Giants in position to win. Did his part.
The problem was that he was just about the only one who did.
It's not entirely fair to criticize Saquon Barkley for having another pedestrian (by his standards) game. He's working his way back from a torn ACL and still not playing full-time. He also gave fans some hope for the future with a 41-yard scamper in the first quarter.
But he gained 16 yards on his other 12 carries. The only player on the Giants who can run the ball effectively right now is Jones—and that ratchets up the pressure on the passing game. Cuts down on the margin for error.
Errors such as, oh, I dunno, dropping a touchdown pass when there isn't a defender within 10 yards.
That can't happen. But Darius Slayton wasn't the only Giants wideout to drop a catchable pass Thursday.
Looking at you, Kenny Golladay.
Relatively speaking, the Giants offensive line played OK, in that at least it wasn't awful. But make no mistake, this is one of the worst lines in the league—the worst according to the preseason rankings at Pro Football Focus. New York allowed four sacks, seven quarterback hits and any number of pressures. Never mind the whiffed block by supposed linchpin Andrew Thomas that got Barkley dropped six yards in the backfield in the second half.
That's not going to improve after the team's best lineman (center Nick Gates) broke his leg in the first quarter.
And calling the Giants defense average is being kind. New York allowed 407 yards, gave up a big game to wide receiver Terry McLaurin (11/107/1) and put next to no pressure on a quarterback in Taylor Heinicke who was making the second regular-season start of his career. At no point did Heinicke appear nearly as flustered as Jones does in most games.
Then there are the mistakes. Oh, the mistakes. New York committed 11 penalties for 81 yards. Four of those were false starts—at some point they blurred together, and I almost lost count. New York actually had the game won when Dustin Hopkins missed wide right on a 48-yard field goal as time expired.
Except that defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence jumped offside, offering Hopkins a do-over.
That kind of sloppiness will get you beat 10 times out of 10. In his postgame news conference (via the NFL Network), head coach Joe Judge addressed the team's failures to execute.
"We have to address it and make sure that we keep players in position," he said. "Prepare them properly and to work to execute the right way. Obviously, it's something we don't want to have."
Do ya think, Joe?
Mind you, this is supposed to be a hard-nosed, no-nonsense coach who is all about doing things "the right way." A coach whose training camp practices were so intense that some wondered if they had caused several veterans to retire.
And yet, after camp and the preseason and a regular-season game, it was mistake after mistake after mistake.
While we're discussing mistakes, how about offensive coordinator Jason Garrett's ultra-conservative play-calling after Heinicke was intercepted by James Bradberry late in the fourth quarter? New York took over at the edge of the red zone. Score a touchdown, and Washington has to drive the field. But it was two runs up the gut, a short pass attempt and a Graham Gano field goal.
Oh, and the zone-read that Jones was killing Washington with in the first half? Gone after halftime. Just gone.
As disappointing as all this is, the most unnerving thing is that none of it will change. Barkley's knee isn't going to magically become 100 percent. The offensive line is terrible—period. The pass rush won't get better, because the personnel just isn't there. Judge will not get fired in-season. And the only way the play-calling is going to improve is if the Giants get off to another 1-7 catastrophe of a start and Judge offers up Garrett as a sacrificial lamb to temporarily save his own job.
As to Jones, maybe he's not good enough to be a franchise quarterback. Maybe he is. But on this team, it won't matter. He's being set up to fail. And fail he will. He'll start taking more chances. Making more mistakes.
Just like last year.
There are some fans who will call this Chicken Little-ing. Say that it's only two games. That things can change. But the long, dark spell since Eli Manning shocked the New England Patriots (again) in 2011—two winning seasons in nine years—has left New York grasping at straws. Looking for bright spots where none exist.
Are the Giants terrible? No. But Thursday was a stark reminder that they aren't good, either.
That's not going to change this season.
Because when you get right down to it, nothing has changed in New York.