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New York Giants wild ride back to relevance

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After notching the New York Giants’ biggest win in half a decade, head coach Brian Dabul tried to play it cool.

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“I don’t believe in rollercoasters,” Daboll said Sunday night as he stepped onto a counter stand inside FedExField.

Someone needs to tell Daboll that the NFL is in the rollercoaster industry, and its Giants are some of the best rides this season. The Giants started this season 6-1—a record built largely on a bizarre one-hit win—and most recently went a 1-4-1 skid, with the only win coming against lowly Texas. But New York’s 20-12 win over Washington on Sunday night was arguably the franchise’s biggest win in years. He raised the Giants to an 8-5-1 record, giving them a nearly 90 percent chance of reaching the playoffs. Had they lost, they would have had about a 30 percent chance, which is the largest swing in postseason odds of any game this season, according to Pro Football Focus. The win also ensured that the Giants would not have a losing record for the first time in five years.

There was a version of this Giants season that could have been a bogus disaster. The top five receivers aren’t playing this season (whether due to injury or effectiveness), and the Giants have been embarking on a lengthy rebuild. It wasn’t hard to imagine that team being eliminated from the playoffs by December, trading Saquon Barkley at the trade deadline, and allowing Daniel Jones to leave this season. However, the Giants’ sudden success meant the team may have reached a turning point Sunday night. Not only has the Giants found their brain trusting Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen, but it looks like Jones will be back more than ever as the team’s starting quarterback, and Saquon doesn’t seem to be considering a return to the franchise tag. Not only are the Giants on the verge of a playoff spot, they have an identity forming around the key players on this team.

This weekend was a showcase for the fickle nature of the sport—men who are into nail-reading World Cup finalthe Vikings rotate Biggest comeback in NFL historythe The Patriots are fading out Epic Real Time It’s the kind of trip the Giants have taken with their fans all season. From the current NFL stadium, each team is either a returning team or a team selected to compete for a playoff spot. And then there’s the Giants, whose presence has been incredible considering where that team was 11 months ago and the injuries they’ve picked up along the way.

To understand why these giants were such a surprise, we need to go back to Week 18 of last season, when the 97-year-old crown jewel franchise hit rock bottom. With five minutes left in the first half in a meaningless game against Washington, backed by their own 2-yard line, the Giants ran in a quarterback sneak on second down and 11. Gaining a paltry 2-yard run. On the next 3rd-and-9 at the 4-yard line, the Giants ran a QB sneak repeatedly. The sequence was a white flag. The giants surrendered. They lost to Washington that day, 22-7, and the Giants became the worst thing you could call an NFL team: uncontested.

“It wasn’t a great time,” Andrew Thomas told me Sunday night of last season’s finale. “This new employee, the new system, I think we’re going in the right direction.”

Enter: Brian Daboll, a longtime NFL assistant coach who was most recently the offensive coordinator and play caller at Buffalo, the team is now looking at a model for how to rebuild the offense. To appreciate what happened to the Giants Sunday night, we have to think about the team Daboll inherited when he was hired last January after Joe Judge was fired. Judge’s Giants finished the 2021 season 0-6. Their offense had been dead last in touchdowns the previous two seasons combined, and in 2021 they’ve endured a 40+ stretch with just one touchdown. Impossibly, the Giants scored in the final two minutes of the first half of games in 2021 by a 79-0 margin. 500 in five seasons, and the Giants and Jets share the worst record in the NFL over that stretch — and that’s despite the Browns going winless and the Jaguars no in a row. 1 picks up during that time. In the last 10 seasons, the Giants have lost 100 games.

This season was supposed to revolve around Schoen, who also came from Buffalo, cleaning up former general manager Dave Gettleman’s mess. A third of the Giants’ budget this year (about $60 million) simply isn’t a factor for this team, between dead money hits, injuries, and players like Kenny Golladay, who’s been effectively exiled.

It makes the Sunday night scene even more awesome. Two weeks after tying that same Washington team and a week after being mauled by the NFC-leading Eastern Eagles, Daboll’s Giants built a lead against Washington and held it, surviving a stand on the goal line in the final minutes of the game (with some help from a questionable official). . Now, a team that was only hoping to be relevant and competitive is probably going into the postseason. Perhaps most important in a macro sense, Sunday night may have given Schoen and Daboll answers to the franchise’s biggest existential questions: What do they do with Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley’s contracts?

They need to keep both, and it is financially possible to do so. The Giants could end up sticking the franchise tag on Barkley for about $12 million, and signing Jones to a moderate contract extension. (On paper, I imagine the deal could be for four years and $120 million, but the Giants will likely only guarantee two of those years.) Daboll requires its players to be smart, tough and dependable. Jones has always been shown to be tough, but sometimes he hasn’t acted smart or as reliable. This season, with better coaching but less talent on the receiving end, has been a model for each of the three.

