It wasn’t that long ago that the story was the same with New York’s two NFL franchises.
The New York Giants were a model of relative stability. If they weren’t making the playoffs or winning Super Bowls, there was at least a plan in place to get them back to their winning ways. No NFL franchise can be the Patriots except the Patriots themselves, but at least the Giants were a team who made the postseason eight times in the 21st century and had four more .500 or above non-playoff years.
The New York Jets were the literally the butt of jokes, save for two Rex Ryan years in which a punishing defense and Mark Sanchez led the team to two straight AFC title games that they lost. They were constantly also-rans to the aforementioned Patriots who always made the head-scratching move on and off the field (my colleague Ted Berg summed it up perfectly in a recent column).
In the span of 12 hours, the two franchises suddenly switched places for the foreseeable future. The Giants are the new Jets, the Jets are the new Giants. Welcome to your new reality.
The Jets are the franchise with a plan in place that’s being executed beautifully. They drafted well in recent years with safety Jamal Adams and quarterback Sam Darnold establishing a new era for Gang Green. They made sure to re-sign pass rusher Henry Anderson who surprised everyone with seven sacks. Although linebacker C.J. Mosley might have gotten overpaid, he’s a big name defender.
And in the middle of the night, they signed running back Le’Veon Bell, who sat out all of last season and got a reported $35 million guaranteed, which – all things considered – feels like a great deal for the Jets, who didn’t break the bank for Bell’s services.
What’s most amazing to me is that the Jets had a very Jets-y thing happen to them just a day ago: Linebacker Anthony Barr intended to sign but got cold feet and stayed with the Vikings. And it’s barely a blip on the radar.
The Giants? They traded Odell Beckham Jr. a year after giving him a lucrative extension last offseason. They decided not to slap the franchise tag on safety Landon Collins (although declining to sign him to a long-term deal is a win). They’ve had absolute disasters at the draft with tackle Ereck Flowers at No. 9 overall in 2015 and cornerback Eli Apple – who played well for the Saints after the Giants sent him packing – at No. 10 the next year.
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Most confounding and infuriating is sticking with Eli Manning at quarterback without drafting his successor last year. If the Giants wanted to rebuild, why didn’t it start earlier? Granted, Saquon Barkley looks like a generational talent, but by the time the Giants get back to contention, Barkley could demand an extension and likely have enough wear and tear not to be worth what he’d command.
Even the most casual of NFL fans could tell Manning wasn’t worth the four-year, $84 million extension he got in 2015 … and then the Giants scrambled to surround him with weapons that would give him one more chance at a ring. As of Wednesday morning, he’s STILL the starter for a team that has all the makings of a rebuilding franchise.
If I blind tested you by removing the names of the players and franchises, you’d guess the Jets would be the rudderless ship twisting in the wind without a good plan in place. Nope! Not now.
The punchline here could come in April. The Jets own the No. 3 pick, one they could auction off to the highest bidder to a team who needs a quarterback. The Giants need a home run at the draft. It’s the perfect storm for one New York team guarantee it gets its franchise cornerstone, while the other one accrues more draft capital to keep build a playoff contender.
You couldn’t write a more perfect ending to a Broadway show.