New York Giants: A controversial devil’s advocate take on the Eagles tanking

New York Jets, Josh Andrews

Right now, the Eagles are the clear least favorite division rival of many fans of the New York Giants. And it’s completely understandable, The Eagles pulled a tanking move against Washington that guaranteed the Giants wouldn’t make it into the playoffs. It’s drawn them criticism from fans around the league for being against the competitive nature of the game and for the inexplicable nature of the Eagles pulling Jalen Hurts in the favor of their third string quarterback.

However, from an unbiased perspective, it’s hard to crucify the Eagles so hard for this.

It’s quite normal to feel anger as a fan – but when it comes to asking for the league to punish the Eagles with fines or taking away a draft pick or some other punishment, it’s worth looking at things from an objective point of view.

For better or worse, tanking is already part of the culture of the game. There’s always talk about some teams tanking towards the end of the year, especially if a team is in a position to draft a rare prospect if they can improve their draft position. In this case, Philly isn’t in a spot to take a player like Trevor Lawrence. But after their loss, they still pick number six overall as of now and are in a position to pick up a very good player.

If the Eagles are going to be punished for tanking, it has to become a crime for every team. It shouldn’t only be punished this one time because the outcome hurt the Giants’ playoff push.

It wasn’t that long ago that Chase Young was coming out of college and the Giants were nearly in position to draft him. A sizable part of the fanbase wanted the team to field a less competitive team against Washington at the end of the season to raise the chances of the Giants landing Young. Instead, they won the game and Washington jumped them for the second pick and was able to draft Young instead.

And even this season, some wanted the Giants to sit Daniel Jones for the rest of the season after his injuries and accept being out of the playoff race rather than fighting to the last weekend to stay in.

It’s not that Giants fans should be happy about the Eagles tanking, especially in a way that directly hurt the Giants. But to ask the league to punish Philadelphia for their decisions on Sunday would only be fair if anti-tanking measures were enforced for every team.

If you’ve ever advocated the Giants tanking in the past, wanting to punish Philadelphia for it now is an inconsistent take. And if you’ve never complained about any other team’s less publicized efforts to tank, it’s hard to justify starting now with only punishing the Eagles.

For better or worse, tanking is a part of the game even if it isn’t liked by all. For that to change, it would take larger shifts than just punishing the Eagles for doing it in a way which brought more negative publicity than usual.

New York Giants: Dave Gettleman to remain general manager, according to reports

New York Giants, Dave Gettleman

The New York Giants are continuing with Dave Gettleman as the team’s general manager, according to Paul Schwartz of the NY Post. Schwartz notes that the decision came from ownership, as they believe the Giants are “heading in the right direction.” Paul Schwartz also says that ownership also believes “Gettleman is the right man to continue the building process alongside head coach Joe Judge.”

This will undoubtedly be a controversial decision amongst Giants fans. The New York Giants hired Dave Gettleman in 2018 and the team has not seen much success over the past three seasons. With Dave Gettleman as the general manager of the Giants, the team has gone 15-33 in three years. They have also seen two head coaches hired during the Gettleman era.

Prior to the 2020 offseason, Giants’ co-owner John Mara made it clear that Dave Gettleman was on thin ice. Mara mentioned that Gettleman’s “batting average” needed to go up. Certainly, it did, with great signings in the 2020 free agency period like Blake Martinez and James Bradberry having a huge impact on the Giants this season.

The Giants also saw improvements week-to-week by Gettleman and company’s 2020 draft class. And, most importantly, second-year quarterback Daniel Jones showed tremendous progression through this season. Jones was Gettleman’s most important selection as general manager of the Giants and his success largely determines the success of Dave Gettleman as a general manager.

Granted, while the Giants fought for a playoff spot until the final game of the 2020 season, they still finished the year below .500 with a 6-10 record. The team is improving and this is the best record they have posted during the Gettleman era. After this season of improvements, Dave Gettleman now officially bought himself at least another year as the general manager of the New York Giants.

John Mara and Dave Gettleman will meet with the media this week to discuss the state of the New York Giants and “the factors that went into retaining Gettleman.” Schwartz’s post indicates that this was largely a John Mara decision and that Mara feels “the arrow is pointing up” towards success in the Giants’ future with Dave Gettleman.

