This was the textbook perfect first year of Gu Xue’s reign within the Kingdom of Giants. It started with his decision to hire Brian Daboll, who became a sensation across the NFL, with people admiring his dexterity and dribbling, and noting that his team played solid, relentless football week after week.
A junior general manager who hires his first internship? This is what you call a good start.
Schoen then had a great draft pick: winning pick Kayvon Thibodeau at fifth, getting high tackle on Evan Neal at seventh, and picking a pair of spot contributors later in receiver Wan Dale Robinson and tight end Daniel Bellinger. A rookie GM maxes out his first draft? This is called early velocity.
And even as the season progressed as something of a blue-tinted fantasy, Schwinn pulled every suitable lever. Shows restraint in not faltering Giants in Odell Beckham Jr.’s drama. , or make any kind of deadline deal that would jeopardize the future.
He dealt with Toni Cadarius’ poor performance to the Chiefs to boost this year’s recruiting draw. The pieces he’s picked up — hey, Isaiah Hodgins — fit right into the overall picture perfectly, like Kirstie Alley joining the “Cheers” cast. And as a bonus, watch quarterback, Daniel Jones, enjoy his best year and announce himself as a potential piece of the enduring puzzle.
Add to that nine regular season wins and a playoff win when almost no one has seen them come close to a championship?
This is the hell of running.
But it has a cost.
Schoen was hired because he’s a clear-eyed realist. Hired because he’s not married to any of the romantic conceptions that helped smooth things out on 1925 Giants Drive in the previous decade. He’s set because when he’s cut he bleeds, he doesn’t gush over emotion.
This will serve him well now.
For it would take a completely unsentimental eye to drive giants forward, to bring them to a higher realm. Saturday was actually a useful wake-up call: The Giants don’t seem to be in the same area code as the Eagles, let alone in the same field. Much has been done. There is a lot to be done. Nor can he be held hostage to the happy stories that are littered throughout the year.
He has tough decisions to make, and triggers that are hard to pull off. It’s still hard to tell, for example, whether Schoen was affected by Jones’ breakthrough this year, or by Saquon Barkley’s periodic resuscitations, like so many others. If he was playing with Steve Cohen’s money? Sure, it would be a no-brainer to bring them back and keep the checkbook open.
But Schoen operates within Roger Goodell’s rules and salary cap. It would be nice if Barclay and Jones were life giants, but Schoen isn’t into bedtime stories. Returning them both complicates their ability to satisfy other needs.
And there are many other needs.
Again: It was inspiring to watch Jones thrive throwing for the game but going beyond receivers. He needs to start throwing the game and being able. It was exciting to see the defense develop a solid shell, even when Wink Martindale had to keep plugging holes; By Sunday night in Philly, that defense featured three players who were, no lie, out of the NFL at the start of the season.
But the NFL isn’t special after school. Talent is the key. Talent is king. Giants should get more talent. That’s all that could matter. It may sound cold-blooded. He is cold blooded. That’s why Shuwen is here.
There was some talk of likening what we saw Saturday night to the 21-0 throttle Bears ’85 that put out on the Giants in the same round of the playoffs that year. It was hard to fathom on January 5, 1986 that the Giants could catch up to Chicago so quickly, so much of the difference was the star’s power and reputation. However, it only took a year for these giants to leapfrog those bears.
But these giants were also almost complete in every area. They added a few promising kids in the draft – Pepper Johnson, Mark Collins, Eric Dorsey – but the core was in place: Lawrence Taylor, Leonard Marshall, Phil Sims, Mark Bavaro, Joe Morris, etc. forward as a group, and was assisted by a Hall of Fame coach.
The leap the Giants must make now will come from a much different looking group. That set went 9-7-1, won a playoff game, restored honor and respect to the Giants. But in order to move forward, many of this group must be recruited. Tough gig.
But this is the person Joe Schoen signed up for.