Why the Giants’ playoff return may have even surprised them
It really should have been Brian Daboll talking about the receipts.
No one believed in the 2022-23 Giants. “Nobody believed in us” is a cliché, but clichés become clichés for a reason: sometimes nobody really believes in you.
If a reputable analyst predicted the Giants would advance to the playoffs, you would know because that analyst would be much louder right now. In The Post’s official NFL preview, we imagined the Giants going 7-10 – which was a rosier prospect than many and actually above the projected 6.5 wins for betting reasons. In ESPN’s preseason power rankings, the Giants ranked 28th.
“The Giants will be the worst team in the NFL next season,” wrote Mark Hale of the Post in a May 12 column that represented a lukewarm (not scorching) take at best. No one believed because there was little reason to believe.
A season prior, the Giants had gone all-in and won four games. Dave Gettleman built a roster to compete immediately, spending over $100 million on Leonard Williams ($45 million guaranteed), Kenny Golladay ($40 million guaranteed) and Adoree’ Jackson ($26.5 million guaranteed) .
Gettleman was a player who knew he might not have to pay off his debts: the team would win or – if he was absent – he would just leave the team’s next general manager in a mess. It turned out that Gettleman was indeed on the sidelines, as was head coach Joe Judge. The Giants could replace decision makers, but those decision makers couldn’t immediately restructure the hell out of the salary cap they had.
So, after a monumentally disappointing season, new-look Joe Schoen-and-Daboll Giants got to work — or tried, at least. They subtracted more than they added and were forced to take actions such as the release of cornerback James Bradberry because their books had been destroyed by the contractual errors of the previous regime. While others have taken turns tossing $100 million to bring players into the market, the Giants have essentially refrained from free agency.
Who was going to believe in a team that didn’t have a lot of inherited talent and didn’t seem to be adding any? Hell, Giants may not have believed in the Giants’ entry this season: Surely they didn’t give their own quarterback full support, as evidenced by their refusal to pick Daniel Jones’ fifth-year option during the offseason.
Which makes Sunday’s frenzy at MetLife Stadium, where the Giants destroyed the Colts 38-10 to clinch a playoff berth, all the more unfathomable. None of this was supposed to happen, and the proof of this seeming impossibility is the crew that pulls it off.
Jones, first a turnover machine and soon after an injury-plagued question mark, became a spunky, dual-threat quarterback for a playoff team. Jones seemed to make the right play on every down while combining for four rushing and passing touchdowns on Sunday, as he threw just five misses and gained 268 total rushing yards.
The incomprehensible nature of the Giants’ season can best be illustrated by the four main pass-catchers Jones was connected with on Sunday: Richie James, best known before this season as a league-minimum punt returner; Isaiah Hodgins, who was fired from the Bills’ practice squad; fourth-round rookie pick Daniel Bellinger; 2019 fifth-round pick Darius Slayton; and veteran running back Matt Breida, who the Giants put on their roster because he only makes $1.18 million.
Nobody believed in them even when they had Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson. Why would anyone believe in this group?
Because Schoen seems to have an eye for talent and Daboll clearly has an eye for maximizing the talent available to him. The Giants have been outscored often this season, but have not outscored once. The Giants are disciplined. They don’t commit a lot of stupid punishments. They make sure their best players (Jones and Saquon Barkley) have the ball in their hands at the most critical moments of the game. Their offense plays to Jones’ strengths, allowing the mobile quarterback to break out of the pocket and shine.
It was Robert Saleh of the Jets who promised (very sadly?) that he would collect receipts from the team’s doubters. Those improvements will have to wait for a Jets team that has a much better roster, if a spottier quarterback position. The Jets, losing 23-6 in Seattle on Sunday, will wait until next season.
Across the country, as the improbable became reality and the Giants locked in the NFC’s sixth seed, Daboll unleashed a furious punch aimed at the crowd. Sure, the Giants think they have more to do, but they’ve done a lot to celebrate.
Even when no one else does, they can believe.
Today’s last page
🏈 O’CONNOR: Daniel Jones proves he’s the right choice to be Giants franchise QB
🏈 CANNIZZARO: Same Old Jets: The team leaves fans with a familiar sense of unease at the end
🏀 Injuries allowed Knicks youngsters to get beneficial minutes
🏈 SERBY: John Mara finally found his Giants savior in Brian Daboll
Jets back to 1 spot at QB
After looking back at the Giants doubters, let’s look forward to the 2023-24 Jets quarterback.
Jets fans: Has Mike White shown enough to be included in the battle?
Sunday’s disaster, when so many of White’s passes seemed to float in a 23-of-46, 240-yard game, knocked the Jets out of the playoffs and may have robbed White of a solid shot at retaining the job. that he had grasped this season.
Even with mangled ribs, White was arguably the best quarterback on the Jets’ roster and had a chance — with a strong finish this season — to work his way into a full-time job. The 27-year-old has proven himself an NFL quarterback, but it’s now hard to predict the Jets, with a deep and talented roster set to welcome Breece Hall back, giving the keys to a quarterback with seven career games started.
The Derek Carr rumors can begin. Perhaps Jimmy Garoppolo, who has shown he can guide (if not direct) capable offenses, will be the palliative. Jets fans can dream of Lamar Jackson.
But it’s as if White’s undisputed claim to be the Jets’ 2023-24 quarterback died with their season on Sunday.
Witness to history
As the new year begins, it’s a good time to appreciate what we’re witnessing with Kevin Durant.
It’s not just that the Nets superstar has taken his game to a new level. It’s not just that Durant – at 34 – is playing perhaps the best basketball of his career. It’s not just that KD propelled Brooklyn to second place in the Eastern Conference.
It’s this: When was the last time Durant played a bad game?
Jalen Brunson, in his stellar season with the Knicks, is shooting 46% from the field. Durant has not shot below 47.1 percent in any game for 29 straight games.
Durant’s worst shooting performance since Halloween was Wednesday night’s 8-for-17 (47.1%) win at Atlanta. The “off” game marked the third time in that 29-game streak Durant has shot less than 50 percent from the field.
Durant’s company among the best shooters by field goal percentage are players who live around the hoop. His 56.1% mark is a bit shy of Orlando Bol Bol’s cross, who knocks down 58.8% of his shots, the vast majority of which are in the paint.
What Durant – whose Nets will host the Spurs on Monday night – is doing is not normal.