The 1980 Ray Perkins Giants finished fifth and last in the NFC East with a 4-12 record. But the 9-7 Ray Perkins Giants in 1981 ended an 18-year playoff drought and beat the defending NFC champion Eagles in a wildcard game.
It helped that general manager George Young had the chance to use the second overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft on a certain Lawrence Taylor.
The Joe Schoen Giants have a big talent gap to fill with the Eagles (and the 49ers and Cowboys), and LT isn’t coming through the Big Blue door.
But it’s no more an impossible dream than the 2022 Giants reaching the playoffs on a new diet after reaching Rock Bottom in 2021. Not in this goofy NFL week-to-week and year-to-year the other. Ask the Trevor Lawrence Jaguars. And ask any team that can sympathize with Humpty Dumpty and his big downfall: Ask Sean McVay’s Rams. Ask Aaron Rodgers Packers. Ask the Cardinals of Kliff Kingsbury. Ask Mike Vrabel’s Titans.
So how do Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll close the gap?
It always starts with the quarterback. Either you have one that can take you to a Super Bowl, or you don’t. Daboll has done wonders with Daniel Jones but understands he’s not Josh Allen, or Joe Burrow, or Patrick Mahomes, or Justin Herbert, or Lamar Jackson, or Jalen Hurts, or what Trevor Lawrence is meant to be – and as soon as possible.
But look, Brock Purdy has the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. The lesson here is that if you surround your quarterback with enough playmakers and protectors, you’re giving him and yourself a chance.
Purdy undoubtedly feels like a kid in a candy store and a draft and free agency won’t allow Jones to feel that way, of course. But the Giants will pay him to make another leap to Eli Manning’s residence in Eliteville, NJ, in his second year in the Daboll system. The return of Wan’Dale Robinson and the development of revelation Isaiah Hodgins and right tackle Evan Neal will help.
It’s not lost on Schoen as the Eagles threw money and resources into the trenches on both sides of the ball, and he began to follow that pattern in his first draft (Kayvon Thibodeaux, Neal, linemen offensive in the third and fifth rounds and a defensive lineman in the fifth round). Yes, the Giants need an inside linebacker to help Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams (after the pay cut) stop the run, but trench warfare is also paramount against the Eagles, Cowboys and Commanders.
Get Danny Dollars A Go-to-Guy
Schoen volunteers to say there are No. 1 receivers at home right now, dismisses the reality that Ja’Marr Chase (Bengals), AJ Brown (Eagles) and Deebo Samuel (49ers) are still alive for a spot in the Super Bowl. Mahomes lost Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins but it’s Mahomes.
If the Giants were one-man, a trade for DeAndre Hopkins would make sense, but he’ll be 31 and the Giants aren’t one-man. Stefon Diggs was 26 when former Schoen boss Brandon Beane traded him.
The Giants were drafting the 25th and could find a No. 1 receiver there (see Justin Jefferson, 22nd pick, 2020), or maybe with the 57th pick in the second round (see Brown, see Deebo). Schoen, who has pledged to build through the draft rather than become a drunken sailor in free agency, has nine picks — four of the top 100.
Find a way to keep Saquon Barkley. He helps Jones like Christian McCaffrey helps Purdy. Jones called him the best guard in the league.
“I appreciate that,” Barkley told the Post. “It’s a nice compliment when it comes out of a guy like that, when it comes out of his mouth. And (smile)… I kind of agree with him.
A wink for Wink
Everyone in and around 1925 Giants Drive wants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale to capture that elusive head coaching job and at the same time hopes and prays he’s back. Make him an offer he can’t refuse to stay if the going gets tough. And even if it is not.
Intelligent, tactile and dependent
In the summer of 1999, following the devastating 1998 AFC championship loss to Denver, Bill Parcells’ Jets coaching staff wore START OVER t-shirts. It was a reminder that just because the 1998 Jets were so close to a Super Bowl, the 1999 team had accomplished nothing and should take nothing for granted. Vinny Testaverde would rip his Achilles in the opener and that was it.
Daboll has masterfully energized and united the building and was named NFC Coach of the Year on Tuesday as part of the annual National Media 101 Awards. Securing the buy-in from players strangled by suffocating loss syndrome was beyond John Mara’s wildest dreams.
When the 2023 training camp opens, Daboll will need to earn the same buy-in as an HC rookie from a new team with a host of new faces facing greater expectations. Jim Fassel was 10-5-1 and a playoff loser as an HC rookie in 1997 but dropped to 8-8 in 1998. On the other hand, Parcells was 3-12-1 as an HC rookie in 1983 and bounced back with a 9-7 team in 1984 that lost in the divisional round.
So no, there are never any guarantees, especially these days in this NFL.
But Mara and Steve Tisch and Giants fans have every reason to believe their franchise is in good hands. The NFC 2023 landscape should scare no one. If anyone can close the gap on the Eagles (and 49ers and Cowboys), believe Schoen and Daboll can.