New York Giants rookie safety Xavier McKinney ends season on high note

new york giants

The New York Giants were eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday, but they did win their final matchup of the 2020-2021 regular season. After a chaotic ending to the game, the Giants came out victorious over the Dallas Cowboys. New York won the game with a final score of 23-19.

The Giants’ offense showed improvement in its final game this season, but it was still the defense that came up big in the end. Multiple defenders had standout performances and made key plays to earn the victory. But one surprise player came up huge at the end and put together the best performance of his young career.

Rookie safety Xavier McKinney ended the 2020 season on a high note with a strong performance in Week 17. McKinney was drafted in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Giants in April. New York had high hopes for McKinney and his abilities to play on the back end of the defense. Unfortunately, Giants fans did not get to see Xavier very much this season. He suffered a foot injury in training camp that kept him out of the team’s first ten games this season.

Xavier McKinney made his debut in Week 12, playing only five defensive snaps, though. Gradually, as the season went on, McKinney saw his role in the Giants increase week by week until he was playing starting-level snaps in the season finale. In this expanded role, McKinney showed up big time and put together an excellent performance to end the season.

Xavier McKinney’s Week 17 performance

Xavier McKinney saw his role in the Giants’ defense expand significantly in Week 17. He played a career-high 73 defensive snaps on Sunday, accounting for 89% of the team’s defensive snaps. Xavier was attributed with an official start this week, his fourth on the season. With this starting role came a new and improved version of Xavier McKinney.

McKinney made the most of every snap this Sunday. He found himself intercepting two passes on Sunday, though one was called back early in the matchup. But that did not stop McKinney from recorded his first career interception against the Cowboys. On Dallas’s final offensive play of the game, McKinney picked the ball out of the air on Andy Dalton’s prayer to the end zone, sealing the victory for Big Blue.

While some might consider this interception to be a “gimme,” Xavier still found himself in a position to make a play and he did not squander the opportunity. This interception was a clutch, big-time moment from the second-round rookie.

This interception was not Xavier’s only big play in the game. McKinney had another impressive play earlier in the game in the third quarter. The Dallas Cowboys set up a wide receiver screen to CeeDee Lamb and McKinney sniffed it out instantly, blowing up the play and making the tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

Xavier McKinney finished the game with eight combined tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass defended, and one interception. McKinney’s coverage was never targeted, indicating solid coverage on Dallas’s wide receivers.

Xavier McKinney wrapped up his rookie season, playing a total of 209 defensive snaps. He racked up 25 combined tackles (16 in the final two weeks), a 57.6 passer rating when targeted, and only 1 missed tackle. Xavier McKinney showed out in six games and established himself as a clear long-term building block in the final week of his rookie season.

UFC officially books welterweight title fight between Kamaru Usman – Gilbert Burns

The UFC has finalized a big-time title fight in their welterweight division. While it’s been rumored, the promotion officially finalized the welterweight title fight this evening between Kamaru Usman (17-1) and Gilbert Burns (19-3).

ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was the first to break the news that the fight was officially booked. The fight will take place at UFC 258 on February 13th. Usman will be seeking his third successful title defense at welterweight.

Back at UFC 251, Usman successfully defended his title against Jorge Masvidal. However, it was originally supposed to be Gilbert Burns taking on Usman in July. Burns tested positive for COVID-19 just one week before the fight.

Due to the positive test, the UFC pivoted to Masvidal who was the promotion’s first choice to begin with. Prior to the positive COVID test, Gilbert Burns appeared to be on his way to winning fighter of the year in 2020.

Burns started the year by starching Demian Maia then he completely dominated former welterweight champion, Tyron Woodley. Gilbert Burns looks like a completely different fighter in the UFC‘s welterweight division.

In 2020, Burns showed off drastically improved striking. He showed off his speed and his power. That evolved striking pairs nicely with his world class skills on the ground. Burns is the most dangerous challenger for Usman in the UFC.

