The blame for the New York Giants' underwhelming season was assigned after putting the climate of Big Blue under the microscope.
The vast majority of the blame for New York's struggles belongs on the shoulders of Pat Shurmur, who simply does not seem to have a grasp on the responsibilities of being a head coach nor does he exude confidence that he is going to get better in the execution of his responsibilities. Giants ownership deserves their fair share of the blame for the team's flop as well. After all, it was John Mara and Steve Tisch who green-lit the hire of Shurmur prior to the 2018 season for his work with Nick Foles and Case Keenum.
Now, what can the Giants do to fix the problem ahead of 2020? The 2019 season is on its final legs. Once Week 17 comes to a close, the Giants will join the rat race with the majority of the NFL in scrambling to position themselves for a ticket to next year's playoffs. These plans never go as hoped — so TDN has provided a rough outline of what the Giants must do to climb back into relevancy for 2020.
It starts with undoing their recent hiring mistake.
Replace Pat Shurmur as head coach
In finding a replacement for Shurmur, New York must identify candidates who check the right boxes and not simply chase a quarterback guru. There are a few names that stand out when considering the Giants' hypothetical search.
Former Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera
Ron Rivera and Dave Gettleman have experience working together and even went to a Super Bowl together during a 15-1 season in 2015. The familiarity would help provide effective communication between the front office and the coaching staff on what is expected and needed to take the team to the next level. Rivera's footing in Carolina has slipped, but mostly because the team has played the majority of the last two seasons without star quarterback Cam Newton.
The Panthers parted ways with Rivera in large part over the injury bug and New York would be wise to elevate him to the top of its wishlist. There does not seem to be bad blood between the two despite different departure dates from Carolina, either. When Gettleman was fired in Carolina, Rivera voiced his appreciation.
"No matter how tense things got, we always talked our way through it," Rivera said at the time. "I talked to Dave [on Monday] because I wanted to make sure he knew I appreciated everything he did for me."
Baylor head coach Matt Rhule
Matt Rhule is also familiar with the Giants organization after serving as an assistant offensive line coach in 2012. The hottest NFL-coach candidate in the college ranks is Lincoln Riley, but Rhule seems to fix more of the league’s CEO role that the Giants so desperately need from their next leader. Rhule has brought success with him where ever he has gone, be it the Temple Owls or Baylor.
Rhule's professional experience extends to mostly interviews at this point. He interviewed for the Indianapolis Colts' opening before Indianapolis hired Frank Reich and for the New York Jets' job last year before ultimately passing on the opportunity. Eventually, Rhule is going to make the jump. And with a young roster largely in place, the Giants are the kind of "project" that Rhule seems to embrace after turning around lowly college programs, like Temple and Baylor, into teams with double-digit wins.
Oh, right. Matt Rhule's hometown? New York, New York.
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett (if fired)
Jason Garrett has already been pegged as a potential candidate in New York via NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. Is this the sexiest hire in the world? No, definitely not. But Garrett is a long-tenured head coach who at the very least would provide experience and stability at the position. Garrett currently sports an 83-65 career record in Dallas and has just one losing season to his name in 2015, when Tony Romo went down after four games.
Seasons of 8-8 and 9-7 are not inspiring, but you can bet your bottom dollar the Giants would kill for some competitive consistency.
Three Contracts To Renew
New York's next steps include retaining desirable talent and making sure assets are not being wasted. The Giants' trade for Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams will need to be followed up with a contract extension along with two other key players.
The team traded for Williams ahead of the 2019 deadline, offering up a 2020 third-round pick and a conditional 2021 fifth-round pick that could upgrade to a fourth-round pick. With that kind of investment into Williams for half a season, there is no other option but to extend his deal. Williams will need a competitive extension to keep him in the Big Apple. It would allow him to play a prominent role as the quick-twitch penetration player on the interior of the Giants' physical, heavy-handed defensive line.
Look for slightly less than what the Philadelphia Eagles gave Malik Jackson ahead of the season, which was an average salary of $10 million per year. Williams will likely garner somewhere between $8-9 million per season and with over $60 million in cap space available, getting this deal locked in should not be a problem.
The Giants' most viable pass rusher deserves an encore. Markus Golden has tallied 26 career sacks and 24 have come under current defensive coordinator James Bettcher. If the Giants' possible coaching changes cause Bettcher to be a casualty, Gettleman should have seen enough to determine Golden is a viable threat. In a perfect world, he is a rotational player who works in on obvious passing situations. New York’s continued overhaul of the trenches should all Golden to work into that preferred role.
If he expects starter money, the Giants then have something to consider. But with a current 2019 cash hit of just over $3.2 million, it is difficult to see Golden pricing himself out of the team's budget.
David Mayo is a Gettleman pet project who was brought from Carolina to New York this season. Mayo has played admirably well in approximately 60 percent of the Giants’ defensive snaps. He should be an easy extension for New York to work out between now and the start of free agency.
One to let go: Mike Remmers
Mike Remmers was signed to a one-year contract this offseason, and the Giants should keep it that way. They will need to prioritize upgrading the right tackle position via the 2020 draft.
Three Key Free Agent Targets
The Giants will need to spend selectively when building out the rest of the roster in free agency. They have viable cash to burn but they will need to avoid falling into the trap of spending until their heart is content. Future flexibility is a wise approach for a team that is not sure to turn the corner in 2020. Here are three viable signings that could help build out the Giants' depth chart.
Kyle Van Noy, New England Patriots (TDN Analyst Kyle Crabbs)
The Giants have a brutal group of linebackers, but more versatility is required on the back seven in order to keep their opposition guessing. Kyle Van Noy has revived his career in New England, thriving as a versatile defender who played over 90 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps in 2018. He is living up to his reputation coming out of BYU. Whether the defensive coordinator is Bettcher or someone else, Van Noy’s football intelligence and versatility would be a welcomed upgrade over Alec Ogletree in the starting lineup.
Bud Dupree, Pittsburgh Steelers (TDN Analyst Joe Marino)
If the Giants want to overhaul the pass rush situation in New York, resigning Golden and following suit by signing Bud Dupree is a great way to approach the situation. Dupree is making his case with strong play in a contract season, but the Giants can protect him from a letdown in his next deal by providing him with a similar situation to Pittsburgh’s. He is currently surrounded by devastatingly heavy hands along the defensive line and can use wide angles to attack the quarterback or slash into the backfield as a run defender.
This roster is constructed for heavy interior down linemen and standup rushers. There is no reason to work away from that template. This would be the "big fish" of the Giants' offseason. Over The Cap forecasts Dupree will be due somewhere around an average of $14 million per season on his next contract. A risk? Perhaps. But Dupree is 26 years old and has already surpassed his career-high in sacks in a single season with four games left to play.
Tre Boston, Panthers (TDN Analyst Ben Solak)
The certainties in life are death, taxes and safety Tre Boston signing a short-term deal. Boston is another former Gettleman player, so reuniting the two in New York seems to have some potential — provided there are no hard feelings over the Panthers cutting him just months before Gettleman himself was relieved of his duties.
Boston as a short-term filler next to Jabrill Peppers and would give the Giants a younger alternative in the starting lineup to Antoine Bethea, who turns 36 years old ahead of the 2020 regular season. New York can cut the veteran this offseason for just $125,000 in dead cap space.
Draft Impact Players
The Giants need a big boom in April. As things currently stand, they own the second-overall pick in the draft order, which puts them in a prime position to do exactly that.