Disclaimer: Former New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. IMPROVES ANY OFFENSE.
I need to preface this with three things: OBJ is a great player, I personally like OBJ, but I also like the trade. It’s obviously not about any issue with his talent. It’s about digging out of the Reese and Ross regime mess, about getting back to the basics of building a football team from the inside-out, it’s about the opportunity to receive decent compensation, and perhaps it’s indirectly about some perceptions (real or fake) about OBJ’s maturity and satisfaction with the New York Giants.
This is a transitional period for the New York Giants in multiple ways:
The front office has a drastically different football strategy than the previous front office, it’s trying to improve a roster that has been void of consistent quality draft picks for a decade, on the docket is to develop and execute a plan to eventually move on from 2-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning; all this while trying to balance the process of removing heavy contracts while still trying to stay competitive. No easy task.
Back to the basics:
Some like to view Dave Gettleman as this great enigma. He’s been very clear with his philosophy – and I’ve agreed with it 100%. Time to get back to New York Giants football: Building a team from the inside-out. Gettleman has done more in one year with the offensive line than Jerry Reese and Marc Ross did in 10 years. If the offense is the car and the QB is the driver, the offensive line is the engine. The car and the driver can only go as far as the engine can take them. Gettleman and Shurmur both understand this and swear by it.
Some may call it rebuilding, I’ll call it a readjustment of philosophy:
The Reese/Ross regime philosophy was the opposite. They neglected the OL (its true they used draft picks, but refused to adjust when plans continually failed) and built from the outside-in. They focused on WRs that can’t run routes, and speed TEs w/ drop issues, LTs that lack technical skills while being un–coachable, CBs with the maturity of a 9-year-old, to name a few.
Technical skills were of little importance: It was all about size, speed, and strength. Reese and Ross built from the outside-in, drafted track and field stars, and were practically married to their draft picks. Gettleman builds from the inside-out, finds football players, and he isn’t afraid to move on when he notices something isn’t working. Two very different philosophies. Gettleman is doing things his way.
“Run the ball, stop the run, rush the passer.”
Nowhere in there does it say build around an $18M WR. I’m not trying to be flippant. But it’s true. Here’s my personal philosophy with WRs. It doesn’t matter how big and fast you are if you can’t run a route, if you confuse the QB, or can’t catch the ball.
When I look at WR skillsets I look for: Smart players, good route runners, have a good feel for space, are where they’re supposed to be on time, hard workers, excellent hands, and still able to catch in traffic and contested areas. In a nutshell, be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be, create separation, and catch the ball. There are many ways to create separation. Size and speed are just a bonus.
Most of these skills apply to OBJ, but they also apply to many WRs – to include Sterling Shepard. OBJ (or any $18M WR) is not a pillar to build a team around. Premium WR’s are not part of the frame – they’re a piece – and a luxury piece. The Giants aren’t there right now.
“They went Baker… I was taking Saquon.”
The first pick as GM by Dave Gettleman was Saquon Barkley. We know the accolades. Saquon Barkley isn’t just an RB, he’s the face of the modern NFL offense. He’s a player a team can build around and run their offense through. If you want a model, look to the 2nd half of last season when the Giants averaged 27.5 pts/gm.
With an improved offensive line, Eli was allowed the platform to get in a rhythm, spread the ball around, and throw down the field. Running the offense through Saquon opened–up play action for Eli – his bread and butter that could never be utilized in recent years due to the lack of a run threat. OBJ missed the last four games of last season. During three of those games, the Giants stuck to the script and scored points of 40, 27, and 35.
While Saquon averaged over 100 yds rushing a game, Eli had 269 yds/game, a 66% comp and a 3:1 TD to INT ratio. In contrast, McAdoo’s offense mainly consisted of a constant game of hot potato, seeing if Eli could throw the slant to Odell before getting nailed by a free rusher.
