Labeling blame in football is hard. Sometimes bad play is players not playing to their talent, sometimes they are coached poorly or have a bad scheme, and sometimes they were simply overvalued by the GM. Furthermore, injuries are hard to evaluate as well. Injuries are random to a certain extent, but the more a player ages the more injuries become an expectation and not an anomaly.
For the New York Giants, the blame has been put all around. Eli Manning, Kevin Gilbride, Perry Fewell, David Wilson, and Justin Tuck have all been attacked by many as the cause, and not without reason. All of them have had disappointing seasons or led units that have failed to produce. By far the biggest failure for the Giants has been the offensive line, though. The line has let Manning be constantly pressured, giving up 14 sacks already. The line has also not opened up many, if any, holes leading to a weak running attack. The leader of the group, Chris Snee, and the offensive coordinator, Gilbride have both taken flak for the terrible start. But the true fault may reside elsewhere.
Jerry Reese waited a long time to start rebuilding this line. The Giants have had a strong offensive line for years now, in fact two of the members on the Giants offensive line played in the 2007 Super Bowl. But that is exactly the issue. This offensive line has been getting older and older with only small trickling replacements. Reese drafted Will Beatty and Justin Pugh highly in the draft, but no other offensive linemen were drafted in the early rounds. That means that if either does not pan out, big problems can occur. Even if they do pan out, the offensive line is getting hurt left and right, with David Diehl going out at right tackle and the left guard Snee now about to have season-ending surgery. Reese shouldn’t be surprised at this as both players have been playing for a long time (both were starters in 2007). These injuries have thrown unproven players into the mix, and the results have been ugly.
Reese is a good drafter and both Pugh and Beatty have shown signs of great play, but both are still young and making bad mistakes too. By waiting so long, Reese adjusted a year late and the Giants are paying the price. Reese should have drafted more offensive linemen.
It is easy to tell a GM who he should have picked, but it’s hard to say who he shouldn’t have. So it would be unfair to blame Reese unless there were clear missteps when he drafted. The most obvious choice Reese should have made was waiting to draft a running back in the 2012 draft. Valuable running backs often come in later rounds and even the one he picked, Wilson, has not shown much value. Reese also took another defensive tackle, Jonathan Hankins in the second round this year, even though the Giants would go on to have great depth at that position. Reese loves to simply draft the best player available, and while that can be smart, sometimes teams need to think about long term needs at least somewhat. Trade in Wilson and Hankins for two good offensive linemen and the Giants might have a much better record and brighter future. Unfortunately Reese did not, and the Giants are paying the price.