Giants improve with draft picks but big ifs remain on roster

The four Lombardi Trophies that John Mara passes each day on his way up the stairs to his officer have stood lonely in the lobby of the Giants’ Quest Diagnostics Center for 11 years now.

No one, not even Mara, is under any illusions that those four lonely Lombardi Trophies will have company anytime soon.

But at the very least, Joe Schoen, the rookie general manager, has delivered hope to a franchise and fan base that has been buried in hopelessness for far too long — light at the end of a deep, dark tunnel.

You have to crawl before you can walk, and after the way the Giants ended last season, it should be considered a small victory that they are no longer flat on their backs.

When you inherit a salary-capped and psychological mess that demands rebuilding, the mission statement is to close the gap on the haves one small step at a time.

Mara said this once about the late Hall of Fame Giants GM George Young: “I have changed the reputation and level of respect that our team had for the better.”

Even after making Phil Simms his first draft pick in 1979, Young and coach Ray Perkins didn’t reach the playoffs until 1981, when Lawrence Taylor was the second-overall pick that year.

New York Giants general manager Joe Schoen, left, and head coach Brian Daboll, right, with draft picks Evan Neal and Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Giants GM Joe Schoen, left, and head coach Brian Daboll, right, with Evan Neal and Kayvon Thibodeaux.

The Giants didn’t become Super Bowl contenders until Simms emerged as a franchise quarterback in 1985 and ’86, and Bill Parcells replaced Perkins and emerged as an elite coach.

So let’s not expect Schoen to be a miracle worker.

“I want him to build the thing the right way,” Mara said, “and give us a chance for sustained success.”

It’s a long journey from laughingstock to sustained success, but Schoen embarked on it with stud first-round picks Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Nealbefore he turned into Trader Joe and added gadget receiver Wan’Dale Robinson and what he feels is quality depth on the offensive line and at cornerback and virtually everywhere else.

Thibodeaux gives the Giants their first legitimate threat to rush the passer in what seems like an eternity, and Neal gives Daniel Jones a mountainous bookend for left tackle Andrew Thomas.

Schoen’s bolstering the trenches with a pair of impact players doesn’t make the Giants contenders. Thibodeaux doesn’t guarantee a fearsome pass rush. Neal doesn’t guarantee that the offensive line, addressed surgically during free agency, has been fixed.

But at least this ain’t no clown show operation now.

Daniel Jones
Daniel Jones
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Schoen answered the bell, and the degree to which the Giants will become relevant again will hinge next mostly on a Core Four:

Head coach Brian Daboll. Quarterback Daniel Jones. Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.

Schoen had the currency and the expertise to reduce the number of ifs on his roster, but there are thousands to go before he sleeps, before he can field a roster filled with fewer ifs than the Eagles, Cowboys and Commanders.

Saquon Barkley
Saquon Barkley
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The biggest ifs:

If Daboll and Kafka can magically transform Jones into the Once A Giants Franchise Quarterback Only A Giants Franchise Quarterback, because you don’t win a Super Bowl these days without an elite quarterback.

If Daboll can be the coach that Mara thought Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge would be and allow the owner to say that the Giants have stopped doing everything to screw the kid up.

If Martindale can unleash his version of hell and get Giants fans chanting “Dee-fense” again in the fourth quarter.

Wait, there are others, there always are when rebuilding begins anew:

If Saquon Barkley can stay on the field and walk the talk.

If Kenny Golladay can rebound and maybe catch a TD pass.

If Kadarius Toney can stay on the field and honor his first-round status and maybe catch a TD pass.

If Blake Martinez can return from a torn ACL.

If Xavier McKinney can anchor a secondary that has lost safeties Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan and likely cornerback James Bradberry.

If Daboll can chip away at the Losing Syndrome that has strangled the Giants.

Get the latest updates on every New York Giants pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, plus hometown analysis from the New York Post.

The Eagles, in the wake of their trade for AJ Brown, are the class of the NFC East. But the Commanders, with Carson Wentz at quarterback, and the Cowboys, with Amari Cooper gone and left tackle Tyron Smith now 31 and dogged by injuries, should not scare anyone.

There is no place for the Giants to go but up, but until further review, 8-9 feels like their ceiling four months before the 2022 season.

“It’s one thing to be a good coach and develop players,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said once. “But if you’re not being fed good players, it’s almost like drinking from a dry hose.”

Schoen watched Bills GM Brandon Beane feed McDermott good players. Now Schoen has begun feeding Daboll good players. For impatient Giants fans, for those four lonely Lombardi Trophies, patience will have to be a virtue. But thankfully, the patient is in recovery.


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