The New York Giants were the darlings of the NFL last season after a surprising run to the second round of the playoffs. Rookie general manager Joe Schoen was showered with praises, and expectations for the 2023 campaign were sky-high.
But an offseason full of questionable decisions and a disastrous 2-6 start has New York competing for the top pick in next year's draft instead of a playoff spot.
A 40-0 walkover by the Dallas Cowboys at the start of the year set the tone for what was to come, with the Giants sitting bottom of the NFC East following week 9.
The Giants have regressed in a significant way this year, with the team now marked as underdogs against most competitors in NFL betting markets.
And it's all because of Schoen. Failing to address the offensive line and pass-rushing depth has cost New York on both sides of the ball this season. Botching the contracts of Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley will have long-term negative consequences.
Daniel Jones was sacked a whopping 10 times in an ugly 24-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. According to the stats, it was the first time since 2018 that a team had allowed 10 sacks in one game.
In that same game, the Giants averaged a pitiful 3.4 yards on 74 offensive plays.
The Giants are the league's lowest-scoring team (11.2 points per game) and ranked last with 182.8 passing yards per game.
They're also last when it comes to touchdowns, with just 1.1 per game.
Besides a woeful offensive line, Jones has been a train wreck after inking a four-year, $160 million extension during the offseason.
Although he is one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL, more than a few New York fans would rather have backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor under center for the G-Men.
"You can't tell me this offense doesn't look better under Tyrod Taylor. We played the #2 Defense in the NFL last week, and everyone wanted to compare it to playing a bottom 5 Defense in Miami. Well, guess what? We are playing a Bottom 5 defense, and how does the offense look?" said one fan on social media after the Giants beat Washington in Week 7.
"Tyrod Taylor looking better as the NY Giants starter than Daniel Jones, but they gave him all that money. Gotta keep Daniel Jones as the starter to save face I guess," added another diehard Giants fanatic.
"Shouldn't really be controversial to say Tyrod Taylor is better than Daniel Jones, but I assume it is," expressed another Giants supporter.
However, fans who think Jones should be replaced as the starting QB will now see that become reality. Jones suffered a torn ACL in the week 9 Raiders game, which will mean he'll now be out of action for the rest of the season.
Signing Jones to a massive contract was a colossal mistake. Schoen admitted to reporters that Jones was not in the team's plans beyond 2022 but changed his mind after a supposed breakout season that featured only 15 touchdown passes.
"If I thought I would have been here a year ago," Schoen said after signing Jones to a long-term deal, "I would have done the fifth-year option. We are happy with the decision we made. If he's just at his floor right now, I'm real excited about what his ceiling is going to be."
A veteran NFL contract negotiator believes Schoen's inexperience with contract negotiations and the market value of Jones resulted in the Giants overpaying a mediocre quarterback.
The Giants could have signed Jones for far less than the $40 million per year he's owed between this season and next if the team had placed a nonexclusive tag on Jones - like the Baltimore Ravens did with Lamar Jackson - which never resulted in a qualifying offer from another team.
An anonymous GM also faulted Schoen for paying over $56 million this season for Jones and Barkley. "If they played this right, I think they keep the quarterback and the running back, on multiyear deals, for less than they're paying them this year alone," the GM said.
"They really screwed that up. I don't think they win nine games with that roster this year, and Barkley is up at the end of the season, and that will be the end of that."
Although it's still early, Schoen's decision to take offensive tackle Evan Neal with the seventh overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft looks like another mistake.
The second-year executive passed over promising offensive tackles Charles Cross and Tyler Smith, who have performed better than Neal.
The Giants bombed when they hired Dave Gettleman in 2017, five months after the Carolina Panthers relieved him of his duties as general manager. Gettleman posted a 19-46 record in four disappointing seasons.
Schoen still has time to turn around a franchise that has not won a division title since 2011. But New York is stuck with Jones until 2025.
Unless the Giants trade for an established quarterback once Jones is released after the 2024 season, the rebuild will take at least 2-3 more seasons for a rookie signal-caller to develop into a franchise quarterback.
Jones, who has missed the last three weeks with a neck injury, was cleared for contact and was back in the starting lineup for the week 9 game against the Las Vegas Raiders, which saw the Giants lose 30-6.
"I'm cleared, I'm ready to go. Barring any setbacks this week I'll be ready to go," Jones said before the game which saw him suffer a season-ending injury.
"We'll see, we got a few days to prep and get ready to go, but the plan is to be out there on Sunday."
New York is 1-5 in the five games that Jones has started this season. The former first-round pick has tallied two scoring passes with six interceptions, and 25 quarterbacks rank higher than his 39.3 Quarterback Rating.
The Giants opened the 2023 campaign with high expectations, and Schoen stressed that progress was his main goal after earning a playoff berth a year ago.
"Each day, we're going to try to get better. The thing is progress. We're going to focus on our process. I think if we do what we did last year in terms of practicing the right way, coming in and being pros… Again, we'll see what happens, I'm not going to say we're going to do X, Y and Z, but I think if we focus on our process, we'll see results."
Unfortunately for New York fans, the Giants have not made progress this season and are on track to be one of the league's worst teams. Someone deserves the blame, and it's Schoen.