Dec 312004
Harsh Reality

I was told recently that I may have burned some bridges within the Giants’ organization with my harsh game review after the team’s 31-7 drubbing at the hands of the Washington Redskins on December 5th. I realized the magnitude of those words when I typed them, fully conscious of the potential consequences. But I felt it important to state my conviction – a conviction that I hope turns to be false – that the Giants are a broken franchise.

The Giants are structurally rotten. And the team’s hierarchy is unable or unwilling to recognize it. Championships are not won in January, but in March and April.

The Giants love to hide behind the mystique of “the richness of the team’s history.” Well folks, the team’s history is not that rich. Much of it has to do with the simple fact that the team has been around longer than most. But the Giants went 30 years without a championship from 1956 to 1986. And you would have to go back 18 years before 1956 to find another Championship season. Today, it has been 14 years since the Giants could claim they were the best – and the clock is still ticking with no light at the end of the tunnel. Team officials may point to the extremely successful 2000 season, but that Giants’ team was not a great team. It was a decent team in a poor conference that caught lightening in a bottle in December and early January. That team got mauled in Super Bowl XXXV. In reality, the Giants got lucky, especially on the injury front, just like the Bucs in 2002 and the Panthers in 2003. But the fact that National Football Conference is mired in mediocrity does not automatically excuse the Giants’ franchise for also being a significant contributor to that mediocrity. Saying that “is just the way pro football is now” is the defense of the weak. And it certainly does not explain away the one consistently strong team in the NFC (the Eagles) and a number of consistently strong teams in the AFC (most notably the Patriots). These teams win consistently because team ownership, management, and coaching make good offseason decisions. The Giants do not.

The Giants have been a mediocre team for 14 years because they have drafted poorly and made bad free agent decisions. Unlike the Eagles, the Giants are consistently up against the salary cap because they have overpaid their own players and mostly pursued the wrong players in free agency. And the fact that the Giants have been up against the cap year-in and year-out forces the team to re-structure contracts in order to create additional room in the short-term, but that also causes bigger problems down the road.

For example, General Manager Ernie Accorsi re-signed players such as Jason Sehorn, Shaun Williams, Luke Petitgout, and Ike Hilliard to extremely lucrative contracts despite the fact that none of these players had or has ever been to a Pro Bowl. The salary cap is finite. Once you allocate a significant chunk of resources to one player, it is gone. That player had better be very good as a big contract will affect the rest of the roster. Truth be told, the Giants have not gotten the best bang for their free agent buck. And worse, because they have overpaid for subpar performance, not only are they mediocre, but they usually have very little cap room available to improve the roster in a meaningful way (Accorsi has never signed a free agent who ended up going to the Pro Bowl). The agony is prolonged when the Giants are forced to re-structure current contracts to make basic roster moves, thus causing future cap problems. This has been an issue for the Giants even since before Accorsi took over the reins from George Young in 1998, but he has continued the same self-destructive pattern.

Let’s look at how an example of how this poor management will restrict the Giants’ options this upcoming offseason. In 2002, the Giants re-signed safety Shaun Williams to an insane 7-year, $24.5 million deal that included a ridiculous $6.5 million signing bonus. All for a player who has never even been considered one of the better safeties in the game. Now the Giants are stuck with that albatross around their neck. According to, Williams’ salary will be $3 million in 2005 (the cap figure will be higher because of the amortized bonus). Plus, Williams is due a $900,000 roster bonus in April. That’s obviously too much to pay a player who was out-played by a rookie 5th round pick, makes too many mental mistakes, doesn’t intercept the football, and who now has two bad knees. But according to The New York Post, if Williams is cut, the Giants lose $5 million in cap space. Same story with Ike Hilliard as, for some reason, the Giants gave him a new 5-year, $12.5 million deal with a $2.5 million signing bonus LAST SEASON. This for an injury-plagued receiver who was obviously nearing the end of his peak production. Hilliard has been simply awful this year. He is due a roster bonus of $750,000 in March, but if the Giants cut him, according to The Post, it costs the team $3 million in salary cap space.

And because the Giants have given average players top-dollar contracts, they have had little cap space and have had to re-structure contracts in order to sign draft picks and add a few mid-range free agents. This is what they have done repeatedly, for example, with players such as Amani Toomer. When your re-structure, you give a player more bonus money in exchange for a lower salary. But this merely defers the cap hit down the road. Now, if the Giants want to cut or trade Toomer, they will take a $5.7 million cap hit.