It’s not hard to imagine team boss John Mara signing such a deal for Jones. The franchise previously turned down Jones’ fifth-year option, making this season essentially a year to prove it, but Mara has said several times that his team basically failed to pick him up for the previous first-round pick, and he did “everything possible to screw this kid up.” Under Daboll’s leadership, the team seems to be finding all the little ways to help Jones succeed that eluded his predecessor, judge, and offensive coordinator, Jason Jarrett, who now spends his time as a smiling model on the NBC prequel set. While none of Jones’ numbers look flashy, Except he finds ways to score with the skeleton crews around him.

Law Jones’ streak Sunday night was nondescript: 21 completions on 32 attempts for 160 yards. The first two engines of the stinking giants. But on their third chance, they put together a drive that might also be a season borrow: Buoyed by their own 3-yard line, Jones drove an 18-play, 97-yard touchdown run—including a fourth-and-9 conversion on a pass from Jones to WR Richie James—on a drive It took over 8.5 minutes out of the hour.

Jones successfully managed an important third conversion for James, a gambling returner from New York, who prompted the start of the business. Isaiah Hodgins, a Bills practice player picked up by the Giants because he knew the Giants offense after two seasons with Daboll in Buffalo, became an integral part of the offense. The Giants claimed Hodgins — with four career catches to his name — was granted off waivers on November 2 and had started for the team less than three weeks later. Daboll told him to come to New York because he knew Hodgins was smart, knew the rules of the game, and would win chances. Hodgins was training with the rookies in his first practice with the team.

“Things escalated,” Hodgins said after Sunday’s win. “I was thrown straight into the game plan.”

James and Hodges were the Giants’ leading receivers on Sunday, with four catches each and 42 yards to James and 37 yards to Hodgins. That the Giants win with players like Hodgins while the likes of Golladay, the highest-paid player on the team, barely play (Golladay only ran one road Sunday night, according to TruMedia) demonstrates the growth Jones has made and the influence Daboll has on this team. The defense similarly succeeded despite the injuries. Defense captain Xavier McKinney missed a month after injuring his hand in an ATV accident during his bye week. In his place, Jason Pennock, a Giants snapback picked mid-season, finished off two separate Washington outings with a well-timed pass breakup and a rushing blitz on Taylor Hynecke.

But it was Saquon Barkley who was key to New York’s final drive, breaking in and making his way to three straight runs of more than 10 yards on the first to turn the field on Washington and put the Giants within field goal range. “I saw explosive runners on the slopes,” said Daboll. “And I was proud to have you as my child.”

Daboll was likely responding to criticism that Barkley, whose production has declined in recent weeks, spends too much time dancing rather than hitting holes.

Commitment to Jones and Barclay is risky. Jones’ extension could derail the team if he turns out to have a more solid roof. Perpetually leaving Barkley with franchise marks for one year could poison the culture in the locker room – while allocating record money to Barkley, due to his injury history, could end badly for the team’s salary. And the Giants will have to find their true pass players and linebackers for next season instead of searching for practice squad rosters and waiver wires like they had to do this year. But these are good problems compared to the problems Daboll and Schoen faced when they arrived in New York.

This new giants system seems to thrive on tough decisions. Daboll showed bravery on that crucial fourth-and-9 against Washington, amidst that 97-yard drive that could define this Giants season. Daboll passed on his 52-yard field goal attempt that kicker Graham Gano said was out of range—so Daboll called for a pass, and Jones converted. Barkley capped off the drive with a touchdown run to give New York a 14-3 halftime lead.

“We spend a lot of time in [those decisions]”,” Daboll said after the match. I see a lot of numbers and percentages and then there is a real conversation about players and matches. Don’t take one thing and say that’s what you do. You have to have a feel for the game, a feel for your opponent, a feel for the match, a feel for the weather.”

While the futures for Jones and Barkley are up in the air, many of the key pieces of this team are in. Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence was a beast and gets a contract extension. Same for safety Julien Love. Rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux caught seven pass tackles on his first 23 snaps of the first half, including a combination by Heinicke that he caught and returned for a touchdown that was essentially the difference in the game. Thibodeaux also stopped Heinicke at the 1-yard line on Washington’s final drive Of course The difference is in the game. Before Sunday, Thibodeau was asked if he liked prime time. He replied that “prime time loves me”.

“When you’re playing soccer, you can’t think at the same time,” he said.

This may be true for watching football as well. There’s a lot of thinking we can do to try and explain how the Giants continue to win these games, and whether the team will bring back key players like Jones and Barkley. But the thinking detracts from the experience. Daboll may not like roller coasters, but for the Giants this year, the best advice is to sit back and enjoy the ride. Unlike previous Giants teams, their fans no longer need barf bags.

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