By: Joseph Frescott, Assistant Sports Editor
After an impressive victory this past Sunday, Sept. 11, fans of the Giants look like they will have plenty of things to root for this season.
Prior to Sunday’s win, the Giants had a busy offseason, starting with the firing of head coach (HC) Joe Judge on Jan. 6. Judge, who had spent just two seasons at the helm, finished his tenure with the team holding the second-worst win percentage (.303) by a head coach in franchise history. With Judge out of the picture, Giants general manager (GM) David Gettleman announced his retirement days later, leaving the Giants to revamp their entire front office and coaching staff.
Just two weeks later, New York found their replacements, bringing in two members of the Buffalo Bills’ front office. The first hire was Bills’ assistant GM Joe Schoen, who played a crucial role in helping turn that franchise into one of the perennial contenders in the AFC.
Shoen’s first task as GM was to acquire a head coach, and he went with someone who he was very familiar with, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Daboll, who is one of many coaches to find success under legendary Head Coach Bill Belichick’s ‘coaching tree,’ has over two decades of coaching experience in the NFL, including his most recent role, which saw him develop quarterback Josh Allen into one of the best players in the entire league.
Perry Balsamo, a Junior Broadcasting major, was thrilled with the Giants’ new regime.
“I was excited that they were getting a new general manager and head coach,” he said. “I thought [Joe Judge] did some okay things, but I knew they definitely needed some improvement in that area, so I was excited to see some new leadership on that side.”
With the coaching staff and front office taken care of, the Giants looked on to April’s NFL draft, where they had 11 total draft picks, including two in the top 10. Under the guidance of their new GM and HC, New York would go on to have one of their best draft classes in recent memory, according to analysts from The Washington Post, ESPN and more. This class was highlighted by their first two selections, where they drafted Oregon defensive edge Kayvon Thibodeaux to be a much-needed pass rusher, and followed that up by selecting Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal to bolster one of the worst offensive lines in 2021.
After a draft class that was considered successful by many, the New York Giants were relatively quiet in free agency compared to years passed, only making a few notable signings. The G-Men continued to make it a priority to build their offensive line, signing right guard Mark Glowinski and center Jon Feliciano and acquired one of the premier backup quarterbacks in the league in QB Tyrod Taylor.
When taking the entire offseason into account, Junior Broadcasting major and lifelong Giants fan Brady Campbell was pleased with the moves his team made.
“For starters, I definitely like the GM and head coach and all those kinds of personnel changes. I think it was time once again to make a change, even after a couple of years. I really like the people they brought in, especially the GM and coach working with the Bills, so they’ve had some success over the last few years,” he said. “I like the draft a lot, especially the first round with Thibodeaux and Neal. I think they’ll be very good. There wasn’t much in the offseason and terms like free agency and stuff, but I think we’re starting to finally turn it around.”
While the offseason looked like a step in the right direction for the franchise, none of that matters until progress is made on the field. To the delight of Giants fans everywhere, that started this past Sunday, as the Giants went on the road and defeated the Titans 21-20 in thrilling fashion.
Coming into the game as massive underdogs against the number 1 seed in the AFC last year, the Giants started off slow, allowing 13 unanswered points in the first half. They quickly turned it around in the second half, scoring touchdowns on back-to-back drives to tie the game at 13 a piece.
Following a Titan’s score in the waning minutes of the third quarter, the Giants found themselves trailing by 20-13 with 5:21 left in regulation. With the game on the line, New York turned to their star running back, Saquon Barkley, who accounted for 50 of the team’s 73 yards in what would go on to be their game-winning drive. With only a minute left to play, QB Daniel Jones found tight end Chris Myarick for the one-yard score, putting the Giants in position to force overtime.
However, HC Brian Daboll had other plans, as he made the bold decision to go for two and try to win the game instead of kicking the extra point to tie. This daring move paid off, as Barkley capped off his all-time great performance with a two-yard reception that gave his team the win.
Out of everything from the Giants’ Week 1 performance, it was that call by Dabool that stood out the most for Balsamo.
“I really liked the gutsiness in the fourth quarter at the end of the game to go for two. In that situation in years past, I feel like the Giants would be very passive and just kick the extra point for the tie,” Balsamo said. “I like that they are taking the initiative early on in the season, and ultimately it paid off for them.”
The Giants weren’t the only team to pull off an upset, however, as the Steelers, Bears, Browns, Vikings and Seahawks all emerged victorious despite being projected to lose their Week 1 matchups. For Balsamo, the first week of the NFL can only be described in one word.
“Unpredictability. If you just show up week after week, eventually things will go your way,” he said. “I think especially for the Giants, if they can just stay strong and play good football, anything can happen.”
Campbell couldn’t help but agree, citing that this has been the trend for as long as he remembers.
“The NFL, especially Week 1, seems to be a crazy week. You never really know who’s going to win, I feel like a lot of the good teams we have seen come out a little flat,” Campbell said. “I think a few teams can surprise people, with some being better and some being worse than we thought. It’s gonna be a fun season.”