Jerry Reese committed football malpractice by potentially sabotaging the Giants’ season and must be held accountable.
How could he make no meaningful additions to the beleaguered offensive line following last season’s struggles? The same five starters were back in there Sunday night against the Cowboys getting Eli Manning constantly harassed by a no-name defensive line, opening no holes for the running game and exposing Reese for his lack of action.
It’s only one game, but it’s really not. It’s a continuation of the o-line follies from the last few years. If this ruins the Giants’ season, it’s a fireable offense for Reese. If the line doesn’t get it together, Reese will have wasted one of the final seasons of Manning’s career when the rest of the team is good enough to win big now.
Reese helped build the two most recent of the Giants four Super Bowl championship teams in 2007 and 2011, and with many, including myself, predicting the Giants will add their fifth trophy this season, the first impression after the 19-3 loss to the Cowboys is Reese blew it by not addressing the offensive line.
I mean he did n-o-t-h-i-n-g.
Okay, he signed free agent guard-tackle D.J. Fluker, who was picked 11th overall by the Chargers in the 2013 draft, eight spots ahead of where the Giants drafted Justin Pugh. Fluke didn’t develop as a big-time player in San Diego and never challenged for a starting job in Giants camp this summer and was inactive for the first time in his career in Dallas.
Reese used only one pick in this year’s draft on a lineman: Pitt’s Adam Bisnowaty in the sixth round. He didn’t make the final roster, passed through waivers and is on the practice squad. Southern Cal rookie free agent tackle Chad Wheeler made the roster and was active in Dallas, but despite the immense struggles of tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart, he didn’t play a snap.
Overreacting on Monday has become an NFL ritual, especially after Week 1. So, it’s important to keep the loss to the Cowboys in perspective. It’s a long season. The Super Bowl aspirations remain intact. Manning is going to be a different player when Odell Beckham returns and he will develop chemistry with Brandon Marshall, even if Marshall looks Monday night like he doesn’t have much left in the tank. The defense held Dallas to one touchdown and is a top-five unit.
But what about that offensive line?
Jerry, Jerry, Jerry.
He tried to explain his offensive-line game plan at the opening of camp in July.
“The thing that gives me optimism about the offensive line is they have a lot of snaps. The five guys who started last year, they’ve got a lot of snaps under the belt right now,” he said. “The two young kids (Flowers and Hart), they’re still very young, we’ve talked about their age. But it’s time for them to step up to the plate and be good players, and I believe they will. All the offensive linemen are galvanized with respect to playing great. Everybody keeps saying that’s the weak link to the football team. They hear that. So you guys keep talking about it, keep motivating them and I’m sure you will. And I expect big things from them, I expect those guys to play well.”
I know it’s hard to find the next Anthony Munoz, but what about coming up with somebody who can block Demarcus Lawrence? That’s Demarcus Lawrence, not Demarcus Ware.
So, just for the record, let’s go over the line from left to right: Flowers, Pugh, Weston Richburg, John Jerry and Hart.
Flowers, the ninth-overall pick in 2015, has been a big disappointment, But he’s just 23 years old, has the passion to be good, is playing the most important spot on the line and faces the best pass rushers. Pugh was drafted as a tackle, but when that didn’t work out as planned, he was moved inside to guard. He has become the Giants’ best offensive lineman, but not at the spot they hoped.
Richburg is solid at center. Jerry is a journeyman best known for his role in the Bullygate scandal with the Dolphins. Hart, taken in the seventh round in Flowers’ draft, is a work in progress.
This is Reese’s 11th season as general manager. He had two Super Bowls in his first five seasons. Any owner would sign up for that. But then came no playoffs four-straight seasons with a losing record in three of them. That got Tom Coughlin fired after the 2015 season when it would have been justified for John Mara and Steve Tisch to fire Reese, too.
Instead, Reese was put on notice by Mara to fix things or he was next. Reese had a ton of cap space and bought a defense to cover up for draft failures with a $ 200 million trip through free agency. He hit it big signing Olivier Vernon, Snacks Harrison and Jackrabbit Jenkins and bringing back JPP.
One problem solved. The Giants finished 11-5 last season and Reese had his swagger back even though the Giants had trouble scoring 20 points a game.
Reese has hit recent home runs in the draft with Beckham in 2014 and trading up to the top of the second round to get Landon Collins in 2015. But he has never traded up in the first round and his stubbornness of not willing to deal extra picks, even to move up two spots to get Michigan State tackle jack Conklin, a player they loved, was a mistake. The Titans made the deal and Conklin earned first-team All-Pro as a rookie.
This year, Denver took Garett Bolles three spots ahead of where the Giants picked Even Engram at No. 23 and Jacksonville picked Cam Robinson 11 spots after Engram. They are both starting at left tackle and Robinson had a big day against Houston in the opener with J.J. Watt and Co. held sackless.
The draft decision came after Reese didn’t get involved with the big-ticket free agent linemen like Bengals guard Kevin Zeitler, who signed with the Browns, or even a veteran stopgap like Cincinnati tackle Andrew Whitworth, who signed with the Rams.
It’s only one game, but it was a bad look for Reese. For a smart guy, it’s stunning he committed football malpractice.