Heading into 2019, the New York Jets will undoubtedly be a better team than the New York Giants.
The prospect of the Jets being the superior New York football team has always been foreign. The Giants have won two Super Bowls under Eli Manning, and four overall. Meanwhile, the last Jets Super Bowl win came when the U.S. landed on the moon.
Although the Jets have had short blips of success since then, they’ve failed to maintain it over a sustained period of time. Overall, the Jets just haven’t been as relevant or as good of a franchise as their city-sharing counterparts.
Yet, after a year-plus of important, franchise-altering decisions, the Jets have put themselves in position to do be a better team than the Giants. They may have finally turned the tides on which football team runs New York.
The Big Decision: Saquon Over Sam
It all started during the 2018 NFL Draft.
Newly-appointed Giants GM Dave Gettleman made a commitment to win-now with his new team. In a draft that was filled with quarterback talent, the Giants sat there with the second overall pick. Instead of taking Sam Darnold, the best-left quarterback that many scouts had as the top-rated quarterback of that class, the G-Men took running back Saquon Barkley.
The expectations for the Giants in 2018 were to get back into the playoffs behind Eli, Odell Beckham Jr.,and Saquon. Hopes were high amongst the Giants that they could contend in a tough NFC East, and possibly make one last Super Bowl run with Manning.
Meanwhile, the Jets knew they were heading into a rough 2018. They were going to start a rookie quarterback behind a bad offensive and few weapons to work with. However, the general consensus was that they had finally gotten their franchise quarterback. Even though he didn’t have much help around him, letting him play through the season was invaluable experience for Darnold.
Barkley dazzled in his rookie campaign, rushing for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns. Including his impressive catching numbers, he had a combined 2,028 yards from scrimmage, which is a rookie record. Nonetheless, the Giants still struggled to a 5-11 record. This was mainly due to Manning and the offense’s ineptitude in the red zone. Some people were calling for Eli’s job, considering how much they underperformed. Yet, they decided to stick by the veteran, and even named him the starter for the 2019 season.
Darnold, meanwhile, had a roller-coaster rookie year, finishing with 2,865 yards, 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. With not much to work with, Darnold and the Jets struggled to a 4-12 record. However, Sam did show flashes of brilliance in his last three weeks, where he had the highest QBR during that span. His potential as the possible franchise quarterback for the Jets may haunt the Giants for the next decade; especially if the Giants don’t win a Super Bowl with Barkley.
Despite their close records, the future looks much brighter for the Jets heading into the next season. With over $100 million in cap space, the number three pick, and Darnold behind them, the Jets were confident heading into the offseason.
The Offseason Shift For The Jets And Giants
Now, the Jets have spent a lot of that money on some key signings. The biggest splash for them was landing Le’Veon Bell. After sitting out all of last season due to a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell was the best available offensive player on the market. The 26-year old running back is one of the best two-way backs in the league. There were many teams that were pursuing Bell, but the Jets stood out as clear favorites.
Bell wasn’t the only big free agent the Jets landed. After getting spurned by a last-minute rebuttal from linebacker Anthony Barr, the Jets landed All-Pro C.J. Mosley. They also acquired slot receiver Jamison Crowder and safety Brian Poole to give depth. Furthermore, the Jets traded for All-Pro offensive guard Kelechi Osemele, who will be Darnold self-described “bodyguard” on the offensive line. All of these signings will surely make the Jets better on both sides of the ball.
In the meantime, the Giants have made several head-scratching moves that have shaken up the future of the franchise. The biggest one was trading away superstars Odell and Olivier Vernon to the Cleveland Browns. In exchange, the Giants will get a first-and third-round pick, Jabrill Peppers and Kevin Zeitler. This move comes just a couple months after Gettleman said they would not trade OBJ, and a year after they made him the highest paid receiver ever.
The Giants also let All-Pro safety Landon Collins walk to the divisional rival Washington Redskins. In the wake of Odell’s absence, they signed Golden Tate to a four-year deal. Tate, who is 30 and injury-prone, is a bigger risk than reward at this point in his career. Trading away Beckham Jr. only to sign Tate has many Giants fans scratching their heads. Even the most loyal of supporters will begin to question Gettleman’s decision-making.
The Future of New York Football
The moves that the Giants have made over the past year have put themselves in a precarious position. A year ago, they decided to stick with Eli and took Barkley to help him. Now, they’ll have to rely on Saquon to carry the offensive load while they continue to search for their successor to Manning. They should’ve found his successor in the last draft, but their irrational faith in Eli stopped them from doing so.
The Giants’ successor could have easily been Darnold. The fact that he is on his rookie deal has made it possible for them to sign players like Mosley and Bell. The Giants’ decision to pass up on Darnold for Saquon started a cascade of moves that have slowly put the Jets ahead of the Giants. It just goes to show that drafting a franchise quarterback is much more important than getting a franchise running back.
The only way that the Giants can salvage their situation is to use one of their picks to trade for Josh Rosen. Either that, or they have to draft Dwayne Haskins with the sixth pick. Either way, the Giants have to come to the realization that Eli isn’t the future anymore and that he should be replaced immediately. This won’t happen in 2019, so next year should be the year that the Jets leapfrog their stadium-sharing neighbors.
If the Giants continue to go down a spiral of disappointment, then Gettleman will surely get the axe. By refusing to move on from Eli by making win-now-type moves, the Giants are in “no man’s land.” In a short time, Gettleman has made a poor mark on the Giants franchise and has left them without a sense of direction.
On the flip side, the Jets finally have a vision and a future to be excited about. On top of the great offseason they’ve already had, they also have the third overall pick. This pick should be an edge rusher like Josh Allen, Quinnen Williams or Nick Bosa. Either that, or the Jets can trade down (like the Colts did last year with the Jets), with a QB-needy team, for more draft picks.
After being the butt
fumble of many jokes, the Jets are putting in all their chips to try and become a great team. The hope is that new coach Adam Gase can unlock Darnold and take a big leap to become an All-Pro caliber quarterback. With a reloaded offense and defense, this is very likely to happen. The Jets will end up being the dominant New York football team for years to come.
To put the cherry on top, the Jets and Giants will face also each other next year, as they do every four years. Their last meeting was in 2015, when the Jets edged out the Giants in overtime, but missed out on the playoffs the next week in a crushing loss to Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills. Before that, the Giants dashed the Jets’ playoffs hopes en route to their 2011 championship run.
Now, their next meeting may very well be a major turning point in shaping the futures of the two franchises.