Big test for the UFC champion

As mentioned, Usman has successfully defended his title twice. Once against Masvidal and the other against Colby Covington at UFC 245. Covington pushed Usman to the limit, but the champion never broke and finished Covington in the fifth round.

Usman is known for his smothering wrestling style that just doesn’t allow his opponents to breathe. However, as he showed in the Covington fight, he is not opposed to letting his hands go if he needs to.

That said, there is no secret to Usman’s game plan. He’s going to look to bully Burns at UFC 258 and hope that his wrestling and strength will allow him to get the advantage. Burns’ tremendous skills on the ground make this matchup so fascinating. I’m pumped up for this one.

New York Giants’ HC Joe Judge torches the Eagles over tank game in week 17

New York Giants, Joe Judge

The New York Giants had an opportunity to make the post-season if the Philadelphia Eagles emerged victorious against the Washington Football Team in week 17. The Eagles had already sat most of their starting players, utilizing Jalen Hurts as their quarterback before replacing him in the second half for career back-up Nate Sudfeld.

Ultimately, the Eagles, more specifically, head coach Doug Pederson, tanked on national television in a game that was flexed to prime time given the significance. The Giants desperately needed Philadelphia to win, but instead, they compromise the integrity of the sport and laid down for their opponents, who secured a playoff spot because of it.

Talking heads around the league and team representatives, ranging from players to coaches, took to social media to express their concern and embarrassment. What Philadelphia did was nothing short of low class, given how teams around the league remained competitive despite having good chances at landing a top pick.
Take the New York Jets for example, who could have easily laid down and secured Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall. Instead, they competed and ended up winning a few games, proving that they respect the integrity of the game. What Philadelphia did was inexcusable and they will undoubtedly have a target on their back because of it. By losing, they went from ninth overall to sixth overall in the 2021 NFL draft.

The commander of the New York Giants has some stern words on the Eagles’ tank game:

New York Giants head coach Joe Judge spoke to media members on Monday, indicating his opinion on the matter. Let’s just say, it fits right in line with his disciplinary approach and respect for the sport.

“To disrespect the game by going out there and not competing for 60 minutes and doing everything you can to help those players win, we will never do that as long as I’m the HC of the Giants.”

Judge has proved that he has the right mentality toward winning in the NFL. What he expects from his players and coaches on a daily basis demands consistency and respect for the game. Because of this, free agents in the future will prefer to take their talents to New York, as culture is a major factor in these decisions. Judge’s comments tell me one thing, he was the right choice to fill the vacant head-coaching spot left by Pat Shurmur, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

UFC rebooks Derrick Lewis – Curtis Blaydes

The UFC has rebooked a highly anticipated heavyweight matchup that got cancelled in November. ESPN’s Ariel Helwani is reporting this evening that Derrick Lewis (24-7,1 NC) and Curtis Blaydes (14-2,1 NC) have agreed to a new date.

The UFC has finalized the heavyweight matchup for February 20th. Both men were originally supposed to fight in November, however, a day before the event, Blaydes tested positive for COVID-19 and the fight was scrapped.

There was initial doubt that the UFC would rebook the matchup. However, given the current landscape at heavyweight, pairing these two top contenders against each other makes all the sense in the world.

Derrick Lewis will be looking for his fourth straight victory on February 20th. Lewis last fought in August when he knocked out Alexey Oleynik in the second round of their fight. However, it was a shaky start for The Black Beast.

Lewis was taken down and controlled for a good part of the first round against Oleynik. If he’s going to win on February 20th, his wrestling is going to have to be on point. There’s no secret as to what his opponent is going to do.

UFC heavyweight battle

Curtis Blaydes has been extremely dominant in his run in the UFC. So far, there has only been one man who has been able to beat him. The problem for Blaydes is that he’s lost twice to him.

That man is the top UFC heavyweight contender, Francis Ngannou. However, outside of Ngannou, nobody has had an answer for the wrestling attack of Curtis Blaydes. He’s not flashy, but he knows how to get the job done.

Blaydes has shown improvements in the striking as he showed in his knockout of Junior Dos Santos. However, make no mistake about it, Blaydes is going to be using his wrestling a lot on February 20th.

