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Will Giants finally acknowledge they're rebuilding after Odell Beckham Jr. trade?  1 Week ago

Source:   USA Today  

The hardest sell for the New York Giants right now will be convincing their fans – really anyone, for that matter – that they are playing to win in 2019 after trading Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns.

It's OK for Big Blue to admit they are rebuilding. The question of the moment: Will they?

Because that's where we're at in assessing how the Giants move forward without one of the most dynamic players in the NFL following Tuesday night's stunning deal with the Browns in which they got in return a first-round pick, a third-round pick and hometown favorite Jabrill Peppers. 

They also received the fourth-round pick back from the Browns that they flipped for a fifth-rounder last week in the Olivier Vernon-for-Kevin Zeitler swap.

From the outside, the Giants appear to be a team without direction. Ownership and general manager Dave Gettleman are taking heat – and in some ways, deservedly so – for essentially gutting the current roster of its best players.

 

Damon Harrison. Landon Collins. Vernon. All gone from the defense that is woefully undermanned, even with promising young players like Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, Lorenzo Carter and the newly-acquired Peppers.

Then the one that left mouths agape Tuesday, shipping Beckham off to Cleveland in a move that appears to be a preemptive strike against a player whose burning desire to win could ultimately prove to be a distraction during an obvious reclamation project.

The Giants were afraid Beckham would let his frustration with Eli Manning and another year of losing get in the way of the big picture. Problem is, that big picture is cloudy at the moment, and fear is not the best way to build a contender.

There's no question managing Beckham's personality is a challenge, and the beginning of the end of Beckham's tenure with the Giants was the interview he did on ESPN with Lil Wayne seated beside him. Everything changed between Giants coach Pat Shurmur and Beckham then, even if neither allowed the divide to surface publicly.

So after living by the old Ernie Accorsi mantra of not giving up on talent, Gettleman gave up Beckham for a player who has yet to reach his potential in Peppers, a first and a third round pick. The haul was far greater than what the Steelers were forced to accept in their divorce from Antonio Brown, but seemingly far less than anticipated for a star like Beckham.

The Giants are confident they have made the right move, believing Gettleman will take the group of 12 draft picks he has garnered for this year and methodically fill the holes created by the previous regime of Jerry Reese, Marc Ross, Ben McAdoo and company.

Will the Giants make a move for their next quarterback? At the moment, I'd lean toward Gettleman finding his starting right tackle - maybe Oklahoma's Cody Ford - with the No. 17 pick from the Browns, taking a defensive playmaker at No. 6. But, as we've seen, that could change in a blink.

But co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch are responsible with where the Giants find themselves more than anyone. They signed off on all these moves, including the decision to give up on a talent in Beckham Mara himself compared in the past to Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor.

The Giants are caught between trying to compete with the Eagles, Cowboys and Redskins in the NFC East while finding the next quarterback to replace Manning and lead them into the next decade.

And let's be honest: they've failed in both of those quests.

Which brings us to Manning – why would the Giants bring back the two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback for this season when everything around him suggests a movement toward a new era of Big Blue football?

They're going to pay a 38-year-old franchise legend to hand off to Saquon Barkley 25 times a game, all the while making $23 million, a number that prevents team brass from using $17 million to improve this roster now.

That's not what a rebuilding team should do.

Let's not forget what Archie Manning told ESPN's Ian O'Connor on the night the miserable 2018 season ended: "If Eli is done playing, I'm fine with it. But if he comes back, the Giants have got to win. They can't go through another season like this."

Was that an ultimatum from the eldest Manning? Gettleman scoffed at the sentiment in his post-season news conference, saying he'd heard nothing directly from Eli and Peyton's father. But if you're Eli Manning, does he really want to endure the same fate Kurt Warner did 15 seasons ago?

It's pretty evident that, football-wise, the Giants see Manning as their best option on the current roster to be the quarterback, especially from the perspective of a team desperate to turn the corner on five losing seasons in the past six years.

If this is truly about the long game here with the Giants, however, and Gettleman is committed to whatever is in the best interests of the franchise and his promise to "build sustained success," there needs to be serious discussion about where Manning fits.

You can't build sustained success by not being bold.

Forget sentimentality. Don't worry about what the fans or media may think about the decisions that need to be made. Win everyone over by winning again.

That's what the Giants believe are positioned to do. Beckham's gone, and with him goes another player whose problems of an entire organization were blamed. Is he complicit in that? You bet.

With Beckham gone, the Giants have taken yet another step toward a new future.

That future is as uncertain for the Giants today as it has been for decades.

What comes next defines the franchise for years to come.

Team brass can only hope the unknown with Barkley leading the way – and little else around him – turns out far better than what the empty reality appears to be right now.

 

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