It’s time to move on from that nightmare and get back to New York Giants football. The Giants are finally creating an offensive identity: Control the line of scrimmage, establish the run, maximize Saquon’s potential, allow Eli time to utilize the whole field, utilize the entire offense, spreading the ball to all WRs when available– not just OBJ. This may sting for some fans, but last season Saquon became more valuable than OBJ to the New York Giants offense.
By trading OBJ and Vernon, the Giants clear $30M in cap space starting next year:
This aspect is about moving forward with a clean slate and a sense of freedom to build the team in Gettleman’s vision. An architect may have a blueprint, but they need materials to put everything together. Now possibly part of that blueprint could be the re-signing of WR Sterling Shepard. That wouldn’t have been an option if OBJ was still on the team making $18M a year. Shepard checks a lot of boxes I look for in a WR. All things considered, I would rather have Shepard and his relative cap number than OBJ and his $18M.
I believe him. So then why sign him, to begin with? Something must have happened between the time he was signed in August of last year, to the time he was traded. In the ESPN interview in October, OBJ said some doozies. As much as I like OBJ, and I think he’s a good guy – he was a little too honest. Some feelings became clear that could be an issue down the road. He was hesitant to defend his QB, implying he might be the reason why he couldn’t maximize his potential. He also wasn’t willing to say he was happy in New York – after the Giants just shelled out a $90M contract and made him their marquee player.
Even Lil’ Wayne had an “Uh-oh” reaction. OBJ needs to have the maturity to understand that’s not a good look. Rams HC Sean McVay has a “We, not me” slogan. OBJ came across as a “me” player; worried about how he performs and how he maximizes his potential, even to the extent of slighting teammates and his organization. I know this couldn’t have gone over well with Shurmur, Gettleman, and Mara. For good measure, the next month OBJ casually criticized HC Shurmur’s game plan as a reason for the Giants losing to the Eagles. Not cool OBJ.
All things considered, I think the compensation is adequate:
It’s possible there was already a thought that if OBJ is disgruntled six weeks after getting a check for $41M, there might be more issues on the way at some point in the future. Five years is a long time. A GM shouldn’t have to constantly worry about how their players will act when the going gets tough.
After seeing Antonio Brown go for a 5th and a 3rd, perhaps better to sell in a seller’s market if the opportunity presents itself. Jabril Peppers is an excellent get by Gettleman. I was a fan of Landon Collins. I think he’s the best pure box safety in the NFL. But he was unable to cover TEs which proved to be a liability. Peppers is a versatile SS with sideline to sideline speed that can cover TEs – at literally 10% the cost of Landon Collins. Peppers can also return punts and kicks. The multi-role value there is substantial.
The Giants get another 1st Rd pick at #17 – which gives the Giants three picks in the top #37. With the added 95th pick via the Browns, the Giants have five picks in a span of only 49 between the 95th and 143rd picks. After the Day Two board reset, the Giants have the picks to package and potentially go grab a player or two at the top of the 4th round. This is a very positive reset button to potentially get a good crop of young talent in a deep defensive draft class. It’s unrealistic to think all twelve picks will work out – but there’s strength in numbers.
All signs point to Saquon:
For years the Giants offense ran through OBJ. Making an elite WR the focal point of an offense has its drawbacks when the offensive line is inadequate to provide the proper protection to the QB. The WR doesn’t have time to finish the route, the QB can’t get through the reads, the offense is a fraction of what it could be. I guess the Reese and Ross show never saw the fundamental flaws with that strategy. That’s changed. This offense now runs through Saquon. Saquon Barkley had over 2000 yards from scrimmage last year – with a below average to average offensive line.
Now picture Saquon with a good offensive line and consistent holes. For everybody that’s sad to see OBJ go, be happy you get to be a Giants fan and watch Saquon maximize his potential. It’ll be fun to watch.
The Gettleman Formula is building a tough and gritty offensive line, to protect the QB, to maximize Saquon’s potential, and to rebuild the defense with young, fast playmakers. Remind you of anything? It should. This is how Giants football should be.