On paper, this is a really tough matchup for Derrick Lewis. Lewis struggles against strong grapplers and Blaydes might be the best in the division. However, the exciting thing is that with the UFC’s Black Beast, he’s always just one shot away.

Knicks of Dreams: Inside the culture rebuild in New York

New York Knicks, Leon Rose

If you build, they will come.

That is essentially Leon Rose’s vision for his “Knicks of Dreams,” channeling his inner Ray Kinsella.

The New York Knicks team president has stuck to his summer proclamation that they’re building the right way.

Though it’s a small sample size, the early results have been encouraging.

Basically using the same core as last year in the starting unit, and despite the rash of injuries, Knicks’ new coach Tom Thibodeau was able to make do with what he has on their way to beating a pair of playoff-quality opponents.

The Knicks have a chance to get above .500 for the first time in a long while when they take on the Atlanta Hawks, owner of the league’s second-best offense, Monday night.

Trust Thibs’ process

They were fun to watch when they routed the Milwaukee Bucks at home and pulled out a gut-wrenching win on the road against the Indiana Pacers.

But there were also “growing pains” moments, just like when their starters shot their way to the wrong end of the history with a 0-for-23 three-point mark in a 17-point loss to the Toronto Raptors.

That prompted free-agent acquisition Austin Rivers to plead for patience from the anxious Knicks fans on their team’s page on Instagram.

The next day, he walked the talk and contributed 15 points, including the game-sealing layup, off the bench in a character-building win in Indianapolis. Rivers then took us inside the culture that Thibodeau has been building.

“I’ve never done that. I’ve never commented on a team page. But I just want to let it known that Knicks have great fans. I know they have been waiting a long time to see progress. We’re on the right direction,” Rivers said afterward.

Rivers has nixed offers from several playoff teams, including a reunion with his father Doc Rivers in Philadelphia because he was sold to Rose’s “Knicks of Dreams.”

‘We’re gonna get there’

The younger Rivers said he had not been here long enough to know everything about the Knicks. But there’s one thing he’s really certain about. The Knicks are about to turn the corner.

“I don’t meant to come off as someone who knows everything. But they’ve brought in all these new people from top to bottom, from Leon to Thibs, to players to trainers, I mean everything… the whole nine yards. I just want to let people know that be patient. We’re working so hard. Tonight’s a big win, but we know we still have a lot of work to do.” Rivers said after picking up their third win.

“Every time I get to the locker room, I keep on telling guys we have to keep building, we have to keep building. So we are heading in the right direction. I know we have great fans. We’re doing everything we can, We’re building, and we’re gonna get there,” he continued. “Right now, we just have a whole team that is buying it. It’s the beginning, so, like I said, we have a lot more work to do, but it’s just nice to have good guys, and everybody is buying it.

Building the culture

A couple of months before Thibodeau was hired, he guested on The Platform podcast and had a revealing interview.

“How you build a culture is you have to sell your vision to your best players and your best players have to sell it to the rest of the team,” Thibodeau said in May. “Your first meeting is the most important meeting of the year. You have to begin with the end in mind. What wins in the playoffs, these are the things that you have to do, building habits.”

Thibodeau has relied on his veterans to right the ship. He’s always mentioned Julius Randle’s leadership dating back to as far as before their OTA.

The Knicks’ quiet but underrated offseason has yielded high-character and productive veterans on cheap deals. Rivers, Alec Burks, and Nerlens Noel are proving to be smart acquisitions by this new savvy front office.

The veterans have bought in to Thibodeau’s vision, and they’re selling it to the younger core of the team. 

“We’re coming together great. It helps when you have great guys. It makes my job, Julius’ job, all the vets who are going to lead this team. It makes our job easier,” Rivers said.

“All the young guys that we have are great. Guys who are not playing are real supportive. Everybody is cheering each other on. That’s what we’ve been trying to instill in the locker room. If you’re not playing, be happy for someone else’s success. You got to act the right way. You have to be professional because you never know who’s watching you, you never know when your opportunity is coming. So right now, we just have a whole team buying in. It’s the beginning,” he added.