Let’s do the math. If the new salary cap figure is somewhere around $85 million, and the Giants were to cut Williams, Hilliard, and Toomer, they would lose $13.7 million in cap space. That’s 16 percent of the total cap on three players who would not even be on the roster!!! Basically, the Giants may be forced to keep players the coach doesn’t want because of poor financial decisions by the front office.

What makes the free agent situation worse is head coach. Whether you like him or not, Tom Coughlin is perceived around the league to be someone you don’t want to play for. Before the current season started, Coughlin was voted the “Worst coach in the NFL” in a Sports Illustrated poll of 354 NFL players, with 29 percent of the vote . It doesn’t matter if in fact Coughlin is not as bad as his reputation. Perception is reality to potential free agents. Thus, in order for the Giants to attract quality free agents, they will likely have to pay what BBI poster Bob in Newburgh has so eloquently phrased as the “asshole surcharge”. In other words, the Giants will have to pay more for the same product than other teams. They will be at a competitive disadvantage. Remember, there is only so much salary cap room and every dollar counts. This isn’t baseball and the Giants are not allowed to spend more than other teams. If that wasn’t bad enough, you’ve got high-profile players on the current roster who will not actively encourage players from other teams to come to the Giants. “If someone asks, I’d tell them the truth,” Toomer says. “I wouldn’t want somebody here to be upset, telling me that I lied to them. I’ll tell them exactly what’s going on and they can make the decision themselves.”

What about the draft? The Giants don’t draft well. And they will only have four picks in the 2005 NFL Draft. This is a franchise that drafts kickers who they haven’t even scouted (i.e., John Markham). This is a franchise that spent a 3rd and 4th rounder on WR Brian Alford. This is a franchise that has only three picks left on the roster from the three drafts from 1998-2000 (Williams, Petitgout, and Ron Dayne). In seven drafts, Ernie Accorsi has only drafted one Pro Bowler (Jeremy Shockey; Tiki Barber was drafted by George Young). That is a ridiculous draft history. The facts do not lie.

So the Giants are in a nightmare situation. As usual, Ernie Accorsi will come out in a few weeks and say the Giants will be in a good cap position for 2005. However, this is before the free salary cap space disappears to pay off accelerated amortized roster bonuses for players who won’t be on the roster. Plus everyone will have more money due to the new TV contract (up about $5 million). Better teams with nicer facilities such as the Philadelphia Eagles will have more salary cap space and they will not have to deal with the “asshole surcharge”. The Giants have only four draft picks, plus no first rounder. Regardless, they have a personnel department that has only drafted one Pro Bowler in seven years. And they have not signed a Pro Bowl player in free agency. The Giants are structurally broken. It is incontestable.

Where does the responsibility lie? Ownership. They are the ones who keep Accorsi employed, they are the ones who hired Coughlin. They are unable or unwilling to see the structural problems. Meanwhile the fans suffer. The Giants have become a second rate team. Americans – and New Yorkers in particular – never want to be considered second rate at anything.

In reality, professional football is entertainment. But what ownership fails to recognize is that to thousands of Giants fans around the world, professional football is more than a game. It is a surrogate for man’s intrinsic need for conflict and violence. The regional team atmosphere (“us” versus “them”) plays to man’s need to be a part of something greater than ourselves, a surrogate for religion in an increasingly secular world. It is a way for relatively safe and uneventful lives to live more vicariously through three hours of tension each Sunday. It is a distraction from our real worlds.

As silly as it sounds, most of us are not rooting for ownership, management, specific coaches, or specific players. We are rooting for a blue jersey and a helmet that has an “ny” logo on the side. And when those jerseys and helmets lose game after game for two years, it takes an emotional toll. Not just in our fantasy world, but in our real lives as well. I once had a fascinating but sad conversation with a policeman in Virginia who told me that their domestic violence complaints increase four-fold when the Redskins lose. How many of us feel miserably or are grouchy on Monday morning after a particularly poor performance by the Giants? Try to remember what you felt like after the playoff losses to the Vikings in 1997, or the 49ers in 2002. Or even after last year’s Cowboys and Eagles games at the Meadowlands. It takes an emotional toll.

This is why we are angry. This is why we speak out and sometimes say things that hurt. The owners, management, coaches, and players obviously have a more vested interest in what transpires on the field. After all, it is their life and employment. But their product is supposed to be entertaining. It isn’t. They have a captive audience and they are serving us crap.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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