Tight-knit group

Theo Pinson, another Knicks’ offseason acquisition, is one of those guys who’s been riding the bench that has been providing a jolt of energy. He’d seen this play out before across the borough when he was the Brooklyn Nets’ no. 1 cheerleader on the bench.

“I think team camaraderie is the biggest thing. The more you like each other off the court, it helps the court, especially with a young team. You go out there and start playing selflessly. You just want to play for each other. You want to see the other person succeed. That’s when everybody eats. As you could see, it help the guys in Brooklyn,” Pinson reflecting on his experience with the Nets.

“That’s also gonna help here. The guys in the locker room, we get along really well. We are already a tight-knit group. Even after the loss to Indiana [in the season opener], we already started talking to each other about what we saw on the court, what we can do better, how we can get each other better shots on the court, how we can finish games. So for us to react to a loss like that early is big time, in my opinion,” Pinson continued.

It showed in their rematch. The Pacers couldn’t bully the Knicks the way they did in the season opener. The Knicks flaunted their newfound chemistry and defensive tenacity.

Playing for each other

Rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley represents the Knicks’ future. The dynamic guard out of Kentucky has successfully returned from a hip pointer that caused him to miss four games.

His playmaking and shotmaking has injected a new dimension to the Knicks’ offense and has stabilized their second unit. 

Viewed by fans as a threat to Payton’s starting job, the veteran guard has taken it in stride and is, in fact, mentoring the Knicks’ point guard of the future.

“I say Elfrid is definitely a big one, just showing me little things that would help me on and off the floor. I have really gotten close with pretty much all the guys. I feel like this team is really tight-knit. We love being around each other. I feel like this group can do something special just because of the type of chemistry that we have,” Quickley said after the Knicks’ Monday shootaround in Atlanta.

Payton has rebounded well from his scoreless performance in their earlier home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. He’s since averaged 18.5 points on 61 percent field goal shooting and 5.8 assists to solidify his stranglehold of the starting job.

It’s just one of those many proofs of the Thibodeau effect in New York.

New image

The Knicks have long been the league’s laughingstock, but Thibodeau’s serious approach to the game has started to change the team’s dynamics and culture.

Their early success has put the league on notice.

Knicks’ biggest acquisition

Thibodeau’s gift of maximizing value out of his players is seen as a curse by his critics.

But for a team lacking in bona fide superstars, Thibodeau is proving to be the team’s biggest acquisition, essentially the team’s superstar.

Rose’s unpopular decision of opting for a coaching retread is paying dividends for this young Knicks team.

“We want to find the right leader that can develop our young players as well as hold everyone accountable,” Rose said in his first public appearance in June. “And take us from development to becoming a perennial winner. We also want someone that we think will be collaborative with the front office and someone that when you’re in that huddle and when you’re looking at that coach’s eyes, every player who’s looking at him knows that person is driving the ship and going to get the job done.”

So far, Thibodeau is getting the job done.

Rose’s vision of bringing back the Knicks’ old glory is starting to come to life. Just like how Kinsella’s “Field of Dreams” has brought back to life Shoeless Jackson and his baseball team.

Rivers can see it. Pinson has seen this play out before. Quickley is feeling it. The national media has taken notice.

If you build the culture, the wins and stars will come to Leon Rose’s “Knicks of Dreams.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Giants: Will Jason Garrett be back in Big Blue after his first season?

New York Giants, Austin Mack, Jason Garrett

Will Jason Garrett be back for the New York Giants next season only after one season in New York?

The New York Giants finished 31st in the league in yards, points, and passing offense in the 2020 season. The G-Men also tired the New England Patriots for a league-low in touchdowns passes with only 12 on the season. With these low stats, why is it even a question for the Giants not to get rid of Garrett?

Second-year quarterback Daniel Jones was asked about Garrett’s future in New York, “I’m not sure I’m in a position to comment on that,” Jones said on Monday. “But I’ve certainly enjoyed learning from Coach Garrett. I’ve learned a ton of football, I’ve learned a ton of philosophy on offense, how he sees the game, what he’s learned in his time in the NFL as a player and a coach. I’ve really enjoyed working with him. I look forward to continuing that. I really enjoyed it.”

Jones did not have the success this season as he did in his rookie season under Pat Shurmur calling plays. Does Jones really want Garrett back in New York?

Jones was doing his part in saying he really enjoyed working with Garrett but never says I wish we could build from the season and get better next season. Jones was very short but respectful about Garrett’s time in New York.

If Jones wants to move on from Garrett’s play-calling, the Giants could turn towards the tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens to call plays. Kitchens called plays for the Cleveland Browns before getting the head coaching job in 2019. Also, the Giants could see what coaches get canned today that were former offensive coordinators or former head coaches.

I am surprised the Giants have not announced Garrett and New York parting ways yet. The New York Giants’ offense was just awful to watch all season long, and most of the issue was the play calling. Garrett’s system is old and needs to be revamped. The Giants need to get an offensive coordinator who can help develop Jones and not hurt him as Garrett has done.

New York Yankees are interested in power-hitting outfielder

yasiel puig, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees have had a slow offseason, as they want to stay under the $210 million payroll threshold for 2021. They have at least two holes in the rotation and many more in the bullpen, but so far, they have remained relatively silent in the winter.

However, they continue to scan the market in search of upgrades in several key areas. The most recent report came on Monday, from MLB.com reporter Mark Feinsand.

Feinsand said that free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig is drawing interest from multiple teams. One of them, of course, is the New York Yankees. The reporter explained that the Boston Red Sox, the Houston Astros, the Miami Marlins, and the Baltimore Orioles all have “varying degrees of interest” in the slugger.

The Yankees could use Puig’s power

The report represents a surprising development in the last few weeks, as Feinsand had stated in late-November that the Red Sox, Orioles, and Astros were in on the outfielder. That means the Yankees’ interest is relatively new.

The Yankees currently have Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, and Miguel Andujar under contract in the outfield position, although Andujar’s role is up in the air. There have also been internal discussions on whether or not to re-sign Brett Gardner.

Puig failed to sign with a team in the 2020 season after a bout with COVID-19. In fact, he had a deal in place with the Atlanta Braves but it all fell apart after his positive test.

The Yankees are looking at Puig as a reliable alternative since he is still young, at 30 years old, and has a track record of past success.

For his career, Puig has a .277/.348/.475 slash line with a 124 wRC+, 132 home runs, 441 runs scored, 415 RBI, and 79 steals. He is seen as a controversial character in the clubhouse, but when he’s on, he can greatly improve a lineup.

New York Islanders: Training camp roster announced

New York Islanders

New York Islanders‘ training camp officially hit the ice this morning. And just before the team hit the ice, general manager Lou Lamoriello released the official training camp roster. There were 34 skaters and 4 goalies on this roster, and it managed to answer so many questions. Without any further stalling or build-up, who made it to the 2021 Islanders’ training camp?

Forwards

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. Mat Barzal is on the training camp roster, but he did not take the ice today. This means Barzal has taken a physical and can get on the ice the second he signs his next contract. Another surprise was forward, Tom Kuhnhackl. This offseason, it looked as if Kuhnhackl was forgotten, but I guess Lamoriello had another trick up his sleeve. Kuhnhackl also didn’t take the ice today, it’s either he doesn’t have a contract yet, or because of his shoulder. Dmytro Timashov was on the ice, and that means he did receive an official contract, so that’s one less person to sign. Also, Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom made a few good defensive plays today. Finally, Josh Ho-Sang has still not been invited to camp, and his time with the Islanders has gotten even more toxic than my last relationship.

Defense

The Islanders invited 12 defensemen to training camp, and only half of them will be playing on opening night. Honestly, I don’t see a single top 6 spot up for grabs right now. There are 6 defensemen competing to be the next man up if an injury occurs. This is the case unless Andy Greene just totally forgets what Hockey is. I think either Sebastian Aho or Grant Hutton will receive the honor of being called the 7th defenseman.

Goalies

Four goalies received an invite to Islanders’ training camp this year. Take a guess who got invited. Obviously, Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin would get an invite. And there literally is no one else behind them other than Corey Schneider and Jakub Skarek. No shockers here. This is the full training camp roster. The Isles are in for another successful season if they can develop their young guns properly.